Are They Latkes Or Potato Pancakes?

The Jewish celebration of Chanukah begins this year at sundown on December 1st. Called the festival of lights it commemorates the freedom of the Jewish people thousands of years ago. The holiday lasts for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev

The story is simple. A Greek ruler named Antiochus had conquered the Jewish people. He prohibited the practice of their religion and desecrated their most holy place, the Temple. This sparked a revolt led by a man named Judah Maccabee. After three years of fighting for their freedoms they won, and on the 25th day of Kislev, they reclaimed the Temple, cleansed and prepared for the rededication. Although there was only enough special oil needed to light the menorah (candelabra) in the Temple for one day, miraculously, the oil lasted for eight entire days until a new supply could be obtained. Chanukah is an eight day festival to celebrate this miracle.
            Many people believe that because Chanukah is celebrated around the same time of year as Christmas there is a connection or similarity between the two.  Not so. Chanukah a minor Jewish holiday. The only specifically religious part of the celebration is the lighting of the menorah every night, the blessings said at that time and this is typically done in the home.

            When my children were very small and our budget was even smaller we tried to find creative ways to celebrate Chanukah that didn’t require spending copious amounts of money but maximize the amount of fun the family could have. We came up with crazy latke night (a latkes is a potato pancakes, cooked in oil and eaten to honor the miracle of the lasting oil). It’s been a hit with family and friends ever since.

            Simply put, 2 of the families invited came up with the most unusual and creative latke recipe that they could find.  They would bring the ingredients for the latkes and the other 3 or 4 families would bring the rest of the stuff for our dinner. Every family would bring a small gift costing no more than 3 dollars for each child attending (but not their own) and we’d have a cook off. Granted, some recipes are better than others and others are soooooooooooooooo bad that the entire batch is ceremoniously disposed of after the first few bites. Regardless of what we end up choosing as the blue ribbon winner of the evening everyone has a good time and the cost for the evening was never more than any of us could afford.

            The party has evolved as the families grew and got older. The presents became gift certificates or a check (preferred by high school and college students world wide) and the recipes got a tad less crazy and more heart healthy and had a few less calories. None the less, most of following recipe were served at one time or another at one of our parties and a few just sounded too good not to pass along.

Rules for the perfect latke (potato pancake)

1. Have all of the ingredients ready to go before the potato shredding begins (peel the potatoes, mince the onions, and get the egg mixture ready). To prevent the potatoes from browning, they may be peeled in advance and kept covered with water, but once they are shredded, you must work fast.
2. I always beat the eggs and flour together. This is how it was done in most restaurants, despite what many of the recipe say.
3. When frying, use a generous amount of oil. I like to use peanut oil

4. While a hand grater works just fine, you can save time, and your knuckles, by using a food processor.
5. SQUEEZE! Squeeze as much liquid out of the shredded potatoes as possible, pressing them against the side of the bowl to release their starchy water.
6. Serve immediately. While you can make them ahead of time and reheat, they are at their best right out of the pan.

7. You can top your latkes with sour cream, yogurt, apple sauce or even brown sugar if they’re sweet rather than savory. They sky and your imagination is the only limitation.


2 eggs, beaten

4 medium russet potatoes (about 8 ounces each), peeled and shredded

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup grated onion

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil

In a large bowl combine the eggs, flour, onion, salt, and pepper, stirring to blend. Using your hands, squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the potatoes. Add the shredded potatoes to the egg mixture, mixing well. In a large, heavy skillet, heat some of the oil over medium-high heat. Spoon the batter by quarter-cupfuls onto the hot skillet, flattening them with the back of the spoon. Fry until the bottom of the pancakes are nicely browned – between 3 and 5 minutes; flip the pancakes and cook for about 3 minutes longer. Repeat for the remaining pancakes, adding oil to the skillet as needed. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately. About 12 four-inch pancakes. Serves 6

From my files, unknown author


Spiced with cinnamon, curry powder and cumin this potato pancake is also great for Thanksgiving.

