Perfect Golden Potato Latkes
Few things in this world bring me as much joy as the simple, crispy, golden potato latke. We are in the midst of Hanukkah and this simple recipe is one that is mired in Jewish tradition. I grew up on the shores of Long Island, NY, and although I am not of Jewish descent, I grew up celebrating its many traditions with friends, as Hanukkah is celebrated as vibrantly as Christmas there.
I can remember the lighting of the candle each night and the prayer that was recited. I just love traditions of any kind, and as with any culture, there is always a food involved when it comes to the holidays. I have yet to meet a Jewish friend whose family doesn’t have its very own latke recipe. The goal is always to get them “just like Bubby (Grandma) made them,” and you could get into a very heated debate about the proper way to make them.
I could eat these crispy little morsels by the dozen. If you have never had one, think of it as a small, pancake shaped hash brown patty. I have eaten plenty, but realized recently that I have never made one, so I felt this would be an appropriate time to try. I had bag of russet potatoes and a few onions left over from Thanksgiving, so all of the stars aligned.
I searched for the most traditional latke recipe and landed on one I found on The Kitchn website, as it stuck to the original methods the closest. made mine with what I had handy, so I used vegetable oil for frying and plain breadcrumbs as a thickening agent. I have to admit I winced a little. Traditionally, latkes call for crushed Matzoh (a dry unleavened cracker) to be used, as most Jewish households have some leftover from Passover, so it is handy.
I LOVE Matzoh, but didn’t have any available in my pantry, so this time around I used breadcrumbs. Tradition also calls for using schmaltz as the frying agent, which is rendered chicken fat. This is also a staple in traditional Jewish cooking. I did not have this handy, so I went with my trusty vegetable oil. Someday I will try the full traditional recipe, but these turned out to taste simply amazing.Jump to Recipe
Fair warning, these are messy to make. I highly recommend getting some cheesecloth to use for draining the liquid from the potatoes and onions, so you can use and toss. You can also use a dishtowel, but that is one more thing to clean, if you can avoid it, and it doesn’t seem to drain as well as the cheesecloth does. Cheesecloth has the perfect composition for getting your potato mix as dry as possible, which is key for good latkes. It helps them to form and stay in patty form and crisp properly. If you have a cast iron pan, you will want to use it here, as it evenly distributes the heat for frying. Be careful to watch your cooking time with each batch. I started with 5 minutes on each side, but as the oil heats up, you may only need about 3 minutes to avoid burning the potato mixture. I also used my digital scale to ensure I was using the right amount of potato to onion ratio.
The recipe can be doubled, although you should squeeze the potato and onion shreds in 2 bundles. Halfway through frying, pour the used oil into a heatproof bowl. Wipe out the skillet, add fresh oil or schmaltz, and continue frying.
Perfect Golden Potato Latkes
- Cast Iron Pan
- Box Grater or Food Processor
- 1½ lbs russet potatoes (3-4)
- ½ medium yellow onion (or one small)
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp matzo meal or unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup canola or vegetable oil, or chicken schmaltz
- applesauce and sour cream for topping
- Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 200°F. Line 1 rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Fit a wire rack onto a second baking sheet.
- Scrub 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes well, but do not peel. Cut each potato in half crosswise. Peel and halve 1/2 medium yellow onion.
- Grate the potatoes and onion using the shredding disk of a food processor.
- Transfer the grated potato and onion onto a large triple layer of cheesecloth. Gather the corners up and tie around the handle of a wooden spoon. Hang the bundle over a large bowl, then twist and squeeze the potatoes and onion as hard as you can until no more liquid comes out.
- Let the liquid sit for a few minutes to allow the potato starch to settle. Pour off and discard the liquid but leave the potato starch.
- Add the potatoes, onion, 1 large egg, 2 tablespoons matzo meal or breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl of starch. Mix with your fingers, making sure that the potato starch breaks up and is evenly distributed with the rest of the ingredients. Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Place 1 cup canola oil or chicken schmaltz (or a combination of the two) in a large, 10-inch skillet (about 1/4-inch deep when melted). Heat over medium-high heat until a piece of the latke mixture dropped in sizzles immediately.
- Scoop 1/4 cup of the latke mixture onto a fish or flat spatula. Flatten with your fingers to a 4-inch patty.
- Slide the latke into the hot oil, using a fork to nudge the latke into the pan. Repeat until the pan is full but the latkes aren't crowded. Cook until deeply golden-brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side, adjusting the heat as needed.
- Transfer the latkes to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain for 2 minutes.
- Serve immediately with applesauce and sour cream, or transfer the latkes to the wire rack and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes while you continue frying the remaining latkes.