What are Latkes? Everything to Know

GOLDEN BROWN, CRISPY LATKES AREN’T JUST A HANUKKAH HOLIDAY FOOD

Baz Bagels Potato Latkes 1
Baz Bagel | Potato Latkes

We love potatoes and one of our favorite ways to eat potatoes is by making latkes. Latkes are patties of potatoes fried to a perfect golden brown. If you have been to a diner or deli, particularly a Jewish restaurant, then you’ve come across them on a menu. 

These potato fritters are served as an appetizer or side dish, but for us, we don’t mind eating them as the main meal too. There a latke to love about latkes.

Read More: What Is a Knish?

History of Latkes

Latkes are steeped in tradition and they are an important part of the Jewish faith. The foods that are eaten during Jewish holidays usually play two roles. These special foods nourish and symbolize historical events or challenges faced by the Jews.

For many, these fried potatoes are a must at Hanukkah, the festival of lights. During the winter holiday, latkes symbolize what Jews consider a miracle during the Maccabean Revolt in 164 BC when the Maccabeans captured Jerusalem. The miracle is that the menorah in the Second Temple in Jerusalem was able to stay lit for eight days even though there was only enough oil for one day.

It wasn’t until centuries later that these potato fritters became a part of Jewish high holiday food traditions. 

Read More: The Best Jewish Foods for the High Holidays

These potato patties are fun to make, especially with friends or family. Everyone can take turns grating the potatoes and frying them to a crispy, golden brown.

Latkes are often served with:

  • Applesauce
  • Crème fraiche
  • Smoked salmon
  • Sour cream
Lido Kosher Deli Kosher Latkes + Apple Sauce
Lido Kosher Deli | Kosher Latkes + Apple Sauce
Liebman's Kosher Deli Giant Potato Latkes
Liebman’s Kosher Deli | Giant Potato Latkes

What’s the Difference Between Latkes and Potato Pancakes?

The difference between latkes and potato pancakes are the ingredients and their origin. Latkes come from Italy and potato pancakes come from Eastern Europe.

Latkes and potato pancakes are similar in that they both are made with:

  • Potatoes 
  • eggs
  • Onions (optional)

Latkes are made with additional ingredients:

  • Matzo meal (flour can also be used)
  • Baking powder
  • Milk (optional)

Both are made by placing about a quarter inch of oil in a pan. Then, a scoop of potato mixture or latke batter is added to the pan. Finally, these potato patties are flattened with a spatula and fried. It’s common to use oil olive to make latkes even though it does not have as high enough smoke points as other oils like canola oil. 
Hanukkah occurs at the end of the oil-pressing season. The oil is also symbolic of the oil used to keep the menorah lit at the Second Temple of Jerusalem. The oil used at the temple was likely olive oil.

Are Hash Browns and Latkes the Same Thing?

No, hash browns and latkes are not the same thing. Although they contain similar ingredients like shredded potatoes and they are cooked in a frying pan, they are not the same.

Hash browns are shredded potatoes and onions that are scattered in a pan and pan fried. They can also be formed into a patty and deep fried. 

When comparing hash browns to latkes and potato pancakes, hash browns require the fewest ingredients. Latke recipes include a binder like egg. They may sometimes have seasoning like onion plus matzo meal, baking powder, and sometimes milk.

Can You Eat Latkes Outside of Hanukkah?

Yes, you can eat latkes outside of Hanukkah. When these potato patties were first created, they were not tied to the Jewish high holiday. 

Latkes are a food derived from Italian pancakes made with ricotta cheese. It was after an Italian rabbi included these golden pancakes as appropriate to eat during Hanukkah that the holiday tradition began.

We love these crispy fried potato rounds any day of the year whether for breakfast, a snack, or lunch and dinner appetizers

Most Famous Latkes

America’s top delis and restaurants are frying up the most lovable latkes.

Lindas Gourmet Latkes Large Gluten Free Vegan Latkes

Linda’s Gourmet Latkes

We heart these heart-shaped latkes from Linda’s Gourmet Latkes. Los Angeles’ Linda’s Gourmet Latkes has perfected the potato fritter making process — it’s all they make. 

Founder Linda Hausberg has been making her famous bite-size, regular, and giant size latkes since 2004. It’s no wonder her lovable fried potatoes made Oprah Magazine’s 2014 Holiday O List. Each hand shredded potato mound is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.

Mile End Deli Mile End Potato Latkes

Mile End Deli’s Potato Latkes

Mile End Deli may be famous for its Montreal-style smoked meats, but the Jewish deli in New York City also makes exceptional potato latkes

Canadian founder Noah Bernamoff makes his 3.5-inch potato fritters from Russet potatoes, onions, and chives. The result is a delicious potato latke that your Bubbie and you will love.

Baz Bagel Potato Latkes

Baz Bagel’s Potato Latkes

Nestled in NYC’s Little Italy, Baz Bagel is famous for its hand-rolled, kettle-boiled bagels, but the bagel shop also makes lust-worthy latkes. Owner Bari Musacchio uses Grandma Joyce’s recipe to make their famous potato latkes

Each crispy potato fritter is made with potatoes, egg, matzo meal, salt, and pepper. Then, they are fried  in canola oil until they are golden brown and perfectly crispy.

We love potatoes a latke! America’s best delicatessens and restaurants are shipping their famous latkes nationwide on Goldbelly!

Lauren-Mack
Lauren Mack

Lauren Mack is a journalist who writes about all things food for Goldbelly. She is passionate about exploring the world one meal at a time. Her favorite things to Goldbelly include cakes, biscuit sandwiches, and ice cream.

Lauren has been a journalist for more than two decades and has specialized in writing about travel and food for much of that time. Her work has appeared in 150+ websites, magazines, apps, and guidebooks, including Cheapflights, CultureTrip, INSIDER, Lonely Planet, Newsweek International, Savory Traveler, Seeker, The Daily Meal, ThoughtCo (formerly About.com), Thrillist, Time Out, TripSavvy, and Zagat.

A lover of Taiwan's night markets, Singapore's hawker centers, and New York City's food trucks, Lauren has never skipped a meal or dessert. She has an insatiable appetite for exploring the world's best food and will try — almost — anything. Her favorite foods are pizza, ice cream, dim sum, sushi, and Taiwanese braised pork rice, and she can't resist a chef's tasting menu.

From backpacking across Europe and Asia to circumnavigating the globe by ship to living like a local in multiple cities, her travels have taken her on food explorations to 60+ countries on five continents. She has called Miami, Beijing, Taipei, and New York home.