Photography Credit:Latke photos by Alison Bickel; method photos by Sheryl Julian
Latkes, which are wonderfully crisp potato pancakes, are the specialty of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah. But it’s actually the oil, not the potatoes, that is significant for the holiday. As the tale goes, ancient Jews used the small amount of oil they had to rededicate their Temple in Jerusalem and the oil lasted for eight days, which is why Jews light candles for eight nights.
Every year, my dad would fry latkes (pronounced LOT-kuz) in a skillet of hot oil, but it bothered him that his batter of grated potatoes would turn gray so quickly from exposure to the air. So he decided to come up with a better latke recipe.
Video! How to Make Latkes
The Secret to Crispy Latkes
My father was an engineer with chemist envy, and there wasn’t anything he couldn’t figure out with a little trial and error, so he decided to solve this latke problem once and for all. He tried many things over the years, including grating the potatoes by hand into a bowl of grated onions. But when the food processor came along, he found his solution.
He finally settled on this approach:
- He would mix all the raw potatoes along with some onion in a food processor until the mixture was very smooth and pulpy. He already knew that onion helped keep the potatoes from graying; this worked even better.
- Then he would wrap the potato-onion mixture in a kitchen towel and squeeze out as much moisture as he could to make the mixture as dry as possible—this helps the latkes crisp.
- Then he added eggs, flour, and seasonings, and quickly fried the latkes.
These fried latkes are more like latkes you get at Jewish delis, probably because those places also often use this method. They are a little like mashed potatoes in texture, but with a crispy outside.
Which Potatoes Work Best for Latkes
In our many latke-making adventures, we found that russets work best because they’re the starchiest potato and available at every market, big and small.
TIPS FOR THE BEST POTATO LATKES
To this day, I still make latkes using his method, with just a few small changes.
- I squeeze the potato-onion mixture in cheesecloth instead of a kitchen towel, since you can just discard the cheesecloth afterwards. (It’s so much easier.)
- I also add one hand-grated potato to the mixture. This adds some appealing texture to the otherwise smooth and creamy latkes, and I love the combination.
- Submerge peeled potatoes in water until you’re ready to use them, and then after you’ve squeezed the potato-onion mixture in the cheesecloth, leave it bundled up in the cheesecloth until you’re ready to mix the final latke batter.
- Some cooks make or buy schmaltz, which is rendered chicken fat, and use it to fry latkes. It works especially well and adds a distinctive taste to the potato pancakes. Vegetarians, of course, prefer oil.
- You only need a thin layer of oil in the pan to fry the latkes, but it needs to be very hot. Not sure if it’s hot enough? A crust of bread should brown in 10 seconds. Add the latke batter by the spoonful and let the bottoms brown nicely before turning them.
Suggestions for Serving Latkes
I like to serve latkes in batches as they come off the stove, while hot. If you’d rather serve them all at once, place a baking sheet in the oven and heat the oven to 250°F. Transfer the cooked latkes to the baking sheet to keep them warm until you’re ready to serve.
Every latke-loving family has stories about everyone standing around the kitchen pestering the cook for bites of hot, crisp pancakes, not waiting for them to cool. Don’t send them away. It’s the best way to eat latkes!
Add a bowl of sour cream for dipping, and some applesauce too, if you like. Pass the napkins!
Storing and Freezing Latkes
Latkes will keep in the fridge for 5 days. Just wrap them in foil and reheat in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet, uncovered, in a 375°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Latkes will freeze well for one month, wrapped in foil and tucked inside a ziptop freezer bag. Reheat without defrosting in a 375°F oven on a rimmed baking sheet in one layer, covered loosely, for 10 minutes. Uncover and continue reheating for 10 minutes more, or until hot throughout.
More Hanukkah Specialties
- Beef Brisket Pot Roast
- Cocoa Coconut Macaroons
- Pressure Cooker Beef Brisket
- Fish Stew with Ginger and Tomatoes
Updated December 3, 2019 : We spiffed up this post with some new photos, a video, and some extra tips! Happy Hanukkah!
