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My Favorite Traditional Hanukkah Recipes

December 2, 2020 | by Elizabeth Kurtz

Plus irresistible donut ice cream sandwiches.

One of the beautiful constants in our lives is the Jewish calendar. Whatever changes the world and life brings – Covid, guests, no guests, election results – our calendar reminds us of the blessings God has bestowed on the Jewish people. Despite the pandemic, we will still be celebrating Hanukkah. We will still light the menorah, sing our favorites songs and eat our favorite Hanukkah treats. I am sharing here some of my favorite traditional Hanukkah recipes. Happy Hanukkah and may you all remain safe and healthy.

Holiday Standing Rib Roast

Serves 10

Use vegetables or root vegetables or potatoes on the bottom of the roast in this recipe. I often use baby potatoes and cipollini onions.

  • 1 (7 – 8 pound) standing rib roast
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 cup red wine
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped thyme
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 425°F.

On a roasting pan, place onions, carrots, and celery. Cover with beef stock and wine. Place beef on top of vegetables, bone-side down.

In a small dish, mix olive oil, garlic and onion powder, paprika, pepper, salt, parsley, rosemary, thyme and thinly sliced garlic. With your hands, rub the meat with the spices.

Place roast in oven for 25 minutes. Do not open the oven, but turn down the heat to 300°F. Cook for approximately 2 ½ hours for rare (130°F). Remove from the oven, cover and allow meat to rest for 15 minutes.

Remove vegetables from roasting pan and skim fat. Place liquid in a small saucepan over medium heat, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Slice meat and serve with vegetables and sauce poured on top.

Classic Potato Latkes

Makes 24

  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, about 6
  • 1 vidalia onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs for matzo meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) schmaltz (chicken fat), optional
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil and more for frying

Preheat oven to 325°F. Peel potatoes. Using the large holes of a box grater or the grater disk on a food processor, grate potatoes and onions. Transfer to a large kitchen towel. Gather ends of towel; twist over sink and squeeze firmly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Open towel; toss mixture to loosen. Gather towel; wring out once more.

Whisk eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, baking powder, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend. Add potato mixture. Using your fingers, mix until well coated. (Latke mixture should be wet and thick, not soupy.)

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Set a wire rack inside another large rimmed baking sheet; set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons schmaltz, if using, and 2 tablespoons oil (or 4 tablespoons oil if not using schmaltz; fat should measure about 1/8 inches) in a 12 inches nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Drop a small amount of latke mixture into pan. If the fat sizzles around the edges, it’s ready. (Do not let fat smoke.)

Working in batches and adding more schmaltz and oil to skillet as needed to maintain 1/8 inches fat, drop large spoonfuls of mixture into pan, pressing gently with the back of a spoon or spatula to flatten slightly. (If mixture becomes watery between batches, mix to incorporate; do not drain.)

Cook latkes, occasionally rotating pan for even browning, until golden brown and cooked through, 2 1/2-3 minutes per side. (If small pieces of potato floating in the oil start to burn, carefully strain out.)

Transfer latkes to paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain, then transfer to prepared wire rack. Place sheet with latkes in oven to keep warm and crisp while cooking remaining latkes.

Serve warm latkes with applesauce and sour cream.

Sweet Spiced Heirloom Carrots with Tahini Drizzle

Photo by Dash of

Serves 5

Fall flavors colors come together in this simple side dish that is both delicious and beautiful. Beautiful colorful carrots are paired perfectly with bold olive oil and sweet maple syrup. The carrots will get lightly browned on the outside and soft on the inside, yet still hold its shape. The tahini drizzle adds a savory complexity to the flavoring and a wonderful contrast.

  • 4 lbs Heirloom carrots or colored carrots (peeled)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Tahini sauce (recipe follows)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Arrange carrots (if using big carrots, slice on diagonal and in half) on a parchment-lined rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle olive oil, maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar over squash. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast until fork-tender and fragrant, about 20-25 minutes. Drizzle with tahini sauce and top with sprinkled parsley before serving. Serve warm.

Tahini Drizzle

  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice from 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)
  • ½ cup tahini paste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 ice cubes

In a medium bowl, combine garlic and lemon juice. Add tahini, olive oil, soy sauce, cumin, salt, and pepper to the bowl. Whisk until the mixture is thoroughly blended.

Add ice cubes one at a time, whisking after each addition until smooth. (It may seize up, don’t worry.) After about three ice cubes, you will have a perfectly creamy and smooth, tahini sauce.

