Potato Latkes are a traditional Jewish delicacy most often consumed during Hannukah. If you ask me, these crispidy, crunchidy, golden and delicious potato pancakes can be eaten year round as long as you practice a bit of moderation.
On paper, these potato latkes are Whole30 compliant, but they are undoubtedly a ‘food with no brakes’ for me so I try to enjoy them when the time is right. I encourage you to form your own opinion and figure out whether or not they’re something you’d like to incorporate into your Food Freedom or Whole30.
If you’ve never had traditional latkes before, they are similar (if not identical) to homemade hash browns. The usual suspects are grated potatoes, onions and eggs mixed together and formed into pancakes before being shallow-fried until golden brown and crispy on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside. As you can imagine, latkes are a delicacy my family and I look forward to every year.
Just about every family I know has their own way of making potato latkes. Some people like to add binders such as flour or matzo meal. Others get creative with the ingredients and choose to sneak in some grated zucchini or apple. And others still prefer the subtle flavourings of woodsy herbs, such as thyme and rosemary. A great alternative to white potatoes is to use sweet potato, yam or even rutabaga.
If going the potato route, it is very important to reserve the starch that settles at the bottom of the bowl after grating and squeezing the potatoes of excess moisture. If grating the potatoes in advance, you will want to place them in a large bowl of water to prevent them from turning brown. Just be sure to drain as much of the water as possible to ensure a crispy latke.
You can grate the potatoes and onions by hand or use the grater attachment on a food processor. Both work equally well but the latter will save you a significant amount of time and energy. A food processor will also spare you the inevitable onslaught of tears that come from grating an onion by hand. Happy tears, of course.
The best news is that these Potato latkes can be made ahead of time and reheated in a 350F oven until warmed through.
As you know, I firmly believe in making your own traditions so feel free to switch it up as you see fit. You’re the boss, apple sauce.
Speaking of apple sauce, potato latkes are commonly served with soft, sweet, puréed apples. Personally, I prefer my latkes with a heavy dollop of sour cream, another very popular condiment. Again, the choice is yours and if you happen to be avoiding dairy, I’ve got a quick-and-easy solution to replace the tangy, silky, and delicious flavour of sour cream (see below).
Interestingly, these are not the potato latkes I grew up with (sorry, mom!). My mother is originally from Lithuania and back in the old country, latkes look a little different. The potatoes are grated more finely (think of using the smaller grates on your box grater) and are not fried to achieve a crispidy, crunchidy texture. Instead, they’re a bit softer and have a stronger potato and onion flavour. They tend to look more like a pancake than a hash brown. Maybe I’ll share the recipe for my mother’s Lithuanian Latkes sometime soon?
As far as serving these potato latkes, I’ve already hinted at my lifelong love of sour cream. Growing up I would spoon giant dollops of sour cream over my mom’s latkes and sprinkle them with sugar. It was heaven on earth.
Since I tend to avoid dairy these days, I’ve gotten a bit creative with substitutes. Something that seems a bit odd but really works here is to create a faux sour cream by mixing coconut cream with a splash of lemon juice. There is a slight coconut taste, which I know many people are put off by, but if you like coconut you will love this quick-and-easy condiment. It’s actually a great base to make my Coconut Tzaziki, which tends to taste less coconut-y because of the addition of garlic, herbs and cucumber.
This recipe doesn’t work as well with coconut milk because of the high water content. What you want is the thick, concentrated cream that gets extracted from pressing grated coconut flesh. You can either purchase coconut cream (different from coconut milk), or you can make it on your own by simply refrigerating an unshaken can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight.
The cream will solidify at the top of the can and leave the water below. The next day, spoon the hardened cream into a mixing bowl, add lemon juice and whisk until smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning and adjust lemon juice to achieve your preferred level of tanginess.
If you’re feeling extra fancy, as I was on the day of shooting this recipe, try topping each potato latke with coconut sour cream and fanning thin slices of luxurious smoked salmon overtop. Garnish with chives or dill and devour with a hot cup of coffee for the ultimate brunch situation.
- 4 cups Yukon Gold potatoes approx. 4 med-sized potatoes – peeled and coarsely shredded (substitute Russet or Red potatoes)
- 1 medium-sized yellow onion – shredded
- 1 egg – lightly beaten
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly-cracked black pepper
- 3/4 cup or more avocado oil – for frying
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- juice of half a lemon
- Sliced smoked salmon
- Finely chopped fresh chives
- The day before cooking, place an unshaken and sealed can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge. The following day, open the can and spoon off the solidified cream. Add cream to a bowl along with the juice of half a lemon. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning and adjust lemon juice as required. Cover bowl with wrap and return coconut to fridge until ready to serve.
- Use the coarse side of a box grater or food processor to grate potoatoes and onions separately.
- Firmly squeeze liquid from grated potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Allow drained liquid to sit in the bowl for a few minutes then drain, reserving the starch that has settled on the bottom of the bowl. In a separate bowl, squeeze liquid from grated onion.
- Add drained potato, onion, egg, salt and pepper to bowl with starch. Toss everything until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.
- Preheat 2-3 tbsp avocado oil in a 12” non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Form small mounds of the potato mixture in your hands, squeezing out any additional liquid that has released. Add potato mixture to hot oil. Fry latkes 4-5 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked to your desired doneness. **If required, add more avocado oil to the pan.
- Transfer cooked latkes to a tray lined with a cooling rack and season immediately with flakey sea salt. If making in advance, reheat cooked latkes in a 350F oven until warmed through (approx. 8-10 minutes).
- To serve, spoon a dollop of coconut sour cream, fan slices of smoked salmon overtop and garnish with chopped chives.