Food and food traditions have always played a significant role in many Jewish holidays and celebrations, and the eight days of Hanukkah are no exception. This year, Hanukkah begins at sunset on Sunday, December 18, and ends Monday, December 26. Here, Atlanta-based food and culture writer Robbie Medwed delves into the significance of deep-fried jelly doughnuts called sufganiyot during Hanukkah and where to find great kosher versions around Atlanta for the holiday.
The eight days of Hanukkah commemorate the victory of the Maccabees, a small group of Jewish rebels who fought (and won) against the Greek rulers in 164 B.C.E. after they conquered the land of Israel, outlawed all Jewish practices, and desecrated the holy Temple in Jerusalem.
“What Hanukkah celebrates, at its core, is the victory of the few over the many,” rabbi Ari Kaiman of Atlanta’s Congregation Shearith Israel in Morningside explains. “The Jews beat the Greeks and restored the Temple, and when they did, they found just enough oil to light the menorah for one day, but it lasted for eight.”
Jews light their own menorahs — known in Hebrew as a Hanukkiyah or Hanukkah menorah — each night of the holiday in remembrance of the light lasting for eight days. “In honor of the miracle,” Kaiman adds, “we eat foods cooked in oil.”
Most Americans are familiar with the latke (or potato pancake,) which was brought here by the Ashkenazi Jews of eastern Europe. Made with grated potato, onions, and spices and then fried in oil, the latke has since crossed over into mainstream food culture in the U.S. and can be found in kosher and non-kosher restaurants throughout the country. But there’s also one other familiar fried treat featured on the table during Hanukkah: doughnuts.
Jewish doughnut season
In the early 1920s, when immigration to the land of Israel was reaching its peak, immigrant Jews wanted to find a new food with which to honor Hanukkah. Enter the sufganiyah, the jelly-filled doughnut. Sufganiyah (sufganiyot; plural) takes inspiration from North African Jews who were making sfinge — a fried dough dipped in orange honey syrup — and savory-filled doughnuts made by eastern European Jews. As a nod to their former oppressors, this new doughnut was named sufganiyah, which traces its roots back to the Greek word sufgan meaning “fried” or “spongy.”
During Hanukkah, as well as in the weeks leading up to the holiday, sufganiyot can be found in coffee shops and bakeries throughout Israel. Each year sees some intricately decorated doughnuts and new fillings ranging from dulce de leche and Nutella to chocolate and tropical fruit.
Where to find sufganiyot in Atlanta
Over the past decade, sufganiyot have gained in popularity in the United States, and can now be found regularly in bakeries and shops during Hanukkah. However, finding certified kosher sufganiyot in Atlanta can be tricky, as there are only a few kosher restaurants and bakeries around town. Contrary to popular belief, kosher food isn’t “blessed by a rabbi.” For food to be certified kosher, it has to be supervised by a qualified mashgiach or kashrut (kosher) supervisor during every step of its preparation.
“What the certified kosher symbol means, at its base, is that the food item was supervised in its preparation,” explains Meredith Schwartz, a former kosher personal chef in Atlanta. “A trustworthy, knowledgeable person watched to make sure that every rule was followed while food was being prepared, whether it was in a restaurant or in a production facility.”
“They’re the person who guarantees there were no shortcuts taken along the way, that there was no mixing of meat and dairy, and certainly no pork or shellfish,” she adds. “It’s not whether someone blessed it or that it’s inherently healthier, it’s just supervised from start to finish.”
While sufganiyot are found at plenty of non-kosher establishments throughout metro Atlanta, including Daily Chew, Alon’s Bakery, Goldberg’s Fine Foods, Aziza, Revolution Doughnuts, The General Muir, and Best Bread Baking Company (known by the nickname “Eli Pita”,) try one of the following doughnut shops and markets for some of Atlanta’s best kosher-certified sufganiyot during Hanukkah this year.
