Sufganiyot - Chanukah Traditions: Old and New

We have lots of traditions on Chanukah. Of course we always make latkes often during Chanukah. But as I think about Chanukah especially this year during the pandemic, when we are not together with our families as usual, I think of all the traditions that make Chanukah a warm and special family holiday. If any of you share any of these memories, please share with me - you can email me at

Aside from the latkes, we sing ALL the verses fo Maoz Tzur - my father did this every night of Chanukah every year, and our family does also. As a child growing up, my family in Chicago consisted of my mother and father and my brother, Ira and me. We did not receive presents for Chanukah - instead we recieved Chanukah gelt, a custom that my parents carried forward from their childhoods in Hungary and Czechoslovakia prior to the Holocaust. Also although we played dreidel, we also always played Blackjack - believe it or not, another tradition that my mother remembered from her childhood. (And my mother continued to play Blackjack even when she was 95 years old, with her great granchildren!) But one more tradition was the Sufganiyot, of course fried in oil, that my mom remembered making as a child, and I still make. I share the recipe with you below and wish you all a Freyliche Chanuka, a very happy Chanukah.


Makes 2 to 3 dozen donuts, depending on size

1 ( ¼ ounce or 7 gram) package active dry yeast

¼ cup lukewarm water

1 tablespoon plus ¼ cup sugar

6 tablespoons butter or margarine

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup milk or non-dairy alternative

1 large egg

3 ½ to 4 cups all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil, as needed, for deep fryer

Preserves, as needed

Confectioner’s sugar, as needed

In a small bowl dissolve yeast in water, add 1 tablespoon of sugar. Reserve.

In a small saucepan over low heat melt the butter and milk. Add remaining ¼ cup sugar and salt and mix until dissolved and the liquid is lukewarm but not hot.

Add the egg and mix.

Pour 3 ½ cups of flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add reserved milk mixture and the yeast mixture. Knead until the dough is smooth and satiny, about 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed.

Remove the dough. Clean and oil the bowl. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.

Shape dough into small balls about the size of a ping-pong ball, place on parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, and let rise for an additional 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil as needed in a deep-fryer to 375°F. Pour about 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar onto a large plate, adding more as needed.

Fry dough balls in deep fryer a few at a time (so they don’t stick together) until they are cooked through and rise to the top. If you are using a pot you will have to flip the sufganiyot. (They are usually done within 5-8 minutes) Remove to a paper-lined tray.

To insert preserves, fill an injector with jelly of choice, insert the injector and squeeze in the donut. Roll the sufganiyot in confectioner’s sugar.

Note: For Parve, use margarine and non-dairy milk such as almond, soy or parve creamer; for dairy use butter and milk.  When choosing a vegetable oil for the deep fryer be sure it has a high smoke point.