Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the rededication of the Temple, when oil that was only enough for 1 night miraculously lasted 8 nights. That miracle of oil led to the tradition of eating oily food during Hanukkah.
This food is delicious but not exactly high-scoring on my ZOE app. I learned during my testing phase that I have “poor” blood sugar and blood fat responses.
Every year, I host a party where we light the menorah, spin the dreidel, and eat traditional Hanukkah food.
The most popular dishes are latkes (potato pancakes), for which I get a score of 10 (out of 100), and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), which give me a score of 0.
Last year, I threw caution to the wind and decided to indulge in these treats. This is a perfectly fine and valid solution! One of the great things about ZOE is that nothing is off limits.
With clever food combinations, I can mitigate the impact of once-in-a-while foods. I compensated for eating those low-scoring foods by eating loads of vegetables for the rest of the day, and I got right back on the bandwagon once the festivities were over.
But this year, I want to try to hold a more ZOE-friendly Hanukkah celebration. I’m going to incorporate different veggies into my latkes, not just potatoes. And I’ll fry them in extra virgin olive oil for added polyphenol goodness.
Rather than serving them with the traditional sour cream and applesauce, I’ll offer whole-fat Greek yogurt and homemade apple compote.
For the sufganiyot, I need to get a bit more creative — I’m going to try out a modified stuffed French toast as an alternative.
Check out my recipes:
Creating a recipe with measurements is a challenge for this. I learned how to make latkes from my mother, who never followed a recipe. Her instructions were to mix up some potatoes, about a quarter to a third as much onion, some baking powder, and more salt and pepper than you’d expect.
Drop them on an oily pan and fry until golden and crispy. Unlike other latke chefs, my mom never added any egg or matzo meal, but I often found that I needed to include an egg to hold mine together.
I have a theory that latkes are most delicious when made by someone you love; mine turned out great when I became a mother. But your mileage may vary.
My ZOE score: 82
The vegetables: Measurements are vague, and you can mix and match to your own preference. The original guidelines call for approximately one medium potato per person, plus “one for the pot.” So, if you’re feeding eight people, you’d want nine potatoes.
Here, I’ve substituted some of the potatoes for cabbage and rutabaga (or swede for those who, like me, live in the U.K.), but feel free to get creative. Add your favorite vegetables, like parsnips, zucchini (courgettes), carrots, or sweet potatoes. I like to use about a 3:1 ratio of potatoes/veg to onions.
½ ish cabbage head
Seasoning: Baking powder will make the latkes fluffier, but don’t expect miracles. Also, I tend to use more salt and pepper than I might in other dishes.
1 tbsp baking powder
1–2 tsp salt
1–2 tsp white pepper
If the first batch you try to fry simply won’t stick together, you might want to add an egg for subsequent batches:
215 g olive oil
Traditional latkes are shredded, but growing up in my household, we always used a food processor with the blade attachment. Here’s how I do it:
Grind the vegetables in a food processor until it looks like lumpy porridge. You’ll have to do it in batches. Combine them all in a large colander over a bowl to let the liquid drain. Mix in your seasoning. You may or may not need the egg — add it if your latkes won’t hold together when you fry them.
Heat up a pan (I usually have three or four going at the same time) on medium-high heat. Add some oil until shimmery. You can use much less oil with a non-stick pan, but make sure you use enough to justify celebrating the miracle of oil!
You’ll probably need to adjust the heat as you go to ensure they cook at the right pace to crisp up the outside while also softening the vegetables inside.
Drop your veg-mixture in large spoonfuls onto the hot pans. I usually make mine the size of a small burger. Be patient! Don’t fuss with them while they’re cooking on the first side, or they’ll fall apart. Once the first side is crispy and golden brown, flip them and allow them to crisp up on the other side.
Transfer latkes to a platter lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. You can keep stacking more latkes and paper towels on the same dish and keep them warm in a slow oven.
Serve them with Greek yogurt (I score 75) and a simple apple compote (I score 50, recipe follows).
Join our mailing list
Sign up for fresh insights into our scientific discoveries and the latest nutrition updates. No spam, just science.
Apple compote to serve with latkes
This is much more delicious and healthier than supermarket applesauce.
My ZOE score: 50
3 medium apples
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp salted butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
Dice the apples. Mix them with cinnamon. Melt the butter and brown sugar in a pan until dissolved. Then add in the apples and cinnamon. Simmer until the apples are tender, about 15 minutes. Eat warm or cold.
There’s just no way around it — donuts are not a healthy food. To be honest, I’ve never made my own. Usually for Hanukkah, I just buy a dozen from my local donut dispensary.
But this year, I’m reinterpreting the moreish decadence of that sweet treat as a still-scrumptious but less sugary confection. It’s sort of like a glorified stuffed French toast.
Although not traditional, I think these would be splendid with some nut butter in with the jam, making it into an incredible PB&J, and probably improving my ZOE score!
My ZOE score: 56
300 g frozen strawberries
250 ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
16 slices of sourdough bread
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sugar
Start by making the strawberry “jam” filling, which is simply and scrumptiously stewed strawberries. This time of year, I use frozen strawberries, which retain all their benefits from the height of the season.
Put them in a saucepan and simmer until it’s a thick, lumpy, jammy consistency. Set aside.
Now make your eggy dip. Mix together the eggs, milk, vanilla, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
Make your donut shapes. Using a round cookie cutter, jar, or strong glass, press a circle out of each slice of bread. (You’ll only use the circle for this recipe, but save the crusts to make bread pudding.)
Dip two slices of bread circles into the eggy mix. Flip them until they’re fully saturated. Then place them on a plate. On one eggy slice, put a spoonful of the strawberry jam. Place the other eggy slice on top, making a sandwich. Repeat until you’ve used up all your ingredients.
Place a pan over medium heat and drizzle with olive oil. Place each sandwich on the pan and let the first side get golden brown. Take care not to pull apart the sandwich when you flip it to the other side. Allow the second side to also crisp up. Drain excess oil on a plate lined with paper towels.
Sprinkle both sides with the remaining sugar to serve.
Bonus recipe: Leftover bread pudding
Combine your leftover eggy mixture and bread crusts from the sufganiyot. Swirl in some leftover apple compote or strawberry jam. Put them in an oven-safe dish and bake at your favorite temperature until a knife poked into the middle comes out clean. Time will vary depending on how much you bake.