Cheese Latkes

Did you know that in addition to fried foods, dairy foods are traditionally associated with Hanukkah? For those of you who missed my post on the CNN Eatocracy blog, here’s a little background on why…

The custom of eating dairy foods for Hanukkah dates back to the Middle Ages, when the Book of Judith played an important role in the Hanukkah narrative. Judith was a celebrated Jewish heroine who saved her village from an invading Assyrian army. A beautiful widow, she plied the Assyrian army’s general with wine and salty cheese. When the general passed out drunk, Judith beheaded him with his own sword. The Israelites launched a surprise attack on the leaderless Assyrian army and emerged victorious. In Judith’s honor, we eat dairy foods during Hanukkah.

This is one of my favorite Jewish stories, right up there with Queen Esther and the story of Purim. It’s got every element– a brave and beautiful heroine, an evil villain, wine and cheese. What’s not to love?

Judith and her Maidservant – Orazio Gentileschi, ca 1621-24

Speaking of cheese and all things dairy, today I’m going to share with you a recipe for Cheese Latkes. These mouthwatering latkes are made with ricotta cheese. They have the same flavor as a cheese blintz filling in the form of a fluffy fried pancake. They’re fabulous, and every bit as appropriate for Hanukkah as latkes.

Of course we associate potato latkes with Hanukkah, but in reality latkes descend from Italian pancakes that were made with ricotta cheese. The first association between Hanukkah and pancakes was by a rabbi in Italy named Rabbi Kalonymus ben Kalonymus (c. 1286-1328). According to The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks, the Rabbi “included pancakes in a list of dishes to serve at an idealized Purim feast, as well as a poem about Hanukkah. After the Spanish expelled the Jews from Sicily in 1492, the exiles introduced their ricotta cheese pancakes, which were called cassola in Rome, to the Jews of northern Italy. Consequently, cheese pancakes, because they combined the two traditional types of foods–fried and dairy–became a Hanukkah dish.”

Potato latkes are a more recent Ashkenazi invention that gained popularity in Eastern Europe during the mid 1800’s. A series of crop failures in Poland and the Ukraine led to mass planting of potatoes, which were easy and cheap to grow. But before potatoes came on the scene, the latke of choice was cheese.

In honor of Judith and the history of Hanukkah, give these latkes a try. They’re super easy to make and they’ll melt in your mouth. Imagine cheesy blintz filling made into a fluffy little pancake. So creamy and delicious! Use full fat, high quality ricotta for best flavor results… if you’re on a diet, lowfat will work, too. Top them with a little something sweet like honey or agave nectar. Delish!

Gluten Free Note: I made a batch of these today using King Arthur Gluten Free Multi Purpose Flour in the place of regular flour and they turned out great! The only difference was they took a bit longer to brown. Otherwise, they were great– they tasted amazing! The King Arthur product has a kosher hechsher, too. Score!  :)

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Cheese Latkes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup high quality whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Nonstick cooking oil spray, for frying

You will also need

  • Food processor, large skillet (nonstick is best)
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 25 Minutes
Servings: 16-18 latkes
Kosher Key: Dairy
  • Combine all ingredients except the nonstick oil in a food processor. Process the mixture for about 45 seconds, pausing a couple of times to scrape the sides, until the mixture forms a thick batter.
  • Spray a skillet with nonstick cooking oil and heat over medium. Use a spoon to scoop up the batter, then pour it onto the hot skillet in the size/shape of silver dollar pancakes. Use 1-2 tablespoons of batter per pancake. Spread it out into a thin circle after it hits the skillet.
  • Fry the latkes for 2-3 minutes on each side until they turn golden brown. Test the first latke for doneness and make sure it’s cooked all the way through; if the latkes are browning faster than they’re cooking, reduce skillet heat. Expect some variation in the shape of the latkes, they won't form a perfect circle. Serve immediately.
  • These latkes can be eaten plain or topped with a drizzle of honey. Other toppings include jam or preserves, sour cream, maple syrup, yogurt or agave nectar.

Comments (30)Post a Comment

  1. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Sounds wonderful, but could I substitute any other cheese? My Father dislikes ricotta, and I would love to make them for him.

    1. Hi PosideonNH, you could sub cottage cheese or farmers/”pot” cheese for the ricotta. If you sub pot cheese, you may not need as much flour, so add it slowly by quarter-cupfuls till the texture of the batter seems right.

  2. My son came home from school asking about Latkes and this looks like a terrific recipe to try! They look delicioius!!! Thanks for posting! (-:

  3. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Tori, what a great recipe and a great concept you have! We made some cheese latkes this year, as well, with this delicious port wine reduction sauce. Just learned about your site. My shiksa wife has developed a bit of a flare for Jewish cooking over the years, too, so she’ll love this. Keep up the great work! :-)

  4. I have an employee holiday potluck coming up and was wondering what the best way to do latkes would be? Make ahead and warm up in a crock pot?

