6 Delicious Ways to Give Traditional Hanukkah Recipes a Modern Twist
Think loaded latke sliders, Gochujang-spiced brisket, gelt cookies, and more.
The winter holidays are packed with good food and drink, and Hanukkah is no exception. After all, who doesn’t love fall-off-the-bone brisket, or perfectly crispy potato latkes with applesauce? But after a while, the same foods year after year can start to feel a bit…stale. The good news is that you don’t have to give up traditional Hanukkah flavors to give them a modern update. There are myriad ways you can take the dishes you grew up with and give them your own unique twist—whether that means adjusting for dietary restrictions, swapping out spices for an unexpected flavor profile on a familiar dish, or just adding a few new components on top of an old favorite.
Read on for ways you can get creative with your Hanukkah table while still keeping tradition alive.
Potato latkes are THE quintessential Hanukkah food, but why not give them a sweet little refresh with everyone’s favorite spud substitute: root veggies. Using a mix of carrots, parsnips, and beets—plus the traditional onions and scallions—as the latke base makes the dish lighter and subtly sweeter, without sacrificing anything about that crispy, piping hot patty. If you notice a bit more moisture, make sure to squeeze out any excess liquid in a dish towel. This will help you attain the crunchy exterior you’re looking for. Then, proceed with the recipe as normal and get ready for veggie-packed pancakes so good that no one will catch on to how healthy they actually are.
Sufganiyot, or jelly-filled doughnuts, are a classic Hanukkah food. I’m the kind of person who believes that the only place for jelly is sandwiched between bread and peanut butter, but I do love the tradition. Whether you’re a fan of jelly doughnuts or not, you can keep the sufganiyot spirit alive with a slightly more modern (and delicious) dessert: bread pudding made with fruit compote. Chunks of soft, buttery challah bread are soaked with brandy, milk, eggs, and topped with a tart and sweet mix of fruit. The result? An undoubtedly celebratory dessert that will be sure to please the whole family.
Traditional holiday brisket will always be a fan favorite. The combination of falling-apart braised meat and the mouthwatering aroma that permeates the house for the whole day leading up to the big meal just can’t be beat. Keep all the best parts of this holiday tradition alive while kicking things up a notch by making a Gochujang-spiced brisket. Gochujang is a spicy and slightly sweet Korean chili paste that will take the flavor profile of your brisket to an entirely new level without overpowering the dish. Serve the versatile finished product with classic mashed potatoes for dinner, then repurpose your leftovers in a taco topped with kimchi (if there are any leftovers, that is.)
Take your standard latke and make it a little extra with fun toppings. The possibilities are pretty much endless for what you can pile on top of a potato pancake. For a savory treat, try whipped goat cheese, smoked salmon, and a sprinkle of chives, a garlicky aioli and a sprinkle of shaved Brussels sprouts, or make mini latke sliders. In the mood for a special dessert? Dip your latkes into melted chocolate, let cool, and dollop with whipped cream. And for a morning-after treat, latke eggs benedict can’t be beat.
When it comes to modern eating (and hosting), we would be remiss if we didn’t mention any dietary restrictions. There is guaranteed to be someone around your holiday table who is gluten-free or dairy-free, and what would a modern Hanukkah look like without some accommodation? Traditional kugel is normally a solid mix of gluten, dairy, eggs, and sugar, baked up to steaming perfection in a casserole dish. To make this more friendly for those with restrictions, choose a gluten-free ribbon pasta (like Banza) as your base and sub in cashew cream for traditional cream cheese. To make cashew cream, soak cashews for a few hours in warm water and blend together to create a smooth, thick consistency. Throw in some non-dairy butter along with the rest of the classic ingredients (raisins, apples, cinnamon…drool) and everyone will be able to enjoy this Hanukkah treat.
Sure, those little chocolate coins stamped with dreidels and menorahs are a staple for the eight nights of lights. But does anyone really love the plain chocolate medallions for their taste? Make gelt into a truly festive and satisfying dessert by pressing them into sugar cookies and rolling them in colored sugar for a bright and festive sweet ending to the meal. It’s a Hanukkah taste on the beloved thumbprint cookie, and sure to be a crowd-pleaser.