Make Ahead

Sweet Potato Parsnip Latkes with Feta and Leeks

November 22, 2010
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4 as a light meal
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! - deensiebat —deensiebat

Test Kitchen Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  • 3/4 cup 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 sauté, stirring occasionally, until the leeks have softened and are beginning to color (about 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 1/2-inch 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 about 3 tablespoons of the latke mixture into a round shape (I like to pack a 1/4 cup measure mostly 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 to 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° F. 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 to 15 minutes).
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37 Reviews

Lang November 26, 2021
I didn’t have sweet potatoes so I used Yukons. It all turned out great. Everthing held together and my partner fried an egg to put over the latkes and had brunch. Great recipe.

Claire G. April 30, 2020
I love this recipe so much. I generally like trying new things but this is one that I come back to time and time again. I serve them with a simple garlic yogurt sauce and the leftovers are great the next day.
Thank you so much! This is fantastic.
Erica S. September 21, 2014
We made this for lunch yesterday, it was delish!!!
Erica S. September 21, 2014
We didn't have matzo meal so had to add some flour and an egg, flavor was great tho!
Barb December 18, 2016
I was going to try adding some panko, since I don't have any matzo.
CarlaCooks March 20, 2014
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.
May March 19, 2014
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.
winjanet December 11, 2012
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???
Jacqueline M. December 11, 2012
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!
pupa December 10, 2012
loved them. definitely need to use another egg though!
RoseInTheHood December 10, 2012
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?
Jacqueline M. December 9, 2012
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!
marie.killian.5 December 6, 2012
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!
piano13 December 5, 2012
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!)
veggiemama December 5, 2012
Do you think that goat cheese is a good sub for the feta?
rachael.dotson December 5, 2012
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...
GregoryBPortland December 5, 2012
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.
Whats4Dinner December 5, 2012
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?
Bevi November 28, 2012
Oy these sound delicious - I will make them next week with Nate's brisket, which I have cooked and loved for many years!
Jocelyn G. November 28, 2012
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 :).
Whats4Dinner December 5, 2012
Hi Jocelyn :-)
sftestcook April 4, 2011
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! :)
deensiebat April 4, 2011
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?
sticksnscones December 3, 2010
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.
deensiebat December 3, 2010
Good to hear of your conversion! I'm making a batch for our latkesplash party tonight...
Sagegreen December 2, 2010
I so glad this got an ep. The combination is great.
deensiebat December 2, 2010
We think alike!