  5. Love this site !!! My sweetheart is Jewish and also a diabetic.

    He loves Jewish food but since I haven’t been cooking it for years I am not comfortable changing recipes. I use that new “Truvia” baking sweetener which is Stevia and bakes up really well. I refuse to use the poisonous artificial ones.
    Would it be possible to have some diabetic recipes? This one sounds fabulous !!!

  6. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    This looks really good. I am not Jewish, nor anyone else in my family, but we vary our diet and I believe exposing my children food wise to different cultures will greatly benefit them as people in life. So these look really easy and tasty, I will have to make them and write about it (I’ll post link to here about it).

  7. IowaShiksa, so sorry I didn’t respond sooner… I got a little overwhelmed during the holidays. I hope the potluck was successful! If I were making these ahead, I’d probably cook them on a lower temp and cook all the way through so the soft center became solid. I think the gooey center would make the latkes soggy if they were sitting too long in a crock pot. But I could be wrong. If you tried it, let me know how it worked for you!

    Hasya Ya’ara, I do hope that the blog inspires you to get cooking! Many of my recipes are simple to make, and I’m always here to help. Good luck!

    Red headed Shiksa, I’m with you on the artificial sweeteners; I use Truvia in my tea. I’ve never tried it for baking, do they have a special baking blend?

    Polish Mama, hope you get a chance to try the latkes! I’ll check out your blog. You might be interested in a two-part blog I wrote last year about Dov Levin, he wrote a memoir about his Polish childhood cooking experiences. I was able to cook some of the recipes from his memoir and write about his family history. Here are the links:

    link to theshiksa.com

    link to theshiksa.com

  8. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I always thought of a latke as a potato latke. Now I know there are different types. I will try this recipe but can I use regular flour instead of the one you mentioned in which I’ve never seen at our market. I bet these would go great along side a brisket. I look forward to your brisket recipe hopefully soon. I have a cabbage roll recipe I’d like to share if your interested.

    1. Joanne just going through updating some of my older blogs and saw your comment! Sorry it took me so long to respond. You can use regular flour for these, no problem! The special flour is only for people who cannot tolerate gluten. And yes, I would love to read your recipe! I am always open to reviewing new recipes from readers. If it’s different from something I already have in my archives, I may feature it on the blog! Here is the link to submit:

      link to theshiksa.com

      Hope you have a chance to try the latkes, enjoy! :)

  9. I gave away my food processor because I didn’t use it. Does this recipe work with an electric mixer or hand mixer? What is a non toxic low calorie sugar alternative? Thanks….R.

  10. Just realized there is no print option. Love all the illustrations but they use too much paper and ink. Thanks…..R.

    1. Rachelle, I just updated this blog with a print option. I recently redesigned my website, and I’m slowly working my way through reformatting the old blogs and adding the print option to each one. This should print out fine for you now. :)

      Re: food processor– no worries, just whisk the batter for several minutes till smooth. The food processor is simply a matter of convenience and helps to break up lumps in the batter. A blender would probably work too, I’ve never tried it but I don’t see why it wouldn’t. Re: low calorie non toxic sugar alternative– try granulated stevia (I like Truvia brand), or sweeten the batter with agave or honey. It’s a more savory than sweet pancake, so you don’t need a lot of sweetness, just a touch. Please let me know how they turn out for you!

  11. I found this recipe in a search for cheese latkes. I’m a historian and really appreciate the historical note. I knew about the original latkes being cheese, but not about their Italian beginnings. Very cool! I’m also gluten intolerant, so thanks very much for including the note for us gluten-free folks. Can’t wait to make these in a month or so.

  12. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    We now have a new tradition in our family. I still have to serve the potato latkes, but these were just as big of a hit. Our first night of Chanukah was delicious. Mine were a bit thin though. Did I do something wrong?

  13. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Oh, boy, these latkes look amazing!!! I was only familiar with potato latkes…and now I have another version to drool over! Wishing you and your loved ones a blessed Hanukkah…and happy new year!

  14. Love the stories of strong women. How they put their mind into it and succeeded.
    Always saw potato latkes and I was not aware of the cheese origin. Good to know the gluten free variation, I can pass onto the family members who follow gluten-free diet.
    Hope you are getting some rest.

  15. I’m from Canada. My daughter picked up a bottle of Organic Blue Agave which is also a gluten free sweetener, sugar free

  16. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I made these for my husband and 95 year old mother on Sunday. They both loved them. I served them with peaches and whipped cream. They melted in your mouth. Thanks for the wonderful Jewish recipes. I love ethnic recipes. I always make French meat pies around the holidays and my Albanian girlfriends spinach pie with cottage cheese and FILO. All are so very yummy!!!!
    Happy Chanukah to all and Merry Christmas to all!!

  17. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Tori – Happy Hannukah one and all! Made your cheese latkes last night and substituted low-fat cottage cheese for the cream cheese out of necessity; also bought the wrong ricotta and used full-fat. They came out just as delicious as with cream cheese…good for someone looking to cut a few calories.

  18. I love dishes with a great story behind it, as I am an ethnic Assyrian, I was excited to see this one mentioned The Assyrians, even if we are the villains in this story ☺️.

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