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Hanukkah just wouldn’t be the same without at least one meal of latkes during the eight-day Festival of Lights. The oil that the vegetable patties are fried in provides all the holiday symbolism, leaving cooks free to play around with fillings, flavors, and embellishments. Read on to get the scoop on how to make latkes that are crisp-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside, classics.
1. Avoid soggy fillings. Binders such as eggs and flour adhere better to dry fillings, and the natural sugars and starches in vegetables brown and crisp better when the veggies are dry. Squeeze excess liquid from grated vegetables, cook vegetable pieces until no liquid remains, drain well, and pat dry.
2. Use plenty of hot (but not too hot) oil. Heat at least 1/4 cup oil in a skillet 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat. The oil should be 365°F (a small bit of latke batter should sizzle briskly when added to the pan). Avoid overcrowding the pan, which can lower the oil temperature and make patties soggy. Add a tablespoonful more oil to the pan as needed, and reheat between batches. Maintain this even temperature so latkes cook through—the first side should turn a deep golden brown in about 2 to 4 minutes.
3. Mix it up. Stir the batter before frying each new batch of latkes to make sure vegetables are evenly distributed and coated with binder.
4. Don’t forget to blot. Pat the tops of just-cooked latkes with a paper towel to absorb and remove excess oil and leave the latkes crisp, not greasy.
5. Always serve ’em hot. To keep just-cooked latkes hot, set them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 250°F oven until ready to serve. To reheat cooked latkes, bake them 5 minutes at 400°F in single layer on baking sheet.