2211 Savoy Drive, Atlanta
Located in a nondescript strip mall beside I-285 on the edge of Chamblee, Tip Top Kosher Market looks more like a convenience store than a grocery and restaurant. The market offers a huge selection of Israeli products and fresh pastries. Tip Top’s traditional sufganiyot are flown in straight from Israel and should be ordered a day or two in advance. While picking up that sufganiyot order, grab a few other items, like Israeli beer and snack foods, as well as salads and some of Tip Top’s incredible dairy products.
Sublime Doughnuts (Toco Hills)
2566 Briarcliff Road NE, Atlanta
Sublime’s Toco Hills location is the only certified kosher outpost of the Atlanta doughnut shop. Offerings here are decidedly untraditional, but that’s part of what makes these doughnuts so popular. Try the butter toffee and the dulce de leche to bring a little pizazz to Hanukkah. Make sure to call at least 24 hours in advance and order enough alphabet-shaped doughnuts to spell out the more than ten different ways to translate the holiday’s name to English.
2153 Briarcliff Road NE, Atlanta
Kosher Gourmet is one of Atlanta’s longest running kosher butchers known for preparing its kosher-certified meats to order. Find fresh and frozen cuts of beef, lamb, chicken, and more here, in addition to kosher wine and kosher staple ingredients. The shop also features a deli counter with freshly made, piled-high sandwiches and traditional sufganiyot during Hanukkah. Kosher Gourmet offers batches and individual sufganiyot for sale in flavors like classic jelly, cookies and cream, s’mores, and rainbow berry. All doughnuts are pareve (dairy-free), too. Drop by the shop to see what doughnuts are available for Hanukkah.
2887 North Druid Hills Road NE, Atlanta
When Atlanta’s kosher cooks need hard-to-find kosher ingredients, they often head to the Spicy Peach in the Toco Hill shopping center. This year, sufganiyot are available for pick-up in packs of eight. However, supplies are limited. The Spicy Peach also carries frozen potato latkes, pasta in fun Hanukkah shapes, plenty of gelt (chocolate coins), and a chocolate-covered marshmallow treat called krembo, which is very popular in Israel. Don’t skip the gummy candies here, and be sure to try the Israeli sweet and sour Doritos, too.
5200 Northland Drive, Sandy Springs
Once just a kosher catering business, EB’s Ghost Kitchen expanded its offerings in 2020 to include freshly prepared takeout meals. In addition to its weekly Shabbat meals with traditional and modern dishes like Moroccan salmon or sous vide London broil, EB’s also features sandwiches on Tuesdays and “wholesome” meals on Wednesdays. Order cookies and cream or pretzel caramel sufganiyot online to complement some pastrami egg rolls or a steak sandwich. Please note that sufganiyot are typically only available to order during the week of Hanukkah. Order online.
Duck Donuts (Toco Hills)
3025 North Druid Hills Road, Atlanta
Though Duck Donuts has been around Atlanta for a while now, the Toco Hills location of this national doughnut chain became kosher certified in 2021. Build a box of a dozen doughnuts from any of the shop’s most popular flavors, including blueberry lemon, French toast, or fan-favorite Peanut Butter Paradise. Duck Donuts also invites customers to create their own flavor combinations by choosing a coating, topping, and drizzle. Order online.
Riverdale, Woodstock, Buford, Cobb Parkway
While Atlanta’s popular Ponce location in Midtown (the only in-town, kosher-certified Krispy Kreme) is currently closed after two devastating fires in 2021, people can still get their jelly-filled sufganiyot at other area Krispy Kreme locations. The Riverdale, Woodstock, Buford, and Cobb Parkway shops are also certified kosher and regularly feature the traditional, jelly-filled sufganiyot — called “glazed raspberry filled” on the menu — during Hanukkah. For large orders, it’s best to order in advance.
Robbie Medwed is an Atlanta-based food and culture writer and regular Eater contributor. His food writing has appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, the Jewish Food Experience, Grok Nation, and Eater Atlanta.