Sweet Potato Latkes – savory or sweet with Brown Sugar Syrup and Cayenne Candied Pecans. Perfect for Thanksgiving or Hanukkah.
During Hanukkah, it is Jewish tradition to eat food that is deep fried in oil, a tasty and caloric reminder of the Holy Temple miracle (learn more here). Once a year, we are given guilt-free rein to enjoy fried foods like latkes. Of course, Thanksgiving has its own go-to traditional foods. With Thanksgiving and Hanukkah in close proximity to each other, it seemed only natural to develop a killer Sweet Potato Latke recipe.
I prefer my latkes savory and salty, but Thanksgiving tradition calls for a sweeter version. The good news is, these latkes can go both ways. Prepare them as written and sprinkle with salt for a crispy treat that veers toward savory; the latkes will have a bit of natural sweetness from the potato, nicely balanced by cinnamon, salt and a touch of curry. If you’re craving a sweet dish, drizzle them with a simple brown sugar syrup and sprinkle with cayenne candied pecans (recipes below). Prepare to swoon. Even though I like my latkes savory, I couldn’t get enough of the sweeter variation on this recipe. The candied nuts have a touch of heat, and the syrup brings out the spices in the latkes. It’s a really special flavor combination.
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Sweet Potato Latkes with Brown Sugar Syrup and Cayenne Candied Pecans
- 2 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes
- 1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs (regular or panko style)
- 1 tbsp potato starch
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp curry powder
- Olive, grapeseed or peanut oil (for frying)
Brown Sugar Syrup
- 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Pinch salt
Cayenne Candied Pecan
- 2 cups raw pecans (you can sub walnuts, almonds, or any other nut you prefer)
- 1 large egg white
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 tbsp water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
To make Sweet Potato Latkes:
- Before you begin making the latkes, place your wire cooling rack or a sheet tray lined with paper towels close to the area where you will be frying the latkes.
- Peel the potatoes, then grate them using a hand grater or food processor shredding attachment with fine holes (small shreds). I really recommend using the food processor, it saves a ton of time.
- Place potato shreds 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 into the clean, dry bowl.
- While oil is heating, stir the breadcrumbs, beaten eggs, potato starch, salt, cinnamon and curry powder into the potato shreds. Take care to make sure the egg and seasonings are fully mixed throughout the potato shreds. Let the mixture rest for 10-15 minutes.
- Pour oil into skillet to a depth of 1/8 inch. Heat slowly over medium to about 365 degrees F.
- Scoop up 4 tablespoons of the potato mixture. I do this by using a 1/4 cup measuring cup.
- Squeeze the mixture firmly in your palm over an empty dish to remove any excess liquid (if you squeezed the potatoes out thoroughly in the cloth, you may not have much excess liquid to squeeze out). Shape the potato mixture 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.
- Continue shaping the latkes in this way, using 4 tablespoons of potato mixture for each latke. Fry in a few separate batches, but be sure not to crowd the pan, for 2-3 minutes per side till brown and crispy. Note: If your latkes aren't holding together, stir more potato starch into the mixture, 2 teaspoons at a time, till the batter "holds." You can also add another egg to the mixture and more panko, if needed.
- Remove the latkes from the pan using metal spatula and place them on a wire cooling rack or a sheet tray lined with paper towels to drain (I prefer a wire cooling rack, which helps to keep them more crisp).
- 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 letting the latkes drain on the wire cooling rack, place them on an ungreased, unlined cookie sheet. Leave them at room temperature till 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. Serve latkes sprinkled with sea salt to keep them more savory, or drizzle with Brown Sugar Syrup and Cayenne Candied Pecans for a sweeter treat.
To make Brown Sugar Syrup:
- In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, water and salt.
- Bring mixture a boil, whisking regularly.
- Remove saucepan from heat and stir in 1 tsp vanilla.
- Allow to cool slightly before serving.
To make Cayenne Candied Pecans:
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg white, water, sugar and salt until foamy.
- Add nuts and toss to evenly coat.
- Add spices and toss again.
- Remove nuts from bowl using a slotted spoon and spread them evenly on a sheet tray lined with foil or a silicone baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until browned.
- Once cool, pulse the nuts in a food processor until they are roughly chopped. This can also be done by chopping them with a knife. They can be served whole if you prefer.
- Drizzle the sweet potato latkes lightly with brown sugar syrup and sprinkle with the cayenne candied nuts, if desired. Serve.