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If there was ever a dish that brings back vivid childhood memories, is steeped in tradition and is totally droolworthy, it’s classic potato latkes.
This recipe for traditional Jewish potato pancakes will give you the perfect golden, crispy result that’ll leave you grabbing for just one more!
The origin of latkes
The Jewish holidays are big on symbolism, and Hannukah is no exception. Hannukah, also known as the festival of lights, is a celebration of a supply of oil that was only supposed to last for one night but miraculously lasted for eight nights.
So, we celebrate this miracle of the oil by eating foods that are fried in – you guessed it – oil.
Yes, we are actually mandated to eat fried foods. And yes, it’s awesome.
Crispy potato latkes, fried until golden brown, are a staple and a symbol of Hannukah, along with doughnuts.
Memories of making latkes
I remember on Hannukah, my grandparents would stand at the kitchen counter, each grating potatoes one by one on box graters. My mother would then fry the grated potatoes in peanut oil until they were golden brown and set them onto paper supermarket bags that lined the countertops.
They were crispy around the edges, warm and soft in the middle, with just the right amount of salt.
We would happily attack the mountain of potato pancakes, taking several onto our plates, smothering them with sour cream or homemade applesauce or sometimes both.
The whole house smelled like a deep fryer, and would stay that way for several days after the celebration.
I have never wavered from my family’s latkes recipe. They are, hands down, the best latkes I’ve ever had.
The only thing I’ve changed is the cooking oil that I fry in.
I find that using vegetable oil instead of peanut oil yields a lighter, more golden-colored latke. Everything else is the same as what generations before me have done.
What is in this latke recipe
There are just a few ingredients that go into making the perfect latke. The key is in the amounts that you use. Here is what you’ll need:
- russet potatoes
- vegetable oil
- salt and pepper
Other recipes may tell you that you need eggs to bind the latkes. Don’t listen.
This potato latkes recipe uses the ratio of one onion + one tablespoon of flour for every four potatoes.
The salt and pepper measurements or more of a suggestion. I love salt, so I sometimes use more than the recipe calls for. You’ll find what works for you and your people.
How to make latkes
First, grate the potatoes and onions together. I wish my grandparents were around to see how much easier it is now to make this latkes recipe using the grater attachment of a food processor. This handy tool cuts the prep time by 80%. It’ll be your best friend when it comes to preparation!
If you don’t have one, a box grater still works just fine, and allows for more family togetherness and memory making (looking on the bright side).
There will be some excess moisture in the bowl, and don’t even worry about draining it. (Other recipes may tell you to drain the liquid. Don’t listen).
Stir in the flour, salt and pepper, and you’re ready to fry!
Grab a large skillet and fill it with at least 1/2 inch of oil. When you drop the batter into the hot pan, use the back of a spoon to press down slightly and form the shape of the latke.
Watch your latkes closely while they’re frying. When they get nice and golden and crispy around the edges, that’s when you’ll know to flip them.
And like any other kind of pancake, these Jewish potato pancakes get better with practice.
What are the best potatoes for making latkes?
Plain old russet potatoes are the best potatoes for making latkes. Not only are they starchy, but they’re relatively dry, as compared to a creamier kind of potato like a Yukon gold.
We need crispy latkes here, my people! Russets are the right answer.
Latkes vs. Potato Pancakes
Aren’t they the same? Well, yes. And no.
The term “potato pancake” is a broader term that can involve using either raw or pre-cooked (even mashed) potatoes and often call for more fillers and binders like bread crumbs and eggs.
Latke recipes use raw, grated potatoes and very little filler.
So, all latkes are potato pancakes but not all potato pancakes are latkes.
Latkes vs. Hashbrowns
Hash browns are basically shredded potatoes in their loose form. Latkes are shredded potatoes that have been formed into a pancake and fried.
Very similar, but not exactly the same.
How to serve Classic Potato Latkes
Latkes can be served alone or as a side dish for a main meal. On Hannukah, I serve them as a side dish for roasted chicken and Broccoli and Cheddar Bake.
Sour cream is still my favorite latke topping. If I want to feel fancy, I’ll add some caviar, smoked salmon and creme fraiche on top. A runny egg is also an awesome latke topper. You can really let your imagination run wild.
But every year on Hannukah, just once, I will top my latke with apple sauce. Because that’s how my Pop Pop used to like them.
How to Store Leftover Latkes
If you have any latkes left over, store them in an airtight container or wrap them in aluminum foil. They will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
Reheat them in a single layer in the oven until you hear them sizzle.
When you make these Jewish potato pancakes, I’d love to hear about it! Drop a rating or leave a comment below. Enjoy!
For more traditional Jewish recipes, try these:
For more potato recipes, try these:
- Potatoes Au Gratin with Corn & Gruyere
- Everything-Spiced Sweet Potato Fries
- Loaded Mini Hasselback Potatoes
Latkes Recipe (Jewish Potato Pancakes)
- 8 russet potatoes
- 2 yellow onions
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 quart vegetable oil
- Peel potatoes and onions and grate, using the large holes of a box grater or the grater attachment of a food processor. Place grated potatoes and onions in a large bowl. Add flour, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Heat 3/4 inch of oil over medium heat in a deep, wide skillet. There should be enough oil in the pan so that the latkes can float.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer 3-4 tbsp. of potato mixture into the pan and use your spoon to gently shape and flatten the pancake. Once the edges start to turn golden brown and latke releases from the bottom of the pan, its time to flip it over. Allow both sides to reach a golden brown color and remove with a slotted spoon.
- Place latkes in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Serve with your condiments of choice.