How To Make Crispy, Delicious Latkes (Jewish Potato Pancakes, Traditional for Hanukkah) – Recipe


Now that’s a crispy latke!

[Note: this recipe received a major update on 12/16/2012 – so if you have followed it before, you can look forward to even crispier latkes going forward! Among other changes, I no longer use any flour or added starch, so this is now gluten-free. I was finding that the flour made them a bit gummy, Chris Young suggested I try entirely without. Quite right, they are better than ever.]

Let me apologize immediately for the poor photography, but I have a very good excuse. An all-out hanukkah latke binge is something I look forward to every year. I wanted to get myself on the outside of those latkes immediately, and you should actually be amazed that I stopped to take a picture at all.

I’m a latke purist. Please do not darken my digital doorstep with tales of pumpkin-chipotle latkes or Thai-spice latkes. For me, a latke should contain: Russet potato, onion, egg, salt, flour, and be fried in a decent amount of oil, and then be served with applesauce and sour cream, and more salt.

By the way, and I’m not the only one who thinks so, the closest thing in civilian life to a good latke is an order of scattered and smothered hash browns at Waffle House. Ask for them well done.

[Sidebar to the latke uninitiated: this is terrible! You must have latkes immediately! You are missing one of the world’s great foods. Call a Jewish friend and beg them to make latkes for you. Or follow the recipe below anytime.]

We want the latkes to be as crispy as possible, and preferably served fresh from the frying pan. So the ideal way to do that is make them for, say, 4 people, or make them for a crowd but serve them standing up, spatulating direct to the diner’s plate. If that isn’t possible, the next best thing is to fry as many at a time as possible, keep them on a baking sheet, and quickly re-crisp at 400 degrees.

The key to good latke making is to extract as much water from the potatoes as possible. First I like to pre-salt them and let them rest a bit. Then to get the water out, you can wrap the grated potatoes in cheesecloth or a clean towel, a couple handfuls at a time, and wring the heck out of them. Twist a wooden spoon handle up in the cloth to give you a bit more leverage.Get a little mad and get every drop out. Otherwise they will spit water at you from the frying pan and come out mushy. An even better way, if you have one, is to use a heavy-duty potato ricer to squeeze out the water.

I generally use the grating disc on the food processor to cut the potatoes, but you can also use a box grater and do it by hand if you don’t mind a little workout. The texture of the food processor grated ones is a little different and I think I prefer it. The grating must be done not long before frying or the potatoes will oxidize to an unappetizing black. If you must grate them early, try putting plastic wrap tightly down on the surface and refrigerating. You can also crush an unflavored vitamin C tablet and mix it in with the potatoes as an anti-oxidant.

Whatever else you have with a latke meal should be considered a mere formality, since inevitably everyone will stuff themselves on the cakes. I’ve provided the recipe in terms of ratio to a pound of potato. For my family, you need about nearly 1 pound per person. Seriously.

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A note about Kosher salt: I always use Diamond Crystal brand. It is “fluffier” and therefore weighs less by volume than Mortons. The best option is always to measure by weight, but if you are going by volume and not using Diamond Crystal, reduce all amounts by around 40%.

Crispy, Delicious Latkes for Hanukkah
Vegetarian and gluten-free
Multiply as needed to use 450 grams / 1 pound potato per person as a main course or half that as an appetizer (unimaginable, but just in case)

  • 450 grams (1 pound Russet potato), peeled
  • 115 grams (1/4 pound onion), preferably white but yellow is ok, peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 egg (60 grams), beaten
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying (lots)
  • Maldon salt or fleur de sel
  1. In a food processor or on a box grater, grate the potato and onion and mix together. Mix in 5 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) of kosher salt for every 450 grams of potato you started with, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes.
  2. Uncover, squeeze down a bit and drain off excess water from the bowl. Now, working a handful or two at a time, either use a potato ricer to squeeze out the water, or  wrap the potatoes in a double layer of cheesecloth or a clean dish towel and wring the liquid out of them. Hard. Go to town. Wrap the gathered ends of the cloth around the handle of a wooden spoon and twist for extra leverage. Get them as dry as possible. Really. This makes a huge difference.
  3. Mix in the eggs, and pepper and another  1.75 grams (1/2 teaspoon of salt) (since much of the original salt will have washed away). I find the best way to do this is with my hands.
  4. In a large skillet, heat about 1/8 inch of oil over a medium high flame. (If you are feeling your oats, you can use two or more large skillets at once). A bit of potato thrown in should immediately sizzle, but the oil shouldn’t be smoking. (You can use less oil, but they will be less delicious).
  5. Depending on what size you like your latkes, grab about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of potato, and add it to the oil. Immediately flatten to about 1/3 inch. You don’t want much thickness because the inside has to cook before the outside burns. Form the rest of the latkes the same way.
  6. When the first side is a dark, deep brown (see picture above), flip and continue cooking. When both sides are done, remove to a plate lined with paper towel. Sprinkle on a bit of the Maldon salt or fleur de sel.
  7. Be sure and taste one of the first ones to make sure it is cooked through. If not, reduce the heat a bit or make the next batch thinner.
  8. Try not to eat all of them yourself.
  9. Serve with applesauce, sour cream and more salt on the side.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Thursday, December 25th, 2008 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Kid Friendly, Main Courses, Recipes, Side Dishes.

