The Ultimate Crispy Potato Pancake Recipe

by Jeff Berkowitz on March 25, 2010 · 4 comments

in Potato

potato pancakes with sour cream

Crispy, golden brown on the outside, tender and creamy white on the inside, there is nothing better than potato and onion fried together. Potato pancakes are found in the cuisine of most Eastern European Countries. Potato latkes (lat-kas) are traditional for Hanukkah and someone recently asked me for a recipe for lent. I know lent is almost over, but I like to make these for my family year round. I prefer these to french fries. Serve them with apple sauce, sour cream, ketchup, hot sauce, barbecue sauce, mango salsa. In fact, if you make silver dollar sized pancakes, they can be used as a base for an hors d’oeuvre topped with sour cream and smoked salmon; sour cream and any type of caviar; or cold sliced beef and horse radish sauce. I could go on and on forever with ideas. Use your imagination. Everything is good that sits on a potato pancake.

One time, my wife brought these pancakes to a Hanukkah party and they were the only pancakes that weren’t an ugly gray or black color and ours were the first batch of pancakes to be eaten. The discussion turned to how did we get them to be so golden. Everyone wanted to know all about potato pancakes, what potatoes were best, did we add a preservative to them, how did we get that great texture. Many of the pancakes there had been made from puréed potatoes, which makes a less crispy pancake. Whenever I serve these pancakes a myriad of questions come my way. So, here I share the secrets of how to make golden, crispy, mouth-watering potato pancakes.  You will be called upon to recreate this miracle year after year…

I’ve included some notes with this recipe to help you achieve the best result. Do yourself a favor and go buy some whole nutmeg and a micro-plane. There is no comparison in flavor between fresh nutmeg and the pre-ground stuff.

While you’re at it, check out my Shop at OpenSky and pick up any tools you need for this and future recipes! Culinary Philosopher has partnered with OpenSky. Click and read all about it here in a previous post.

This recipe can be done with a box grater if you don’t mind grated knuckles too.  I have found that this recipe is quick and easy (and much less painful) using a food processor to grate the onion and potatoes.  The Cuisinart in the picture has had 15 years of abuse and just keeps going and going… It has been used for several years in my catering business and is still used almost daily at home.  I chose two models for the shop,  a 7 cup and a 14 cup model.  I recommend either depending on how many you are cooking for, but keep in mind that the larger model will handle everything you may want to put into it while you may need to do several batches in the 7 cup.


  • 3 medium or 2 large baking potatoes such as Russet
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 eggs
  • 3 tsp (1 Tbsp) kosher salt
  • ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp flour or matzoh meal
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • Canola oil for frying

Set your oven to the lowest setting possible to keep the finished potato pancakes warm as you cook the rest. Place a sauté pan over medium heat.

Peel your onion and cut in half. Peel your potatoes and cut in a size which will fit into the shoot of your food processor. Using the food processor, grate your onion and then the potatoes. Put the grated potatoes and onion into a mixing bowl. Crack the egg onto the potatoes then add the salt, pepper, flour (or matzoh meal) and grate nutmeg with a micro-plane. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Add ¼” of oil to the pan and allow to heat until it stops shimmering. Test the oil with one piece of potato, if it actively sizzles, the oil is ready. Using your hand, lift the potatoes out of the bowl to loosely fill a  ¼  cup measuring cup trying to leave as much liquid behind as possible. Place the measured potatoes into the oil and pat down with a spatula so that the oil comes up to about ½ the thickness of the potato pancake.  Cook the pancake for 3-4 minutes, until the bottom is golden brown. Carefully, flip the pancake with a spatula and cook until the other side is golden brown. Remove the pancakes as they are done and place onto a pan lined with paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Place the pan into the warmed oven to keep until ready to serve.

*Note: Russets are the best potatoes for this recipe, but Yukon Golds, yams or sweet potatoes, red-skins, even boiling potatoes will make a decent pancake. Use what you have.

*Note: I’ve seen a lot of recipes calling for placing the peeled or shredded potatoes in a cold water bath to prevent the potato starch from turning an ugly grey color. I recommend that you do not use this method because no matter how much you wring out or squeeze the potatoes, they will absorb water and your pancakes will not be crisp. The water washes away the potato starch which is essential for holding the pancakes together. Speed is of the essence! Just work quickly.

*Note: Once the potatoes are shredded, you want to cook them as quickly as possible. I often cook using two pans to prevent the potatoes from darkening.

*Note: Do not double the recipe because it will take too long to cook the batch and your potatoes will darken preventing you from getting that nice golden color outside and a nice white middle. If you need to make more pancakes, do it in two batches. The first batch will keep warm in the oven, nicely.

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Stop Boiling Cabbage, Sauté It And Keep All Of The Flavor
March 17, 2011 at 1:14 pm

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ashley March 30, 2010 at 1:35 pm

I have been looking everywhere for a crispy potato pancake recipe for a while now! I am definitely going to give it a try :)


2 Yvonne March 28, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Absolutely wonderful. How my grandmother from Germany made them. And you’re right, they come out golden and perfect. We would eat them as a side dish with a little apple sauce, or just plain – they are that good. and of course, not pureed. My Oma told me to grate them by hand – but I am going to try your method in a food processor – much easier.


3 Jeff Berkowitz March 28, 2010 at 7:51 pm

I’m sure if your Oma had a food processor, she would have used it. How wonderful that she made potato pancakes, so did my grandmother. Food often conjures memories of the past and unites us all.


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