Understanding The History of the Popular Hanukkah Foods

by Staff

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is meant to commemorate the miracle that occurred during the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Like many other holidays worldwide, the holiday is a family affair. It’s a time to gather, share food, and rejoice in blessings, all while handing down and developing new traditions.

At this time, communal meals are an essential rite during the eight days of Hanukkah, and friends who have fought throughout the year are supposed to reconcile at these dinners.

Plenty of food is eaten at this time, with the common ones being:


According to mythology, Judith, a devout widow, was instrumental in releasing the Jews. She met Holofernes, the governor of Syrians while feigning to surrender to her captives.

He invited her to his tent because he was drawn to her beauty. She offered him cheese to quench his thirst and wine to quench his thirst. But the wine made him drowsy, and as he slept, Judith decapitated him, weakening the adversary and leading to the Jews’ historic victory.

Essentially, it was cheese that led to the Syrian-Greeks’ demise. As a result, cheesecake, blintzes, and other cheese-centric meals are common at this time.

Hanukkah gelt

The roots of gelt, Yiddish for “money,” can be found in the first coins produced by Jews after their independence from the Maccabees.

The first coins bore an image of a menorah, representing the rededication miracle. Around Hanukkah in the eighteenth century, it was common to express gratitude to religious teachers with a monetary tribute.

The customary recipients, however, had changed from teachers to children by the eighteenth century. Hanukkah gelt can now be found in savings bonds, cheques, and chocolate coins.


These potato pancakes descended from Italian ricotta pancakes. In the late thirteenth century, a rabbi in Italy connected pancakes and the celebration.

Cheese pancakes became a traditional Hanukkah treat because they mixed dairy and fried dishes. Potato latkes, on the other hand, are a more recent Ashkenazi innovation that gained popularity in Eastern Europe around the mid-1800s as a result of crop failures that led to extensive potato planting.


Kugel has a long history, originating as a bready dumpling inspired by the German practice of steaming puddings.

The meal was altered when noodles became the preferred component for Jewish households in the sixteenth century.

With the development of technology in the nineteenth century, it evolved once again and became a baked foodstuff.

For Hanukkah, a sweet, dairy-based kugel with sour cream and cream cheese serves as a memory of Judith’s brave actions.


The word “rugelach,” which means “royal,” is derived from Yiddish and may have Polish roots.

Rugelach are tasty, filled cookies that are appropriate all year, but the cream cheese in the batter makes them great for Hanukkah.

Cooking with cream cheese is a Central European tradition with old Middle Eastern roots.


Sufganiyot, or doughnut-like pastries, are a favorite Hanukkah dessert, particularly in Israel.

They may have derived from a yeast dough pastry referenced in the Talmud, known as sufganin (absorbent), because it absorbed a lot of oil during cooking.

Cheese was added to these doughnuts in Spain, which inspired various fried cheese sweets popular among Sephardim.

The jelly-filled form originated among German Jews, who introduced it to Israel in the 1930s.


Rugelach are tasty, filled cookies that are appropriate all year, but the cream cheese in the batter makes them great for Hanukkah.

Cooking with cream cheese is a Central European tradition with old Middle Eastern roots. The word “rugelach,” which means “royal,” is derived from Yiddish and may have Polish roots.

Making rugelach cookies is a delicious way to celebrate.

You can prepare the cookie mix yourself or order an already prepared mix from a reputable company such as Manischewitz.

Manischewitz has been at the forefront of kosher culinary offerings for nearly a century. As America’s leading brand of gourmet kosher products, Manischewitz is reviving the Hanukkah sugar cookie tradition with various delectable cookie kits.

This kit includes a sugar cookie mix, color powders, sprinkle mix, piping bags, and a distinctive sweater cookie cutter that promises a blend of humor, tradition, and flavor.

Tricks to have healthier Hanukkah meals

Although traditional Hanukkah foods such as latkes are delicious, it is crucial not to overindulge because they are high in carbohydrates and oil.

You must be wondering how you can celebrate Hanukkah without jeopardizing your health or enlarging your waistline, right?

Well, there are several things you can do to have a joyous and healthy Hanukkah. These things include:

Go with healthier oils.

While all oils have the same number of calories per gram of fat, the key distinction between cooking oils is the ratio of good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to dangerous trans and saturated fats.

When frying food, choosing oil with a high smoke point is critical. One of the best oils to go for is coconut oil. The oil has a high smoking point and contains beneficial fatty acids, making it ideal for frying latkes and sufganiyot.

Bake the food instead of deep frying.

Just because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil does not imply that you must eat an abundance of it.

Although it may be difficult to believe, you may still enjoy a broad selection of tasty Hanukkah goodies without deep-frying them. Instead, for a healthier Hanukkah, bake your donuts and latkes.

Go with lighter latke toppings.

Consider replacing classic toppings like sour cream with lighter alternatives for a healthier Hanukkah.

When coupled with latkes, applesauce is a terrific alternative because it is light, kosher, non-dairy, and fruity, providing your tastebuds with the perfect sweet and savory voyage.

If you prefer sour cream to applesauce, use low-fat sour cream.

Swap out the dairy.

“What is Hanukkah without all the dairy-rich treats?” you may be wondering.

Well, dairy elements in delights like kugels (traditionally made with egg noodles) can be easily replaced with lighter plant-based or nut-based alternatives; vegan sour creams are rich and creamy, and most vegan cheeses have an “umami” flavor and can melt.

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