I’ve tried many latke recipes over the years, some from family friends, others from cookbooks. I took elements from each of my favorite recipes to come up with this classic potato latke recipe. These latkes are crispy and salty on the outside, soft and melty on the inside. It wouldn’t be Hanukkah in our house without a plate of these delicious fried treats on the dinner table.
If you’re frying latkes for the first time, check out my latke primer: Latkes 101 – Perfect Latkes Every Time. It will give you lots of useful tips for making a crispy, perfect latke.
You’ll notice that I suggest using schmaltz (aka rendered poultry fat) in the latke oil. Schmaltz was the oil of choice for Eastern European Jewish immigrants to America in the late 1800’s. Back then, rendered goose fat was the most common form of schmaltz. Nowadays we tend to use chicken fat because it’s easier, cheaper, and more widely available to kosher consumers. Schmaltz can be made at home or purchased; it’s stocked in the freezer section of most kosher markets. While schmaltz may not be the healthiest of oils (there is some debate on this subject), it imparts an authentic flavor that can’t be replicated with vegetable-based oil. Because of its high cholesterol content, I only use a bit of schmaltz in the frying oil. This gives a hint of schmaltzy flavor without saturating the latke. If you want to splurge, you can replace the frying oil completely with schmaltz. If you can’t locate schmaltz or don’t have time to make your own, no worries– the latkes will taste great without it, too.
Note: If you’re serving latkes with dairy sour cream and want to keep things kosher, do not add the optional schmaltz to the frying oil, or choose a non-dairy sour cream.
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Parve or Meat
Learn to make crispy, flavorful Jewish potato latkes for Hanukkah with potato shreds, schmaltz or vegetable oil, onions, matzo meal. Kosher.
- 2 1/2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1 large white or brown onion, shredded
- 3/4 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tbsp potato starch
- 1 1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Peanut or grapeseed oil for frying (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/4 cup schmaltz (optional)
You will also need: hand grater or food processor with shredding disc attachment with choice of large holes or fine holes, clean tea towel or layers of cheesecloth, skillet or electric skillet for frying, colander, large mixing bowl, medium bowl, metal spatula, wire cooling rack
Before you begin making the latkes, place your wire cooling rack close to the area where you will be frying the latkes. Place a layer of paper towels below the cooling rack to catch excess oil.
Cut the potatoes into large chunks and shred using a hand grater or food processor shredding attachment with large holes (large shreds). I really recommend using the food processor, it saves a ton of time and will help you avoid onion tears when grating the onion.
Place grated potato into a bowl and immediately cover with cold water.
Meanwhile, grate the onion using the grater or food processor attachment with fine holes (small shreds).
Drain the potato shreds in a colander. Rinse and dry the bowl used to soak the shreds and set aside.
Place drained potato shreds and grated onion in the center of a clean tea towel or multiple layers of cheesecloth.
Wrap the shreds up in the cloth, twisting the cloth to secure the bundle, and squeeze firmly to remove excess liquid from the shreds.
Pour potato and onion into the clean dry bowl. Stir the shreds with a fork to make sure the grated onion is evenly mixed throughout the potato shreds.
In a skillet, add oil to reach a depth of 1/8 inch. Add 1/4 cup of schmaltz to the oil if you'd like, it will add more savory flavor to the latkes. Heat slowly over medium to about 365 degrees F. While oil is heating, use the fork to stir the matzo meal,beaten eggs, potato starch, salt and pepper into the potato and onion shreds. You can add salt and pepper to taste. I add about 1 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. You can sprinkle on more salt to taste after cooking, if desired. Take care to make sure the egg and seasonings are fully mixed throughout the potato shreds.
Scoop up 3 tbsp of the potato mixture and shape into a tightly compacted disk. I do this by first filling a 1/8 measuring cup and then filling again halfway.
Place the disk carefully into the hot oil. Latkes can break apart at this point, they’re very delicate. If you can get them into the hot oil in one piece, chances are they will stick together – frying them is like the “glue” that holds them together. It takes a gentle touch, and it may take you some practice to get the “feel” for it.
The oil should sizzle, but not pop when the latke hits it; if the oil jumps wildly or smokes, it is too hot. If it only bubbles weakly, the oil is not hot enough. Use the first latke to test the oil temperature, and don’t fry a whole batch until the temperature is right.
Continue shaping the latkes in this way, using 3 tablespoons of potato mixture for each latke. Fry in batches of 4-5 latkes at a time (no more than that – don’t crowd the pan) for 2-3 minutes per side until brown and crispy. Note: If your latkes aren’t holding together, stir more potato starch into the mixture, 2 teaspoons at a time, until the batter “holds”. You can also add another egg to the mixture and more matzo meal, if needed.
Remove the latkes from the pan using a metal spatula and place them on the wire cooling rack to drain.
I recommend serving latkes fresh within 10 minutes of frying them, if your cooking schedule permits. If you need to make them ahead, fry them 4 hours or less before serving. After allowing the latkes to drain on the wire cooling rack, place them on an ungreased, unlined cookie sheet. Leave them at room temperature until ready to reheat. Place in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes (7 if using a convection oven), until heated through, just prior to serving. Sprinkle with more salt, if desired, and serve latkes with applesauce and/or sour cream (or dairy free sour cream).