The savory dishes typically served during Hanukkah—crispy latkes prime among them—are a compelling reason on their own to look forward to the holiday. But it's the desserts we always want the most, and this year, we're going to mainly be celebrating the excuse to eat an assortment of our favorite fried, filled, and sugar-coated sweets for eight nights straight. Here are some of our top contenders, including tender rugelach with a variety of fillings, delightfully messy jelly doughnuts, and an elegant olive oil cake, for finishing off a festive Hanukkah meal.
Filled with walnuts, honey, and spices, these classic rugelach pair just as well with a snifter of brandy as with a glass of milk. Enriching the dough with cream cheese makes it easier to roll and yields a sturdier pastry with a pleasantly tangy edge. When layered and wrapped well, rugelach have a long shelf life, so consider them for this year's cookie swap.
Like chopped nuts and honey, chocolate is a time-honored filling for rugelach. This version has a tender butter crust wrapped around a flavorful (but not overly sweet) filling made with bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder. The dough freezes well after rolling, allowing you to make one big batch and bake fresh cookies throughout the week.
By December, you might be a little over pumpkin pie—or anything pumpkin spice–related, really. But if you're not sick of it yet, try wrapping that same flavor profile of pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a cream cheese–based dough to make rugelach that are extra seasonally appropriate. Walnuts give these a little crunch to contrast with the smooth pumpkin butter in the filling.
Another fall-friendly rugelach variation that's as bright as it is seasonal, this one is filled with tart dried cranberries, orange zest, and apricot preserves. Be sure to take your time while rolling up the dough to maintain a nice, tight shape in the cookies and avoid floppy overhangs.
These rugelach put raspberry jam front and center, so choose a high-quality spread. A bit of orange zest goes a long way toward contrasting with the sweet, nut-studded filling. Prefer boysenberry to raspberry, or pecans to almonds? You can substitute any jam, nut, or citrus you like in this recipe, making it a perfect roadmap for all sorts of rugelach.
Swapping browned butter for regular butter in the dough immediately infuses these flaky rugelach with loads of depth and flavor. We wrap the dough around salty peanuts and a swipe of Nutella, for a flavor profile reminiscent of Tin Roof Sundae ice cream. A vanilla glaze drizzled over the pastries lends an elegant finishing touch.
Fried doughnuts are traditional on Hanukkah, but they're also a ton of work to make at home. This much easier recipe mimics fall-appropriate apple cider doughnuts by rolling apple cider–infused mini muffins in melted butter and cinnamon as soon as they come out of the oven.
This recipe gives classic jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot in Hebrew) a fall twist, subbing cranberry sauce for jelly in their gooey centers. A jellied cranberry sauce will supply the most traditional texture, but you can use a whole-berry sauce as long as you spoon it into the doughnuts instead of trying to pipe it.
Paczki are Polish jelly doughnuts historically eaten before Lent, made with an eggy, heavily yeasted, brioche-like dough. They're a big deal in American cities with significant Polish populations, like Detroit and Chicago, and we predict they'll be just as much of a hit at your Hanukkah festivities. Raspberry, prune, and rose jelly are typical fillings, but feel free to substitute any jam or preserves you prefer.
While sugar cookies don't have a strong connection to Hanukkah, they're easy to love and can be customized to suit the holiday with the help of a menorah or Star of David cookie cutter. Plus, they're great as currency in a game of dreidel. A mixture of butter and refined coconut oil in the dough gives these cookies a rich flavor and mouthfeel, as well as a helpfully long shelf life.
Definitely not traditional, but perfectly suited for an updated Hanukkah gathering, these cute little cakey doughnuts are made by frying lumps of yolk-rich batter in refined coconut oil, then bathing them in copious amounts of powdered sugar. Their petite size makes them ideal for dessert after a big meal (or, potentially, for stuffing into your mouth by the handful as you clear the plates away).
This dairy-free cake is wonderfully moist, thanks to the sophisticated combination of olive oil and freshly squeezed orange juice. Use an olive oil that's on the fruity side to best complement the citrus. Candied almonds make a beautiful finishing touch and provide textural contrast to boot.
Tishpishti is a Sephardic Jewish nut-based cake, typically served during Passover but useful whenever you need a gluten-free (and/or dairy-free!) dessert. For a more American feel, we add apple and a warm mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and freshly grated ginger to the cake batter. Similarly, the rosewater-scented syrup that usually douses the cake is replaced with a syrup spiked with Applejack brandy and ginger.
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