Celebrate Hanukkah with these crispy, golden latkes (potato pancakes), a traditional Jewish dish symbolizing the miracle of the oil, made with grated potatoes and onions, fried to perfection, and best enjoyed fresh.
Latkes are a traditional Jewish holiday food typically served for Hannukah (The Festival of Lights). Latkes are pancakes made from grated potatoes and onion. They are fried in oil to crisp deliciousness.
Although baking them is a great way to keep down the saturated fat and calories (something we’d typically recommend here at Healthy Green Kitchen), the oil is important for traditional Latkes because it symbolizes the single day’s supply of oil that miraculously burned for eight days in the Temple’s menorah during the rededication after the Maccabees’ victory. So make them however you want, but the oil is important if you’re making traditional latkes.
While there are many ways to make latkes, one thing is for sure: you want to make sure they don’t turn out soggy. And the best way to do that is by pressing as much water out of the grated potatoes as possible.
While purists will say that there should be no flour or other fillers added to potato pancakes and that they should be fried very thin, I find that adding 2 tablespoons of flour helps everything stay together nicely (you’ll end up with thicker latkes, though, like the ones in the picture above). The egg acts as a binder, as well, though I’ve made them without eggs and they worked out just fine. If you are looking for even thicker latkes, you can add an additional egg and a bit more flour, a bit of matzoh meal, or even leftover mashed potatoes (which is a great gluten-free option that works especially well if you’ve got frozen mashed potato leftovers from Thanksgiving).
While you may, of course, grate the potatoes by hand, it is much easier to use a food processor. In fact, I initially got my food processor because my family loves latkes so much. It really makes preparing them a snap; so much so that my kids are more likely to ask for and get these than they are regular pancakes on weekend mornings (and now I use the food processor for so many other tasks so I’m so happy I have it).
I recommend eating your latkes immediately. If you need to freeze them, though, warm them in a 350°F oven before serving.
Once you master traditional potato pancakes, you can branch out and vary them in numerous ways. My daughter prefers them plain, but the rest of my family loves them with fairly traditional adornments, so we usually eat them with big dollops of homemade apple butter and crème fraîche.
I’ve added grated apple and different herbs such as chives and parsley; I’ve used shallot and garlic instead of onion; I’ve made sweet potato zucchini latkes with ginger, cilantro, and chilies and I’ve seen recipes featuring parsnips and carrots, as well (Joan Nathan has some great recipes in her book Jewish Cooking in America).
- 1 skillet
- 4 potatoes Yukon Gold, peeled and sliced longways (so they fit into the food processor)
- 1 onion medium, peeled and sliced to fit into the food processor
- 2 tbsp parsley finely minced
- 2 tbsp green onion finely minced
- 2 eggs whisked with a fork
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour optional, or leftover mashed potatoes for a gluten-free option
- sea salt and ground black pepper
- olive oil enough for about a 1/4" layer in your skillet
- Using a hand grater or a food processor, grate the potatoes and the onion. Place in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and press out the water.
- Mix the potato and onion in a bowl with the parsley, green onion, eggs, and the flour. Mix well. Season with 2 pinches each of salt and pepper.
- Heat a cast iron skillet or a griddle and coat with a thin layer of oil (about 1/4 inch). Place spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the oil, flattening each one with a spatula.
- Fry several minutes, until golden brown, and then flip over and continue frying until both sides are well browned. Drain on paper towels. Add additional oil to the pan as needed to fry the rest of the latkes.
- Serve immediately plain, or with the topping(s) of your choice.