Hanukkah Dinner With Cheese? It’s More Traditional Than You Think

​​For this year’s Hanukkah dinner recipe, we turned to our good friend Eden Hensley Silverstein, whose Passover dinner recipe earlier this year was a huge success. You can follow Eden on Instagram @RoadToGoodLife, Facebook @TheRoadToTheGoodLife, or her blog The Road To The Good Life.


When you think of Hanukkah dinner, latkes, sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts), and maybe brisket probably come to mind. But, Hanukkah doesn’t have to mean oil and heavy fried foods. So, if you haven’t yet added cheese to your celebrations, it’s time. 

Why cheese for Hanukkah? Because of Judith. Her tale, less known than that of the Maccabees also involves an invading army. The short story is that Judith lived in a town under siege. She went to the enemy camp, met with their general, and offered him cheese and drink. When he passed out, she cut his head off with his sword, inspiring the Israelites to attack and causing the Assyrians to flee. 

Plates with pierogis and arugula salad for a Hanukkah dinner with cheese

We love a good wine and cheese pairing, so we’re embracing the tale of Judith and her amazing cheese for Hanukkah dinner this year. We’re serving a family-style meal of traditional Polish dishes paired with a few favorite Cultivar wines. On this year’s menu is a Golden beet with Fried Apples and Arugula Salad paired with a 2019 Cultivar Muscat, Anderson Valley, and Barszcz (a sour Polish beet soup) and Pierogi (Polish dumplings) both paired with a 2019 Cultivar Pinot Noir, Russian River. If you want a different pairing for your Pierogi, you could pair it with a 2019 Cultivar Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley. We preferred the Pinot as the earthiness of the mushroom wasn’t overpowered. (We chose to have the 2019 Cultivar Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley with our slow-cooker brisket.)

Best thing about this Hanukkah dinner meal? It’s completely vegetarian, so everyone will leave your table satiated.

Hanukkah runs for eight nights, which means six weeknights and one weekend. Depending on when you want to celebrate with family and friends, the first night, Shabbat (Friday night after sunset or Saturday before sunset), or a weekend, you won’t have enough time to make all courses of this menu the same day. (The pierogies are very labor-intensive, but so worth it!)

Two plates of Arugula Salad with Golden Beats and a bottle of Cultivar Wine Muscat

Golden Beets with Fried Apples and Arugula Salad 

Ingredients (Serves 4 people)

Instructions (Prep time: 35 minutes; Cooking time: 45 minutes; Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes)

  1. Position your oven rack in the middle of your oven if it’s not already there, and then preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Rub each beet with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil, then put on a sheet pan.
  3. Place your sheet pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until tender.
  4. While the beets cook, toast hazelnuts. Be careful not to scorch them, stir constantly. Put aside when done.
  5. Over medium heat in a non-stick skillet, melt butter.
  6. When your butter has melted, add sliced apples, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they’re nicely seared and tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  7. When the beets have cooled, peel the skin off and dice.
  8. In a medium bowl, toss arugula with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste.
  9. When your arugula is dressed, add roasted beets, fried apples, hazelnuts, and feta.

Two bowls of traditional Hanukkah Barczsz with a bottle of Cultivar Wine Pinot Noir

Barszcz (Polish beet soup) 

Ingredients (Serves 4 people)

Instructions (Prep time: 15 minutes; Cooking time: 60 minutes; Total time: 75 minutes)

  1. Place dry chanterelles in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for five minutes.
  2. Rough chop carrots, parsnip, and leek and add to an 8 1/2 quart pot with soaked mushrooms. Cover with 10 cups of water; add a Tablespoon of salt, bay leaves, and  allspice, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
  3. Peel beets and slice into 1/2-inch slices.
  4. Toss beets, garlic, apple, remaining Tablespoon of salt, marjoram, 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar, and lemon juice in broth and bring back to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for another half hour uncovered.
  5. Add remaining vinegar.
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning with vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper as needed.
  7. Discard all of the vegetables and use a strainer to serve your Barszcz into bowls.

A plate of traditional pierogis

Pierogi (Polish dumplings) 

Ingredients (Serves 12 people)

Water boiling in a pan for traditional pierogis

Instructions (Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes; Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes; Total time: 2 hours 50 minutes)

  1. Put your potato in a medium-sized pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. While your potatoes cook, heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. When the oil shimmers, add your onion. Sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes, and then set aside.
  3. Heat more oil in medium heat in the skillet you just used for the onions. When it shimmers, add your mushrooms in batches. Sauté until the mushrooms no longer release any moisture, about 10 minutes, and then set aside.
  4. Remove your potatoes from the heat. Drain the water and let them cool. When cool, use your fingers to peel the skins.
  5. Using the grater attachment for your food processor, shred your potatoes. Empty and clean your food processor and then process your ricotta. Your ricotta will be light and fluffy after you finish.
  6. Combine mushrooms, onions, potatoes, ricotta, sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Set your filling aside until your dough is ready.
  7. Measure flour out onto a clean, smooth work surface.
  8. Make a well in the center of the flour and crack both eggs into the well. Add the butter and mix with your hands. Gradually add warm water, a couple of tablespoons at a time. As the dough becomes more firm, add just a tablespoon at a time.
  9. Knead the dough until it is soft and smooth, approximately 15-20 minutes.
  10. Divide the dough into four equal portions. Cover with the portions you’re not working with a clean, damp dishtowel so that your dough doesn’t dry out.
  11. Roll one portion into a thickness of 1/8 inch. Too thick of a dough will make it harder to press your pierogis closed around the filling, and the ratio of dough to filling will be off.
  12. Cut out circles using a glass or round pastry cutter. Put the excess dough aside in the bowl with the other portions under the clean damp dish towel.
  13. Fill each circle of dough with a teaspoon of filling. Fold dough in half over the filling and pinch the edges together to seal. Place in a baking dish or on a plate and cover with a clean damp wet dish towel. Separate layers of made pierogis with a sheet of wax paper to keep them from sticking to each other.
  14. Continue rolling out the dough, cutting out circles, filling, and pressing into half-moons.
  15. Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil. Add the pierogi in batches, about 10 at a time, and cook until they float to the surface, approximately 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate in an oven set to warm until ready to serve.

Pierogis cooking in a pot of boiling water

With a little pre-planning, you can make your salad and soup the same day you’re planning on serving it. The Golden Beet with Fried Apples and Arugula Salad served with Barszcz is perfect for a weeknight Hanukkah dinner celebration for two to four people. The pierogi are more hands-on; make the filling and dough a day or two ahead of your weeknight celebration and then roll out, fill, and boil. Making the dough is the most time-consuming aspect of the pierogis; it takes approximately 20 minutes to get the dough kneaded into a ball.

Having more people over mid-week for Hanukkah dinner? You can make both the salad and the Barszcz, with the exception of tossing the arugula with Balsamic Vinegar and olive oil, ahead of time. All you’ll need to do to prep is reheat the Barszcz about 20 minutes before your guests arrive, and toss your arugula with Balsamic vinegar and olive oil before serving. You can also make your pierogi beforehand. To reheat, sprinkle a few drops of water on your pierogi and microwave on medium heat for a minute. Flip over and microwave the other side on medium heat for 30 seconds.

You can follow Eden Hensley Silverstein on Instagram @RoadToGoodLife, Facebook @TheRoadToTheGoodLife, or her blog The Road To The Good Life. She is part of Mom It Forward and Blogloving. Eden’s bio on  linked in profile.

A table featuring a traditional Hanukkah dinner of pierogis and arugual salad with golden beets and a bottle of Cultiva Wine Pinot Noir