Hanukkah Latke Recipes That Really Sizzle
Hey latke lover! From traditional potato pancakes to the best creative latkes, we'll show you just how wide the wonderful world of latkes can be.
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Oven-Fried Potato Latkes with Applesauce; photograph by Olga Ivanova
When it comes to celebrating the Festival of Lights, fried foods figure big. For Ashkenazi Jews (who hail from Eastern Europe), that means lots of latkes. Why? The midwinter Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates finding a tiny source of light — and its miraculous sustenance — in a very dark time. After Syrian ruler Antiochus demanded assimilation and outlawed Jewish practice under threat of death, a small band of rebels — the Maccabees — rose up, eventually defeating the invading army. They found the holy Temple in Jerusalem ransacked. After a massive clean-up, they went to light the menorah and rededicate the Temple, but found just a small flask of olive oil — enough to last a single day. Miraculously, it lasted 8 days, until fresh oil could be produced.
Ironically, latkes are rarely fried in olive oil, though I make a point of using it anyway. (I’m also keen on doctoring potato latkes with spice blends — think ras el hanout, garam masala, or za'atar — but that’s another story … ) Italian food authority Marcella Hazan called arguments against frying in EVOO “a canard,” which is good enough for me!
With 8 days to celebrate, there’s time to try a whole roster of delicious latke recipes, so we’ve gathered some of our favorites to get you started.
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A basic latke lesson before you get fryin’
Read through these commonly asked questions about latkes and you’ll be shredding potatoes in no time
What are latkes, anyway?
Etymologically speaking, the Yiddish word “latke” derives from Ukrainian and Greek words that, taken together, amount to “little pancakes made with olive oil.” Or, simply put, “yum.” (Israelis use the Hebrew “levivot,” which in biblical times likely referred to dumplings.) Potato pancakes are the most iconic version today, though potatoes were a relatively late addition to the Eastern European diet.
What kind of potatoes should I use? Can I use something else?
While some swear by russets, a strong argument can be made for Yukon Golds. Russets are drier and starchier, so they’re a good choice for gluten-free recipes or ones that skip flour-based binders. But all sorts of veggies make fabulous fritters, so play around!
Help! I’m afraid of frying!
If you don’t fry regularly, it can seem daunting, but we’ve got tips to help you crisp up your latkes like a pro.
First, pick the right pan — cast iron skillets are naturally non-stick, and retain heat evenly, so are ideal for latke frying.
Lose the liquid, keep the starch: Whether you use a box grater or food processor to grate your spuds, they’ll release both water and potato starch. Squeeze the moisture from your shredded potatoes (cheesecloth works well), carefully pour off the liquid, and salvage the potato starch that ends up in the bottom of the bowl. Add it back to the recipe, and your latkes will hold together like a dream.
Warm your oil: To ensure your latkes don’t stick to the pan and do turn out crispy, you need to start with hot oil. Warm it over medium-high heat and watch for a shimmer on the surface. Carefully flick a few drops of water into the pan, or add a tiny bit of latke batter. If you hear a sizzle, it’s time to fry.
No crowding! Resist the temptation to fit as many latkes as possible in the pan. Overcrowding makes them tough to flip, and drops the temperature of the oil, so they’ll take longer to cook. If you’re keen to make lots of latkes at once, use two skillets.
Still scared? Check out the baked latke options later in this article.
What should I serve with latkes?
Apple sauce and sour cream are classic toppers, but options abound. Try salsa, goat cheese, crème fraiche and smoked salmon, chutney — really anything that strikes your fancy.
To turn latkes into a casual meal, serve them with soup and salad. Or, pair them with brisket, chicken, or fish and your favorite steamed or roasted vegetables.
Can I store or reheat latkes?
