Hanukkah, like Thanksgiving, is primarily about food and family for most of us. Unlike Thanksgiving, it takes place over the course of eight days, which is great on several levels—you get to prepare and eat a wider variety of delicious dishes, of course, but it also takes the pressure off any single day. Which means that rather than whip yourself up into a frenzy trying to turn out the perfect feast, you can create a series of more laid-back dinners for whomever you're celebrating with. Here are 22 recipes to try out for your own Hanukkah festivities, including a slew of fall-themed (and parve) first courses and sides, desserts both classic and inventive, and main dishes that look and taste impressive but are surprisingly easy to make.
Perfect Slow-Cooked Rack of Lamb for the Grill or the Stovetop
Rack of lamb makes a fantastic centerpiece for any festive meal. The last thing you want to do with a beautiful lamb rack is overcook it, so to get that perfect edge-to-edge medium-rare, cook your lamb sous vide first—by using a precision cooker, or by hacking a beer cooler according to our instructions—before searing it off quickly in a hot skillet.
Slow-Roasted Boneless Leg of Lamb With Garlic, Rosemary, and Lemon
As is true for so many cuts of meat, the reverse sear is the most foolproof route to leg of lamb that's evenly cooked with a well-browned crust. First, we slow-roast the meat almost all the way through at a very low temperature, then sear it in the hottest oven possible to get a crisp exterior without overcooking.
Chicken schnitzel is as simple to make as it is crowd-pleasing: Just brine pounded chicken breasts for about half an hour to ensure maximum juiciness, then coat them with homemade white-bread crumbs and fry them up. Pan-frying is easier than deep-frying and has the extra advantage of allowing you to cook the chicken more evenly.
Whole Roasted Fish With Oregano, Parsley, and Lemon
Whole roasted fish has a reputation for being a fancy, special-occasion-only sort of dish, which makes it an excellent choice for a parve Hanukkah main. But that reputation belies the reality of how easy it is: Brine the fish quickly in salt water, stuff the cavity with aromatic vegetables and herbs, pop the whole thing in the oven, and about 25 minutes later, you'll have fish that's juicier, more flavorful, and more tender than any fillets. Carving it is a little tricky, but we've got a helpful guide to show you how it's done.
No food is more iconic of Hanukkah than latkes, and getting them right is probably the surest route to winning over the hearts and minds of your dinner guests. The perfect specimen is something like a cross between a potato pancake and a hash brown, with a plump center, a deeply browned crust, and wispy edges. This all-purpose recipe uses good old-fashioned russet potatoes, onion, and both eggs and matzo meal as binding agents—the former for fat and flavor, and the latter to absorb excess moisture.
Beet Latkes With Walnuts and Horseradish Sour Cream
If you're one of those folks who believe that making latkes with anything other than white potatoes and onion is tantamount to blasphemy, we would never do anything so crazy as attempt to convince you otherwise. If you're not in that camp, we've got a number of tasty variations to introduce you to. This version, inspired by Greek skordalia, starts with potatoes and onion, but adds vibrantly colored beets and crunchy walnuts. The horseradish-spiked sour cream is a perfect complement, but can be omitted if you'd like to keep these parve.
Spiced Sweet Potato, Carrot, and Acorn Squash Latkes
To add some depth and keep them from getting too sweet, we make these sweet potato latkes with carrot and acorn squash, too. Freshly grated ginger provides a spicy heat to balance out the sweetness, while paprika, cumin, and coriander lend smoky and floral notes.
Zucchini Latkes With Parmesan, Pine Nuts, and Basil
These zucchini latkes are relatively light and refreshing (for latkes), using lemon zest and chopped basil to preserve the summer squash's bright, grassy qualities. The addition of pine nuts and Parmesan cheese gives them a pesto-like flavor scheme.
If you've committed to knocking everyone's socks off with your latkes this year, you may as well go all the way and make your own applesauce to serve them with—it's really easy and will fill your kitchen with the wonderful smells of cinnamon and apple cider. Golden Delicious apples break down nicely into a smooth sauce, while Fujis maintain enough firmness to provide some textural contrast.