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons white sugar

1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup oil for frying

1/2 cup milk or water

Shred the sweet potatoes, and place in a colander to drain for about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, white sugar, brown sugar, curry powder and cumin. Make a well in the center, and pour in eggs and milk. Stir until all of the dry ingredients have been absorbed. Stir in sweet potatoes.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop the potato mixture by spoonfuls into the oil, and flatten with the back of the spoon. Fry until golden on both sides, flipping only once. If they are browning too fast, reduce the heat to medium. Remove from the oil, and keep warm while the other pancakes are frying. Makes about 15 or 16.

From my file, author unknown


1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/4 cups sweet potatoes – peeled/cooked/mashed (yes you can use canned)

1/4 cup butter- melted and 1 additional tablespoon butter for frying

2 large eggs – beaten

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Allow potatoes to cool to room temperature before making batter. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, combine milk, potatoes, eggs and butter. Combine the two mixtures until dry ingredients are just moistened. Allow batter to set, while you heat a griddle or skillet to medium-high heat and lightly grease with butter.
Drop batter by heaping Tablespoons onto griddle or skillet and fry, turning once, until browned on both sides. Great with maple syrup and butter. Or try it with “sweetened sour cream” – mix 1/2 cup of sour cream with a tablespoon of brown sugar. Makes about 20 pancakes.

Submitted by Carrie Wasermen Chicago IL from


1 medium baking potato, unpeeled and shredded

1/2 small zucchini, shredded

1 green onion, thinly sliced

1 egg white

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon oil
Combine potato, zucchini, onion, egg white and flour in medium bowl until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Drop potato mixture into skillet by 1/3 cupfuls. Flatten pancakes with spatula; cook about 5 minutes per side or until browned.

Tip: Save time by shredding both the potato and zucchini in a food processor fitted with a shredding disc. There’s no need to wash the bowl in between because all the ingredients are mixed together before cooking. Makes 6 pancakes. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Modified from a recipe from Easy Home Cooking Magazine


2 cups mashed potatoes

1 large egg, beaten lightly

6 tablespoons flour

1 and 1/2 tablespoons grated onion

Salt and pepper to taste

vegetable oil for frying

In a medium bowl, combine the mashed potatoes and egg and mix them together. Add the flour and onion and mix all together well. Add salt and pepper to batter to taste.

In a large skillet or on a griddle, heat oil, 2 to 3 tablespoons over medium-high heat. Drop batter onto the heated surface in healing tablespoons. Flatten each latke slightly with the spoon. Cooking time is about a minute per side. They should be golden brown on each side. The original recipe called for serving these latkes with a fried egg and grated cheese on top. Absolutely weird for Hanukkah abut strangely delicious! Makes 5 to 6 latkes. This recipe can be doubled or tripled


You can form the sweet-potato pancakes up to six hours ahead, leaving only a quick frying before serving.

2 pounds tan-skinned sweet potatoes (about 3 medium)

3/4 cup chopped green onions
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 tablespoons (or more) vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 ounce black caviar
Fresh chives, cut into 1-inch pieces

Cook sweet potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead; keep refrigerated.)

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel potatoes and coarsely grate into large bowl. Stir in green onions. Whisk eggs, flour, salt, and pepper in small bowl. Gently mix into potato mixture. Form mixture into 48 walnut-size balls; transfer to prepared baking sheet. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place 8 potato balls in skillet, pressing each gently with spatula to flatten to 1 1/2-inch diameter. Cook until pancakes are rich golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining potato balls, adding more oil to skillet if necessary. Transfer pancakes to platter. Top each with 1 teaspoon sour cream and scant 1/4 teaspoon caviar. Garnish with chives. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 48 mini latkes.

Bon Appétit  November 2001

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Guess Who?
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 23:37:33

    I made mashed potatoes from 15 pounds of potatoes for Thanksgiving. Guess who is making the mashed potato latkes?


  2. Trackback: Happy Hannuka! | Laura Lee Burch Blog

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