Hanukkah Latkes

Serves 4-6 11 December 2020 Dairy Free Vegetarian Friendly
Last night we lit the first Hanukkah candles and to accompany the eight day celebration of miracles and lights, there were latkes. Because there is an unwritten rule around here that every holiday must be honoured with festive food, these crisp mouthfuls of fried potato joy are a Hanukkah staple. I generally reserve them  as a treat for this holiday, but they should really be made on a weekly rotation. They are that good.  

Like every good Jewish recipe, there are multiple opinions and endless debates on how-to, with-what and when-to make said item.  These happen to be my favourite latke because I love their rosti type quality – crunchy jagged edges, light and not too cake-y in the middle. Yes they may veer away from the more traditional style, but as I am a self confessed rule breaker, I unapologetically veer more hash brown than kugel.  

I go even more off-piste as the week goes on, subbing some sweet potatoes or parsnips into the mix, crumbling in a little goats cheese or feta at the end for a little cheesy twist or even add a few spices (cinnamon, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cumin, Aleppo pepper……).  

The important thing here is to take your time and don’t cheat.  These latkes might look like a labour of love, but they really do not take long.  They are old school in their method (thank you Oma for the tricks). Please grate the potatoes and the onions by hand.  It makes a massive difference to the texture (and it’s very meditative).  Do not skip the wringing out all the liquid stage – it’s essential.  It keeps the latkes crisp and not a hint of soggy in the middle (no one wants soggy in the middle).  

Here’s for the real latke hack…..when you wring out the grated  potato and onion mixture in a tea towel, make sure you catch all the liquid in a bowl.  At the bottom, rests a thin white layer of potato starch.  That is the latke miracle.  Tip out the water, reserving the magic ingredient and mix it into the now liquid free grated mixture for a badass binder, creating lighter, crispier latkes.  Bingo.

To serve these golden beauties, I customarily hark back to my American roots, with a great dollop of sour cream and apple sauce. Last night, these also provided the backbone for our dinner, topped with smoked salmon and crispy fried eggs (the fried theme is strong on Hanukkah).  Later in the week we might eat them with salt beef (AKA corned beef in the States) or Grandmas Pot Roast, on top of a fish pie……alongside basically everything. 

So, here’s to comfort festive feasts and celebrations of miracles and lights.  I think we all need a little bit of this right now – it transcends all beliefs. 

 This recipe makes 16 larger size latkes (about 12cm/3 inches in diameter) if you use a soup spoon to scoop the mixture, or 20 smaller latkes (10cm/2inch diameter) if you use a dessert spoon to scoop.  I use my hands (I grab a 3 finger pinch of mixture and gently lower it into the hot oil) so mine are pretty much all over the show in size, but to me that’s part of the fun. 

Hanukkah Latkes

  • 1 kg (2lbs) potatoes I use Maris Piper, King Edward or Russet potatoes because they are my favourite for chips/french fries.  Use whichever is your favourite variety. 
  • 1 medium yellow onion (personally I like a sweeter onion here)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt  & a good grind of pepper
  • Vegetable / sunflower / flavourless oil for frying

Grate the potatoes and onions together on the large holes of a box grater

Rest your tea towel or cheesecloth over a large mixing bowl and fill with all your grated potatoes and onion.  Gather together the corners and squeeze everything together over the bowl to catch the liquid. You will be amazed how much water comes out. Let the liquid settle for a minute or two and then pour off the water, reserving the potato starch in the bottom.  Make sure you do not pour it out with the water – this is your latke miracle.

Add the grated onion and potatoes to the bowl with the potato starch.  Add the beaten egg, flour salt and pepper (add any spices if you want to here).

Heat 1cm of oil in the bottom of a frying pan or sauté pan until it’s hot but not smoking.  Drop heaping spoonfuls of batter into the oil, making sure not to crowd the pan.  Fry on a medium heat until golden brown and flip to cook the other side. 

Note: take your time with the frying here – if you fry them too high, too quickly, the outside will burn before the potato and onion cooks through.    If you are making these in batches or a little in advance, they will keep warm happily in a 200 degree (400F) oven until you are ready to serve.  



Have you made this dish?

Let me know what you think, share your efforts and any tweaks you made to the recipe on Instagram, don’t forget to tag #BuildingFeasts or email me on info@buildingfeasts.com