How to Make Latkes Without a Recipe

November 11, 2013

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Food52's Managing Editor Brette Warshaw shows us how to make perfect potato pancakes -- without a recipe.

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Thanksgiving has its turkey; Christmas has its roast. Fourth of July calls for pie, for crumble; Valentine's Day screams for chocolate mousse. These holidays, while fun and festive and (obviously) delicious, can be fussy. They can be stressful. They can be wonderfully -- or scarily -- high maintenance.

Hanukkah doesn't ask much of you. It wants you to grate some potatoes and onions, mix them with egg and flour, and fry them in oil. And then it wants you eat a lot of them. (Hanukkah is eight nights. You could really eat a lot of these.)

Of course, you can fancy these up; you can use sweet potatoes or parsnips or even mashed potatoes. You can add spices and cheese. You can make a Thanksgivukkah double-down. And, most importantly, you can make these any time of the year: for those high-maintenance holidays, for weeknight dinners, for passed hors d'oeuvres, for snack.

Here's where to start.

How to Make Latkes Without a Recipe

1. Coarsely grate your potatoes and onions by hand (or use the grater blade of a food processor). I use one onion for every two pounds of potatoes, but you can really go with your gut here.

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2. Gather your shreds in cheese cloth or a tea towel and squeeze the water out. Let it all rest, and then squeeze again. You want to get as much water out as possible (you'll be shocked how much comes out!).

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3. Lightly beat 1 egg in a bowl (I use roughly one egg for every two pounds of potato.). Add your shredded potato and onion, and mix well. I usually use 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour for every egg, but if you'd prefer these more cake-y and less shred-y, add up to 1/4 cup flour. Mix well, and season with salt and pepper. If you want to add spices, now's your moment!

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4. Heat 1/8-inch oil in a a saute pan. Drop heaping spoonfuls of your batter into the oil, making sure not to crowd the pan. (Feel free to make these whatever size you'd like.) Fry until golden brown, then flip and finish cooking on the other side. Repeat until all of your batter is gone, keeping the finished ones in a 200°F oven so that they stay nice and warm.

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5. Dollop with sour cream, applesauce, and/or caviar (it's a holiday!). Eat with a fork -- or your hands. Get ready to make another batch.

More: See how to make applesauce without a recipe. 

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How do you make your latkes? Let us know in the comments!

We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you make in your sleep, without a recipe.

Photos by James Ransom

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Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


Felix L. January 1, 2020
Isn’t this a fucking recipe
Steven W. December 23, 2017
I have never been able to keep them warm in the oven without them getting soft! I make them nice and crispy and then we usually eat them to order. Any tips?
abi C. November 6, 2017
vjbortolot October 31, 2017
My potato pancake experience comes via my Polish grandmother. Back in '08 I was in Silicia (SW part of the country) and had a pancake cook-off with my friend and colleague who is a very good cook. We agreed to disagree on the finer points, but both enjoyed the tourney.
My grandma's way:
1 ½ lb potatoes, all-purpose or red bliss
1 largish onion
1 egg
1/3 c flour
generous amount of black pepper
very generous amount of chopped parsley
2-3 T oil, preferably corn, for frying
butter (optional)
sour cream or apple sauce for serving if desired

