Kugel And Latkes Are More Similar Than You Might Think

Got any Hanukkah plans this year? Even if you're not Jewish, if you're lucky, you'll be invited to sit down to a table full of latkes and jelly doughnuts during the religion's "Festival of Lights," a winter holiday which will be celebrated for the eight days and nights between November 28 and December 6 (via My Jewish Learning). A commemoration of the 165 B.C. victory of the Jewish armed forces known as the Maccabees over the Syrian Greek armies that were attempting to suppress the Jews' religious expression (via World History), Hanukkah is typically celebrated by lighting an oil lamp (or, these days, candles) known as a menorah (via Chabad). As the legend goes, when the Maccabees were victorious and re-took their temple in Jerusalem, they lit an oil menorah during the rededication ceremony and that small quantity of oil burned for a miraculous eight days and nights (via History).

The lamp is the reason why today, Hanukkah is often celebrated with a variety of fried foods cooked in plenty of oil — most commonly, the jelly doughnuts known as sufganiyot, as well as the famous potato fritters known as latkes. But have you ever heard of kugel, a type of one-dish potato casserole often served during Hanukkah as well as other Jewish holidays such as Passover (via The Daily Meal)? As it turns out, kugel and latkes are pretty darn similar, but with a few key differences.

What is kugel?

Kugel is basically a sweet or savory casserole. In the case of sweet, it's typically noodle kugel, made with egg noodles mixed into a sweetened custard base, then baked until golden brown, with nice crispy edges.

Potato kugel is a savory casserole that's sort of like a giant hash brown. Made with either mashed or shredded potatoes mixed with onions, eggs, and plenty of fat, this batter is then plopped into a baking dish and cooked until piping hot and, hopefully, crunchy on the outside with a fluffy interior (via The Daily Meal). Sounds kind of like latkes, doesn't it?

As explained by the Star Tribune, potato latkes and potato kugel have a lot of overlap. Potato latkes are made from the same basic batter: potatoes, grated onions, eggs, oil, salt, and a binder such as matzo meal (via The Kitchn). Potato kugel? Pretty much the same, but packed into a greased pan and baked, instead of fried into fritters, per The Kitchn. Since potato latkes need to maintain their shape once dolloped into the hot oil, they typically need a bit more egg and more binder than a kugel, which will take on the shape of the dish it's baked in (via the Star Tribune). But other than that, they're almost the same thing. So this Hanukkah, know that whether your guests want latkes or kugel, you can easily make both just by adjusting the batter a little bit.