Like most holidays, food is an integral part of Hanukkah. But as is often the case at holiday celebrations, it’s easy for vegans to feel left out of the fun. Don’t despair. Genius chefs have found workarounds so that vegans can eat a plant-based rendition of everything from matzo ball soup to brisket. Here are some recipes to accompany lighting the menorah.
Latkes are a Hanukkah favorite, and there are so many ways to make these small and savory fried pancakes. Potatoes are the classic main ingredient, but other grated root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots or even beets will also work. Instead of using egg for a binder, vegan versions mix in potato starch or flax seed. Forks Over Knives offers a healthier baked version of potato-corn latkes. Or you can really go rogue with the Minimalist Baker’s recipe for samosa potato cakes with green chutney. As the Minimalist Baker herself puts it, “Everyone knows samosas are the best appetizer, so why not make them into latkes?” Serve with applesauce and/or vegan sour cream.
What?! Vegans don’t eat brisket. Well, not really. But the handy resource group Jewish Veg has a recipe for a jackfruit-based alternative. Just add crushed tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, red wine and a few more tasty ingredients, and you’ll have a new take on the traditional meaty main dish.
Kugel is usually made as an egg noodle-based dessert casserole involving eggs and sweet cream sauce. But the Unconventional Baker replaces all that egg and dairy with a cashew-based cream cheese sauce and adds raisins and apples for sweetness. Or you can turn kugel savory with this recipe from the Spruce Eats. It uses carrots, onions, zucchini and potatoes, with the flexibility to add some of your other favorites.
Matzo ball soup
Matzo (also spelled matzah) ball soup is one of the most famous Jewish dishes and is especially know for its connection to Passover. But Hanukkah is also an excellent time to make it. The traditional way of preparing it is to float Ashkenazi Jewish soup dumplings called matzo balls — a mixture of matzo meal, water, eggs and chicken or other fat — in chicken soup. But you can substitute a delicious veggie broth and make vegan matzo balls. This recipe from The Edgy Veg uses coconut oil and potato starch as fat and binder. Forks Over Knives’ recipe for herbed vegan matzo ball soup holds it together with cooked quinoa and flax seed. And if you’re wondering, matzo meal is mostly wheat flour.
Braided challah bread can still be good even without the egg coating traditionally used to make it shiny on top. Instead, you can use soy or other plant-based milk to replicate the shine. There’s even a whole class of “water challah” recipes for those who avoid eggs. Water challah is more popular in Israel, while eggy challah prevails in the U.S. The Spruce Eats gets sweet with the topping in its maple-glazed vegan water challah. You can liven your bread up with poppy seeds, too.
Blintzes are sweet, thin crepes usually filled with fruit or cheese. It’s simple enough to swap out the usual milk and eggs in the batter. This recipe from Yum Vegan Lunch Ideas fakes the cream cheese with silken tofu, plus a little vanilla, powdered sugar, lemon juice, vegan butter and apple cider vinegar. Famous vegan chef Mark Reinfeld’s recipe for blueberry blintzes is on the Jewish Veg site and includes tahini and cardamom for extra flavor. If you keep your batter basic, it’s easy to go savory instead of sweet with the fillings.
Applesauce is almost always vegan. But you don’t have to settle for a bland version straight from the jar. Check out Cookie and Kate’s recipe for applesauce with maple and cinnamon. Or spice up your store-bought applesauce with something special, whether that’s a pinch of cayenne or some pureed cranberries.
Cashew sour cream
Top your latkes (and everything else) with freshly made cashew sour cream. The Simple Veganista recommends soaking the cashews in two to three inches of water for a couple of hours to soften them. Then all you have to do is add water, lemon, apple cider vinegar and salt to your high-speed food processor and blast them into cream.
Chocolate is important to any holiday celebration, and chocolate babka is good morning, noon or night. You’ll need plenty of vegan butter to make this delicious, pull-apart dessert bread. The Domestic Gothess provides easy-to-follow pictorial directions.
Part of the Hanukkah story is a miracle of long-lasting oil. As Jewish vegan activist Mayim Bialik explains on PETA’s website, “Sufganiyot, or jelly doughnuts, are a traditional food eaten for Hanukkah. The holiday falls in the winter and commemorates the miracle of oil that lights the menorah in the Great Temple in Jerusalem lasting for eight days rather than one. Foods fried in oil are thus traditional for this festive winter holiday. This is a recipe I veganized, and although it is labor-intensive, the results are unbelievably delicious.”
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