Latkes Work for Everyone


Here’s a secret I wish more people knew: latkes are the perfect holiday food.

For those of you not in the know, latkes are the food most commonly associated in this country with the Jewish holiday of Hannukah. Also known as potato pancakes, they are similar in some ways to hash brown potato patties — but tell that to a Jewish family whose grandmother has been making them for half a century, and they will scowl at you. Where hash brown patties are contained, with neat edges and a definable shape, latkes are chaos: vaguely round, perhaps oval, with shredded potatoes crisply sticking out from every edge and caramelized bits of onion stuck to the bottom, depending on the recipe.

The basic recipe for latkes includes varying proportions of shredded potatoes, onion, egg, matzo meal or flour, and salt. The resulting batter is dropped by spoonful into piping hot oil and fried. As a symbol of the miracle of one flask of oil lasting for eight nights in an ancient Jewish temple, the latkes are meaningful. As a food, they’re utterly delicious.

For me, though, another miracle of latkes is that their basic recipe is as versatile as the rituals of the holiday season. If you have family or friends visiting who follow any number of restrictive diets, simple tweaks to the latke recipe make it the perfect food for almost any need.

Gluten Free

Even the most basic latke recipe only includes a little bit of flour or matzo meal. Used as a way to bind egg to potato, the flour’s main purpose is to provide starch. Gluten-free options here work just as well! If you don’t use gluten-free flours very often in your home, you can buy the cheapest  of these:


The only non-vegan ingredient in latkes is egg. The combination of flour and egg is what really holds traditional latkes together, and leaving it out entirely will make your latkes fall apart the minute they hit the oil in your pan. To replace the egg with a non-animal-protein binding agent, you can try any of the following options:

  • Ener-G Egg Replacer: This is a powdered product you can buy at many mainstream grocery stores if they have a “natural foods” or “vegan section,” or at most Whole Foods stores. The box includes instructions on how to mix the powder with the right volume of water to make a gel-like substance that stands in for eggs in your recipe.
  • Oats: Combining these with water and letting them sit while you prepare other ingredients creates a thick paste that also works well to hold the latkes together. VegKitchen has a great recipe for latkes using oats.
  • Flax Meal: Combining one tablespoon of ground flax powder (sometimes called “flax meal”) with three tablespoons of water makes up the equivalent of one egg.


People following a paleo diet, or people who are avoiding nightshades (a class of plants that includes potatoes and peppers, among others), don’t have to skip the latkes if you make them with sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes and other shreddable root vegetables make delicious latkes, and there are several great recipes out there:

Low Fat

I’m including this because, although taking most of the oil out of the recipe undoes much of the symbolism of this greasy treat, there are people whose health depends on a lighter latke. EatingWell offers this recipe that allows for 4 grams of fat per serving.

Dairy Free, Nut-Free, and Soy-Free

Great news: Latkes are already naturally dairy, nut, and soy free (assuming you fry them in vegetable or olive oil)!

How to Top Lakes

You can use a variety of toppings for latkes. The most traditional toppings are either applesauce or sour cream, but my husband’s Lithuanian side of the family sprinkles them with cinnamon sugar. Other unique options:

  • Smoked Salmon and capers
  • Cream cheese and chopped olives
  • Spiced pumpkin butter
  • Strawberry jam

This year, my family will be eating two types of latkes. The first will be the biggest secret of all: Manischewitz Potato Pancake mix. The laziest option of all, this mix is actually absolutely delicious. I wish I’d known how tasty it was years ago, when making latkes more than one night in a row left me overwhelmed and missing some knuckle-skin from all the hand-shredding of potatoes. All you need for this one is eggs, oil, and the mix.

The second latke recipe we’re trying this year is Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Samosa-Spiced Latkes with Pear Chutney. This Indian-inspired recipe is a time-consuming one, but the scent of the chutney alone is making it all worthwhile. It’s vegan — accidentally — and full of all the vegetables you’d usually find in a samosa.

However you make them — paleo, gluten-free, vegan, or traditional — latkes get along with everyone. Happy Frying!

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, hosted by Kristi of . This week’s sentence is “I wish…”

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12 thoughts on “Latkes Work for Everyone

  1. I love this! I’m always looking for food my son can eat. We’ve done squash fritters. I don’t know why I didn’t think of latkes. He already loves applesauce.

    • So many delicious fritter options, too! We’ve done corn ones, which are awesome if corn is on his safe list. Do you have the cookbook “Veganomicon?” There is an amazing beet, sweet potato, and carrot latke recipe in there.

  2. very informative post… have always been aware of the menu item, less so as to how to prepare or the sense of it’s place in the holidays.
    Have a good holiday season!

    • A great book about the latke’s place in the holiday is Lemony Snickett’s “The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming.” It’s a children’s book, but also a fun, engaging, and informative look at how Hanukah compares (or doesn’t!) to Christmas.

  3. You make me want to make latkes! I’ve never made them, and think (?) I’ve never tried them. My stepmom is Jewish but she isn’t one of the Grandma types who would glare at you for talking about hashbrowns. She’s not really a traditional Jewish cook, if that makes sense. I bet Tucker would love them though. I think I’ll give it a try after the holiday break. So glad you linked up with this and YAY for nut-free and lowfat! We need that (Tucker’s allergic to nuts and peanuts) and I need the lowfat because well, I just do.

  4. We love latkes! I’ve made them about 50 different ways – traditional, mashed potato, zucchini, sweet potato and red beet…all good. Have you ever checked out Amy Kritzer’s blog, What Jew Wanna Eat? She has AMAZING latke recipes (and everything else).
    This year I think we’re trying a breakfast latke and a zucchini one with dill sour cream and fried capers. I think that last one’s paleo or gluten free for those who do that.

    • Ooh, I don’t know that blog, so thank you! I’ve made beet/carrot/sweet potato latkes before, and while they were good, I found them a little too sweet. We’ve also made fritters that resemble latkes in everything but name. It’s such a fun base recipe!

  5. OK believe it or not I have never had latkes, but now after reading your informative post here I want to try to make them. So thank you for sharing all about how to make them, as well as how to top them, too! 🙂

  6. Oh My Yes! Sharing and making. Thank you – Ms

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