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Potato Pancakes (Almost) Like Grandma Used to Make

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When I was a little girl, I remember my grandmother making potato pancakes quite regularly, usually on Friday nights. (Potatoes were cheap, and stored well in the unheated basement of grandma's farmhouse.) 

homemade potato pancakes

With six kids to feed, mom appreciated this budget friendly food, too. Both mom and grandma always served their pancakes with homemade applesauce.

When I was looking through The Garden Fresh Vegetable Cookbook, the potato latkes reminded me of grandma's potato pancakes.

Duncan and I did some experimenting, and came up with a recipe that's a hybrid of the two recipes. After the potatoes are shredded, we give them a vinegar and water rinse. The extra acidity gives them more depth of flavor.

Once the water is drained, we toss the potatoes and onions with salt and let them rest in a strainer. This helps draw off excess water to keep your potato pancakes crisp.

If you don't mind a texture that's more like hash browns, you can skip the flour and let the potato starch and eggs bind the pancakes together.

Potato Pancake Recipe

A classic comfort food gets a simple update for extra flavor.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, or other starchy, not waxy potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs or one duck egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour or gluten free flour blend (optional)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • butter or lard, for frying
  • applesauce and/or sour cream, for serving

Directions

Grate the potatoes, either by hand or with a food processor. I like using my box grater, which is quieter than the food processor and easier to clean up.

grating potatoes

As you grate the potatoes, move them into water with added acid. Use 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar to 4 cups water. Mix the shredded potatoes with water for one minute, then pour into a strainer and drain well.

The acids keep the potatoes from turning pink, then gray, as they oxidize with exposure to air. It also adds extra flavor.

Toss the shredded potatoes and chopped onion with 2 teaspoons salt. Let rest for 5-10 minutes in a strainer. Squeeze off excess moisture.

Place the potatoes and onions in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet up to medium-high, and lube it up with plenty of butter or lard. (Don't skip on the butter – fat adds flavor and butter is good for you – honest.) 

Drop the potato pancake mixture in the pan about 1/4 cup at a time and flatten slightly. Fry until golden brown on the bottom, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip the pancake over and repeat.

Give each pancake plenty of room so you get nice, crispy edges.

frying potato pancakes

Serving the Potato Pancakes

If you're cooking in lard, you can spread paper towels on baking sheets and place the finished pancakes there to drain.

You can keep the potato pancakes warm in the oven while you finish cooking, or you can just start dishing them up as you go (my preferred option). If they sit too long, they loose that crispy goodness.

Serve with applesauce, sour cream and chives, or ketchup. (My youngest used to treat ketchup as a food group.)

These are pretty tasty warmed up (in the toaster oven or frying pan) the next day for breakfast, too, or even eaten cold.

Variations

Add a little garlic powder or other spices of your choice to give your potato pancakes extra zip.

Do you have leftover mashed potatoes? Skip the shredding and soaking, and jump right to adding the onion and other ingredients.

Low Carb “Potato Pancakes”

If you're eating low carb, swap in zucchini for the potatoes. Skip the acidic rinse, and jump to mixing the shredded zucchini with salt. Taking the time for this step makes it a lot easier to get a crispy pancake.

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Potato Pancakes (Almost) Like Grandma Used to Make

potato pancakes with sour cream and chives

These homemade potato pancakes make an easy and inexpensive meal. There's a special tip to keep your pancakes crisp, plus a low carb “faux-tato” option.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 30 pancakes 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Frying

Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, or other starchy, not waxy potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs or one duck egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour or gluten free flour blend (optional)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • butter or lard, for frying
  • applesauce and/or sour cream, for serving

Instructions

  1. Grate the potatoes, either by hand or with a food processor.
  2. As you grate the potatoes, move them into water with added acid – 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar to 4 cups water.
  3. Toss the shredded potatoes and chopped onion with 2 teaspoons salt. Let rest for 5-10 minutes in a strainer. Squeeze off excess moisture.
  4. Place the potatoes and onions in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.
  5. Heat a large skillet up to medium-high, and lube it up with plenty of butter or lard. 
  6. Drop the potato pancake mixture in the pan about 1/4 cup at a time and flatten slightly. Fry until golden brown on the bottom, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip the pancake over and repeat. Give each pancake plenty of room so you get nice, crispy edges.
  7. If you’re cooking in lard, you can spread paper towels on baking sheets and place the finished pancakes there to drain.
  8. You can keep the potato pancakes warm in the oven while you finish cooking, or you can just start dishing them up as you go (my preferred option). If they sit too long, they loose that crispy goodness.
  9. Serve with applesauce, sour cream and chives, or ketchup. 

Notes

These are pretty tasty warmed up (in the toaster oven or frying pan) the next day for breakfast, too, or even eaten cold.

Variations

Add a little garlic powder or other spices of your choice to give your potato pancakes extra zip.

Do you have leftover mashed potatoes? Skip the shredding and soaking, and jump right to adding the onion and other ingredients.

If you’re eating low carb, swap in zucchini for the potatoes. Skip the acidic rinse, and jump to mixing the shredded zucchini with salt. Taking the time for this step makes it a lot easier to get a crispy pancake.

Keywords: potatoes, comfort food

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Originally published in 2011, last updated in 2020.

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12 Comments

  1. Potato pancakes…one of my favorite foods. I also add a little grated carrots to my potato pancakes to get a little more nutrition in them. Also, we enjoy them topped with a dollup of sour cream. Reading this makes me want to make some right now!

        1. Only if they fall apart. Sometimes the potatoes will be higher in moisture, and the batter will just get runny, even if they are drained and patted dry. I just clarified this in the recipe.

  2. Love potato pancakes! Shredded or left over mashed potatoes! I do have a question, how do you identify a starchy potato vs waxy potato? Thanks! Love your site!

    1. When you boil a starchy potato, it will look mealy or starchy on the surface. It has a drier mouth feel. Waxy potatoes tend to be more firm, and will sometimes have an almost glossy finish. Russets are a classic starchy potato. Spring new potatoes are a waxy potato. Many fingerlings are waxy potatoes. It’s not that waxy potatoes won’t work at all, it’s just that the starchier potatoes give off the starch that binds the cake together. If you used a waxy potato, you’d need added starch of some sort for sure.

  3. These are great with poached eggs on top. They store well in the fridge and then reheated/’recrisped’ in the toaster oven while I poach the eggs. Mmmmmm.

  4. This will be a great recipe to use when my grandson comes for lunch or dinner. He’s on a gluten-free diet and by not using flour, it makes a perfect meal.

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