If you think Hanukkah food consists of little more than regular old potato latkes and jelly donuts, it’s time to get out a bit. These recipes from Jewish communities around the world — ranging from a colorful eggplant-and-tomato based dish from the United Arab Emirates to yucca latkes from Latin America — offer a fresh spin on this oil-drenched holiday.
They’re part of an eight-night online Hanukkah celebration, “A Great Miracle Happened Here,” organized by JDC, the global Jewish humanitarian organization. The campaign offers an inside look at some of the history, customs and traditions related to the holiday from around the world. To get that global taste at home try your hand at the recipes below, which all come from the countries featured in the event series, and check out JDC’s Hanukkah campaign.
Imam Bayildi (UAE)
From Yves Friedman, a member of the Dubai Jewish community, this delectable recipe combines the meaty earthiness of eggplant with the acidity of tomatoes to produce a beautiful dish that will lend a splash of color to your Hanukkah table. Reflecting influences from all over the Levant — Arab, Kurdish, Mediterranean, Persian, Sephardic and Ottoman flavors — it’s just simply delicious.
5 medium eggplants
3 tbsp. olive oil
6 tomatoes, peeled and chopped roughly
1 large onion, chopped finely
4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg
½ tsp. sea salt (and more to taste)
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
A handful of fresh parsley
2 tbsp. fresh dill
1 tsp. brown unrefined sugar
2 tbsp. pine nuts, dry-roasted
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Using a sharp knife, make deep slits in the eggplants lengthwise (be careful not to pierce them all the way to the bottom). Fit the eggplants into a baking tray (slit side up) and pre-bake for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce: Heat up 1½ tbsp. olive oil in a pan. Add chopped onions and fry them gently until soft and translucent. Add chopped garlic to the onions and fry them for another minute or two. Add cinnamon and coat the onion and garlic mixture in it. Set aside.
- After 30 minutes, take pre-baked eggplants out of the oven and place them in a colander in the sink, letting the excess water drain off. Reduce oven temperature to 355 degrees.
- Once eggplants have drained and cooled, scoop some of their flesh out to make room for the stuffing. Chop scooped-out eggplant flesh finely and add to the onion and garlic mixture, together with chopped tomatoes. Fry it all gently until tomatoes lose their moisture and you get a thick sauce. Season with sugar, salt, and pepper. Add most of the fresh parsley and dill, reserving a little for a garnish.
- Lightly salt the inside of scooped eggplants, and fill them with the tomato mixture.
- Snugly place them in an oven-proof dish and pour the rest of tomato mixture to the bottom of the dish with 1 ½ tbsp of olive oil and 40 ml of water (approximately 2 3/4 tbsp.).
- Cover the tray with a piece of kitchen foil and bake for about 20 minutes.
- Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with fresh dill or parsley and roasted pine nuts.
Note: By adding minced meat, this can also be made into a meat dish.
Sfenj, a Moroccan donut, are a hallmark of the country’s Hanukkah cuisine, and they’re a lot easier to make than conventional sufganiyot, or filled donuts. Fried and then covered in honey or sugar, they are irresistible. This family recipe comes from Marcelle Azoulay of Casablanca.
1 ½ tsp. yeast
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ kg. flour (about 4 cups)
1 cup warm water
Oil, for frying
- In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, yeast and salt, then add the water. Mix well until smooth. Cover your dough, and let it rest for 3-4 hours until it rises.
- Heat enough oil to deep-fry the sfenj. The oil should be very hot, and if possible, your frying pan should be placed on a slight incline.
- Dip your hands in water, then pull the dough into a round about the size of a tennis ball. Stretch the dough to make a hole in the middle. Repeat process with remaining dough.
- Place each ball in the oil on the tilted side, with less oil. When it begins to darken, push it to the side with more oil and fry until golden-brown.
- Serve sfenj hot, sprinkled with sugar, drizzled with honey or plain. Consider pairing these tasty treats with a hot cup of mint tea.
Analucía’s Yucca Latkes (Latin America)
Yucca, a starchy fruit native to the Americas, is the star of this unusual holiday treat that offers a more complex flavor than traditional potato latkes. Serve them to your guests, and see if they can tell the difference!
3 medium-sized yucca peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces (or small enough to fit into your food processor)
¼ large yellow onion
1 medium Yukon or other potato, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves
¼ cup potato flour or yucca flour
2 eggs, whisked
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola or grapeseed oil, for frying
- Using a food processor with the small shredding blade, shred the yucca and the onion. Then add the mixture to a bowl and grate the garlic cloves. Add the eggs, potato flour, salt, and pepper, and mix well.
- Heat a large frying pan with enough canola oil to coat the bottom and allow to come up to about 360 degrees. You can also test it with a small piece of batter — if it sizzles, it’s ready.
- Spoon a tablespoon-sized amount of latke mixture into the pan, and slowly add it to the hot oil. Lightly grease the back of your spoon and gently press down on the latke so it fries evenly. (I add about 3-4 latkes to a large skillet.)
- Fry on first side until golden brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Then use a spatula to carefully flip over. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until crispy.
- Once done, move to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.
