Sweet Potato Parsnip Latkes with Feta and Leeks

By • November 22, 2010 34 Comments

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Author Notes: I was recently working on an article extolling the virtues of the classic potato latke, and wanted to contrast its perfect simplicity with some ridiculously nouveau-whatever variation. So I wrote that stripped-down basic recipes, with care paid to technique, can hold their own against the frou-frou trimmings of a latke with say... caramelized leeks, hashed parsnips, feta and sweet potatoes. And then I looked at what I wrote. Challenge accepted! No, they're not my grandma's latkes. But oh my are they good. They're sweet yet earthy, studded with delicious briny and savory accents. Happy Hannukah! - deensiebatdeensiebat

Food52 Review: WHO: deensiebat is a trusted Food52-er from the Pacific Northwest, whose vegetable-heavy diet has lead to some of our favorite recipes.
WHAT: Russet-less latkes that just became a new holiday tradition.
HOW: Caramelized leeks are mixed with grated sweet potatoes and parsnips, crumbled feta, egg, matzoh meal, and nutmeg. It's a loose, dry mix, but lightly smooshing the cakes together before they hit the oil ensures they'll hold together.
WHY WE LOVE THEM: Four assertive flavors -- feta, leeks, sweet potatoes and parsnips -- melt together into sweet, savory, completely addictive pancakes. To dress them up, sprinkle on extra feta or swipe with creme fraiche, or go all out with a crisp apple relish or tiny pile of lemony salad.
The Editors

Serves 4 as a light meal

  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 2 medium-sized leeks, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes (usually about 1 large)
  • 1 pound parsnips (number will vary depending upon size)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled (a creamy French or Israeli style is nice)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup matzo meal
  • 1/2-1 cups canola oil for frying (amount will vary depending upon how many skillets you want to have going)
  1. Melt the butter (or heat the olive oil) in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until the leeks have softened and are beginning to color (~10 minutes).
  2. While the leeks are cooking, wash and peel the sweet potato and parsnips. Grate on the coarse holes of a box grater, and place in a large bowl (if you have no patience for hand-grating, you can use the shredding disk on a food processor, but place about ¼ of the mixture back in the bowl of the processor with the regular blade and pulse a few times). Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, feta, egg and matzo meal. Stir to combine. Mix in the cooked leeks.
  3. Pour the canola oil to a depth of ½” in a frying pan – you can use the pan used for the leeks, and additional pans if you’d like to make quick work of it. Heat the oil over a medium flame until hot – if you drop in a shred of the latke mixture, it should bubble vigorously. Shape ~3 tablespoons of the latke mixture into a round shape (I like to pack a ¼ cup measure ¾ full), and place in the oil. Flatten slightly to form a small pancake. Repeat as many times as your pan space allows. Cook the latkes until well-browned, ~5-7 minutes, then flip and brown the other side. These latkes are more delicate than standard potato pancakes (especially when warm), so be delicate.When the second side has cooked, place on a plate lined with brown paper, stacking as needed. If you want to be extra-good, now and then strain out any rogue bits that have floated into the oil before they burn (or leave them in, for a taste closer to what grandma would have made). Serve. Or...
  4. If you’re not serving at once, layer the cooled latkes in a sealed container with parchment between the layers, and freeze. To serve, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the latkes on a cookie sheet (you can place them on a rack on top of a cookie sheet for a crisper result, but usually the sheet is fine for me), and cook until they have colored a bit more and are heated through and sizzling (~10-15 minutes).

More Great Recipes: Pancakes|Sweet Potatoes|Potatoes|Appetizers|Side Dishes

Topics: Holiday Entertaining, Hanukkah

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Comments (34) Questions (1)


11 months ago Erica Hegarty

We made this for lunch yesterday, it was delish!!!


11 months ago Erica Hegarty

We didn't have matzo meal so had to add some flour and an egg, flavor was great tho!


over 1 year ago CarlaCooks

I made these last night and they were delicious! I made a few changes based on below comments and what I had in the fridge. I salted the leeks as they were sautéing. I used a feta-like goat cheese. I used 3 eggs: I whipped them in a big bowl with salt and pepper then added the shredded vegetables. After all of the vegetables and cheese were mixed together with the eggs, I added potato flour a bit at a time. I think I ended up using close to 1/4 cup, but perhaps a bit less. I let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes, then I formed them into compact mounds by hand. I am the world's worst fryer, so I instead baked the latkes; I oiled a baking sheet, placed the latkes o the sheet, and then brushed some olive oil on top. I baked them at 220 C/425 F for about 15-20 minutes. They were really tasty. My husband even asked for seconds. I will definitely make these again.


