Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Not Your Bubbe’s Hanukkah Dinner: Easy Vegan Twists On Classic Treats

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

It’s almost Hanukkah, which means I’m preparing myself for eight nights of delectable holiday treats—crispy latkes and fluffy sufganiyot, each fried to golden brown perfection in the Festival of Lights’ symbolic oil. Full shade to Passover’s gefilte fish and noodle kugel; Hanukkah dinners are just in a class of their own! However, all my fellow vegans (busy double-checking the ingredients on their dark chocolate gelt) know that Hanukkah foods don’t inherently mesh well with a plant-based lifestyle. Unfortunately, our tasty potato pancakes and jelly donuts usually call for eggs as binding agents and occasionally dairy. But, never fear! In the holiday spirit of perseverance and maintaining tradition, I come to you with the ultimate guide to vegan-ifying the Hanukkah menu of your childhood.

Hanukkah just can’t be Hanukkah without latkes. While you could splurge on an egg replacement, like JUST Egg, to form your latke patties, I’d argue that the best route is using aquafaba. If you haven’t heard of it, aquafaba is the slightly murky water that comes in cans of chickpeas. I know, it sounds nasty; but I promise that this legume-juice is the secret to vegan baking. Simply replace the egg in your family’s favorite latke recipe with some aquafaba, and your potato mixture will hold its shape. A food-science Hanukkah miracle! In case you don’t believe me, check out this amazing latke recipe from the EdgyVeg for more steps on incorporating this hack. Another top latke tip is to mix some garlic into your batter. I love roasting winter vegetables as an easy Hanukkah dinner side dish and always throw some garlic cloves on the veggie trays. Plucking out those roasted cloves and mixing them into your potato pancakes is a game changer.

You can also take your vegan latkes to the next level by making homemade applesauce. It’s tempting to just grab a jar of Mott’s at the grocery store, but I swear that from-scratch applesauce is worth the extra effort. To make the sauce, peel the bruised apples at the bottom of your fridge drawer (I know they’re there!) and throw as many as you like into a large pot. Then add a generous sprinkle of cinnamon, a squeeze of lemon juice and some maple syrup, to taste. Put the pot on medium and add splashes of water to prevent burning. Before you know it, the apples will melt into a gooey mass of deliciousness, and your kitchen will fill with the warmest holiday scent. A spoonful of this homemade applesauce on top of your latkes equals sweet, salty, soft, crunchy perfection.

As for dessert, Miyoko’s vegan butter and jellies made with fruit pectin will be your best friends when crafting the perfect, bouncy sufganiyot. One great recipe to check out for ideal donuts is this tried-and-true option from Sarah’s Vegan Kitchen. When I make this recipe, I love to substitute the orange and brandy for lemon zest and juice. My family prefers how the lemon pairs with the sweet jelly filling but feel free to mix-and-match flavors! An important tip to keep in mind when following any vegan sufganiyot recipe is to be cautious about activating your yeast with plant milk. I’ve anecdotally noticed that my sufganiyot dough rises more easily when I use water, rather than attempting a fully enriched dough. With these points in mind, it’s actually shockingly easy to fry up impressive-looking vegan doughnuts! 

There you have it: a vegan Hanukkah cheat sheet. I can hear the “but where’s the protein?” naysayers clearing their throats, but to that I say, “Hanukkah is not about protein!” This festival is for indulging in the fried carbs of victory and not thinking twice about it. I’ll eat my tofu the following week! That being said, if you have the hutzpah to tackle a seitan brisket, be my guest (it’s actually very tasty). I hope you all try out some of these recipe recommendations and find new confidence in how veganism can work with your Jewish traditions. Hanukkah sameach! 

Kate is a third-year English major at UCLA, hailing from San Francisco. When she's not editing articles for Her Campus at UCLA, she enjoys getting lost in a good book and experimenting with vegan recipes.