These Classic Potato Latkes are the quintessential Jewish-style potato pancakes. Who can resist a crispy, salty latke with a fluffy potato center? We wait all year long to make these time-honored Hanukkah delights. If you’re looking for a traditional potato latke recipe, you’ve found it!
I developed these Classic Potato Latkes close to eight years ago. After experimenting with dozens of recipes from friends and family, I took my favorite techniques and combined them to create the ultimate classic potato pancake.
Schmaltz is an optional but recommended ingredient in this recipe. Also known as rendered chicken fat, schmaltz was the oil of choice for Eastern European Jews in the late 1800’s. Back then, rendered goose fat was the most common form of schmaltz. Today we tend to use chicken fat because it’s easier, cheaper, and more widely available.
Schmaltz can be made at home or purchased in the freezer section of most kosher markets. While it may seem like an obscure ingredient to some, schmaltz imparts a truly authentic potato latke flavor.
I use a bit of schmaltz in the frying oil for my latkes for a hint of schmaltzy flavor. If you want to splurge, you can replace the frying oil completely with schmaltz. Or, to keep things vegetarian, use a vegetable-based oil like avocado, peanut or grapeseed.
These potato pancakes 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 table (or straight out of the frying pan!). Enjoy.
Note: If you’re frying potato latkes for the first time, check out my helpful latke tutorial: How to Make Crispy Perfect Latkes. That post links to other latke recipes too, including gluten free, vegetable latkes, sweet potato latkes and more.
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Food Photography and Styling by Kelly Jaggers
Classic Potato Latkes
- 2 1/2 lbs potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold)
- 1 large onion, shredded
- 3/4 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tbsp potato starch, or more if needed
- 1 1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Avocado, peanut or grapeseed oil for frying (about 1 1/2 cups - choose an oil with a high smoke point)
- 1/4 cup schmaltz (optional)
- 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 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. If using schmaltz, add 1/4 cup to the oil. The schmaltz 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 2 hours or less before serving. You can also freeze them if you're not serving them right away.
- To Reheat Latkes: Place them on an ungreased, unlined cookie sheet. To reheat from room temperature, place in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes (7 if using a convection oven), until heated through, just prior to serving. From frozen, it can take 15-25 minutes to reheat. Sprinkle with more salt, if desired, and serve latkes with applesauce and/or sour cream (or dairy free sour cream).