What is a Potato Pancake?

G. Wiesen

A potato pancake is a dish prepared using potato and is cooked by either shallow frying or in a very small amount of butter or oil in a pan. In general, there are two basic ways to prepare potato pancakes: either with grated or mashed potatoes. Recipes that use the latter type of potatoes are typically intended as a way to use leftover mashed potatoes. A potato pancake can be prepared with various ingredients, and there are many names for this dish in different languages.


People of Jewish background often call potato pancakes latkas or latkes. As a Korean dish, they are called gamjajeons, in Russian cuisine they are called draniki, and the German variants of this dish are called kartoffelpuffer and reibekuchen. A potato pancake is usually prepared using either shredded or mashed potatoes, and though the final product is somewhat similar, there are noteworthy differences in the approaches. These potato pancakes can also be made fairly thick and dense or light and very thin.

Mashed potatoes, which can be used to make potato pancakes.
Mashed potatoes, which can be used to make potato pancakes.

When mashed potatoes are used to make a potato pancake, they are typically mixed with an egg to increase how well they bind together. Other ingredients can also be added, such as scallions, garlic, and shredded onion to add more flavor and texture. These can then be cooked lightly in some butter or shallow fried in oil, though butter is more common to add flavor without overcooking the already cooked mashed potatoes. The resulting potato pancake is often fairly dense and thick, with a crispy exterior and light and fluffy interior.

A potato pancake made from shredded potatoes, however, can have a somewhat different texture, especially if made thin. After potatoes are shredded, traditionally with a hand shredder though a food processor can be used, they are squeezed and drained of any liquid. The liquid is often collected in a bowl, and the starch that comes out of the potatoes is separated from other liquids and then added back to the shredded potato. An egg can be added, as well as some scallion or shredded onion and pepper. A very light and thin potato pancake can then be made, by pressing a small amount of the mixture flat, and cooked in a hot pan that has been lightly brushed with oil.

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Discussion Comments


I remember seeing a TV cooking show that talked about making latkes, and the cook said one of the most important things was to squeeze as much of the water out as possible, so the latkes would fry properly in the oil.


My mom always made potato pancakes with mashed potatoes, although latkes are awesome, too. We usually had mashed potato pancakes with something like salmon patties or maybe hamburger steak, as something different. They're great for using up leftover mashed potatoes.

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