36 Responses to “How To Make Crispy, Delicious Latkes (Jewish Potato Pancakes, Traditional for Hanukkah) – Recipe”

  1. d.m.
    December 26, 2008 at 1:54 am #

    that’s a great blog entry! even though it’s pouring rain in phx, i want to run to the store right now and buy a bag of potatoes to make these. my family and i were just talking earlier tonight about how fun it would be to make latkes…if only we had a good recipe. great timing. thanks!

  2. December 26, 2008 at 4:15 am #

    Michael, happy Hannukah to you and your family. I used a Martha recipe this year and her technique of adding starch BACK to the potatoes is ingenious – it produced the crispiest latke ever! (i have it on my blog too) I’m also a latke purist, but I prefer mine hand-grated and it only takes a few minutes longer.

  3. Michael Natkin
    December 26, 2008 at 7:32 am #

    Thanks for reminding me about the the potato starch trick! I’ve done that in
    years past and it does indeed work well. I go back and forth on the grating
    issue. Certainly the hand-grating is more traditional, but the food
    processor does give a nice complexity to the texture. I suppose there have
    been more important ideological schisms :).

    • Dave Horvitz
      December 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

      Great latkes! Even my grandmother and dad would approve. That is hard to do.

      Thanks.

  4. December 26, 2008 at 11:09 am #

    Oh. My. Goodness. Yum!

    +Jessie
    a.k.a. The Hungry Mouse

  5. December 26, 2008 at 4:19 pm #

    Happy Hannukah,
    This is a very well-written article. Clear and concise
    instructions for the recipe. Would be easy to follow for a beginning cook.
    I do prefer using the food processor. Enjoy!

  6. December 26, 2008 at 5:56 pm #

    Happy Hanukkah!

    I was whisked back to the days of my latke making. Unfortunately we have a grand daughter with multiple food allergies, and this year I was unable to successfully make latkes without eggs or flour! I’ve tried substitution flours and egg substitutes, but they don’t work! LOL
    I enjoyed your post very much and in the spirit of Hanukkah, eat one with you in the virtual world.

  7. December 26, 2008 at 7:07 pm #

    my favourite is step 7. mmmmmmm!!!!!

  8. December 27, 2008 at 7:54 am #

    These sound so great. I wish I had some potatos in the house! Might have to go shopping later….

  9. Michael Natkin
    December 27, 2008 at 9:23 pm #

    You know, I gotta check to see if anyone read that far :)

  10. December 27, 2008 at 9:37 pm #

    These look amazing. I’m planning on making some latkes on the last night of Hannukkah – I’ll be making them the pure way as well!

  11. Michael Natkin
    December 30, 2008 at 3:37 pm #

    Thanks for the comment Angela! Food allergies are a big issue in my family
    as well, so I sure understand. One thing you might try collecting the
    squeezed out water and straining it to retrieve the potato starch, and using
    that instead of flour. Not sure what the best egg substitute for latkes
    would be though. Maybe Ener-G egg replacer? Not sure if it is gluten-free or
    not though. Good luck!

  12. Kathy
    January 1, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    YUM! I’ve had the russets sitting here for 4 days. Just made the latkes. YUM YUM YUM!

  13. Ben Sherman
    November 29, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    I would like to try yours! When I make them, I get all the water out of the potatoes by putting them in my ricer. Raw potatoes won’t go through the holes but that thing has some SERIOUS leverage to squeeze the water out.

  14. Michael Natkin
    November 29, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    Good call! When I wrote this article, I didn't have a ricer, but I've acquired once since and I use it to extract water from spinach, so I can easily image it works well for this too.

  15. Rich R
    December 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    The only Latkes I’ve ever had was at a Jewish deli in the suburbs of Cleveland, Oh. They are awesome. My wife and I had a hankering’ for latkes today, unlike the “potato pancakes” that my mom used to make, and driving 1+ hours each direction just didn’t sit well with us today.

    I immediately searched for a recipe and found yours. My wife and I currently have full bellies. You know the food was excellent when you’re full up to your eyeballs and you still want to go back for more.

