The Best Latkes (Jewish Potato Pancakes)

There are more ways to make latkes (Jewish potato pancakes) than there are ways to spell (or pronounce) “Hanukkah.” They basically take hash browns to the next level.

I’m about to show you the best, quickest and tastiest way to enjoy these crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside treats. But it definitely doesn’t need to be a Jewish holiday to enjoy these nor do you need to be Jewish to appreciate them – food knows no religion!

I had the good fortune of bringing my latke game to Food Network’s Ultimate Hanukkah Challenge where the “challenge” was using something other than potatoes as the main ingredient (I used carrots instead) and it was praised by the judges. So if I can master something as crazy as that, just imagine how good these are the traditional way with potatoes!

The whole tradition of latkes in a nutshell stems from the Maccabees (Jewish rebel warriors – Chai-ya!) who found enough oil to burn candles only for one night but ended up burning for eight – hence the miracle of Hanukkah and the symbolism of frying these delightful potatoes up in oil!

A close up of a plate of food, with Oil and Paper towel
potato, onion and scallion
Take some potatoes and onion and a scallion…
peeled potato, onion and scallion
…and peel the potatoes and onion and slice the scallion.
cheese grater over bowl
Line a mixing bowl with paper towels or cheese cloth and place a cheese grater over it.
grating potatoes
Grate the potatoes over the thickest opening on the grater.
potatoes resting on paper towels.
When done, the potatoes should be resting on the paper towels or cheese cloth.
squeezing shredded potatoes in a towel.
Now, wrap the potatoes in the cloth and SQUEEZE all the water out into the bowl below it.
potato juice left in bowl.
When done, you’re going to be left with liquid in the bowl. DO NOT DISCARD. Set aside for now.
Squeezed, shredded potatoes in mixing bowl.
Unwrap the shredded potatoes and place in another large mixing bowl.
Grating an onion.
Now, grate the onion over the potatoes.
Potato paste in bowl
Now back to the bowl with the potato juice. After tilting the bowl, you’ll see there is a paste at the very bottom. THIS IS STARCH FROM THE SQUEEZED POTATOES AND IS A KEY INGREDIENT! Simply discard the water by pouring it off and reserve the potato paste.
Potato paste in bowl
You should be left with this.
Adding potato paste to mixing bowl.
Add the potato paste to the mixing bowl with the shredded potatoes and onion.
Adding in seasonings
Now let’s give this latke mixture some flava! Add in some seasoned salt, kosher salt (of course), pepper, ground ginger and baking powder (NOT baking soda!)
Box of matzo meal
Now we’ll add another key ingredient is Matzo Meal. This is NOT the same thing as Matzo Ball mix. You can find it at most markets in the Jewish or international aisle, but you can also easily get it online.
Matzo meal
(Matzo meal looks like this).
2 eggs
Then take two eggs…
beaten eggs
…and lightly beat them.
Adding beaten eggs and scallion to latke mixture.
Add the beaten eggs and the scallions to the mixture.
Mixing by hand
Now comes the fun part – mixing! Using clean hands, dig in…
Latke mixture binding
…and mix together the latke mixture until it ever so slightly becomes binded (NOTE: it won’t be super binding yet – it should only sort of clump together).
Adding vegetable oil to frying pan.
Now take a large, deep frying pan and add in some vegetable oil…
Showing how high oil should be in the pan
…so it coats the bottom and comes up to about 1/8 to 1/4-inch high.
Heating oil
On medium-high to high heat, make sure the oil is fully heated to 365°. (NOTE: Have patience here! It MUST be fully heated before frying! This thermometer is great for that).
Testing oil temperature with latke mixture
To determine if you’re ready to fry, test out the oil temperature by dropping in a small blob of the latke mixture. If it bubbles and sizzles nicely, you’re good to go! Make sure the heat is now on medium-high.
scooping latke mixture
Scoop 1/4 cup worth of the mixture for each latke…
Adding latkes to frying pan
…and carefully add it to the heated oil in the pan. As you add each latke, flatten them out a bit with the back of the measuring cup or with a spoon so that they are about 1/2-inch thick. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side…
Flipping the latkes in the pan
…and then give them a flip in the order you placed them in (to ensure equal cooking time) and fry for about another 2 minutes on the other side.
Latkes about to be removed from pan with tongs
When done, they should be a golden brown with crisped edges. If you want then crispier, flip them again and fry until it’s the desired crispiness! Use tongs to remove the latkes from the pan…
Placing fried latkes on a paper towel-lined plate.
…and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to sop up any remaining oil. Repeat the process with the remaining mixture.
Showing completed latkes.
When done, you’ll have about a dozen latkes. And as you can see you from both batches, you can fry them longer for an even crispier, more well-done result!
Plated latkes
Place those beautiful works of crunchy, starchy art on a plate…
Applesauce and sour cream with latkes
…and don’t forget the sour cream or applesauce (make mine) for dipping! These are customary ways to serve a latke, although you can serve them any way you wish!
Trying latkes
Now, show off this perfect potato pancake…
Dipping latke
Dip it in your choice of sauce…
Trying latkes
…crunch into it…
Enjoying latkes
…and have a moment.
Enjoying latkes
Mazel Tov! You’ve just made the BEST latkes eva in no time at all!
Yield: 12

