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Whether you call them latkes or fritters, these easy potato pancakes are some of the best food in the world, period. I’m always surprised how quickly they disappear. Here’s how to make them.

platter of easy potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream
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Why we love this recipe

Latkes have been part of my life since elementary school. One afternoon in the late fall every year, a student’s mom would come into our classroom to teach about Hanukkah and ply us with fritters and gelt. That was one of my favorite days.

I’ve made many a batch of potato pancakes in the ensuing decades, and this recipe — adapted from Niki Russ Federman of the venerable Russ & Daughters — is the absolute best. These fritters are:

  • Crisp around the edges, and tender inside
  • Full of potato flavor, with the perfect balance of savoriness
  • Equally great as a two-bite hors d’oeuvre or a five-bite component of a meal
  • Just the real deal in every way

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients
  • Russet or Idaho potatoes are starchy varieties, and that’s what you want for this recipe. Starchy potatoes will give you the crisp outsides and fluffy, tender insides that make great latkes.
  • Good old yellow onions work best in potato pancakes. Avoid varieties with very high water content.
  • Matzo meal is just ground matzo. You can make your own in a food processor or buy it.
  • I tend to default to safflower oil for pan frying, but you can use any neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point. Other good choices are canola, peanut, or a vegetable oil blend.

How to make them

Here’s all you need to do to make this recipe. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post.

step by step
  1. First you’ll grate the potatoes and onion on a box grater or in the food processor. Let them drain for a bit in a colander, and then squeeze out all the liquid you reasonably can. Discard the liquid, but save the starch that collects at the bottom of the bowl. This is one of the genius parts of Niki’s recipe.
  2. Add the other ingredients to the potatoes.
  3. Mix it all up well.
  4. Then, fry until golden brown! You can make them on the smaller side or the larger side depending on how you want to serve them. They’ll still be crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Expert tips and FAQs

What kind of potatoes should I use?

Starchy potatoes such as russets or Idaho potatoes work well for latkes. Their starchiness helps hold the potato pancakes together and cook up with crisp outsides and soft, fluffy insides.

What is matzo meal?

Matzo meal is just ground matzo. You can make it yourself by pulsing pieces of matzo in the food processor, or just buy it in a canister (which is what I tend to do). In this recipe, the matzo meal helps bind the other ingredients together a bit and also contributes a nice toasty flavor to the final product.

What’s the “difference” between potato pancakes and latkes?

I’m answering this question because I really don’t like the way the rest of the internet answers it.

In short: At least in the United States, the two terms are sometimes used synonymously.

There are many varieties of potato pancakes — potatoes mixed with other ingredients and fried — and many cultures have one. Here’s another example that we love.

There are also many types of latkes (loosely translated from Yiddish “little oily things”) — shredded vegetables mixed with other ingredients and fried — and they don’t need to be made with potatoes. But these days when you say latkes, many people
will think of potatoes.

Can I make these in advance?

Believe it or not, you absolutely can. Cook latkes anytime during the day you want to serve them. I think they’re great at room temperature and even better if you reheat them in a 250°F oven until warm before serving.

How long do leftovers keep?

They’re best the day they’re made, but you can keep leftovers tightly sealed in the fridge for a few days. Reheat in an oven or toaster oven before serving. Leftovers are great with eggs!

How to serve them

Potato pancakes go with a wide variety of other foods. You can serve them simply or get creative. Latkes are traditionally served with sour cream and/or applesauce. You can also add:

  • Smoked salmon
  • Minced red onion
  • Capers
  • Chives
  • A fried egg

Like fritters? Don’t miss:

potato pancakes, smoked salmon, and sour cream on plates

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platter of easy potato pancakes with sour cream
4.72 from 7 votes

Easy Potato Pancakes (The Best Latke Recipe)

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
I'm always amazed how quickly these potato pancakes disappear. Our recipe is adapted from Nikki Russ Federman (of Russ & Daughters) via the December 2014 issue of Food & Wine Magazine. Among a few other changes, I've simply doubled the original recipe. This quantity serves 8 people for dinner and can serve from 8 to a much bigger crowd on a party buffet table. Makes about 40 small- to medium- latkes.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 8
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Ingredients 

  • 5 pounds baking potatoes, such as Russet or Idaho
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup matzo meal
  • 6 tablespoons good salted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Safflower oil, or other high-heat vegetable oil for frying

To serve

  • Sour cream, applesauce, and smoked salmon (optional)

Instructions 

  • Peel the potatoes and cut lengthwise into quarters. Contrary to what you might normally do, don’t put the peeled potatoes in a bowl of water, because you want to keep all the starch. Just leave them on the counter. Don’t worry if they brown a bit.
  • Peel and quarter the onion.
  • Set up a food processor with the grating blade. Grate the potatoes and onions in two batches and add them to a strainer set over a large mixing bowl. Squeeze out as much moisture as you can with your hands, then let the mixture rest and drain for three minutes or so.
  • Pour off all the liquid from the bowl, but leave the layer of starch that’s accumulated at the bottom. Add grated potatoes and onions to the bowl.
  • Mix in beaten eggs, matzo meal, melted butter, salt, pepper, and baking powder.
  • Pour safflower oil into a large frying pan to a depth of about 1/8 inch. Heat oil over medium-high until it thins and becomes shimmery. Use a soup spoon to scoop little mounds of the potato mixture into the skillet (3 tablespoons at a time makes nice, diminutive latkes). Gently flatten the pancakes. Don’t crowd the skillet — leave an inch or so between latkes.
  • Fry until the underside is crispy and golden brown, then flip and fry until the second side is crispy and golden brown, about 5 minutes total. Remove cooked latkes to paper towels to drain. Continue cooking, adding more oil as necessary and adjusting the heat to keep oil hot but not smoking, until you’ve used all of the potato mixture.
  • Serve with applesauce, sour cream, and smoked salmon if you like.

Step-by-step video

Notes

  1. Use russet or Idaho potatoes (or another starchy variety).
  2. You can watch the video to see how it looks when you pour off the liquid but leave the starch behind.
  3. You can make your own matzo meal by grinding matzo in a food processor, or buy it premade. I almost always do the latter.
  4. Besides safflower oil, other good neutral-tasting, high-smoke-point oils for pan frying include peanut, canola, and vegetable oil blends.
  5. You can fry the potato pancakes several hours ahead of time and crisp them back up in a 250° oven before serving if you like. They are also great at room temperature.
  6. Keep leftovers tightly sealed in the fridge for up to a few days. Reheat and recrisp leftovers in a a warm oven or toaster oven before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 451kcal, Carbohydrates: 50.1g, Protein: 8.6g, Fat: 25g, Fiber: 7.3g, Sugar: 4.2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Fritters
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.72 from 7 votes (7 ratings without comment)

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