8 delicious Hanukkah dishes that are eaten around the world

by | 15 Dec 2022

Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is the eight-day Jewish celebration held every year in December. It commemorates the miracle of light that happened when Judah rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem to God. It’s celebrated every night with traditions like prayers, menorah lightings, and special Hanukkah dishes.

One of the most important Hanukkah traditions is eating fried foods, to symbolize the miracle of the oil lighting the menorah in the Temple and burning for eight days and nights. As Jews live all over the world, from Italy and Morocco to Colombia and India, each community has their own way of celebrating Hanukkah. In Italy, you’ll find fried chicken and in Colombia, it’s fried plantains. In Spain it’s fried eggplants, while Syrians love fried leek fritters. And almost every Jewish community does their own delicious version of sweet fried doughnuts. To celebrate Hanukkah, we’re rounding up eight of the tastiest Hanukkah dishes enjoyed around the world.


One of the most common – and delicious – foods eaten at Hanukkah are doughnuts. You’ll find variations of Jewish sweet fried doughnuts all over the world.


Jewish communities from Spain to Latin America to the Middle East enjoy a sweet treat known as Buñuelo, originating with the Sephardic Jews. Buñuelos are deep-fried balls of dough soaked in honey.


In Egypt, Jewish communities make a similar treat called Zalabia. It’s said this dish originated with the Sephardic Jews and arrived in Egypt with the Jewish communities escaping the Spanish Inquisition.


In North Africa, including Algeria and Morocco, Jewish communites enjoy Sfenj. These tasty treats are deep-fried doughnuts dipped in honey or sprinkled with sugar.


Over in Israel, there’s a more high-maintenance version known as sufganiyot which are deep-fried doughnuts usually filled with jam or custard and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Based on the Eastern European doughnuts brought over by Jewish immigrants in the 1920s, these delicious treats are now massively popular from Israel to the USA.


Jewish communities in Italy love to make Frittelle di Chanukah, a spiced fried dough made with anise-flavoured Sambuca, dried fruit, olive oil, and honey.


The Greeks have a similar Hanukkah dessert, known as Loukoumades, which are Greek doughnuts drenched in honey.


In southern India, Jewish communities make Gulab Jamun, which are balls of fried dough soaked in sugary syrup of saffron and rosewater. They’ve been a favourite amongst Jewish communities in Goa, Kolkata, Kerala and Mumbai since medieval times and originated in the oldest Indian Jewish community in Kochi in southern India.


In Romania and Moldova, Jewish families love to make papanasi. It’s an extravagant deep-fried doughnut, filled with cheese curd and topped with cherry jam and sour cream. While it’s a classic Hanukkah dish, it’s adored all year round. We can see why!

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Jewish communities in Italy make Pollo Fritto, or fried chicken, for Hanukkah celebrations. They marinate the chicken with lemon and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, then coat the chicken in egg and flour and fry it until crispy. It’s usually served with (surprise, surprise!) more fried dishes, like fried gnocchi, deep-fried vegetables and deep-fried olives. Since olive oil is the star of Italian cuisine and oil is a crucial part of Hanukkah celebrations, it makes sense that Italian Jews put on a showstopping feast at Hanukkah.


Originating with Ashkenazi Jews, a blintz is a rolled, stuffed pancake similar to French crepes, Hungarian palacsinta, or Polish nalesniki. These delicious treats can be sweet or savoury and are usually filled with sweet soft cheese like dry curd cheese or ricotta. Blintzes are traditionally enjoyed on Hanukkah to honour Judith, a Jewish widow who killed the Assyrian king after giving him lots of cheese and wine. Today you’ll find blintzes in central European countries like Hungary, Slovakia and Poland and in American Jewish delis.

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Also originating with the Ashkenazi Jews, latkes are similar to the blintzes, but savoury. Latkes are like a potato pancake or fritter traditionally enjoyed at Hanukkah. While they’re typically made with potatoes, you can find versions of latkes made with zucchini or cheese, especially in Italy where they make them with ricotta. Another delicious Hanukkah tradition is to eat your latkes with apple sauce. Yum!


Many Jewish communities across Europe and North Africa make fried eggplant with lashings of oil as part of their Hanukkah celebrations. In Spain, they make berenjenas con miel, or eggplants with honey. This dish can be traced back to the Moors in North Africa and the Sephardic Jews in Portugal and Spain. In Italy, Jewish families also make a version of this for Hanukkah, with layers of fried eggplant slices topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

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Sephardic Jews from Greek to Syria love to make keftes for Hanukkah. This tasty dish is similar to potato latkes but made with green leeks and of course, lots of oil. During the Spanish Inquisition, Jews had to take their food and culture underground, as they would be persecuted and forced to convert if they were caught cooking Jewish food.


This sweet deep-fried dish is a classic in Iraq. Similar to funnel cake, zengoula is made with honey, lemon syrup and powdered sugar and is eaten for many celebrations including the Hanukkah festivities. You’ll find a similar dish in India, known as jalebi, which is also enjoyed at Hanukkah among Jewish families.

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Every Jewish community around the world enjoys something fried as part of their Hanukkah celebrations – including Latin Americans. You’ll find tostones, or fried plantains, at Hanukkah feasts from Colombia and Cuba to Puerto Rico. These crispy chips are made with slices of green plantains. Alternatively, you can use the ripened plantains to make the sweeter plátanos fritos. It’s the perfect dish to share with friends and family this Hanukkah.

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