Killer Potato Latkes
These Jewish potato pancakes are so good that posting the recipe alone is a mitzvah (blessing) of the highest order. Bubbelah, you should always trust me with this stuff. Growing up, we ate a lot of potato pancakes at Hanukkah. The Festival of Lights refers to a lamp in the temple that was supposed to have only enough oil to last the Maccabees one night, but instead lasted for eight, enough time for them to repel the oppression of the Seleucids and renounce the assimilation of the Hellenistic Jews. But the holiday celebrates the miracle of the oil, not the military victory, so fried foods are often featured at Hanukkah feasts. Problem is, most potato pancakes, or latkes, are awful. Luckily for you, these are amazing. Every year at our house, we have a Hanukkah night when we invite the neighbors and stand around the kitchen shoving these hot, crispy little beauties into our mouths as fast as you can say &ldquodreidel, dreidel, dreidel.&rdquo Enjoy.&mdashAndrew Zimmern Related: Guide to more Hanukkah recipes
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Grate potatoes in long strips, using smooth strokes to run potatoes across grater into a large bowl of ice water. Using a strainer or slotted spoon, transfer potatoes, reserving liquid, to another large bowl lined with a clean kitchen towel gently squeeze dry.
Set reserved liquid aside for 10 minutes to allow starch to sink to the bottom carefully pour liquid from the bowl, reserving milky residue (potato starch) and discard. Transfer potatoes back to bowl with potato starch.
Add onions to bowl stir in eggs, beer, flour, salt, and pepper.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels set aside. In a heavy nonstick skillet, heat 1/4-inch of oil. Spoon 1/2 cup of potato mixture per pancake into skillet. Make a few at a time, being careful they don't run into each other.
Fry on both sides until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to prepared baking sheet to drain. Keep warm in oven while preparing the others. Serve hot with applesauce, or sour cream and caviar, if desired.
How To Make Latkes from Scratch:
Step 1. Prepare the Potatoes and Onion
- First, you need to scrub the potatoes and rinse them under cool water. There's no need to peel them unless you prefer the taste and texture of potatoes without peels.
- After that, coarsely grate the onion then potatoes using a box grater, and squeeze as much liquid as you can using the methods mentioned above.
Step 2. Add Binder Agents and Seasoning
Place drained grated potatoes, onion, and potato starch into a mixing bowl. Add eggs, matzo meal, kosher salt, and black pepper. Stir to combine.
Use your hands to form the mixture into 12 patties.
In a large skillet, heat a ¼-inch layer of oil until shimmering over, medium-high heat. Fry the latkes for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until the edges of the latkes are crispy and brown.
Transfer the fried latkes to paper towels to drain, then transfer to a platter.
Potato Latkes Recipe
This recipe, from Atlanta chef Todd Ginsberg, is pure latke perfection. Ginsberg prefers to cook his latkes (potato pancakes) on a griddle rather than deep-frying them. This results in a lighter, less greasy latke that also reheats well&mdashso you can make a big batch in advance. These latkes fry up crisp with frizzled, lacy edges. The key, Ginsberg says, is having enough clarified butter in the pan at all times. &ldquoIf you do not hear sizzling, there&rsquos not enough fat. And don&rsquot flip or touch the latkes until you see a golden color creeping up the sides,&rdquo he advises. Ginsberg prefers frying latkes in clarified butter, but this recipe will work just as well with canola or vegetable oil. Regardless how you like to top your latkes, this 30-minute recipe might be your new favorite. With a high yield and short timeframe, this latke recipe is the one for you if you&rsquore hosting a crowd for Hanukkah. If you&rsquore not serving immediately or make multiple batches for seconds (and thirds), our Test Kitchen recommends draining your latkes on a paper-towel lined baking sheet for a few seconds before transferring them to a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. To keep them hot and crispy without getting soggy, place them in a 250˚ oven.
Traditional Potato Latkes
- 6 potatoes peeled
- 1 medium onion peeled
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 6-8 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
- 2 tsp. Kosker salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- sour cream
- 1 sprig dill for garnish (optional)
…The Backstory continues: Latkes just go hand in hand along with so many other wonderful Hanukkah mainstays like gelt, sufganiyot, (jelly doughnuts), lighting the menorah, and spinning the dreidel.
