How to Make Potato Pancake Latkes

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell

Don’t pass up a holiday that celebrates fried foods. In fact, potato latkes are a year-round treat that go with nearly everything. Burgers, runny eggs, steak, brunch….here’s how to make potato pancake latkes.

We’re not Jewish, but we are latke aficionados. Years ago we heard a radio segment about Hanukkah and the latke tradition one weekend morning. Seduced by airwaves and the sounds of a happy kitchen with a sizzling skillet, we bee-lined it to the pantry and got busy. About 45 minutes later we feasted on the most delicious, crisp on the outside, tender on the inside potato pancakes downed with the traditional applesauce and sour cream and the not-so-traditional ketchup and Mexican salsa.

We’ve been making them religiously year-round ever since. Every time we make them we say we should make these more often. Could there be a better holiday than one that celebrates oil and fried food—and fried potato pancakes at that? Take a poll of your favorite latke cooks and you’ll find a myriad of kitchen secrets passed down through the generations. Some prefer a potato batter whizzed up in the blender. Purists insist on grating the potatoes by hand with a certain size grater complete with bits of knuckle skin. Modernists have switched to the food processor shredding disc or steel blade. Some bind the potatoes with flour, others matzo meal. Everyone uses an egg.

Once shredded, all that potato juice has got to go.  Drain it easily with a colander.  But, you still have to squeeze the potatoes to really get the moisture out.

Take a handful at a time and give it a good squeeze to make sure the potatoes are extra dry.  You won’t believe how much water comes out of a potato.

how to make potato pancake latkes

 Nice shredded potatoes ready to fry. Don’t crowd the pan.

 Tips for perfect latkes:

  1. Use Russet or Yukon gold potatoes, not waxy thin-skinned potatoes.
  2. Grate the potatoes just before frying or else they’ll turn brown.  You can peel the potatoes ahead of time if you soak them in cold water.
  3. Be sure to squeeze as much of the liquid as possible from the potatoes. Use a dishcloth or simply with your bare hands.
  4. Don’t skimp on the oil.  Well-fried potatoes require a good 1/8-inch to ¼-inch of oil in the skillet.  Add oil between batches as needed, allowing time for the oil to heat up.
  5. If you need to make plenty in advance, fry them up early in the day, spread them out on baking sheets, and cover loosely.  Don’t refrigerate.  Reheat in a 450°F oven until crisp and hot, about 5 minutes.
  6. If the latkes are cooking too fast, lower the heat to medium.


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