Make Your Hanukkah Celebration Vegan with These Easy Recipes and Tips
When you're plant-based, the holiday season means fitting your new lifestyle into long-held family and religious celebrations. While this can seem like a high-pressure situation, there are many simple tips and tricks that can transform your favorite recipe vegan and ensure your traditions are cruelty-free. Below, we show you how to vegan-ize your Hanukkah celebration:
Hanukkah gelt is foil-wrapped milk chocolate that resembles gold coins, given to children. But you can find vegan dark chocolate gelt which looks just as festive. And dark chocolate tastes so much better. No Whey makes a great dairy-free version.
It’s All About the Oil
Latkes, also known as potato pancakes, are usually the star of the show on Hanukkah. You fry them in lots of oil and ideally serve them as soon as they are done.
There are two basic kinds of latkes, ones where the potatoes are blended into a smooth batter (I grew up with this kind) and one where the potatoes are grated. Grated is the classic way; people used to do this on a box grater, and scrape their knuckles. It’s so much easier in a food processor.
The first time I made them this way, I totally forgot about the egg that my mother used in her blended version. But you know what? The grated potatoes, with onions and seasoning, don’t need an egg. They are kind of like a hash brown cake without the egg.
I split the difference and make half the batter in the blender, and grate the rest. This gives the latkes a better texture, and it holds together well. It also dirties twice as many dishes…
Vegan (and Gluten-Free) Latkes
- 2 russet potatoes peeled (about a pound)
- 1 medium onion
- olive oil
- Cut one potato into quarters and quarter the onion. Blend in a blender until a smooth batter forms.
- Cut the other potato in half lengthwise and grate using a food processor. Or go old school and use a box grater. No need to cut the potato first then, but watch your fingers.
- Drain the grated potato in a sieve or squeeze out the water with your hands. Combine the grated and blended potatoes and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat a skillet slicked with oil on medium-high. When the oil is hot, add large spoonfuls of batter to make pancakes; flatten them a little with the back of a spatula. Try to resist messing with them while they cook. They take 3-5 minutes per side. I like to use a cast-iron skillet for the latkes.
- Drain on paper towels.
- If you are making latkes in advance, you can reheat in a 350-degree oven until piping hot.
There are two classic toppings for latkes: applesauce or sour cream. Applesauce is not only the vegan option, but it’s also tastier, I think, and far healthier. If you're looking for a vegan sour cream, Tofutti makes a great one available here.
I make applesauce by cooking on the stove and pureeing them through a food mill. You can also cook them in an Instant Pot. With the food mill, you don’t have to peel the apples, but the milling process takes awhile. But this is why you have children. Mine would do it for 5 minutes or so, then grow bored and eat a bowl of applesauce. With three kids and one compliant husband, a bushel of apples becomes applesauce in no time.
Get a mix of apples: Macoun, Macintosh, Empire, any heirloom varieties you can find. Wash and cut into quarters. There’s no need to core or peel, but cut out any bad spots. Expect shrinkage as every person passing through the kitchen will grab a few pieces. Even the dog sits patiently drooling, accepting any small bits that fall to the floor.
Fill a big pot, add a cinnamon stick, cover, and cook over the lowest heat possible so apples don’t scorch. Your house will fill with the lovely apple cinnamon scent.
If you’re feeling fancy, throw in a handful of fresh cranberries or a pear. You can also add a knob of fresh ginger or freshly grated nutmeg, but I prefer the pure cinnamon flavor.
Stir occasionally and cook till all the apples are all broken down and soft (about an hour). Pass through the food mill.
Make a big batch so you can freeze some for later.
One Bowl Olive Oil Brownies
As long as you’re making applesauce, you might as well whip up a batch of brownies with a half cup of homemade sauce. For the olive oil, choose an inexpensive oil that doesn’t have an overwhelmingly fruity aroma.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract,
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup vegan chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9 x 9 pan with foil and spray lightly with oil.
- Melt unsweetened chocolate in the large bowl in the microwave. Stir in sugar, oil, vanilla, cocoa, applesauce and salt, and mix until smooth. add flour and stir. Mix in chocolate chips.
- Pour into pan and bake 25-30 minutes.
- Cut into squares when cool.
Don’t Forget the Candles
Since some vegans won’t use beeswax, many of the premium Menorah candles are off-limits. There are pretty eco-friendly soy or vegetable wax candles which are a healthier choice than paraffin candles. Find some here.