Spectacular Sufganiyot: Awesome Doughnuts for Hanukkah

'Tis the season for jelly doughnuts! Sufganiyot are on the minds of many for Hanukkah. To tempt recipe revelers, we pulled some of our most interesting jelly doughnut recipes ahead of Hanukkah to get you ready for eight days of sweet celebration.

The end of Thanksgiving means the beginning of more holiday celebrations namely Hanukkah, with Christmas right behind. And with every holiday comes traditional sweet treats. For Hanukkah, that’s sufganiyah the customary jelly doughnut.

Why The Jelly Doughnut (or Donut)?

Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights to celebrate the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian army, or, more accurately, the rededication of the Temple after the 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.

It's also why oil is one of the Jewish holiday’s symbols. It’s manifested in the celebratory foods cooked in oil, like potato latkes (which were originally cheese pancakes instead of potato), and sufganiyot (the plural form of sufganiyah).

According to Gil Marks in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, these jelly doughnuts are Central European in origin. Germany was where they were first injected with jelly, but Poland is where their Jewish heritage really begins. There, they’re called paczki (pronounced “pownch-kee”) and are used to celebrate many holidays in Poland as well as in Polish communities outside Poland. Originally fried in lard, Polish Jews are the ones who started frying the doughnuts in oil. Some Polish Jews made them a Hanukkah tradition, but when they then brought them to Israel, the tradition was solidified in two ways. First, they became known as “sufganiyot.” The word itself is derived from the word for “spongy dough” from the Talmud, which connects the religion to the food. Second, the Israeli labor federation lobbied to make them an official tradition as a way to create jobs. They were difficult for home cooks to make, so they would need professionals to make the dough, fry it, and deliver it all.

How Sufganiyot Are Made

If you’ve never made yeast doughnuts before, they are made with what is called an enriched yeast dough. That means they add active dry yeast, fat (typically butter), and egg yolks to flour to create a very rich dough it’s used in other pastries like cinnamon rolls and brioche. Of those ingredients, regular old bread only uses a flour and yeast mixture, so getting an enriched yeast dough pastry is certainly a treat in comparison. The dough is then fried in vegetable oil until it turns a golden brown and then tossed with cinnamon and granulated sugar or powdered sugar. Each pastry is then pumped full of jelly or custard.

But don’t let all of those ingredients 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!

All that said, we don’t need a reason to eat jelly doughnuts, we just need the best recipes to make them, so we picked out some of the more interesting sufganiyot recipes that you can try for Hanukkah this year.

Thanksgiving Sufganiyot

If you're looking for an interesting way to simultaneously celebrate Hanukkah and use up Thanksgiving leftovers, this recipe combines both holidays beautifully. It substitutes the jelly with cranberry sauce to give you a taste of the American holiday feast while honoring Jewish tradition. It's then dusted with powdered sugar for a sweet finish. If you don't have cranberry sauce leftover from your feast, you can use this recipe.

Sufganiyot, otherwise known as Jelly Donuts

Spicy Sufganiyot

If you want a spicy surprise with your Hanukkah sufganiyot, this one combines strawberries and jalapeños for a jam to tickle 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.

Strawberry Jalapeno Sufganiyot 'Chanukah Donuts'

A traditional sufganiyah is vegetarian, but not vegan. However, there are ways around the animal product components. This recipe uses a flaxseed egg replacer (flaxseed meal mixed with warm water) in lieu of the large eggs that are typically used. And instead of butter, this recipe calls for vegan butter.

Vegan Sufganiyot

Gluten-Free Sufganiyot

If you are gluten sensitive, you too can enjoy these delights of Hanukkah celebrations! This recipe replaces the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour. This recipe uses the older method of placing the jelly between two pieces of dough to create a kind of jelly sandwich before frying.

Gluten Free Sufganiyot

Baked Sufganiyot

If you're still recovering from Thanksgiving, fried food might not be at the top of your list for holiday treats right now. In that case, let us present to you baked sufganiyot. While these don't align with the symbolism of the oil, the spirit of the tradition is still there. Additionally, this recipe does not use refined sugar, wheat flour, or dairy!

Healthy Baked Sufganiyot

Healthy Baked Sufganiyot by Subtly Sweet

Indulgent Sufganiyot

On the other hand, everyone over-indulges 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!

Mexican Hot Chocolate–Glazed Sufganiyot (Hanukkah Donuts) with Marshmallow Filling

If you don't feel the need to cut out individual donuts and fry them, the alternative is to make one big donut, bake it, and call it a cake! Like the baked sufganiyot, 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.

Sufganiyot (Jelly Donut) Cake