Sweet Potato Latkes

published Dec 15, 2022
Sweet Potato Latkes Recipe
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sweet potato latkes on a plate with salmon
Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Prop Styling; Anne Eastman

Nothing says Hanukkah like a pile of searing-hot latkes just waiting to be slathered in apple sauce and sour cream. Now, I’m not usually one to change up a good thing, but as someone who’s been making classic potato latkes for decades, I’ve naturally gotten curious about how sweet potatoes might take to the latke treatment. I’ll say it upfront: Sweet potato latkes are not classic potato latkes.

Just as sweet potatoes themselves do not taste like russets or Yukon Golds, it’s natural that eating latkes made from sweeter potatoes would be a different flavor-experience than the latkes you may have grown up eating. That said, sweet potato latkes are a delightful riff on the Hanukkah classic. Although slightly sweeter than the original potato latke, there really aren’t too many differences between the two styles when it comes to the texture of the finished product or the technique required to make a batch. 

Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Prop Styling; Anne Eastman

Traditional latkes are typically made with very starchy russet potatoes or slightly less starchy Yukon Golds. The starch not only helps bind the latke mixture together, but also helps latkes get crispy, forming a protective barrier around the shredded potato as it fries so they crisp without absorbing too much oil in the process. Sweet potatoes don’t have as high a starch content as their white counterparts, so you’ll need to add a bit extra in the form of potato starch or cornstarch. From there, the ingredient lineup is quite similar to the original: onion, egg, salt, pepper, and a bit of matzo meal or panko (more starch!) to help bind the latkes together. Fry in vegetable oil until crisp, then devour.

Tips for Making Sweet Potato Latkes

  • Don’t peel the sweet potatoes. I rarely peel potatoes for latkes (regardless of whether I’m using sweet or white potatoes) — there’s really no need for the food waste. Just give the potatoes a very good scrub, cut away any eyes, and get shredding.
  • Keep a big batch of latkes warm in the oven. Latkes are best eaten immediately out of the skillet, but if you’d prefer to serve the whole batch at once, transfer cooked latkes to an unlined sheet pan and keep warm in a 300ºF oven until you’re ready to eat.

How to Serve Sweet Potato Latkes

Sweet potato latkes can be served like appetizers, topped with sour cream, cured fish like lox or smoked trout (or even salmon roe if you’re feeling especially fancy!), and fresh herbs like dill, chives, and parsley. Alternatively, serve them as a side dish for a meal alongside roast chicken or brisket. 

Sweet Potato Latkes Recipe

A delightful riff on the Hanukkah classic.

Prep time 25 minutes to 35 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes to 1 hour 5 minutes

Makes 16 large latkes

Serves 8 to 16

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds

    sweet potatoes (5 medium or 3 large)

  • 1

    large yellow onion

  • 1 3/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more for sprinkling

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 1/4 cup

    matzo meal or panko breadcrumbs

  • 2 tablespoons

    cornstarch or potato starch

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup

    vegetable oil, plus more as needed

  • Flaky salt (optional)

For serving (optional):

  • Sour cream

  • Lox or other smoked fish

  • Chopped fresh chives or dill fronds

Instructions

  1. Cut 2 pounds sweet potatoes (peel if desired) and 1 large peeled yellow onion into large chunks. Grate on the large holes of a box grater or with the coarse grating attachment on a food processor (10 cups potatoes, 1 1/2 cups onion). Transfer the mixture to a large colander set in the sink. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt and toss to combine. Let sit for 10 to 20 minutes (let sit 20 minutes if using a coarser salt, like Morton’s).

  2. Transfer about 1/3 of the mixture to a clean kitchen towel placed in a small bowl. Gather the edges of the towel up to form a bundle and squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the potato mixture into the small bowl. Transfer the squeezed potato mixture to a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture in two more rounds.

  3. Let the squeezed liquid sit in the bowl for 5 minutes. Slowly pour out the water from the bowl but leave behind any orangy-white potato starch that’s accumulated in the bottom of the bowl.

  4. Scrape the starch accumulated in the bowl into the potato mixture. Add 3 large eggs, 1/4 cup matzo meal or panko breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons cornstarch or potato starch, the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Mix with your hands until well combined.

  5. Line a baking sheet with paper towels or a wire rack. Pour enough vegetable oil into a large cast iron skillet to reach about 1/4-inch up the sides. Heat the oil over medium-high until shimmering. To test if the oil is hot enough, drop a small piece of grated potato from the latke mixture into the pan—if it immediately sizzles, you’re ready to fry; if not, let the oil heat for 2 minutes more before testing again.

  6. For larger latkes: Drop 3 to 4 (1/4-cup) portions of the latke mixture into the pan and use a fork to spread out each mound into a flat, about 4-inch wide pancake (they don’t have to be perfectly round). Fry undisturbed until the bottoms are deeply golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Gently flip with a thin, flat spatula (like a fish spatula) and fry until deeply golden brown on the second side, 3 to 5 minutes more.

  7. For silver dollar latkes: Drop 4 to 5 (2 tablespoon) portions of the latke mixture into the pan and use a fork to spread out each mound into about a flat, about 2-inch wide pancake. Fry undisturbed until the bottoms are deeply golden brown, about 2 minutes. Gently flip with a thin, flat spatula (like a fish spatula) and fry until deeply golden brown on the second side, 2 to 3 minutes more.

  8. Transfer the latkes to the baking sheet and sprinkle with flaky or less coarse kosher salt (not Morton’s). Fry the remaining latke batter, adding more oil to the pan before each batch as needed to keep reach about 1/4-inch up the sides.

  9. Let the latkes cool for 5 minutes. Serve as they’re ready with sour cream, smoked fish, and/or chopped chives or dill fronds if desired. If you’d like to serve all the latkes at once, transfer the fried and seasoned latkes to a wire rack placed on a second baking sheet and keep warm in a 300ºF oven until ready to serve.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Latkes are best eaten immediately, but leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Reheat in a 350ºF oven until warmed through, about 10 minutes.