The headline dishes eaten for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah are fried foods, in particular, doughnuts and potato latkes. But there are also some traditional Jewish foods that are regulars at celebration tables.


Hanukkah (aka the festival of light) runs over eight nights. Hanukkah 2023 runs from Thursday 7-Friday 15 December. Those celebrating come together at sundown to light candles, sing songs and eat. Although fried foods play a starring role, there’s also a tradition of eating a range of dairy-based dishes.

The holiday celebrates the miracle of a tiny amount of holy oil keeping the flame in the Temple alight for more than a week. So recipes based around olive oil are also popular. Check out our guide to Hanukkah for the full low-down and our Hanukkah recipe collection for more inspiration.

With several celebrations to eat through, it’s worth having some lighter dishes up your sleeve to balance out all that fried food and the delicious dairy.

Here’s my pick of some of the BBC Good Food recipes you might want to serve over Hanukkah — which may not all be traditional nor definitive but will definitely fit the festival theme.

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1. Za’atar and herb latkes

Za'atar latkes served on a large bowl with a dip

No celebration is complete without a plate of freshly fried, crunchy latkes. Adding a generous handful of Middle Eastern herb mixture, za’atar, plus some fresh green herbs takes the classic potato-based fritter to the next level. Make a double batch of our za'atar & herb latkes and freeze them for another night – then heat from frozen in a hot oven to crisp them up perfectly.

If you want to keep things simple, try this classic potato latkes recipe or you could up the nutritional value with these pretty purple beetroot latkes which are packed with vitamin C and folate.

2. Cinnamon, raisin and walnut rugelach

Rugelach served on a cooling rack and on a plate

It’s traditional for some families to incorporate dairy-based foods over Hanukkah. Find out why in our complete guide to Hanukkah food. Rugelach are little rolled biscuits made from a cream cheese based pastry. These crumbly, croissant-shaped biscuits just melt in the mouth. This very traditional filling of dried fruits, walnuts and cinnamon fills the kitchen with gorgeous, festive smells as they bake.

For a fun twist that children (and adults) will adore, try rugelach with a white chocolate and raspberry filling.

3. Salt beef with beetroot and horseradish relish

Salt beef served in a roll next to beetroot relish and vegetables

Salt beef and latkes make perfect partners. This slow-cooked meat is a Jewish favourite and an economical way of making the best of a cheaper cut of meat. This salt beef recipe is simple to make with little hands-on time for a satisfying supper, or, if you’re hosting guests, dress up the beef as a party canapé on rye bread with pickles and mustard.

You could go full-on Hanukkah and swap out the rye bread for mini potato latkes. A topping of gherkin ketchup would finish them perfectly.

4. Chicken soup with matzo balls

Chicken matzo ball soup served in a white bowl

No Jewish celebration is complete without a bowl of steaming Jewish penicillin, aka matzo ball soup. Serve it loaded with the poached chicken you used to make the soup – shred it into chunks – plus some sliced carrots and leeks, and you’ve got yourself a nutritious, lighter meal when the fried foods get too much. Stick with the traditional recipe, or make life easier with this slow cooker chicken soup which will do its own thing while you’re out all day.

5. Jam doughnuts

Doughnuts filled with jam and custard served stacked in a box

Doughnuts are a non-negotiable part of the celebrations. You can keep them simple like these perfectly pillowy, light strawberry-jam filled treats, or switch it up with different flavoured curds and custard.

If you don’t fancy deep-frying, try these air-fryer doughnuts or try making these mincemeat baked doughnuts for a less oily bake.

6. Challah

Challah bread served on a chopping board with a slice taken out

Another perennial favourite that’s served at pretty much any Jewish festival. This dairy-free loaf enriched with eggs and sugar is suitable to serve with a meat-based meal under Jewish dietary laws which do not allow meat and milk (and other dairy-based foods) to be served in the same meal. It’s always a family favourite and served weekly with the Friday night (Sabbath) meal. Leftovers make the best French toast.

7. Pomegranate brisket

Pomegranate brisket served on a platter

Brisket is another favourite for many families at festival meals. It’s a cheaper cut which makes it great value and the slow-cook makes it flavourful and tender. There is minimal hands-on time needed for this pomegranate brisket recipe which brings the sweet-sour notes of tangy fruit for an extra flavour dimension. Or pick this one-pot brisket which is braised slowly with red wine and winter veg for a deeply savoury flavour. Cauliflower and squash fritters would make a colourful side dish.

8. Sunken chocolate, olive oil and hazelnut cake

Sunken chocolate cake served with a slice taken out

Olive oil based cakes are great at Hanukkah as they reflect the festival’s focus. They’re also popular with Jewish families who keep kosher, as they can be eaten after a meat meal. This richly chocolatey bake is soft, gooey and gluten-free so ticks a ton of nutritional boxes. Or, for a more grown-up crowd, pick this olive oil and muscat bake.

9. Halloumi fries

Halloumi fries recipe served in a pot with a yogurt dip

These crunchy, spiced sticks of salty cheese tick every Hanukkah party box. And with a sprinkle of Middle Eastern spice mixture, za’atar, they’re the real deal for celebrations. Dip them in Thai-style sweet chilli sauce if you don’t fancy the Greek yogurt dip. Or serve with these quick-to-make bread and butter pickled cucumbers for a tangy contrast.

10. Churros

Churros served on a plate with chocolate dipping sauce

Who doesn’t love the Spanish-style fried dough with rich chocolate dipping sauce? Our churros recipe is simple to make and ideal for larger gatherings. Not only that, there’s no need to wait for the yeast to rise as the work is all done by baking powder. If you love these, take them to the next level with our churros ice cream sandwiches — the ultimate luxury.

Like this? See more

Jewish recipes

Our top doughnut recipes

Classic potato latkes recipe

Simple salt beef recipe

All our top Hanukkah recipes


What recipes do you eat at Hanukkah? Leave a comment below...

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