There’s no shortage of sweet treats to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights. Sufganiyot, the customary jelly doughnut found at many a Hanukkah table, is typically fried in oil as a way to remember the miracle of Hanukkah. But in these modern times, fried is not the only way to eat a doughnut. Join us on this food adventure as we explore both traditional and unusual, healthy and decadent, savory and sweet, vegan, gluten-free, spicy, air fryer, and more. There’s even sufganiyot cake — and while you might be thinking cake doughnut, we’re actually talking about doughnut cake. Yep, sufganiyot just got really interesting.
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Why do we eat sufganiyot on Hanukkah?
Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights, celebrating the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian army, or more accurately, the rededication of the Temple after that victory. According to Jewish tradition, there was only enough oil to light the menorah in the Temple for one day, but it ended up burning for eight days — which is why Hanukkah’s lighting of the menorah stretches over eight nights.
This Hanukkah miracle is also why oil is one of the main symbols of Hanukkah and is so present in the holiday’s celebratory foods. Fried foods — like potato latkes and the delicious doughnuts known in Hebrew as sufganiyot (the plural form of sufganiyah) — are often included on Hanukkah menus.
According to Gil Marks in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, these jelly doughnuts are Central European in origin. They were first injected with jelly in Germany, but their Jewish heritage really begins in Poland. They’re called paczki in Polish (pronounced “pownch-kee”) and are used to celebrate many holidays in Poland and in Polish communities outside Poland. The doughnuts were originally fried in lard (which is not kosher), so when Polish Jews started making them, they used oil instead. Some Polish Jews made them a Hanukkah tradition in their home country, but the tradition was more widely adopted and solidified in two ways when Polish Jews brought them to Israel. First, Israelis gave the doughnuts the Hebrew name sufganiyot. The term is derived from the word for spongy dough from the Talmud, connecting the Jewish religion to the food. Second, the Israeli labor federation lobbied to make them an official tradition as a way to create bakery jobs.
How to make sufganiyot
These treats are made with what is called an enriched yeast dough. That means you add yeast, fat, and egg yolks to flour to create a very rich dough — this same dough is used in other pastries like cinnamon rolls and brioche. The process is pretty straightforward: You roll out the dough and punch out circles. After allowing to rise and puff up, the dough circles are fried in vegetable oil until golden brown and tossed with cinnamon and granulated sugar or confectioners’ sugar. Each pastry is then pumped full of jelly or custard.
You’ll likely need the following tools, depending on the recipe you select: a large bowl and stand mixer, rolling pin, round cookie cutter, floured surface for kneading and shaping the doughnuts, tea towels or plastic wrap for rising, a deep fryer or large pot and candy thermometer, slotted spoon, baking sheet, and paper towels for blotting.
But don’t let all of the ingredients and tools or the deep-frying scare you — the dough is not that difficult to make — unless by “difficult” you mean difficult to stop eating, in which case these doughnuts are really, really difficult!
We hope you enjoy this fun, curated collection of sufganiyot recipes to try this year. Happy Hanukkah!
Traditional sufganiyot recipes
For those who want a classic jelly donut on Hanukkah, start here
Tori Avey developed this traditional sufganiyot recipe after taking all of the most common sufganiyot-making pain points into consideration. She includes tips for maintaining the frying oil temperature, avoiding a raw dough center, piping the jam cleanly with a squeeze bottle, and more. The results of her thorough and easy-to-follow recipe are fabulous!
This traditional recipe for sufganiyot uses a clever approach to fill the doughnut with jelly. Instead of piping jelly into the center after the pastries are fried, these are filled with jelly pre-frying. Use round cookie cutters or biscuit cutters to make dough circles. Top half of the circles with a mound of jelly just in the center, place a plain dough circle on top, and seal the edges to lock in the jam. Then fry away. One of the biggest benefits to this technique is that the jelly isn’t oozing out of the doughnuts on the serving platter. Oh, and no piping bag needed!
This Martha Stewart version of sufganiyot uses the same technique of sandwiching the jelly between two circles of dough before frying. But unlike the Spruce Eats recipe that calls for rolling the fried donuts in powdered sugar, Martha opts for a coating of granulated sugar.
Creative and unique sufganiyot recipes
When you’re ready to try something new, here are a few modern twists on the Hanukkah treat, from a spicy jalapeño filling to a chai tea-infused dough
If you want a spicy surprise with your Hanukkah sufganiyot, this one combines strawberries and jalapeños for a jam that tickles your taste buds. Don’t be intimidated by the special sauce — you just mix strawberry jelly and jalapeño jelly and let them mingle in the pastry bag before piping them into your doughnuts.