Grandma Gitel’s Potato Latkes (New York)
It doesn’t get simpler than this family recipe from New York, which comes to us by way of JDC CEO Ariel Zwang. If you’re looking for a basic recipe for traditional potato latkes, this is it.
Salt and pepper to taste
- Grate potatoes and drain in sieve to eliminate all liquid.
- For every two large potatoes, beat one egg with some salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix and fry in hot oil.
Maria’s Chocolate Donuts (Poland)
This Hanukkah donut recipe, which comes to us from Maria Kos, the former director of programming for children and families at JCC Warsaw, produces treats are as delicious as they are beautiful. Remember to make yourself a hot cup of cocoa or tea to go along with it, and try making it with kids!
Ingredients for Donuts:
5 cups wheat flour
2 packets dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm milk
¼ cup warm water
½ cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. of vanilla sugar
½ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. butter
Ingredients for Chocolate Topping:
1 bar white chocolate
A dash of milk
1 tbsp. butter
Food coloring of your choice
Instructions for Donuts:
- Mix all the ingredients in a big bowl. Then, remove the mixture from the bowl and knead it. When the dough seems ready, return to bowl, cover with a cotton cloth and put it in a warm place. Wait until it doubles its size.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it for a few seconds, then roll the dough with a rolling pin until it’s about a half-inch thick.
- Cut out donut shapes. (You should get 10 donuts, more or less.)
- Pour oil into a frying pot and wait until the temperature gets to 320 degrees.
- Fry your donuts on both sides until they are golden brown.
- Place them on a paper towel to dry and cool. Once cool, dip them in the chocolate topping (below), use optional sprinkles, and enjoy!
Instructions for Chocolate Topping:
- Melt chocolate in hot water
- Add a dash of milk and 1 tbsp. of butter.
- Mix all the ingredients.
- Add food coloring of your choice.
- Whisk until the color blends.
Shlomit’s Sufganiyot (Israel)
These yogurt-thickened donuts that come to us by way of Shlomit Rosenfeld, a Jerusalem native and JDC senior development associate, fry exceptionally well. Make them this Hanukkah and share with friends!
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 packet vanilla sugar
2 tubs (400 grams) of Eshel, an Israeli unsweetened yogurt, or another unsweetened yogurt
Powdered sugar (to taste)
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
- Heat oil in a frying pan, and when hot, spoon “blobs” of batter in and fry on both sides.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve hot.
Zucchini Latkes with Za’atar Sour Cream (Estonia)
This recipe from Danielle Chaimovitz-Basok, a Jewish educator in Estonia, combines a yummy green with potatoes in a holiday latke. Chaimovitz-Basok says that what she loves about sharing the recipe for this and other Jewish foods is that it connects disparate people from all over the world, who may not share the same language or national culture, but who are connected by their Jewish heritage and love of food.
“Food for me is my love language, and sharing Jewish food — its history and the stories behind it, while thinking of all the women who inspired these recipes and Jewish traditions — is why I really fell in love with cooking.”
Ingredients for Latkes:
6 large russet potatoes or 12 regular-sized yellow potatoes
4 medium zucchinis
2 onions, grated
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/ 4 cup flour
2 tsps. ground coriander
2 tsps. salt
1/2 tsps. ground black pepper
3 tbsps. dried parsley
Oil for frying
Ingredients for Za’atar Sour Cream:
1 cup sour cream
1 heaping tablespoon za’atar
1 tbsp. olive oil
Instructions for Latkes:
- Grate the potatoes and zucchinis with a hand grater or in a food processor and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Grate the onion and use your hands to squeeze out as much water as you can before placing in the potato mixture. Transfer the whole mixture to a bowl and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
- Add the eggs, flour, coriander, salt, pepper, and parsley. Mix well until everything is well coated.
- Heat about 3/4 inch oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot enough, place a piece of carrot in the oil, as it keeps the oil clean.
- Using your hands, form small rounds of potato latkes about 1/4 cup in size and squeeze out some more of the liquid. Gently drop into the oil and flatten with a fork. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the edges are brown and crispy. lf you’re eating immediately, transfer the latkes to a paper-lined baking sheet to cool. Serve with the za’atar sour cream.
Instructions for Za’atar Sour Cream:
- Mix all the ingredients together and serve alongside the latkes.
Illya’s Latkes (Ukraine)
This kid-friendly recipe from Illya Buzunov, Active Jewish Teens coordinator in Kyiv, Ukraine, where Ukraine’s largest Jewish community is located, is something you can easily put together.
1 lb. peeled potatoes
1 medium onion
6 tbsp. all-purpose flour or matzah meal
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
Scallions, for garnish
- Grate the potatoes and onion. Place the mixture on a dish towel and squeeze and wring out as much liquid as possible.
- Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the eggs, flour, salt, pepper, and baking powder, and mix until the flour is absorbed.
- In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, pour in about 1/3 inch of the oil. Once the oil is hot (a drop of potato mix placed in the pan should sizzle), use a tablespoon to drop the batter into the hot pan, cooking in batches. Use a spatula to flatten and shape the drops into discs.
- When the edges of the latkes are brown and crispy (about five minutes), flip. Cook until the second side is deeply browned, about another five minutes.
- Transfer the latkes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess oil and sprinkle them with salt while still warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.