Yup! Latkes are tastiest straight from the pan, but you can freeze them after cooking. Lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet (no need to blot on paper towels first) and freeze, then transfer to a zip-top freezer bag. To reheat, place on a baking sheet and cook in a 350° F oven, turning once, until hot and crispy, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Traditional latke recipes
If it’s old school, Eastern European, Bubbe-would-approve latkes you’re after, here are your go-to recipes
The proportions of this simple recipe include a slightly higher potato-to-onion ratio than most, and there’s just enough egg and flour to bind the batter. The result is latkes that are crispy on the outside and meltingly soft on the inside, with a flavor that’s pure potatoey goodness.
Potato latkes may be iconic, but food historians note that cheese latkes were the original holiday fare. That scans with the lesser-known tradition to eat dairy on Hanukkah as a nod to Judith — the apocryphal heroine who slew Assyrian general Holofernes after plying him with homemade cheese and wine — thus forcing the invading army’s retreat in a battle that took place hundreds of years before the Maccabees’ victory.
Schmaltz, or rendered chicken fat, was originally used to fry potato latkes, so Chef Billy Parisi uses it here to enrich his take on the classic recipe. (Kosher keepers who want to keep the latkes pareve can skip the schmaltz and use extra canola oil.) Parisi offers lots of helpful photos and tips for latke newbies, too.
While perhaps not ultra-traditional, zucchini latkes are still quite popular. This version marries grated potatoes, salty feta, and a classic Greek dip — elements that reference traditional latkes, Judith, and the Hanukkah story — while offering a nod to Sephardi cuisine.
Vegan latke recipes
Most latke recipes rely on eggs to bind the batter, but with a little creativity (and food science!) on your side, you can make delicious vegan latkes that’ll withstand a stint in the skillet without falling apart
Yukon Gold potatoes and turmeric give these latkes a gorgeous golden hue, while fresh cilantro adds sprightly citrus notes. Vegan mayo is a clever addition that creates a creamy interior and smooths the flavors.
Indian cuisine fans, take note: These samosa-inspired latkes are totally vegan, veggie-packed, and beautifully spiced. And you’ll find plenty of ways to enjoy the pear chutney long after Hanukkah.
If you prefer a more traditional take on your vegan latkes, this is it. Flax meal (or vegan egg replacer) stands in for large eggs in the simple russet-based batter.
Gluten-free latke recipes
Flour or matzo meal is often used to bind latke batter, but neither is absolutely necessary. Potato starch does a respectable job of holding latkes together, as do gluten-free standbys like flax and 1:1 flour substitutes.
Made with just four ingredients — potatoes, eggs, salt, and oil — these are latkes at their most elemental. The recipe comes from The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York by one of the grande dames of Jewish cuisine, Claudia Roden, so though the instructions are simple, you’re in good hands.
For a restaurant-level, seasonal fare spin on Hanukkah fare, try this innovative gluten-free latke recipe, made with brown rice flour. Potatoes, shaved Brussels sprouts, and leeks feel elegant and rustic at once; Dijon maple yogurt sauce gilds the lily.
Both gluten- and grain-free, these festively-hued latkes rely on eggs and a touch of coconut flour to bind sweet carrots with oniony scallions.
Keto latke recipes
Just because keto devotees take a pass on potatoes doesn’t mean latkes are off the Hanukkah table. These veggie-forward options are a great way to change up your latke game, regardless of your carb-eating status.
Don’t let the name fool you — these latkes are delicious morning, noon, and night. Feel free to use packaged riced cauliflower to save time, or to customize the recipe with fresh herbs.
Spaghetti squash is more than just a pasta replacement, as these tasty pancakes prove. Pecorino Romano cheese, fresh herbs, and garlic boost the umami factor, and chickpea flour keeps things keto-friendly.
Baked latke recipes
If you don’t relish standing over a hot stove, frying up latkes like a short-order cook, baking is the way to go. Bonus: You’ll get to enjoy them with family or friends, instead of watching fresh-from-the-pan latkes disappear as soon as they’re ready.