If you’re looking for an interesting way to celebrate Hanukkah while extending the joy of Thanksgiving, this recipe combines the two holidays beautifully. It substitutes cranberry sauce for the traditional jelly, to give you a taste of the American holiday feast while honoring Jewish tradition. The doughnuts are dusted with powdered sugar for a sweet finish. If you want to make these really spectacular, make your own cranberry sauce filling using this recipe.
In this unique, spice-filled sufganiyot recipe, the doughnut dough is infused with chai flavors using a tea bag steeped in water, and then the pumpkin filling is boosted with nutmeg and orange zest. You might never go back to traditional sufganiyot again.
Vanilla, amaretto, and lemon zest find their way into the dough of this creative sufganiyot recipe that still has a classic strawberry jam filling. Just be sure to plan ahead, as the dough needs to chill overnight in the refrigerator.
Bring home the flavors of the Mediterranean with this rosewater pistachio doughnut featuring a vanilla bean custard filling. The rosewater is only in the glaze, so you can easily modify the strength of the floral flavor. Pistachio pieces are sprinkled on top. Not only is the taste incredible, the pink and green hues are eye-catching.
Sufganiyot recipes for special diets
We don’t want anyone to feel left out. If you don’t do eggs or dairy or wheat, sufganiyot are for you, too.
A traditional sufganiyah is vegetarian, but not vegan. However, there are ways around the animal product components if you are seeking a dairy-free, egg-free Hanukkah pastry. This recipe uses soy milk (or almond milk; your choice) and vegan butter to enrich the dough. Orange zest and optional brandy add depth to the flavor. You will never know you’re eating a vegan doughnut.
If you are gluten sensitive, you too can enjoy these delights! This recipe replaces the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour. It also uses the method of placing the jelly between two pieces of dough and then pinching the edges to create a kind of jelly dumpling before frying.
This clever recipe takes advantage of a keto pancake mix to bring sufganiyot to low-carb dieters. Eggs, oil, and milk also make their way into the dough. Sugar, on the other hand, is completely eliminated thanks to a keto-friendly sugar replacer. The dough is baked in doughnut molds for effortless shaping. Yes, even low-carbers can enjoy their jelly doughnuts!
Healthier sufganiyot recipes
Fried doughnuts for dessert after fried latkes for dinner … might be overkill. When you’re looking for a lighter option, try a baked or air-fried version of sufganiyot.
If you’re still recovering from Thanksgiving, fried food might not be at the top of your list for holiday treats. In that case, let us present to you baked sufganiyot. While these oven-made pastries don’t align with the symbolism of the oil, the spirit of the tradition is still there. Plus, the clean-up is much easier without a deep fryer.
The air fryer is a great way to avoid deep-fried guilt. It’s also easier, since the air fryer does all the work, instead of standing over the stove managing the oil temperature, flipping the doughnuts partway through, and trying not to get burned. But there’s something else kind of magical about this recipe: The dough is simply a can of crescent rolls!
Chocolate and vanilla sufganiyot recipes
Whether you’re a chocolate lover or a vanilla lover (or both!), we’ve got decadent non-jam options for you
Why put jam in the center of a doughnut when you could put a chunk of high-end chocolate? The dough is a traditional sufganiyot recipe, but the filling is anything but!
We all have license to indulge on the holidays, so why not pull out all the stops with your sufganiyot? These are dense with delight. They’re glazed with Mexican chocolate and stuffed with marshmallow fluff. It’s hyperbole for “sugar,” but we’re not complaining!
This is the sufganiyot recipe people will be talking about for weeks after your Hanukkah party is over. A traditional sufganiyot dough is fried, then filled with a homemade halvah filling, dipped in melted chocolate, and more halvah is sprinkled on top. There’s nothing subtle about this recipe. If you love chocolate and you love halvah, this recipe is for you.
A vanilla caramel pastry cream is piped into fried doughnuts for a sweet surprise, and a little change of pace from strawberry jam.
It’s still sufganiyot, just in the form of a slice! Now you can have your sufganiyot and eat it, too.
If you don’t feel the need to cut out individual donuts and fry them, the alternative is to make one big doughnut, bake it, and call it a cake! Because it is baked, this cake doesn’t have the traditional element of oil for Hanukkah, but the idea is still there! Basically, this is a brioche dough baked in a cake pan. Instead of being injected with jelly, the cake is sliced in half, then the jelly is spread on one half and topped with the other to make a giant jelly sandwich.
This monkey bread-style bundt cake takes sufganiyot one step further. Prepare the doughnut dough, divide into small chunks to fill with jam, and fold each one over and seal it. But instead of deep-frying these mini filled doughnuts, you roll them in a flavored butter, then coat with cinnamon-sugar, and stuff into a bundt pan! The result is a non-fried doughnut cake made up of lots of little homemade jelly doughnuts.
More Hanukkah recipes
You’ve got the doughnuts covered. Decide on the rest of your Hanukkah meal here!