Kasha Varnishkes

Serves 8

Recipe with a story, historic recipe, oldie but goody, this one is all of the above. Months ago I posted Grandma Tillie’s Brisket recipe (my kids still say it’s the best brisket) and it caused quite a stir in my family. I got the recipe from cousin Esther who got it from her mother, my great Aunt Thelma. But cousin Amy said it’s all wrong and promised to send the original (Amy, we are all waiting for the actual recipe). In the process of hearing from my numerous distant cousins, this recipe started to be passed around. And since one of my sisters asked, “What is kasha varnishkes” and Ratner’s in NY is no longer in business, I had to share it with everyone. My Uncle Bobby swears it’s the best he has ever had.

  • 1 (12 ounce) box of medium coarse Kasha
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ box bow tie pasta
  • 4 tablespoons margarine
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 cups plus some more boiling water
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Dash kosher salt and pepper

In a large bowl, beat egg and add the Kasha and mix well.

Preheat oven to 250° degrees. Spread the kasha on a large cookie pan and dry the kasha in oven for an hour or more. Mix well every 20 minutes. This is the secret step known only to the true masters of Kasha Varnishkes, according to my grandmother.

Make the bow ties as per packages instructions.

Heat margarine in a large sauté pan. Add mushrooms and onions and cook until soft.

In a large pot (you can use the same one that you cooked the pasta in, unwashed) put in the kasha. Then, put in a speck of water to heat the pot. Add one cup of water and bring to a boil and stir. Add another cup of boiling water and keep stirring. (All the stirring is good exercise. That’s what Tillie used to say.)

Add one cup of chicken broth and let cook on a low temperature for 20 minutes. KEEP STIRRING. Add a dash of kosher salt and pepper. Add the sautéed onions and mushrooms and add the bow ties to the mixture last. Do not overcook the pasta as the noodles will become mushy.

Cinnamon Sugar Donut Holes with Apple Compote

Serves 8 - 10

My friend Lee Kushnir sent this to me a while ago. I can’t believe it took me so long to try it. The recipe makes about 24 doughnut holes which turns out not to be enough because they are so good out of the pot that they don’t make it to the table. Don’t skip the apple brandy or liqueur in the apple compote, it gives it a nice flavor that is hard to pinpoint but warms and spices the dish.

  • 1 stick unsalted butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar (if not available, put regular sugar in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 3/4 gallon peanut or vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or margarine
  • 6 large Golden Delicious apples
  • 2 tablespoons Apple Brandy, Brandy or Apple liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half and scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Prepare cinnamon sugar by combining sugar and cinnamon in a flat, rimmed dish and mix well with a fork.

Prepare dough by combining margarine/butter, sugar, salt and water in a medium saucepan and set over high heat. Bring to a boil then remove from heat and add in the flour all at once. Using a wooden spoon stir well until the mixture comes together as a ball. Add eggs, 1 at a time, ensuring each is fully incorporated before adding the next (the dough should be nice and glossy when finished).

To fry, heat oil in a heavy based pot (like a Dutch oven) to 365°F. Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop, carefully drop a few balls at a time into the oil. Work in batches so as to not overcrowd the pot. Cook until golden and puffy – about 6 minutes. Use a mesh strainer or slotted metal spoon to remove from oil and place directly onto dish of cinnamon sugar. Roll around to coat evenly all over. Serve doughnuts warm with apple compote.

For the compote:

Peel apples, remove core and cut into a small 1/2 inch cubes. Set a large sauté pan over high heat and add margarine/butter and apples. Sauté for 2-3 minutes so you get a little color on the apple. Remove pan from heat and carefully add Apple Brandy. Return the pan to the heat and add remaining ingredients. Cook for 8-10 minutes until apples are very tender. Remove from heat and refrigerate for up to 3 days if not using immediately. Serve warm or room temperature with cinnamon sugared doughnuts.

Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches

Serves 12

This is a fun activity and dessert with kids. Make an ice cream bar with toppings to add to the sides and use lots of donut and ice cream flavors. You can make them ahead of time or on the spot.

12 chocolate covered doughnuts (or minis) of your choice, Ice cream flavor of your choice, I recommend coffee for adults, cookies and cream for kids

Toppings, optional

Split chocolate covered doughnuts in half crosswise. Spoon mini scoops of ice cream onto the bottom half of the doughnut ring leaving keeping the hole empty. Top with the other half of the doughnut. Roll sides in toppings, optional.

Click here for more Hanukkah recipes.

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