How To Celebrate a Vegan Hanukkah

Discover the joy celebrating a vegan Hanukkah and make this Festival of Lights a truly meaningful and inclusive experience for all.
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A Hanukkah menorah in Israel.
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Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is a cherished Jewish holiday filled with traditions, delicious food, and the warm glow of the menorah. It is traditional to eat foods fried in oil, play dreidel, and exchange gifts during this time. Embracing a vegan Hanukkah allows you to honor this holiday while staying true to your values.

In this guide, we’ll explore how to make various aspects of Hanukkah vegan-friendly, from the menorah to traditional dishes and more.

What’s The Meaning of Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is a significant Jewish holiday that lasts for eight nights and typically falls in December. It commemorates a historical event that took place in the second century BCE when the Jewish people, led by the Maccabees, reclaimed their Holy Temple in Jerusalem from foreign rulers.

The central miracle of Hanukkah is the story of a small flask of oil that was found in the Temple. Though there was only enough oil to keep the menorah (a seven-branched candelabrum) lit for one day, it miraculously burned for eight days until more oil could be prepared. This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights, with the lighting of the menorah.

Why Celebrate a Vegan Hanukkah?

Honoring Compassion: One of the key reasons to celebrate a vegan Hanukkah is to align the holiday’s values with a compassionate lifestyle. Veganism promotes kindness and empathy toward all living beings, which resonates with the principles of Hanukkah that emphasize the triumph of justice and freedom.

Inclusivity: Celebrating a vegan Hanukkah promotes inclusivity within your community and family. It ensures that everyone can partake in the festivities, regardless of dietary restrictions or preferences, making the holiday more accessible and enjoyable for all.

Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World): The concept of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world, is central to Judaism. By choosing a vegan Hanukkah, you actively contribute to repairing the world by reducing animal suffering and environmental harm, aligning your actions with this important Jewish principle.

Incorporating these values and reasons into your Hanukkah celebration can make it even more meaningful and impactful, highlighting the connection between the Festival of Lights and a compassionate, vegan lifestyle.

Light Vegan Menorah Candles

The menorah’s candles symbolize the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days. To reenact the story of the oil burning for eight nights, we light a candle in the menorah each evening. Opt for vegan candles, often made from soy or beeswax alternatives, to light your menorah. These are readily available in many stores, such as GoodLight.

vegan hanukkah candles in box with menorah

Guilt-Free Gelt (Chocolate Coins)

Gelt, a Yiddish word for “money,” has a rich history tied to Hanukkah. It became a Hanukkah tradition during the Middle Ages when Jewish communities in Europe gave children small amounts of money, typically in the form of coins, as a token of appreciation for their Torah studies. Over time, this custom evolved into the practice of giving chocolate coins, often wrapped in gold or silver foil, during Hanukkah.

Many commercial chocolate coins contain dairy-based ingredients like milk chocolate, making them unsuitable for vegans. Milk chocolate contains milk solids or milk fat, which is derived from cow’s milk.

To make gelt vegan-friendly, look for brands that specifically label their products as “vegan” or “dairy-free” or “parve.” These options use plant-based ingredients, such as dairy-free cocoa solids, and avoid cross-contamination with dairy products, ensuring that vegans can enjoy this traditional Hanukkah treat, too.

Crispy Vegan Latkes

Transform traditional latkes into vegan delights by using plant-based ingredients. Grate potatoes and onions, bind them with flour, and fry them in vegetable oil for crispy vegan latkes. Serve them with applesauce and vegan sour cream.

With eight days to experiment, you can try many varieties including sweet potato, zucchini and beets!

vegan latkes on a plate


Make the traditional sufganiyot vegan-friendly by preparing a dairy-free and egg-free version. Start by crafting a simple yeast dough using plant-based milk and egg replacers. Shape the dough into rounds, fill them with vegan jelly or fruit preserves, and bake until they turn golden brown. To finish, dust them with powdered sugar for a delectable treat that captures the essence of Hanukkah without compromising your vegan principles.

Vegan Sufganiyot Jewish Donuts for Hanukkah

Plant-Based Hanukkah Dinner

Enjoy a hearty dinner with delicious dishes like vegan noodle kugel, potato knishes, potato latkes, pillowy challah, and more. Replace dairy and meat ingredients with plant-based alternatives to create a delicious, cruelty-free meal.

Explore our vegan Hanukkah recipes to fill your celebration with some new culinary specialties.

The best homemade potato knish pastries served with green beans and parsley.

Potato Recipes: The Perfect Hanukkah Delight

Potatoes have earned their place of honor on the Hanukkah table, and for good reason. Whether you’re savoring crispy potato latkes fried to golden perfection or indulging in creamy vegan mashed potatoes, these versatile tubers have a way of bringing warmth and comfort to the Festival of Lights.

Their connection to the holiday’s oil-based traditions reminds us of the miraculous oil that burned for eight days. Plus, vegan potato recipes are not only delicious but also a symbol of togetherness and celebration, making them an essential and beloved part of Hanukkah feasts around the world.

World of Vegan Hasselback Potatoes Close Up

Mindful Gift Giving

Choose ethical and sustainable vegan gifts for your loved ones. Look for eco-friendly products, cruelty-free cosmetics, or even homemade vegan treats as thoughtful presents. Explore our gift guide for over 100 thoughtful ideas for everyone in your life—family, friends, kids, and even your furry animal companions.

Michelle Cehn and Kristie Middleton Wrapping Homemade Pumpkin Bread and Writing Holiday Cards

Be Generous (Tikkun Olam)

Tsedakah, often translated as “charitable giving” or “justice,” is a fundamental concept in Judaism. During Hanukkah, embrace the spirit of tsedakah by incorporating acts of kindness and charity into your celebration.

Vegan Food Drives: Consider organizing a vegan food drive to provide plant-based food items to those in need in your community. Collecting and donating non-perishable vegan staples like grains, legumes, and canned fruits and vegetables can make a significant difference for individuals and families facing food insecurity.

Giving Back: Encourage your family and friends to participate in acts of tsedakah by donating to charitable organizations that support causes they are passionate about. Suggest some of your favorite vegan nonprofits as well. Emphasize the idea that Hanukkah is not only a time for receiving gifts but also for giving to those less fortunate.

By incorporating tsedakah into your Hanukkah celebration, you not only honor the holiday’s traditions but also emphasize the importance of giving and justice in your life, all while staying true to your vegan principles.

Start New Hanukkah Traditions

Celebrating a vegan Hanukkah allows you to embrace long-standing traditions while also creating new ones and aligning your choices with compassion. From your menorah to your festive dishes and decorations, every aspect of the holiday can be made vegan-friendly.

By making conscious choices, you can enjoy a Hanukkah filled with light, love, and delicious plant-based delights. Wishing you a joyful Vegan Hanukkah celebration!

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