Tips for Making the Best Latkes

By Erika Lenkert

I thought I had my latke recipe squared away: squeeze out the water from the grated potatoes and fine-grated onion, use potato starch instead of flour as a binder, add egg and lots of salt, and fry in enough hot oil to get crispy exteriors and soft, fluffy interiors.  Ta-da: the best latkes.

Then I talked to my friend Craig Stoll.

Craig is the James Beard Award-winning chef behind the beloved San Francisco restaurant, Delfina. He’s also the guy who, along with his wife/partner, Anne, sold more than 1,000 local orders of his insanely good dozen pre-cooked frozen latkes in the first five days they were offered.

I quickly learned there are more steps that can be taken to get to the best latkes. 

Craig uses russets, egg, potato starch, and salt, too. But he also puts his whole, unpeeled russet potatoes into a pot with water, brings it to a boil, drains the potatoes the literal second the water begins boiling, then refrigerates them overnight. He swears this preliminary step not only prevents oxidation of the potatoes to a large degree but also makes them dryer and easier to work with — there’s literally no water to squeeze out! He also blots his grated onions on paper towels after adding them to a fine strainer and pressing out as much liquid as possible. 

His oil of choice? Rice bran.  

Follow his tips and you’ll have the ultimate creamy-crisp latkes every single time.

Here are a few other tips worth following, fresh from the kitchen:

Latke-Making Tips

  • Stick with russet potatoes. Their high starch content makes for the best latkes!
  • Follow Craig’s advice: bring whole, unpeeled russet potatoes and cold water to a boil, immediately drain and refrigerate until cold. It’s the ultimate game-changer.
  • Use either the large-hole side of a box grater or a food processor with the grater attachment to grate the potatoes (and carrots and/or beets or other vegetables, if using).
  • Grate the onions super-fine with the small-hole side of a box grater.
  • Always remove as much water as possible from your grated vegetables, including onions. There’s no need to do this with potatoes if you boil then chill them first. But you’ll want to transfer your grated onions to a fine-mesh sieve and press out as much water as you can. Don’t have time to boil and chill potatoes, grate and wrap them in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out the excess water by twisting the towel as hard as you can. 
  • Use potato starch instead of a GF flour as a binder. If you capture your potato water when you drain them, then let it sit, you can even pour off the water and be left with usable potato starch! But store-bought potato starch is great, too.
  • Use a flax egg or other vegan egg substitute if you want vegan latkes. They work perfectly. 
  • Go heavy on the salt. Latkes need it!
  • Add salt just before cooking; salt inspires the vegetables to release more water. Last-minute salting stops the batter from getting wetter before cooking. 
  • Cook latkes in an oil with a high smoke point. Latkes take time to cook, and they need an oil that allows for patience. Follow Craig’s lead with rice bran or reach for canola or peanut. 
  • Cook latkes in enough oil that they’re halfway submerged. This ensures crispy results plus more fully cooked interiors. 
  • Make sure the oil is super hot before adding your dollops of latke batter. If you have a thermometer, you can check the oil to make sure it is about 375°F.
  • If you need to add more oil as you go, make sure to heat it to temperature before adding more latke batter. 
  • Drain your fried latkes on paper-towel-lined baking sheets and keep them in one layer in a warm (200°F) oven as you make the next batch.
  • Latkes are best eaten right out of the frying pan, but they do freeze well. To do so, spread the latkes in one layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 1 to 2 hours. Place latkes in a zip-top bag with parchment paper between layers and remove as much air as possible. Freeze, then, when desired, reheat on baking sheets in 350°F oven until lightly sizzling.

Ready to make some latkes? Try these recipes:

GF/DF Latkes with Horseradish Cashew Cream and Caviar

Curry-Carrot Latkes with Mango Chutney and Yogurt

Herbed Latkes with Smoked Salmon and Sour Cream

Beet Latkes with Green Apple and Fennel Relish

See Craig Stoll’s whole latke recipe plus a story about his latkes

3 Comments on “Tips for Making the Best Latkes”

  1. Avatar for Chris Gralapp

    Hi Erica, what is the best kind of pan to use? Can I use a non-stick? or do the latkes brown better in a stainless steel pan?

  2. Avatar for Erika

    I usually use stainless, occasionally cast iron. I think stainless is a better bet than non-stick!

  3. Avatar for Jen

    I just wanted to comment to confirm your tip about the latkes! Holy cow was I loved not having to squeeze out the water! I used the food processor to shred because I made a giant batch, and everyone agreed they were the best latkes ever. Thanks for this excellent new (to me) method!

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