For most of my life, I was convinced I was partly Jewish. Even though no one in my family is Jewish nor married into a Jewish family, I knew inside–just knew–I was mishpachah. I loved the food, the holidays, the food, the traditions, and the food way too much not to be Jewish. At the very least, I was Jewish by consumption.

Once home DNA testing made it possible to discover my ancestry, I ordered a kit. When it arrived, I ran to the bathroom and discreetly spat into that little vial. A few weeks later my inbox dinged with the long-awaited email, and I pored through my results.

At the top of the page, it read: “Southern European 97.3%.” Natch. Beneath that: “Portuguese, Highly Likely Match.” Well, that makes sense. And on a third line: “Spanish, Possible Match.” Not surprising, I guess. After all, I did feel an affinity for Madrid when we visited.

Yet the farther down the page I traced my finger, the more my heart sank. Finally, there–at the very bottom–was my answer. “Ashkenazi Jewish: 0.00%.” How could that be?! Granted, my only evidence of kinship was my love of Jewish food, but that was enough for me.

In the end, you can’t argue with chromosomes.

Since then, our friend Ginger has christened The One and me “Junior Jews.” And we’ve been blessed to be guests at her and others’ holiday tables, as well as host our Jewish friends at ours.

I guess you could say, if you can’t join ’em, eat with ’em.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful and delicious Hanukkah. May it be a season of true peace, understanding, and love.

David Leite's handwritten signature of 'David.'
A yellow Le Creuset pot with Nach Waxman's sliced beef brisket inside.
David Leite
1 of 10

Nach Waxman’s Beef Brisket

The brisket is partially cooked, removed from the oven, and sliced. It's then returned to the oven to cook completely. Juicy, deeply flavorful, and amazingly tender. Genius.
A casserole dish of sweet noodle kugel; in front is a plate with a slice of kugel on it.
David Leite
2 of 10

Sweet Noodle Kugel

Noodle kugel, a popular Jewish casserole often enjoyed during holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is made with egg noodles, creamy custard, dried fruit, and, sometimes, a sweet, crunchy topping. This traditional recipe is wicked versatile and can be gobbled up warm or cold, for breakfast, as a side, or for dessert.

This is a delicious kugel, and reminiscent of my childhood with some differences in preparation.

Michelle S.
Several sweet potato and apple latkes on a paper towel with a bowl of applesauce in the background.
Squire Fox
3 of 10

Sweet Potato and Apple Latkes

These crispy fried sweet potato and apple latkes are made with matzoh meal, sweet potatoes, and apples. They can be made ahead, which makes them perfect for holiday gatherings, or a quick weeknight dinner.

This was my first attempt at making latkes, and they are fantastic! I am definitely going to add this to my holiday repertoire. As usual, a great recipe from Leite’s!

Ava H.
Roasted tzimmes on a large sheet pan.
John Tavares
4 of 10

Roasted Tzimmes

With the final addition of za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mixture, this sweet carrot dish becomes another perfect combination of East meets West—a great mix of Ashkenazi tradition with Middle Eastern flavors.
Nine potato latkes with apple-date chutney and cinnamon sour cream on a wooden cutting board.
Sang An
5 of 10

Potato Latkes with Apple-Date Chutney

These potato latkes are, per tradition, blissfully crisp outside, tender inside. And the wonderfulness doesn’t stop there. A dollop of sweet apple-date chutney takes the place of the usual applesauce and the requisite plain sour cream takes on a holiday lilt thanks to a pinch of ground cinnamon.
Pieces of batter-fried chicken piled on a white platter.
David Leite
6 of 10

Batter-Fried Chicken

This batter-fried chicken calls for the pieces to be quickly brined and then dipped in a seasoned batter for a crisp Southern-style crust. Simple as can be. This is the real deal. Includes secrets for that crunchy crust.

This was absolutely the best fried chicken. My husband and grandkids loved this.

Patty T.
Cheese blintzes in a cast-iron frying pan, one being lifted up by a metal spatula.
Aaron Rezny
7 of 10

Cheese Blintz

A sweet, creamy cheese filling gets wrapped inside a soft, crepey pancake (bletlach), before being fried in clarified butter. There's nothing like it for a filling and satisfying breakfast.
A white plate with two jelly-filled sufganiyot doughnuts.
Ryan Szulc
8 of 10

Hanukkah Jelly Doughnuts | Sufganiyot

Sufganiyot, the classic Hanukkah jelly doughnuts, are a delight year round. For this recipe, you don’t fill the cloud of dough with jelly, you simply spoon some on top. Genius.
A baking sheet with four rows of baked fig rugelach.
Erin Scott
9 of 10

Fig Rugelach

Fig rugelach recipe are traditional Hanukkah dessert that you’re going to want to borrow for your every cookie craving throughout the year.

Wow! These rugelach look amazing and are so delicious!

A selection of frosted cookies decorated for Hanukkah, on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
Katie Hammond
10 of 10

Hanukkah Cookies

Hanukkah cookies are traditional this time of year. For these, use your favorite sugar, gingerbread, or shortbread cookie dough and whip out your decorating tips.


Why are so many fried foods served during Hanukkah?

The fried foods are symbolic of the miracle of Hanukkah, when the oil burned in the temple of Jerusalem for 8 days.

Are there any food restrictions during Hanukkah?

Pork and shellfish are forbidden, and to keep kosher, meat or poultry must not be mixed with dairy in the same meal.

Which foods are most popular during Hanukkah?

Brisket, fried chicken, potato latkes, and doughnuts are all very popular during Hanukkah.

We hope these recipes bring you comfort, joy, and happiness as you share them and celebrate with your loved ones. If you’re entertaining lots and need more recipes to fill out the 8 days, check out our collections of beef brisket recipes and fried chicken recipes.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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