Grate potatoes and onion separately. I greatly prefer a box grater, medium side for the potatoes, coarse side for the onion. Squeeze out potatoes firmly between your hands, reserving liquid in a bowl to let the starch settle for a few minutes. Combine potatoes, onion, egg, flour, pepper, and parsley in a bowl. Pour off potato liquid and add settled potato starch to bowl, and mix well.
Put a tablespoon of oil on a hot griddle pan and fry pancakes (four to a 12 inch griddle using half the mixture each time) at medium high heat, smoothing and spreading the potato mix (you don't want too thick), till crisp at the edges and browned on the underside. Turn over and finish cooking, adding a little oil if needed, and put a little pat of butter atop each pancake when nearly finished, to melt. Repeat with rest of potatoes, adding more oil as needed. Serve with apple sauce (as my mother did) or sour cream on the side, if you like.
Marian B. December 9, 2015
Denise November 23, 2015
Luv to eat mine with butter and syrup like a pancake tastes great
Queen H. March 10, 2015
Suzanne, what an incredibly sensible idea. I'm surprised I hadn't thought of it, since I use my salad spinner almost daily for salad greens. Sounds so much more efficient than ringing out towels. I will definitely use it nest time I make Latkes, which I hope is soon. Otherwise this recipe is perfect!
Suzanne R. March 10, 2015
Great recipe, great website! I've always placed grated potatoes in a salad spinner and spin out excess liquid 1-2 times; it works great and SO much easier!!! I do the same with zucchini and all other watery veggies, if possible and required in recipe. I've NEVER ever seen this idea mentioned anywhere! I've always done it!
Sasha S. November 7, 2014
I add carrot and zucchini.
Knightcraft February 2, 2014
Best latke recipe ever! Wringing the potatoes out twice was a great trick! We loved every bite. Any other toppings besides sour cream, apple sauce and caviar (yuck)?
Kim H. February 2, 2014
We have always served them with a really good Apple Butter...it goes awesome with the latkes! You could also try a whipped cream cheese and add some chives or whatever herbs or seasonings you like...I use the whipped because of the texture....a salsa might even be good....hope this helped some...
Willa October 31, 2017
My father always topped the latkes with a sprinkle of sugar and that's the way I like them.
Connie L. December 5, 2018
My Grandma always served hers with a thin chocolate sauce. Spice in the latke was cinnamon. Potatoes and onions grated on box grater, not shredded. I use my fine grinder on my Kitchen Aid attachment.
Queen H. December 1, 2013
Sharon - on Pesach use same amount of Matzo Meal as you would use flour and it will be fine. I use Matzo Meal all the time because I like the taste it gives the latkes. Flour makes them too bland.
Sharon G. December 1, 2013
I grate the potatoes in the food processor, put them in a strainer, chane to the steel knife and pulse the onions with the eggs and s&p, then put the egg mix in a large bow;, then I pulse half of the grated potatoes and then mix all the potatoes into the egg and onion mix. I cover the top of the mix with flour, creating a "cover". That was my father's trick to keep the potatoes from turning gray. This way I can prep the mix, and leave it until ready to fry. Then I mix the flour into the potato mix and fry. (If Pesach I do not use any thickener). I reheat, if necessary, in a 400 oven for 10 mins - delish!
Brenda C. November 26, 2013
Approximately how many latkes will 2 lbs of potatoes make?
Adrian S. November 26, 2013
About 20 - 24 3" latkes
Mark May 10, 2015
How big are you making them? I got 11 out of 2 lbs.
florence G. November 25, 2013
WOULDNT INCLUDE THE skins-- by peeling, you wont get all the pesticides out, but you will get some. better then none.
Janet November 21, 2013
How is this not a recipe?
Laura415 December 14, 2015
It's more of a ratio + method rather than a precise recipe. For me it's easier to remember 1 onion and 1 egg to 2 lbs of potatoes. Then after squeezing out excess liquid adding flour by eyeballing the batter. It also gives a lot more leeway than a traditional recipe to add 2lbs of mixed root vegetables or adding some extra seasonings which won't affect the ratios. I'm saving this one:)
Adrian S. November 20, 2013
I just taught a latke class today. Your food processor is your friend when it comes to latkes. I basically do the same as here except: I chop the onions finely in the processor. Use the pulse setting. Remove the blade and put in the shredding disk. Shred the potatoes over the onions. Remove to a bowl and mix well with 1 tsp salt. Mixing the potatoes with the onion will massively slow down the browning of the potatoes. Drain the potato mixture but you don't have to go crazy Use 2 eggs and 3-4 Tbsp matzo meal. Spread the mixture thinner when you add it to the hot oil. The extra egg will keep it together. It will have those great crispy edges. www.cre8ov.com
Nappingisbetter November 26, 2013
That sounds awesome
Jessica November 19, 2013
To me, latkes are best hot and straight from the pan. That being said, any suggestions for pre-cooking/re-heating? I'm having a party and don't want to stand over the fry pan all evening.
I_Fortuna November 19, 2013
I set my foods on a food warmer or teapot warmer. They are like the warmer used for fondue. They are found many places for sale. There are also electric food warmers and all of these are fine with pyrex or oven safe dishes or stainless platters. I suggest a warmer and cover the dish if possible to keep the food from drying out.
Adrian S. November 20, 2013
Cool latkes on a rack. Wrap and store. Reheat on a rack set over a sheet pan,, single layer in a 350°F oven for about 15 - 20 minutes or until crisp.
Alan D. November 19, 2013
Though I never thought I would stoop to this, I use a food processor and puree some of the potato shreds. I find that this comes closest to the texture of latkes made with old-fashioned wire graters. check out my method at:
Meisen November 18, 2013
I usually add one shredded carrot for every 2 pounds of potatoes. It adds a little sweetness to the latke.
Achala S. November 18, 2013
Can latkes be made without egg? I don't eat eggs but love the idea of latkes.