May your holidays be easy and your latkes crispy
plus: a bonus soup recipe for paid subscribers
I grew up spending every December 25th going to the movie theatre and eating Chinese food (a great way to spend any day!). Then I met + married Grace and along with a cat and a dog, Grace brought Christmas into my life. A very sweet part about celebrating Christmas together has been Grace’s gentle nudging that we also celebrate Hanukkah, the holiday I grew up with.
Until I met Grace, I hadn’t lit a menorah in years. Now we take ours out every Hanukkah and light the candles all eight nights. It’s become such a loving tradition, just the two of us dimming the lights in our kitchen, saying a prayer, and watching the wicks catch flame. For a moment, everything is quiet and candlelit and peaceful. It’s really lovely.
And every year, at least once during Hanukkah, I make latkes.
I have always made them the pretty traditional way — grated potatoes, grated onions, eggs + matzo meal. But I got a note from someone a few months ago asking if I knew of an egg-free alternative since their kid was deathly allergic to eggs. So I started experimenting and found that using aquafaba— the leftover cooking liquid from chickpeas (also the liquid from a can of chickpeas) was an incredibly easy substitute + produced wonderfully crisp latkes. I was so thrilled to figure this out, not only for that person whose kid now gets to enjoy this traditional food (yay!), but also because I love any dish that puts something that otherwise would be thrown away to good use. It feels resourceful and clever and satisfying, a combination I really enjoy and find a lot of access to in cooking.
I taught these latkes in my class this past weekend and they were a hit so I wanted to share them with you today. We also had dirty martinis made with the brine from full sour pickles (SO GOOD) and an easy red lentil soup that uses the chickpeas from the can we also got the aquafaba from (that recipe is below the paywall for paid subscribers — it’s so good! I hope you enjoy it!), plus a simple walnut-orange cake with tons of olive oil because Hanukkah is all about oil and I’m all for it.
Without further ado, here’s the recipe!
Crispy Potato Latkes / makes about a dozen
1 pound baking potatoes (1 very large one or a couple of medium ones) — I don’t peel mine but you can if you want
1 large yellow onion, peeled
1/4 cup matzo meal (or all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
About 1/4 - 1/3 cup of the aquafaba (liquid) from the can of chickpeas
Olive oil, for frying
Lay a clean kitchen towel on your work surface and put a box grater on top of it. Coarsely grate the potatoes and onion. Gather the edges of the towel to form a tight bundle of grated vegetables. Tightly squeeze the bundle over your sink to get rid of excess moisture. If you want to grate the potatoes and onion in a food processor fitted with a grater attachment, just transfer them to a kitchen towel afterwards.
Place the squeezed out vegetables in a large bowl and add the matzo meal and salt. Stir well to combine. Add about 1/4 cup of the aquafaba and mix together. Add more aquafaba, a tablespoon at a time, as needed, until the potatoes are a bit tacky. You should be able to squeeze some of the mixture and have it hold together. You’re not looking for a batter as much as grated potatoes just bound together with matzo meal and aquafaba.
Line a plate with paper towels and reserve it.
Place enough olive oil in a large nonstick skillet to lightly coat the bottom (about 1/3 cup). Set the pan over medium-high heat.
Once the oil is hot (a little bit of the latke mixture will sizzle upon contact), drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the potato mixture into the skillet, without crowding them, and use the back of the spoon to press each mound into a flat pancake.
Cook the latkes until the undersides are browned, about 3 minutes, then carefully turn them and cook until the second sides are nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Two small offset spatulas are great for turning these.
Transfer the latkes to the paper towel-lined plate and fry the remaining batter in batches, adding more oil to the pan if necessary. Sprinkle the warm latkes with a tiny pinch of salt. Serve immediately!
What if I’d prefer to use an egg instead of aquafaba? That’s fine! Just use 1 large beaten egg for every pound of potatoes.
What do you serve latkes with? Sour cream + applesauce! But they’re also great with other toppings like creme fraiche + smoked salmon (LUXE) or ranch dressing (not luxe but DELICIOUS). Tahini dressing is also delicious. Kewpie mayo + kimchi. Whatever you want!
But like how do you make them a complete meal? Latkes are a great side dish to just about anything (a roast chicken, brisket, scrambled eggs) and I also love them with a big salad and a bowl of soup. Or just have latkes and martinis— heaven.
Can you make the batter ahead? Honestly, I don’t suggest it. The longer the batter sits, the more liquid the potatoes + onion release, plus the potatoes tend to get super brown (not the end of the world— you’re going to cook them anyway). But I do suggest making the latkes ahead!
Wait, what? You can make them ahead? Yes!! Latkes reheat beautifully on a cookie rack set on top of a sheet pan in a 400F oven for a few minutes or IN AN AIR FRYER!!!!!!! You can even make them a few days ahead and refrigerate them, or freeze them and just reheat from frozen.
Can you make the latkes with other vegetables? Oh yes! Basically any firm root vegetable — carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and beets all make great latkes.
I’m surprised you fry yours in olive oil! I do! I think they taste great, plus it’s a very shallow frying situation and if you use a nonstick pan you really don’t need much oil. But if you’d prefer a different oil like canola, go for it.
Can you make latkes even when it’s not Hanukkah? Duh.
LAST MINUTE HOLIDAY GIFT IDEA: A COOKING CLASS WITH ME!
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I hope you all have a lovely end of the year. I’m taking next week off, but will be back in early January. I really appreciate you reading along these past few months + supporting my work. Means the world! xoxooxoxo Julia
PS: For paid subscribers, enjoy the bonus recipe for red lentil + chickpea soup!!
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