    Thank you so much for the recipe. While the basic ingredients are not rocket science, the preparation tricks make all the difference in the world.

  16. Michael Natkin
    December 12, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    Rich – that makes my day that these are your first homemade latkes! So glad you liked them and I appreciate you taking the time to comment. 

  17. FARBROOKBOUVIER@AOL.COM
    December 25, 2010 at 8:40 am #

    Thank you so much for bringing back a flood of wonderful childhood memories. I am making your recipe this evening with Christmas (we are a blended religious family)dinner. The meaning and tradition will not go unspoken. Christmas is an opportunity for us to gather as a family and show our love and appreciation for each other. God bless you and be with you and your family this holiday time and into the new year.

  18. March 31, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    Michael, I just happened across your recipe via Swallowing Seattle and I heartily concur! Respect for the ingredients. No Crispy Pumpkin and Zucchini latkes for me either. I wrote a similar post about this (“My Father’s Latkes”) on my Calorie Factory blog. I also noted that squeezing the very last drop of water out of those potatoes was *critical* to making a latke so crispy and good you just want to. . .smack somebody (in a good way of course!) when you eat one. :)

    link to taste.caloriefactory.com

  19. December 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    OH MY GOODNESS – – you have no idea how happy I am you posted this recipe. When I was a lot younger, I had the best latkes ever and I’ve since tried endless times to copy the recipe. I’ve never come remotely close.

    I think this recipe will be the one!! :) Thanks.

  20. December 12, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    I make mine without eggs. I just squeeze out the water well and incorporate the potato starch. They turn out great! I can’t wait to make them!

  21. December 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    I am Catholic, but a good latke is hard to beat. I shred the potato, put into ice water for a while, wring dry and I mean dry. Onion, garlic, flour, kosher salt, small amt of pepper, egg or not, BUT staying white. I add LEMON JUICE to the water and do not worry about discoloration. The same with scalloped potatoes made ‘ready’ to go when desired. Dry the potato slices either on paper towels or cloth spread over slices then continue with recipe.

  22. Meredith
    April 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    I followed this recipe to a ‘t’ and….fabulous. Instruction #8 was a tough one!

  23. Nathan
    September 16, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    Too salty; I scaled it up to 6 potatoes with 6-7 teaspoons salt, but still too salty so i added more flour.

    I think 4 teaspoons is perfect.

    • September 17, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

      Hey Nathan – One issue, which I need to be better about indicating, is that I use Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt, which weighs less (and is therefore less salty) per teaspoon than Morton’s or typical iodized salt. And of course always follow your own palate.

  24. the jew
    November 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    why do you use flour instead of matzo meal?

    • November 1, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

      I don’t typically have matzo meal in the house except at Passover time… if you have it on hand, it will work just fine.

  25. Jr
    December 3, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    A friend of mine will be alone this year as her parents will be out of town. She adores latkes and what better present than to share this coming Hanukkah with her favorite latkes and applesauce.

    Thank you so much, Michael! These sound delicious! I got 4 days to get it right … lol

    I’ll let you know!

  26. December 9, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    Jewish food is the BEST! (says the ex-Catholic! :) ) My English Mum used to pass these off as “potato pancakes” but they were still delicious. Happy Chanukah!

  27. December 9, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    These were delicious! I too am an old-school latke lover. Sure, I’ll try a sweet potato maple pancake, but I probably won’t go through the patzke of making them on chanukah. Your recipe hit the spot, and the additional squeezing is the tip I was missing all of these years.

  28. Shey
    December 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    I have made these with flour for my husband and used gluten free flour for my daughter. Both times they have turned out awesome! I don’t use the salt amount listed,I use less and coconut oil to fry them in. I would recommend a ricer to get as much water out as you can. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    • December 14, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

      I use the ricer these days too. Works great. I’m planning on experimenting with potato starch instead of flour this week, will update the recipe if it works well.

  29. JT
    December 15, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    Made them, loved them, will definitely make again.

  30. December 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    This is exactly how I make latkes, and I have been making them more years than I care to say. I stand at the stove while the family decides who gets the next batch out of the pan.

  31. January 3, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    My Jewish Mother would fry Potato Pancakes until we were all full. I would
    look forward to eating them but after I got my fill I could wait until the next
    time. We didn’t use Sour Cream or Apple Sauce, just the Pancakes. I make
    them now, they taste good but I think they tasted better when I was a child.
    One day on a cooking show on TV they had a hint about making Pancakes.
    They said if you use a Plastic Grater the Potatoes would not turn black as
    quickly when using a Aluminum Grater. I tried it and it works, I wanted to
    call my Mother and tell her but sadly she had died years ago.

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