Sweet Potato Parsnip Latkes with Feta and Leeks

By • November 22, 2010 34 Comments

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