My top 10 tips for the crispiest, best latkes ever!
Plus, toppings ideas, tips for making ahead and more.
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What are you waiting for, let’s make some latkes!
First things first.
What are Latkes?
Latkes are fried potato pancakes made from shredded potatoes, flour and egg as binders, and salt and sometimes onions.
What Do We Eat Latkes on Hanukkah?
We eat fried food on Hanukkah like latkes (and doughnuts!) to symbolize the miracle of a little bit of oil lasting in the menorah for 8 nights after the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.
How Do You Make Latkes?
On the surface, potato latkes are a simple dish. Potatoes, onions, eggs, flour or matzo meal. A little salt and maybe pepper. Fry. What could go wrong?Turns out, plenty. Latkes can be limp, underseasoned, undercooked or burnt and sometimes they’re all of these unfortunate things. Blech. What kind of pan should you use? Can you make them ahead of time? What about oil type? Help!
Hanukkah should be a joyous time. Eight days of gorging yourself on fried foods, pyromania, and, of course, presents. But throw in some sub-par latkes, and you might start to feel like a dreidel player who’s hitting shin, over and over again. Like a loser.
But I want you to have latke success!
Here are my…
Top 10 Latkes Tips:
1. What Kind of Potatoes Do We Use For Latkes?
The starchier the potato, the crispier the latke. Makes sense. And the starchiest potato out there is the unassuming russet. They’re usually pretty cheap too, which means more latkes for less gelt!
2. Do you Hand Grate Latkes or Use a Food Processor?
I like to hand grate my latkes. Because that’s how my Bubbe did it and if it’s good enough for Bubbe it’s good enough for me. Maybe it’s the blood, sweat, and arm power you have to put into hand-grated latkes, but they just taste better that way. However, if you are making a ton, using the large hole attachment of a food processor works too. You want long shreds of potatoes.
3. How Do You Get Crispy Latkes? Save the starch!
Shred your potatoes into cold water to prevent browning. Then wait about 10 minutes, and pull out the potatoes, squeezing an extra liquid from them into the bowl. Dry out excess water from the potatoes using cheesecloth or a towel. Dry potatoes = crispy latkes! Let the starch in the reserved water settle, then carefully drain the water, reserving the white stuff on the bottom. That’s the starch! Add it back to your dried potatoes for extra crispiness. When making sweet potato latkes, I add potato starch to the water to up the starchiness and crispiness, or you can use potato starch as the binder instead of flour.
4. How Do You Get Crispy Latkes Part II? Dry baby, dry!
After you take the potatoes out of the water, remove as much moisture as possible using cheesecloth or towels. Again, less moisture means crispier latkes, which means better latkes. Are you seeing the pattern here? As the later batter sits, it tends to get a little watery. So make sure to dry again!
5. Can You Use Spices and Other Flavors in Latkes?
Feel free to get creative with your latkes! Add cumin, cayenne, za’atar, cinnamon, and don’t forget the salt. What about toppings? Sour cream and applesauce are delish, but how about a horseradish cream, lox and cream cheese, or guacamole for a change?
6. How Do You Cook Latkes? Fry, baby, fry!
Use an oil with a high smoke point to achieve perfectly golden latkes. I prefer canola oil. A dab of schmaltz tastes great too. You also want to use enough oil to reach the latke sides too. How do you know if it’s hot? If you test a bit of the latke batter in the oil, it will sizzle but not brown immediately. Check oil periodically while frying to make sure it doesn’t get too hot or cool. Don’t worry about your latkes being perfectly round. Those fly away pieces get extra crispy and delicious! Pro tip: add a peeled small carrot to your oil which soaks up the brown bits that flake off so they don’t end up in your latkes!
7. How Do You Cook Latkes Part II? Three’s a crowd.
Don’t crowd the pan! Too many latkes cool down the oil, making soggy latkes. Let the edges of the latkes get nice and brown before flipping so they won’t stick. And resist the urge to use a nonstick pan: you want the potatoes to caramelize to get that nice golden color. Also, don’t place the latkes on paper towels when they are done. Place on a cooling rack to cool slightly so the air can circulate and they stay crispy on both sides.
8. How Do You Get The Best Tasting Latkes? Salt!
Fried food tastes good with salt. It’s just science. Drain latkes on a cooling rack and salt them immediately after you take them off the fryer.
9. Can You Make Latkes in Advance? Cooking for a crowd.
Set the oven to 250 degrees F to keep latkes warm while you are cooking the others. But don’t let the batter sit too long or it will brown. Shredding some onion with the potatoes can also help prevent browning.
10. Can You Freeze Latkes? Making ahead.
You can do this! Fry as usual, and then freeze them on a sheet pan and pack in a freezer-safe resealable bag. When ready to serve, let latkes thaw slightly and reheat in a 375 degree F oven.
One more question. Can I make them Gluten-Free?
Yes! Substitute potato starch for the flour. They will be delicious!
How about vegan? How do I make vegan latkes?
You can leave the egg out and they will still bind, though they won’t be quite as creamy in the middle. You can also substitute flax egg.
- Fried Pickle Latkes
- Rainbow Latkes
- Latkes Fried Pickles
- Israeli Breakfast Latkes
- Latkes Eggs Benedict
- S’mores Latkes
- Kimchi Quesadilla Latkes
- Grilled Cheese Latkes
- Latke Waffles
- Latkes Pizza
- Taro Latkes with Poke
- Reuben Latkes
- Pumpkin Pie Latkes
- Cilantro Jalapeno Latkes
- Potato Latkes with Sriracha Cheddar Sauce
Basic Latkes Recipe
- 2 pounds russet potatoes (approximately), washed (to get 5 cups shredded)
- Ice water
- 2 tablespoons white onion grated (optional, you can add more too for more onion flavor)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon potato starch (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup canola oil (or other oil for frying like grapeseed)
- Start by peeling your potatoes one at a time and shredding them with the large holes of a box grater into a bowl of ice water. You should have about 5 cups of potatoes. Grate the onions into there too. Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Remove potatoes, squeezing out the moisture into the water. Dry potatoes very well with towels or cheesecloth and keep covered. Let the water sit for 5-10 minutes for starch to accumulate on the bottom. Carefully drain water, reserving the white starch on the bottom. This part is optional, but helps make crispier latkes with soft insides. You can also add potato starch to the potato mixer directly, but why do that when you already have it in the potatoes?!
- Place potato/onion mixture in a large bowl, dry again very well. Then add in the eggs, flour and salt and reserved dried off starch and combine.
- Set up a cooling rack over paper towels.
- Meanwhile, heat up about 1/4 inch of canola oil in a large (cast iron) saute pan. A dab of schmaltz never hurt either. Pro tip- add a little piece of peeled carrot to the oil to soak up the brown bits that flake off so they don't get in your latkes!
- Scoop heaping 1/4 cup spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the oil (they should sizzle!) and flatten slightly and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Don't worry about your latkes being perfectly round. Those fly away pieces get extra crispy and delicious! Then flip and fry the other side another 2 minutes or so. Don't overcrowd the pan.
- Repeat with remaining latke batter, drying it again if liquid starts to accumulate. Drain on a rack over paper towels and sprinkle with more salt. Eat!