over 1 year ago May

Tasty, but lawdie, too much of a fiddle, and I now have a frying pan full of floating bits of veg and olive oil - a waste of both.
For the record, I hand-grated both the sweet potatoes and the parsnip, so the goop sort of stuck together, but not really satisfactorily enough to bother with the process again.


over 2 years ago winjanet

I followed this recipe exactly, and while the flavor was great, I could not get the potato mixture to hold together to make the latkes. I tried adding another egg, and then adding more matzoh meal, and nothing worked. I just got hash. Any ideas???


over 2 years ago Jacqueline Madsen

My first couple fell apart in the pan. As I progressed with cooking them, I found that scooping into the hot oil, then flattening slightly at first with back of slotted pancake turner, then more firmly after they had cooked a couple of minutes, helped them hold together. As soon as the first side had caramelized (5 mins or so in the oil), they were easy to turn and held together well. I just drained all the crispy bits on paper towels and sampled as I cooked!


over 2 years ago pupa

loved them. definitely need to use another egg though!


over 2 years ago RoseInTheHood

I made these delectable latkes last night. Marvelously delicious. Substitions: coconut oil instead of canola when frying; no matzo meal in SLC to be found so used bread crumbs.
They DIDN'T hold together very well at all so next time think I'll add another egg and some type of flour. Wonder if the altitude here has anything to do with it?


over 2 years ago Jacqueline Madsen

We had these for dinner this evening. They were wonderful! I had a hard time finding parsnips in the store, and what I did find were a bit rubbery. As a result, I had a higher ratio of sweet potato to parsnip, and we added an extra egg. We could not find matzoh meal either, so crushed up some matzoh bread. I had a package of creamy chèvre. We served them with lingonberries and apple sauce. Delicious!


over 2 years ago marie.killian.5

This looks so yummy and I love sweet potatoes! Making these soon!
Also must love really good olive oil as it certainly loves our bodies and betters our health! http://www.carothersoliveoil...


over 2 years ago piano13

My co-op sale booklet has a recipe with the exact same title, same proportions of ingredients! Your nutmeg, feta, & matzo meal (this one uses flour instead) are not included. The co-op recipe serves these with a sour cream-minced apple topping. Your additions sound great! (You didn't write the one for the co-op sale flyer, did you? Just curious!)


over 2 years ago veggiemama

Do you think that goat cheese is a good sub for the feta?


over 2 years ago rachael.dotson

can I roast the SP ahead of time and put through my potato ricer? Would this help with moisture? Bought the dang thing for Thanksgiving and want to use it more than once a year...


over 2 years ago GregoryBPortland

I would think the feta balances the sweetness of the potatoes and the parsnips. To answer another question below, sweet potatoes and parsnips have much less water in them, so squeezing the moisture out of them before proceeding with the recipe once they are grated is not necessary. I'm going to try this recipe. It looks delicious.


over 2 years ago Whats4Dinner

I'm thinking about "vegan"izing this by subbing the egg w/egg substitute and just leaving out the feta (I detest cheese substitutes). Does anyone think these won't taste good without the feta?


over 2 years ago Bevi

Oy these sound delicious - I will make them next week with Nate's brisket, which I have cooked and loved for many years!


over 2 years ago jocelyng

When I make regular latkes, I always squeeze out the excess water (and there's a lot of it). Do sweet potatoes and parsnips not have that issue? BTW, I didn't needs latkes to become any more addictive than they already are, so thanks for this :).


over 2 years ago Whats4Dinner

Hi Jocelyn :-)


over 4 years ago sftestcook

Wow! I just spent this gorgeous spring day frying up latkes due to an overabundance of parsnips in my CSA box, and I'm so glad I found your recipe! These are truly delicious. Hard to stop at eating just six! :)


over 4 years ago deensiebat

I need to remember I've written this recipe whenever I'm dealing with parsnip overload. Isn't frying the solution to all csa overload?


over 4 years ago sticksnscones

I made these last night for dinner. OMG...they were delicious! Don't know if I can ever go back to "straight" latkes again. Thanks for such a great recipe.


over 4 years ago deensiebat

Good to hear of your conversion! I'm making a batch for our latkesplash party tonight...


over 4 years ago Sagegreen

I so glad this got an ep. The combination is great.


over 4 years ago deensiebat

We think alike!


over 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Holy smokes, these look delicious! Sweet potatoes, parsnips, and leeks - three of my very favorite things!


over 4 years ago deensiebat

Glad I could hit upon your triumvirate of favorites -- they taste lovely together.


almost 5 years ago lapadia

I love sweet potato and the flavor combo you have used, thanks for sharing!