And like so many of these wonderful traditions, there are just as many variations of the perfect latke recipe that I could spend and entire day poring over stacks of recipes (and the family stories that go with them) to determine which one should make the cut for The Jewish Kitchen.
In the end, I had to go with my mother’s simple, delicious, tried and true recipe. These latkes are crisp, thin (but not too skinny, if you know what I mean) and foolproof every single time. No matter how many times my mother made them for my brother and me as a child, she still said they weren’t quite as good and lacy as her Bubbie’s, even though the recipe is the same. Go figure. I always felt that way when it came to my own grandmother’s eggs, lox, and onions recipe. I make it the same way she always did but for some reason, it never tastes the way hers did. I used to think it was because of the oval flowered bowl she served it in, until I served it in that very bowl. Let’s just say it wasn’t the bowl. I think it was the love and intention.
These are best served immediately although they can be made ahead and reheated, but those of us who’ve grown up eating latkes know the difference, right? Serve right away if you can and don’t skimp on the sour cream and applesauce! My mouth is literally watering at the thought of these gorgeous, crispy pancakes. How many more days until Hanukkah?
Pure Potato Latkes
Johnny Miller for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Susan Spungen.
Perfect for Hanukkah or any time of year, these latkes bring out the pure flavor of potato, because that is basically the only ingredient in them. Making latkes can be a last-minute nightmare, with overeager cooks putting too many patties in hot oil, thus taking longer to fry and resulting in a greasy mess. But these can be prepared in advance. This recipe, adapted from the chef Nathaniel Wade of the Outermost Inn on Martha’s Vineyard, starts with parbaked potatoes, which are cooled, grated, seasoned with just salt and pepper, pressed into patties and refrigerated, then fried just before serving. You can either serve them with crème fraîche or sour cream, smoked salmon and tiny flecks of chives, or traditional brisket and homemade applesauce. &mdashJoan Nathan
What to Serve with Latkes
Serve them with sour cream and applesauce, so people can choose or mix and match. Some people have very strong opinions about one vs. the other. My family likes to switch back and forth, and even mix a little of each on a latke.
If you’re feeling a little fancy schmancy, you might serve these up with some cheap caviar or smoked salmon or gravlax, and maybe swap out the sour cream for crème fraiche.
By the way, you don’t have to be Jewish or actually celebrating the eight days of Hanukah to think about latkes. There is no reason that a little crispy potato pancake wouldn’t make a wonderful appetizer, a great side dish, a just a big old treat all year long. Serve alongside—or follow these up with—some brisket, either classic, or with mushrooms.
Keep scrolling down to the printable recipe card for FULL ingredient amounts and instructions or click the “Jump to Recipe” button at the top of the page!
- Potatoes – such as Russet, shredded.
- Onion – small (or 1/2 large), shredded!
- Egg – Large.
- Breadcrumbs – I used unseasoned Panko breadcrumbs, regular unseasoned breadcrumbs work too.
- Salt & Pepper – To taste.
- Canola Oil – For frying! Any vegetable oil should be fine.
6 Tricks to Making Your Crispiest Latkes Ever
If latkes weren't the star of your Hanukkah table, they're about to be, thanks to these tips from Seri Kertzner on making them extra crispy.
It simply would not be Hanukkah without latkes. Those potato pancakes (which, by the way, are pronounced laht-kuh, not laht-key) are a must-eat at every holiday table. Seri Kertzner, the NYC event planner, content creator, and 𠇌hief party officer” behind Little Miss Party, can attest to this. Every year, at her Hanukkah party, she whips up a big batch of latkes with a slew of topper options to let guests choose their favorites. Hanukkah 2020 will have a shorter guest list (she&aposs spending it with just her husband and sons), but her crispy latkes will be on the menu. Notice I specifically say, 𠇌rispy” latkes. As I learned while talking with Kertzner, latkes aren’t always crispy. In fact, her grandma (Kertzner calls her, 𠇋oobie”) makes hers fluffy.
“I follow every recipe from my Boobie exactly, except for latkes,” Kertzner says. “Hers are fluffy and soft because she uses baking powder. And I think that’s the more traditional way of making them. My way is not the traditional way.”
Admittedly, I’ve never tried fluffy latkes, but if my potatoes can be made golden and crispy, that’s my preferred way to eat them.