Potato pancakes are kind of a big deal in many homes, and everyone has their own method. There’s a lot of speculation as to what goes into making a good pancake, and my guess is that’s because it’s easy to mess up such a seemingly simple dish. Too many eggs and your pancakes are rubbery; too much flour or starch, and they’re too dense. Some insist on using cooked potatoes, while others insist you can’t.
Today’s recipe is my take on a middle-of-the-road potato pancake. It’s not tied to one specific culture, but takes cues from several approaches; mostly, I like the heft of Belorussian dranikis, but the crispiness of Jewish latkes.
Many recipes use wheat flour to ensure that the potatoes stick together, but I’ve found that my favorite approach is to re-employ the starch from peeled potatoes: dump them in a water bath and allow the starch to settle at the bottom, then pour off the water to use as a binder. This step takes an extra 10 minutes, but is well worth it in terms of reducing food waste (and saving money buying tons of potato starch).
Potato Pancakes (Gluten-free, Primal, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet, Whole30)
1 ½ lbs russet or other starchy potatoes
3 tbsp lard, butter, duck fat, or schmaltz, more as needed
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp potato starch
½ tsp salt, more to taste
¼ tsp black pepper
Sour cream and fresh chopped dill to serve
1. Prepare a mixing bowl with ice cubes and cold water. Peel and grate the potatoes, then transfer directly into the bowl. Allow the potatoes to sit in the water for 5 minutes, then remove a handful of the potatoes with your hands, squeeze excess water into the mixing bowl, then transfer the potatoes to a colander lined with a large cloth or towel; continue this process until all of the potatoes have been transferred to the colander. Drain the potatoes for 10 minutes and allow the bowl of starchy water to sit undisturbed.
2. Heat the lard in a large skillet over medium heat. Gently pour off the water from the bowl, retaining the potato starch that accumulates at the bottom of the bowl. Add the onion, garlic, egg, potato starch, salt, and pepper to the starch in mixing bowl, then stir to combine. Take up the cloth with potatoes, then squeeze as much liquid out as possible and add to the mixing bowl; stir to combine. Preheat the oven to 200F.
3. With your hands, scoop out a small handful of the potato mixture. Form into a patty, about 4” across and ½” thick, then add to the skillet. Repeat this process until you have filled the skillet. Pan-fry until golden and crispy, about 4 minutes, then turn and fry for another 4 minutes. Reduce heat as needed to prevent burning. Place the cooked pancakes on a plate lined with paper towels, then place in the oven; repeat with the remaining potato mixture, adding more lard as needed. You should have enough mixture for 8-10 pancakes.
4. Sprinkle lightly with salt, then serve with sour cream and dill to taste.
** The extra 2 tbsp of potato starch added to the recipe is really a buffer to ensure your pancakes turn out perfectly; as you practice this recipe, try a batch without the added starch. The pancakes will be a little more willing to fall apart, but once you get the hang of handling them with care, they’ll create an equally delicious product. If you do try the pancakes without the added starch, please leave a comment about your experience below, so I can consider changing the recipe for the published book. Thanks!
** There are tons of toppings to add to these pancakes; one of my favorites is applesauce!
Note: In the year leading up to my new cookbook’s release, I will be regularly releasing these recipes to 1) maintain a continuing conversation with my readership and 2) give visitors to this site an opportunity to test and provide feedback before editing. For more information on this new approach, read my post here.