pancakes or latkes (sometimes spelled latkas)
are cakes of grated potatoes fried in oil.
Potato pancakes are called "latkes" in the
Jewish tradition, but they are a European
food and not specifically a Jewish one.
Potato pancakes very likely originated in
Eastern Europe, where they are still eaten
in large numbers. Areas like northeast
Poland, for instance, know many varieties. A
favorite Polish dish is placki wegierskie,
potato pancakes stuffed with a thick spicy
Potato pancakes are an important part of
Jewish cuisine in the United States and
Europe. They can be served any time, but by
tradition they are especially popular in the
celebration of Hanukkah. Eating potato
pancakes is not one of the mitzvot of
Hanukkah; that is, it is not a fundamental
part of the Hanukkah rituals, and has no
explicit religious significance. However,
Jews find it appropriate to eat foods cooked
in oil during the festival that celebrates
the miracle of the Temple oil. In Israel,
where they are known as levivot (singular
levivah), potato pancakes are familiar and
well-liked, but sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts,
singular sufganiyah) are considered to be
Latkes are often eaten with sour cream,
applesauce, or both.
Recipes for potato pancakes vary in the
degree of fineness to which the potatoes are
grated. Some are grated to long strips,
others to a fine powder. Potato pancakes
bear a distant resemblance to the American
dish called hash browns; however, hash
browns are merely coarsely grated potatoes
with no binding ingredients or flour. The
French dish commonly known as "potato
galette" is also similar, but in it the sour
cream is an ingredient rather than a
The Swedish version of potato pancakes are
called "raggmunk", which literally
translates to hairy doughnuts, the grated
potatoes making them look hairy. They are
made from wheat flour, milk, egg, and
potatoes, and are fried just like thin
pancakes. If the actual pancake batter is
left out, the fried cakes of grated potatoes
are called rårakor. Both kinds are enjoyed
with lingonberry jam.
One recipe for potato pancakes is given
below. Variants include cheese latkes,
zucchini latkes, and apple latkes.
4 large potatoes
1 medium onion
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons Matzo meal, corn meal, or
salt to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (for less oily
latkes), or enough oil to fill the pan to
about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm).
applesauce and/or sour cream
Peel potatoes and onion and grate.
Optionally soak the resulting mixture in
water, or squeeze it in a dishtowel, in
order to remove excess starch.
Mix potato and onion with egg, meal, and
Heat oil in a 10" pan over medium heat until
it is quite hot. Drop 1-2 tablespoons of the
potato mixture onto the pan per pancake.
Turn once to allow both sides to fry. Allow
10-15 minutes total.
Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream as a