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Here’s to Hanukkah: Eight Traditions to Profit from the Festival of Lights

While there’s nothing like the aroma of bubbe’s brisket on the first night of Hanukkah, cooking fatigue may set in before the first candle is lit. Encourage your customers to take a break from the kitchen and order Hanuakkh eats and treats from your restaurant. It’ll help make their holiday deliciously simple, and you’ll cash in on additional sales.

Hanukkah starts at sundown on Sunday, December 18, 2022, so it's time to be prepared, Here are EIGHT traditional Hanukkah dishes (with recipes) to help wrap up a profitable start to the holidays.

#1 Brisket

Whether roasted or seared, brisket is great any time of year. But, brisket is, without a doubt, the quintessential meat of the Jewish holidays, including Hanukkah, and can be the centerpiece of the meal. “Who made the brisket?” is always the first question asked when the tray of thinly sliced, melt-in-your-mouth brisket is brought to the table, as there are probably as many brisket recipes as there are Jewish families.

While every family claims to have “the best brisket,” you just can’t go wrong if you start with a flat-end cut and roast it “low and slow” for several hours with root vegetables like potato, parsnip, and carrot to thicken and add sweetness to the sauce. The sweet and sour sauce can be made from anything from ginger ale, 7-up, or cranberry sauce (for the sweet) and chili sauce or ketchup (for the sour.) TIP: Don't confuse corned beef brisket with plain brisket. Corned beef is the same cut, but it has been processed with salt and spices.

#2 Latkes

Latkes are an absolute must for Hanukkah. These potato pancakes are not only delicious, but they also have a deep cultural and religious history behind them. Standard latkes are fried and served with sour cream or applesauce, but low-carb and keto alternative latkes dishes have become increasingly popular, substituting potatoes with lower-carb veggies like parsnips, zucchini, and cauliflower. The options are endless, but no matter how you fry it, nothing says “Hanukkah” more than lots and lots of latkes.

Ina Garten’s Perfect Potato Latke Recipe

#3 Challah

This braided, egg-based bread is eaten during various Jewish holidays and at Shabbat dinner. While there are many versions of the challah recipe, including adding everything from poppy and sesame seeds to cinnamon and raisins, there’s really nothing quite as delicious as the old-fashioned challah bread, simply made with eggs, flour, yeast, oil, salt, and a little sugar. Generally eaten by pulling apart, rather than cutting, serve with room temperature butter and watch your customers scarf down this mouthwatering Hanukkah goodie.

Challah Recipe

#4 Kugel

Served as a side dish, Kugel is versatile, and one of the most traditional items on a Hanukkah menu. This egg noodle casserole can be either sweet or savory, with the sweet version featuring cinnamon and sugar, and the savory option made with spinach, broccoli, or zucchini. Like latkes, there are also many lower-carb versions of this traditional noodle dish, along with an enormous selection of recipes that fulfill many other dietary and nutritional needs, so gluten-conscious, vegan, and Paleo customers can now also partake in this Hanukkah favorite.

#5 Matzah Ball Soup

Like brisket, the question most asked at Jewish holiday celebrations is, “Who Made the Matzah Ball Soup?” Matzah balls are soup dumplings made from a mixture of matzah meal, beaten eggs, water, and fat, such as oil, margarine, or chicken fat (schmaltz). Usually cooked in separate pots, the broth is made from rendered chicken broth, a touch of dill, and a few carrots and celery. The Matzah Ball is generally cooked in its own pot, then served in the center of the bowl of broth.

The texture of matzah balls varies, again, from one recipe to another. Some may be light and fluffy, and float in the broth, while others are heavy and quite dense, and sink to the bottom of the bowl. There’s really no right or wrong way to cook a matzah ball, but because no one can seem to eat just one, if you put this dish on your menu, make sure you make plenty!

Leave Room for Dessert

Wrap up the meal with Hanukkah-inspired desserts. From traditional treats to modern twists, there’s a Hanukkah treat for everyone. Offer your customers desserts like Jelly Donuts, Babka, and Mandel Bread, or cute cookies and cupcakes decorated for the holiday.

Your customers can take a break from baking and still enjoy noshing and sharing these delicious desserts with their own families.

#6 Jelly Donuts

Fried foods take center stage during the Festival of Lights with doughnuts taking a seat at the head of the dessert table.

The tradition of eating jelly donuts for the holidays dates back to the “beginning of time,” so to speak. There’s an Israeli folktale that says that when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God tried to cheer them up by giving them jelly doughnuts. Pretty much all scholars agree that the tale has zero bases in the scripture, but the idea that doughnuts bring joy is a standard across cultures.

The Israeli version of the donut, sufganiyot, is a staple of annual Hanukkah celebrations. The most stereotypical sufganiyot are fried balls of yeast dough filled with strawberry jelly and dusted heavily with powdered sugar, but these pillowy pastries can be shaped like everyday round donuts, twisted like a pretzel, or made into little donut holes, and the filling options are endless.

Strawberry Sufganiyot Recipe

8. Mandel Bread

Nothing says Hanukkah like the sweet taste and aroma of fresh Mandel Bread. This decadent loaf has a deliciously creamy filling and rich taste.

A Hanukkah season isn’t complete without this traditional bread on the table. The familiar flavors are reminiscent of any Jewish family’s childhood holiday traditions.

Let Your Customers Know!

The stress of planning two huge family dinners within days of each other could really take away from the excitement of both holidays. If you decide to add some Hanukkah dishes to your menu, let your customers know as soon as possible.

Whether you plan to offer a few side dishes or a fully catered menu, promote your holiday specials by posting on social media, passing out flyers, adding a message to delivery orders, placing signs around your restaurant, and sending emails with your offerings and delivery options to your Jewish customers now.

By letting your customers know your restaurant is here to help lessen the load and make their holidays easier to manage, you’ll profit in more ways than one.

By Eileen Strauss


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