Latke-making mavens have some serious opinions about the merits of russet vs Yukon Gold and shredded vs mashed potatoes. This recipe hedges every bet on the potato front, eliminates the need for stovetop frying, and miraculously works olive oil back into the equation. There’s even a bonus homemade applesauce recipe, since most can agree it makes a pretty delicious latke topping.
There’s a lot to love about these vibrant green latkes: They make eating your veggies fun, and they’re a brilliant way to reduce food waste (especially if you live with kiddos — or persnickety grown-ups — who are solely devoted to broccoli florets). Plus they’re vegan, gluten-free, and yes, they still involve potatoes.
Think of these latke cups as the two-bite brownies of the latke world — they’re delectable, fun to eat with your hands, and super cute. Baking the cheese-flecked batter in a muffin tin gives them crispy exteriors that stand up to lots of delicious toppings, from smoked salmon to sautéed spinach.
Air fryer latke recipes
If an air fryer was on your Hanukkah wish list, put it to work making holiday treats, like these latkes (and sufganiyot for dessert, natch). You can always get your olive oil fix another way.
If you can put protein powder in a smoothie, why not in a latke? This colorful recipe relies on a combination of vibrant veggies and 1/4 cup protein powder for a filling latke that's just different enough to keep things interesting.
Parsley perks up these classic russet potato-based latkes, while your favorite gluten-free 1:1 flour blend keeps them safe for folks who need to eschew gluten. If you don’t have an air fryer, but want to give this recipe a go, instructions for stovetop cooking are included.
Sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and chickpea flour form the base of these creative (and vegan!) latkes. Cayenne adds a little heat, while nutritional yeast and scallions enhance their savoriness.
Creative latke recipes
Classic potato latkes are nice, but with eight nights to celebrate, a little culinary experimentation is a must. Whether you’re doctoring leftovers or playing with new veggies, these recipes keep things exciting.
This recipe is kosher as long as you use non-dairy sour cream (mixing dairy and meat is a major no-no), but it’s super inspo for using up leftover latkes and brisket from last night’s Hanukkah dinner. Kosher-keepers and vegetarians take note: You can forgo the brisket (try jackfruit!), or keep the brisket and make sure you've got a vegan version of sour cream. Just don’t waste those day-old latkes when you can top them with an herby awesomesauce!
If you’ve ever tasted celery root mashed potatoes, you already know this winning combo makes perfect sense for latkes. Celery root’s herbaceous flavor perfectly complements the Yukon Gold potatoes it's combined with — not to mention the de rigueur applesauce and sour cream toppings.
If it’s extra you’re after, these vibrantly fab latkes are it. Don’t let the 55-ingredient(!) list scare you — this “recipe” is really a collection of 5 stunning latke options, plus 2 homemade sauces (including Beet and Red Onion latkes and Blueberry Applesauce), so you can pick a couple of favorites to try on different nights.
Back in 2013, a bizarre alignment of the Jewish and American calendars gave us Thanksgivukkah, a holiday phenomenon that won’t occur again for nearly 75,000 years. Food writers went wild developing recipes in honor of the quirky Thanksgiving + Hanukkah mashup, and some — like these gussied up sweet potato latkes — are scrumptious enough to keep in the regular Hanukkah recipe rotation. Thanks to the addition of cinnamon and curry powder, these latkes have plenty of flavor on their own, so if you want to keep things simple, you can skip the syrup and nuts.
Call them pancakes if you must, but these lovely green fritters are latkes in our book. Lemon zest and parsley brighten the flavors and add a distinctly Mediterranean flair, so we love the option to fry them in olive oil instead of butter.
Prefer the smooth interiors that mashed potatoes lend latkes? This recipe takes you step-by-step from raw russets to latkes, but if you’ve already got leftover mashed potatoes on hand, you can absolutely use them for your potato mixture instead.
What else should I serve for Hanukkah?
Check out the related Yummly articles below for more latke-making tips, plus Hanukkah cookies and jelly donuts!