Are Jelly Donuts Actually Bad?

Not everyone is a fan of jelly-filled sufganiyot for Hanukkah.

I’ve been harboring a secret for years and it’s time I get it off my chest: I hate jelly donuts.

OK, I’ll admit that’s a little extreme. If there’s a platter of sufganiyot at a Hanukkah party, of course I’ll have a bite. I mean, I’m not a monster. But I just don’t understand the appeal of the traditional treat. 

“I love the ooey gooey goodness,” a friend recently gushed. “Not eating jelly donuts on Hanukkah is like not having a turkey on Thanksgiving. It’s tradition, and Jews are all about tradition.”

She’s right, actually. Sufganiyot have been the official food of Hanukkah since 1920 when the Israeli Labor Federation declared them as such (you can read more about the history of jelly donuts here). But when I consider the legacy of sufganiyot, I can’t help but wonder: Am I the Grinch that stole Hanukkah, or are jelly donuts actually not good?

To get to the bottom of it, I launched a very (in)formal investigation starting with my most trusted Jewish confidants: my older brothers. To my dismay, they heartily endorsed jelly donuts.

“Why is that a question? Jelly donuts rock,” the oldest said. “The only people who don’t like sufganiyot are diabetics,” the middle added. “I don’t see why you have to be so antagonistic to the donuts,” said the third.

Yikes. Maybe there’s something fundamentally wrong with me. Ashamed of my taste buds, I turned to the next batch of sources: my Jewish day school friends.

Like, I would eat them if someone gave them to me, like most things.

It’s never my first choice but I will always eat one if it’s offered to me. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased one for myself, I’ve solely eaten them at Hanukkah functions.

I enjoy eating them more than I think, but like, I don’t look at them and think “I want to eat that dessert.”

At last! I no longer felt alone in this jelly donut crazed world. But the sample size was too small to conclude the investigation, so I surveyed one last group: my very Jewish coworkers.

“I love donuts, but I don’t think jelly needs to be involved in any way,” said Molly Tolsky, the editor of Alma. “Donuts are for chocolate and sprinkles, not fruit.” I concur!

“When they are good and fresh, YES!” Shannon Sarna, the editor of Nosher, chimed in. “Sufganiyot aren’t just Dunkin Donuts jelly donuts, they are something a lot more special and specific.” 

That got me thinking. What if I’ve never really tasted an authentic Israeli-style sufagniya? Have these fraudulent American jelly donuts ruined my perception of a major Hanukkah food?

Eh, I don’t think so. I just don’t like spoonfuls of jelly. Or powdered sugar for that matter. Which is weird because I have a HUGE sweet tooth… but, I digress. Back to the investigation.

“They must be hot and they must be fresh,” another coworker said. “If they sit for even a few minutes it’s like eating a ball of socks. And extra credit if filled with caramel.”

Wait. Sufganiyot can be filled with caramel? There are OPTIONS? Mind. Blown. That’s a huge game changer for Jewish jelly donut haters. And it turns out, in Israel there are infintely more choices for sufganiyot fillings and toppings, like halva, cream, and chocolate ganache. I also learned the sole reason why strawberry jelly became the poster flavor for sufganiyot is because it’s the cheapest filling for bakers to buy. As it turns out, I’m not a bad Jew. When it boils down to it, I just have high — uh, expensive — standards for donut filling.

So to everyone begrudgingly eating jelly donuts at Hanukkah parties to save face, I hope I’ve given you the courage to speak your truth. There’s a whole world of sufganiyot flavors out there — why limit yourself to the worst one?

Craving jelly donuts? Make your own with this recipe. 

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