You'll love this Potato Latkes Recipe that features crispy potato latkes with traditional toppings. It's a beloved side dish that's traditionally served during Hanukkah, Passover and special occasions!
What are Traditional Potato Latkes?
Traditional Potato Latkes are made from starchy potatoes grated by hand and mixed with matzo meal, egg, onion, kosher salt and pepper. The cooking method involves dropping them into hot oil and frying in a cast iron skillet until golden brown and crispy.
When following Jewish tradition, you'll want to serve latkes with sour cream or homemade applesauce during Hanukkah and Passover. Be sure to make latkes with matzo meal (ad) during Passover since it's important to use unleavened bread.
Latkes also make the perfect breakfast entree or holiday appetizer for any type of party!
What's the Difference Between Latkes and Potato Cakes?
While classic latkes are made from shredded russets, southern potato cakes are molded into thick patties using leftover mashed potatoes.
Southern cakes fry better if you form them into thick rounds, but latkes are thin, delicate and crispy. Although completely different, both fry nicely in a cast iron skillet and are equally delicious.
Looking for the best potato latke recipe? Use traditional and simple ingredients!
See recipe card for quantities.
- large russet potatoes - have a high starch content which produces better results
- small onion - grated by hand or pulsed in a food processor
- matzo meal - the binder that holds latkes together
- large egg - also acts as a binder
- kosher salt - simple seasoning
- black pepper - adds depth of flavor
- canola oil - can use vegetable oil or chicken fat (ad) called schmaltz
How to Make Potato Latkes
1 - Peel potatoes and place them in a large bowl of cold water. Add ice for best results.
2 - Using a the large holes of a box grater, grate potatoes and onion into a bowl of ice water to prevent them from discoloring.
3 - Place grated onion and potatoes in a cheesecloth or thin kitchen towel over a bowl.
4 - Wrap the mixture in a dish towel or cheese cloth and squeeze out all of the excess water.
5 - Drain excess liquid out of the bowl except the white potato starch. Leave it in the bottom of the bowl to help bind the cakes together.
6 - Add grated potatoes, onions, kosher salt, pepper and matzo meal to the potato starch in the bowl. Mix together with a beaten egg to create a better texture.
7 - The mixture should be thick enough to form a tablespoon of the batter.
8 - Drop spoonfuls of the potato mixture into a frying pan filled with an inch of oil on medium heat in a single layer. Fry for 3 to 5 minutes on one side until edges start to brown.
9 - Flip cakes over with a slotted spoon or spatula and fry on the other side for 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown.
10 - Transfer crispy latkes to a wire rack with paper towels under it. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve hot off the rack with sour cream and applesauce.
During Hanukkah, frying food in oil symbolizes the miracle that happened when only a small amount of oil was left for the holy light to burn in the Temple, but it miraculously burned for eight days. This is how the Festival of Lights began.
Matzo meal is unleavened bread that has been ground into fine crumbs that resemble cornmeal. It's unleavened because it's made without yeast or any type of raising agent. Matzo meal is used as a binder to help food retain its shape, or to coat food for frying or baking. Since it's made from wheat, using matzo meal does not make your latkes gluten-free or keto friendly. You would have to leave it out completely if you're following a special diet.
Hash browns are shredded potatoes fried in a skillet. Latkes are grated, then drained and mixed with matzo meal, egg, onion and seasonings. They're two completely different food items. It's not recommended to use frozen hash browns to make latkes because the potatoes need to be grated to bind together.
When you make true latkes, it's best to drain them on a cooling rack instead of paper towels. Using paper towels can cause fried food to be soggy and keep it from crisping. The best way to keep latkes crispy is to place them on a rack over a sheet pan and keep warm in an oven until ready to serve.
Although I'm not Jewish, I love learning about different types of foods and traditions. I admit that it took several tries before I got the hang of latke making. It takes a little practice to get it right, but it's totally worth the effort.
Since I'm a beginner, I did my research. I learned that every family has a different way of making the best latkes. Some are completely flat and crunchy, while others are thick and chewy. Most recipes are passed down through Jewish families by a great grandmother or other family member.
One thing is for certain...if you want to make an authentic latke, you need to grate the potatoes by hand. If you do this, you'll have potato starch left in your bowl which is a good thing.
Hand-grated latkes will get rave reviews from family and friends! Your traditional potato pancakes will turn out with a crispy crust and a tender center which is one of the favorite ways to serve this excellent recipe.
Hints for Success
- Gather a large mixing bowl and pans ahead of time. Organize your mixing and frying stations in advance.
- Potatoes will discolor as soon as the air hits them. To avoid this, grate potatoes into a bowl of ice water and keep cold until time to drain.
- Use the larger holes of the grater to make it easier to shred.
- Soggy potatoes make gummy latkes. Squeeze as much liquid as you can from the potatoes and onions in a cheesecloth.
- Too much matzo meal will make the cakes too thick. Using less is best.
- Instead of patting potatoes into cakes, drop them by the spoonful into hot grease and press them down with the back of a spoon to flatten.
- Make sure the oil you use has a high smoke point.
- Fry potato mixture in small batches in the bottom of a large frying pan for best results.
- Use a wire rack instead of a paper towel-lined plate for drainage. This produces crunchier latkes.
Storage and Freezing
- Store leftovers in an airtight container up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheat leftovers in a 350 degree oven until heated throughout with a crisp crust.
- Freeze leftovers in an airtight container or vacuum sealed bag for up to 6 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight. Reheat in a 350 degree oven until hot and crispy.
Potato Latkes Recipe
*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.
- potato peeler
- box grater
- mixing bowl and spoon
- wire cooling rack
- Peel potatoes and immediately place in ice water.
- Grate potatoes over a bowl of ice water using a box grater with medium holes.
- Grate onion or pulse in food processor.
- Put grated potatoes and onion in a thin dish towel and wring it into a large bowl. Squeeze the towel until there is very little liquid left in the potatoes.
- Dispose of the excess liquid in the bowl but leave the white potato starch on the bottom.
- Add grated potatoes and onions to the bowl with matzo meal, beaten egg, salt & pepper. Mix until blended.
- Heat a shallow amount of oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until a small amount of flour sizzles when added to oil.
- Using a tablespoon, drop a heaping spoonful of batter into oil and press it down with the back of the spoon to make a flat pancake.
- Fry latkes until crispy and golden brown which takes about 3 to 5 minutes per side.
- Transfer to a wire rack to drain, then keep warm in a 170 degree oven until ready to serve.
- Serve with sour cream or applesauce and an extra sprinkle of kosher salt.
- Potatoes will turn grey or pink as soon as the air hits them. To avoid this, grate potatoes into a bowl of ice water and keep cold until time to drain.
- Squeeze the grated potatoes and onions in a kitchen cloth until there is no water left. Soggy potatoes make gummy latkes.
- Do not be tempted to pat the potatoes into cakes. Instead, drop them by the spoonful into hot grease and press them down with the back of a spoon to flatten.
- View the Google Web Story for Potato Latkes!
Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.
Reference: Pelaia, Ariela. "What Is a Latke?" Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, learnreligions.com/what-is-a-latke-2076658