Parve Soups, Salads, and Sides
Fall Harvest Salad With Roasted Brassicas, Fingerlings, and Radishes
This lovely fall salad is chock-full of autumn vegetables, including sunchokes, radishes, potatoes, and brassicas (we use a mix of broccoli, cauliflower, and romanesco broccoli), combined with frisée and radicchio. Almost everything here can be prepared a day or more ahead of time—even the greens are sturdy enough to be chopped and refrigerated a day in advance.
Roasted Cauliflower With Pine Nut, Raisin, and Caper Vinaigrette
For sweet, nutty roasted cauliflower with nicely crisped edges and a tender interior, use very high heat and cut the cauliflower into thick wedges. A drizzle of olive oil is enough to finish it, but our pine nut, raisin, and caper vinaigrette makes it perfect for a special occasion.
Carrot and Rye Berry Salad With Celery, Cilantro, and Marcona Almonds
Grain salads make hearty, filling sides that can double as lunch the next day. Here, we add carrots, onion, and celery to a base of earthy, pleasantly chewy rye berries. The Marcona almonds provide a crunchy contrast with the grains.
Fried Brussels Sprouts With Shallots, Honey, and Balsamic Vinegar
As with other brassicas, Brussels sprouts are best when cooked hot and fast. Roasting them in a hot oven is a natural and easy choice, but deep-frying gets you even better results. A simple dressing of honey and balsamic vinegar finishes them off.
Beet and Citrus Salad With Pine Nut Vinaigrette
To bring out the natural sweetness and earthiness of beets, wrap them in foil and throw them in the oven so they steam as they cook. Combining them with grapefruit and orange segments, pine nuts, and a sherry vinaigrette creates a pretty, refreshing cold-weather salad.
Easy Lentil Soup With Lemon Zest, Garlic, and Parsley
The secret ingredient in this simple yet flavor-packed lentil soup variation is gremolata, the Italian condiment of lemon zest, parsley, and garlic, which we use both to sauté along with the vegetables here and to drizzle on top for a final kick. Making the soup with vegetable stock (you can use our quick vegetable stock version to save time) instead of chicken stock keeps it parve.
Roasted Squash and Raw Carrot Soup
You can make a perfectly good squash and carrot soup by simply simmering and blending the two vegetables together, but to bring out the most intense flavor in each ingredient, try roasting the squash and puréeing it with raw carrot juice. Chopped parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds make an attractive and texture-enhancing garnish.
Easy Chocolate Rugelach
These classic rugelach have a tender butter crust and a rich filling of bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder. Once rolled, the dough logs can be frozen and thawed before cutting and baking, a handy time-saver if you're going to be cooking for a crowd.
Pumpkin Pie Rugelach
If you haven't had your fill of pumpkin pie by the time Hanukkah rolls around, these will provide all the mildly sweet, warm flavors of pumpkin pie in rugala form. The traditional cream cheese–based dough is spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves and filled with pumpkin butter and walnuts.
Cranberry Orange Rugelach
Dried cranberries, orange zest, and apricot preserves create a bright, tasty, and fall-appropriate filling for rugelach. Take it slow as you roll up the cookies so you don't stretch out the dough too much.
Cranberry Sauce Jelly Doughnuts
If you've got cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving, this is a brilliant way to repurpose it. Jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot in Hebrew) are traditional desserts on Hanukkah, and these get an extra seasonal twist by replacing the jelly with cranberry sauce. A filling of jellied sauce better resembles that of a real jelly doughnut, of course, but you can also use whole-berry sauce, though you'll have to spoon it in instead of piping it.
Apple Cider Doughnut Mini Muffins
Deep-frying doughnuts sounds like too much work for you, you say? Here's a fun shortcut to doughnut hole–like pastries: Bake a batch of mini muffins, then roll them in melted butter and cinnamon while they're still warm. The result is similar to an apple cider doughnut, but requires a fraction of the labor.
Orange Olive Oil Cake With Candied Walnuts
Olive oil and freshly squeezed orange juice keep this dairy-free cake plenty moist and give it a sophisticated flavor profile. Use a fruity olive oil to complement the citrus, and top the cake with candied walnuts for textural contrast and a stunning presentation.