Learn to make classic Potato Latkes in a skillet. This easy-to-follow traditional Jewish recipe makes perfect latkes (aka “potato pancakes”) with crispy, golden crusts and hot and fluffy centers – traditionally served with sour cream and applesauce.
I hardly ever fry anything in my house, but for homemade potato latkes, I’ll make an exception. You’ll most likely need to work in batches, but I think frying latkes in a skillet is the way to go. When served with cool sour cream and tart applesauce, this recipe is next-level delicious. Having latkes for Hannukkah is a big tradition in my family but I like having them all year long. Happy Hanukkah!
What are Potato Latkes?
The word “latke” is Yiddish for “pancake.” so they are potato pancakes! While latkes recipes differ slightly from one Jewish family to the next, they all have one thing in common -shredded potatoes fried in oil. The oil symbolizes the miracle of Hanukkah and the tiny bit of oil that stayed lit for eight straight days. The more you know!
Potato Latkes Ingredients //
- Potatoes: The starchier the potato, the better. Russet potatoes are the best potato to use. However, Yukon gold potatoes are also okay.
- Onion: Adding grated onion adds a tremendous amount of flavor
- Eggs: An egg acts as the “food glue” that holds the mixture together. It also helps achieve a crisp, golden-brown crust.
- Flour: binds the latkes mixture together into a cohesive pancake.
- Salt & Pepper (to taste): Don’t be shy with the seasonings -they will need a generous amount.
- Vegetable Oil: Be sure to use vegetable oil that can withstand high heat, like canola or peanut.
- Apple Sauce & Sour Cream: are traditionally served as condiments with latkes.
How to Make // The Steps
Step 1: Prep the potatoes.
First things first, peel all of the potatoes (or recruit a handy assistant to do it for you).
Step 2: Grate potatoes and onion.
By hand or with a food processor, grate the potatoes and onion.
Step 3: Dry the potatoes and onion.
This is the most crucial step! To make crispy latkes, the grated potatoes and onions must be super dry. I spread them over a hand towel to absorb the moisture and then roll them up to squeeze out the rest.
Step 4: Mix latke batter.
In a large mixing bowl, add the dried potatoes and onions, eggs, flour, salt, and pepper (do not be shy with the seasonings -latkes need a lot of salt and pepper). Mix the ingredients until the mixture is just combined. You want it to have texture, but it shouldn’t clump together.
Step 5: Form latke patties.
Using about a 1/4 cup of batter per patty, mold the mixture into about 4″ rounds.
Step 6: Heat oil.
In a cast-iron or large heavy-bottomed no-stick skillet, add oil filling the pan about 3/4″ high and heat over medium to medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Make sure the oil is hot enough (ideally between 360 and 375 degrees F). Otherwise, you will end up with a wet and soggy latke.
Step 7: Cook.
Pan fry potato pancakes until they are browned and crispy on both sides. Please do your best only to flip them over once.
Step 8: Strain.
Transfer crispy latkes straight from the hot cooking oil to a paper towel-lined pan. I like to let them soak in layers divided by paper towels.
Step 9: Serve.
If needed, sprinkle with a bit more salt to taste. Serve with sour cream and apple sauce. Enjoy!
Tips & Tricks for Making Potato Latkes //
- The key to making a good latke is squeezing the potatoes and onion super dry. I use a towel to squeeze out the moisture. You could also use a cheesecloth.
- Yes, one egg is plenty to bind everything together.
- My mom adds cayenne pepper to hers for some heat.
- You only need about 3/4″ of oil in the skillet. What is most important is that it is HOT. I always fry a small piece of the potato mixture before making the rest to ensure the oil is hot and the potatoes are seasoned enough.
- Don’t crowd the pan! Your potato pancakes need some wiggle room to cook evenly and get crispy. You’ll most likely need to work in 3 to 4 batches to cook through the batter (this recipe yields about 24 latkes).
Best Potatoes for Latkes //
Russet potatoes are hands down, the best kind of potatoes for latkes. They are the starchiest type of potato, budget-friendly, and are available all of the time. Yukon gold potatoes are a good alternative.
Why are Potato Latkes So Good?
- You can enjoy a Jewish holiday tradition any time of the year. It commemorates the miracle of the oil in Jerusalem Temple and its origin can be tracked in Italy in the Middle Ages. I love that for once I don’t feel bad for eating fried food 🙂 .
- Latkes are cooked in a pan, which uses much less oil than a deep-fryer.
- The latkes develop the perfect texture -crunchy outside with a hot, creamy, perfectly seasoned center.
Variations for Latkes or Potato Pancakes //
- Schmaltz: In many traditional Jewish dishes, Schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) is used instead of vegetable oil. Frying homemade latkes in Schmaltz will deepen their flavor and add a distinctive savory taste.
- Vegetable latkes: You can make a latke with any grated vegetable. A reader mentioned adding some grated zucchini to the potato mixture and said they were delicious. If you add any extra veggies, be sure to squeeze out the moisture.
- Add fresh herbs: For a pop of color and fresh flavor, add a handful of freshly chopped herbs to the potato mixture like parsley, dill, or mint.
Serving Suggestions //
Wondering what goes well with these potato pancakes? Traditionally, sour cream and apple sauce are served on the side. Make it a Hunnakah-inspired feast and serve fresh latkes alongside these recipe pairings:
- Passover Brisket & Chardonnay Carrots
- Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Brisket. & Roasted Beet & Orange Salad
- Root Beer Brisket, & Green Beans Almondine
How to Store and Reheat //
Storing: Keep leftovers wrapped individually in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.
Reheating: You can reheat the latkes from frozen on a baking sheet at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or in the air fryer for 5 to 10 minutes.
Make-Ahead and Freezer Options //
Freezing: I recommend letting them cool completely before freezing each piece solid on a baking sheet. When the rounds are frozen solid, transfer them to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to a month.
You’ll need at least 1/2 of a large russet potato per serving. To be on the safe side, I’d account for one potato per person.
You can make this recipe with sweet potato, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cumin and serving it with mango chutney, it is an excellent variation.
For the best flavor and texture, latkes are best made fresh. However, in a pinch, you can make them a couple of hours ahead. I arrange them in layers separated by paper towels to absorb the excess oil and then reheat them at 350 degrees until they are heated through (8 to 10 minutes).
The best way to keep latkes warm until they’re ready to be served is to keep them in a 180-degree to 200 degrees F oven. They will be okay for about 30 minutes before starting to lose their crisp.