December 6, 2022

How to Avoid Food Allergies During Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a wonderful time of year for families to come together, celebrate and enjoy delicious foods. But if you're a parent of a child with food allergies, you know that Hanukkah is a bit of a challenge. The traditional foods associated with the holiday can be off-limits to those with food allergies. But don't let this stop you from enjoying your best Hanukkah yet! Here are some tips to help make this the best Hanukkah yet for your family.

What is the tradition of Hanukkah?

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated over eight nights. This holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated by the Greek-Syrians. The legend is that although there was only enough oil to burn in the Eternal Flame for 1 night, it lasted for 8 full days. 

This celebration is filled with delicious foods that are fried in oil (as a nod to the miraculous oil that kept the Eternal Flame in the temple lit for a full eight nights). If you have a food allergy, this can be a daunting thought. Foods that are fried in oil typically include either peanut oil, an egg wash, or flour involved.

This holiday can be made extremely challenging when food allergies are involved, as many of the traditional dishes contain one of the top 9 allergens (milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and sesame). But there are plenty of options available to those who have food allergies! You can still enjoy all your favorite Hanukkah foods without having to worry about any hidden allergens or ingredients that could cause you harm. 

When is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is an eight day celebration beginning on the evening of Sunday, December 18th and ends on the evening of Monday, December 26th.

Traditional foods for Hanukkah that are allergy-safe:

  • Sufganiyot: described as a cross between a jelly doughnut and a beignet. These filled pastries typically contain wheat, egg, and dairy but can be made allergy friendly with a few key swaps! This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free and can be made egg-free by using an egg substitute. When it comes to filling your sufganiyot, there are tons of options that work just as well without gluten or dairy. It can be made with custard, Sunbutter, pumpkin butter, apple butter, or even plain!  If you want something more traditional, a jam filling will work. But, no matter what filling you choose, we promise these will still taste amazing!

  • Gelt coins: A classic staple for Hanukkah, traded, won, and enjoyed throughout the eight days. Due to Gelt coins being made out of chocolate that means they contain dairy. But don’t worry—this No Whey Chocolate Gelt Coin is made in a facility that is free from the top 8 (missing sesame) most common food allergens and is gluten free and kosher. 

  • Potato Latkes: The classic delicious potato pancake is one of the main staples at a Hanukkah celebration and typically a big no no for those with food allergies. Latkes are traditionally made by grating potatoes into a batter that contains flour, salt and pepper (and sometimes onion or garlic powder), whisking in eggs and then frying them in olive oil until they're crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. However, there are substitutions you can make to create delicious allergy friendly potato latkes. Our favorite Crispy Allergy Friendly Potato Latkes are made in the air fryer! Traditional latkes are served with applesauce and sour cream, but the options are really endless. You can serve them with Ketchup, vegan yogurt, jam, maple syrup, whatever you like best! 

  • Challah Bread: Challah Bread is a traditional Jewish bread that consists of three ingredients: wheat, egg and dairy. It's made into a dough that is rolled and braided into a loaf. Luckily there are a few ways to make Challah Bread allergy-friendly. This recipe is gluten-free, and there can be substitutions to make it egg-free as well. 

  • Brisket: Brisket is typically a safe item to enjoy during Hanukkah, but if you have food allergies, be sure to ask for the ingredients, just to double-check that nothing extra was added in any glazes or such. 

Precautions to take when serving food at Hanukkah:

There are a few key steps to take to ensure that there won’t be a guest left out on Hanukkah. 

  • Ask your guests if they have any food allergies or food sensitivities. You’ll want to make sure you know what to prepare for if your guest has a specific allergy. 

  • Serve the food allergy plate first. Cross contact can happen quickly without anyone noticing. It’s important to serve allergy-friendly food first to avoid this. 

  • Keep allergy-friendly food in separate containers. This will help avoid cross contact as well. Keep this in mind when plating, serving, and packing up the food. 

  • Use separate utensils. If you’re planning on making an allergy-free version of foods, make sure that you have clearly labeled and separate utensils for both dishes. 

If your child has a food allergy some tips to make this the best Hanukkah yet is to:

  • Don’t make it all about the food. This can be tricky because Hanukkah traditions are rooted in food. But for someone who has a food allergy, it can be difficult to participate in dinners—not only because they might not be able to eat what everyone else is having, but also because they may feel left out if they have to sit at the table while everyone else eats.

  • Get creative with your activities! Hanukkah is all about the fun! There’s plenty to put your focus on like lighting the menorah, playing the dreidel game, and enjoying the gifts and great company! 

  • Be sure to always have two EpiPens on hand. Whether you’re going somewhere else, or staying home, it’s important to stay prepared. Also, check the expiration dates of your EpiPens and make sure they’re still good to use and replace them if needed. 

Whether you have just a few allergies or several, there are many recipes that can make your Hanukkah celebrations allergy-friendly. With the help of a great allergen-free cookbook and a little creativity, traditional foods like latkes and sufganiyot can be fun and easy to make! We’re wishing you and your family a safe and happy Hanakkuah holiday! 

About The Author:

Richard Wachs, MD