Moroccan Sfenj / Yemenite Zalabia (Fried Dough)

Dina Korman
Recipe by
Dina Korman

During Hanukkah, we traditionally serve holiday dishes cooked in oil to commemorate the miracle of a single vial of oil lasting eight days. Ashkenazi communities typically eat sufganiyotsufganiyotסֻפְגָּנִית"Jelly doughnuts;" traditionally eaten in Israel during Hanukkah; singular: sufganiyah. , fried jelly doughnuts, while Sephardi Jews’ fried treats come in various forms and have varying names. Sfenj, deep-fried yeast donuts, are popular amongst Moroccans; the Yemenite version of the same dish is called zalabia or zalvyah.

7 ½ cups flour 
1 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons dry yeast
2 ½ cups warm water
4 Tablespoons sugar 
2 teaspoons vanilla 
2 cups oil (for frying)
  1. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. 
  2. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast with ½ cup of the warm water
  3. Add the sugar and the vanilla to the yeast and mix well. Let rise.
  4. Add the water mixture to the flour mix. Add the rest of the water. Mix well with your hand until you get a soft somewhat batter/dough. 
  5. In the medium-size pot, warm the oil.
  6. Dip your hands in water, then take a small part of the dough and stretch it to all sides.
  7. Place, gently and carefully, in the oil and fry until both sides of the dough are light brown.
  8. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. 
  9. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
  10. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately. You may also top with syrup or with honey and butter. 

Learn more about global Hanukkah cuisine and find additional recipes.

Dina Korman, whose family is Yemenite and grew up in Israel, has lived in the U.S. since 1968 when she was 22. She is longtime b'nei mitzvahbar mitzvahבַּר מִצְוָהCeremony marking a boy's reaching the age of religious maturity; plural: b'nei mitzvah.  tutor, teacher, and leader in Montgomery County, MD, at Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C., and at Temple Emanuel in Kensington, MD, where she is a member and has deep roots. She is an extraordinary cook for her family, friends, and congregational events.