The Best Latkes (Jewish Potato Pancakes)

Latkes

I'm about to show you the best, quickest and tastiest way to enjoy these crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside latkes. But it definitely doesn't need to be a Jewish holiday to enjoy these nor do you need to be Jewish to appreciate them - food knows no religion!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds russet or baking potatoes, peeled and kept whole
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and kept whole
  • 1-2 scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup matzo meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (NOT baking soda)
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions

  1. Place 2 layers of paper towels or cheese cloth in a bowl. Using the widest opening slots on a cheese grater, grate the peeled potatoes onto the cloth resting in the bowl. Once grated, wrap the shredded potato up with the cloth and firmly squeeze the water out of the potatoes so it drains into the bowl. DO NOT DISCARD the drippings. Let rest and settle.
  2. Unwrap the squeezed, shredded potato into a large mixing bowl and grate the onion over it.
  3. Go back to the bowl that the water from the squeezed potato is in. As you tilt the bowl, you'll notice a bottom layer of a thick paste. This is the starch from the potato and is a key ingredient to making your latkes bind! Pour the water off the top to discard and add the potato paste to the mixing bowl with the shredded potatoes and onion.
  4. With the exception of the vegetable oil, add the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl and, with clean hands, mix by hand. This should only take about a minute or so and the mixture should just ever so slightly bind to each other, but not firmly.
  5. Add the vegetable oil to a large, deep frying pan. It should be just enough to cover the bottom and about 1/8 - 1/4-inch high. Heat on high or medium-high until it hits about 365° (this will take about 5 minutes). IMPORTANT: DO NOT FRY UNTIL THE OIL IS HEATED. It must be fully heated to properly fry. Once heated (you can use a thermometer to really tell), add in a small blob of the latke mixture. If it bubbles and sizzles, you're ready to go! Make sure the heat is on medium-high now.
  6. Using 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop the latke mixture from the bowl and carefully place in the heated oil, with enough space between each. You should be able to get about 6 latkes in the pan if using a large one. Using the back of the measuring cup or a spoon, flatten the latke so it's about 1/4 - 1/2-inch thick.
  7. Let fry for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy. If you want a more well-done latke, flip again until the desired crispiness.
  8. Place the crispy latkes on a paper towel-lined plate to sop up any of that additional Maccabee juice (aka oil). Repeat the process with any remaining mixture. When done, you should have about 12 latkes.
  9. Serve with applesauce, sour cream or any sauce you desire! (See Jeff's Tips)

Jeffrey's Tips

Make sure as soon as you peel and grate those potatoes you're ready to make the latkes. There is no prepping ahead with shredded potatoes as they will turn a very unpleasant brownish-purple color. It will have no bearing on the flavor but they won't be pretty!

While applesauce and sour cream are the most popular, you can use any kind of sauce to dip your latkes in! When I was on Food Network's Ultimate Hanukkah Challenge, I wasn't allowed to use potato as the main ingredient (hence, the "challenge). I shredded some carrots up and used some cornstarch (about 2 tablespoons) to help the binding instead! I adding in a little curry powder and made the dipping sauce with mayo and some sriracha and the judges went wild for it! You can also use shredded/shaved Brussels sprouts, parsnips, beets and zucchini in lieu of potatoes. JUST MAKE SURE you have that cornstarch so it will bind!

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Danny

    Love the pic of you with your eyes rolled back! Ever tried making latkes with RUTABAGA, for those of us who can’t take a lot of carbs? I’ve made scalloped rutabaga and they were delish.

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