Latkes for Hanukkah

Sweet Potato Latkes, Hanukkah traditions
December 1st marks the beginning of Hanukkah and the eight-day Festival of Lights celebration.The Hanukkah ritual of lighting the menorah at sundown commemorates the Maccabees’ triumph over the oppressive Syrian king and how one day’s supply of oil miraculously burned for eight days and nights following their victory. One of the traditional foods of Hanukkah is latkes where the oil used for frying also symbolizes the oil that lasted eight days.

Here my friend Tina demonstrates how to make latkes and gives us a few tips to ensure perfect crispy latkes.

Last year I joined Tina, her mother-in-law Celia, and her daughter Diana and watched and learned as she prepared latkes for the second night of Hanukkah. Her son Jason helped peel the potatoes and Tina gave me some valuable tips on making the perfect latke:  crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  She uses a recipe that she copied from a December 1999 L.A. Times article as a guideline, since she only makes latkes once a year it’s easy to forget the importance of certain details such as:

1. It’s OK to use a food processor to chop all the onions, but the potatoes must be grated by hand – using a food processor results in gummy potatoes.

2. Dry the grated potatoes on paper towels or a clean dish towel. Cover and press with paper towels also.

3. Only peanut oil imparts the desired flavor.

4. Don’t use a non-stick pan – you won’t get the desired crispiness.

Having lived in California for 28 years with no family at all to celebrate holidays with, I firmly believe in the importance of creating your own family traditions. But I also find comfort in the past and feel that, especially these days, with family members often scattered far and wide, sharing memories from your childhood and preserving time-worn rituals beyond gift giving can provide your children with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the meaning behind religious and non-religious holidays. Food is always a significant part of any celebration and simple experiences like baking cookies, preparing tamales, or helping mom make latkes are priceless.

Many cooks are experimenting with using different vegetables and oils in their search for a different or healthier latke, a recent Los Angeles Times article had some good suggestions.

I decided to make sweet potato latkes because I’ve been on a bit of sweet potato kick. They’re so nutritious, chock full of antioxidants and beta carotene, and can be prepared in as many ways as regular potatoes: fries, roasted, mashed, au gratin, hash, salad, etc. So why not in latkes!
Sweet Potato Latkes, Hanukkah traditions

Sweet Potato Latkes
Sweet potatoes give traditional potato latkes a makeover with added color and nutrition.
Serves: 10 latkes
  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, grated
  • ½ large red onion, grated
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
  • salt and pepper (I used lemon pepper)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Peanut oil for frying
  1. Put the grated onion in a fine sieve and press the liquid out. The sweet potatoes don’t have as much moisture as regular potatoes but still use paper towels to absorb excess moisture.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together while sprinkling in a tablespoon or so of flour to bind it together. Heat 3 tablespoons of peanut oil over med-high heat and carefully add spoonfuls of the potato mixture, flattened out with your hand, to the hot oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes until browned and turn over to brown the other side. If the oil starts smoking or the latkes brown too quickly, lower the heat a bit. Drain on paper towels.

Enjoy :)

✯Happy Hanukkah✯

18 Responses to “Latkes for Hanukkah”

  1. Lori Lynn December 1 at 8:20 am #

    They look great! Happy Hanukkah to you!

  2. whatsfordinneracrossstatelines December 1 at 9:06 am #

    I like this idea, I love sweet potatoes too. I don’t celebrate Hanukkah, but I have friends that do, it’s always good to have recipes that cover everyone.

    • Priscilla December 1 at 9:09 am #

      @whatsfordinner – You don’t need to celebrate Hanukkah to enjoy these! Latkes are basically potato pancakes :-)

  3. Amanda @ bakingwithoutabox December 1 at 12:51 pm #

    What a great twist on latkes! I’ll have to share this with my “adopted” sister.

  4. Shari December 1 at 1:48 pm #

    Love eating, not making latkes but once a year I can do it. I look forward to the only time a year I eat applesauce; a little on the top of the latkes does a body good 😀 Those are great tips Tina has. I’ve never used peanut oil, nor has my mother, but I’d like to try it.

  5. fooddreamer December 1 at 2:23 pm #

    These sweet potato latkes look delicious. Great tips on the best ways to make them!

  6. Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron December 1 at 3:34 pm #

    Happy Hanukkah to your Prescilla! I’ve seen latkes in a magazine and was thinking to try making some. Your looks delicious! I like the crispy part of it! Great video demonstration from Tina as well!

  7. FOODESSA December 1 at 3:44 pm #

    Priscilla…this is too funny…because as I was reading your post I was thinking of some sweet potatoes I had purchased this weekend and thought how great they would be in place of regular potatoes. Then, to my surprise, your post divulged the same thought…how crazy is that?!? I guess, there must really be somthing to the saying of ” great minds think alike” ;o)

    The only thing I’d love to do differently…would be to create the baked version of these crispy delights.

    Thanks for sharing the importance of what goes on in other traditions.

    Ciao for now,

  8. Debbie @dippindotwoman December 1 at 5:40 pm #

    I love potato pancakes and make them often. I health them up a bit by grating zucchini and carrots in with the potatoes. They are just as good! Now I’m craving them 😉 Thanks for sharing Priscilla.


  9. Angie's Recipes December 2 at 3:07 am #

    Sweet potatoes were something I had very often when I was still a kid……I really miss them. The latkes look fingerlicking!

  10. Sommer @ A Spicy Perspective December 2 at 6:22 am #

    Priscilla~ I’ve never had sweet potato latkes!?! They sounds fabulous. i love that gorgeous golden crust…and the addition of sage!

  11. Faith December 2 at 11:59 am #

    Sweet potatoes make such delicious latkes…great recipe! Thanks for all the tips too!

  12. Magic of Spice December 2 at 1:19 pm #

    Hello Tina,
    These look wonderfu;…Happy Hanukkah!

  13. Jenn from Much to My Delight December 2 at 6:16 pm #

    This post just about cracked me up. I posted my experience making latkes today, and now I know why I botched them so badly. I broke ALL of these rules!! Now I know for next time!

  14. Rosa December 5 at 10:46 am #

    I love latkes! Those look very yummy.

    Happy Hannukah!



  15. Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet } December 6 at 10:45 pm #

    Love the twist on the traditional Latkes. I have only had Latkes one time and they were tasty. I bet this just adds another demision of flavor. Nice job!!!

  16. Renee Fontes December 18 at 8:08 am #

    After reading the tamale post, I went back and read this one. Not very many people know the stories or understand the significance of keeping traditions alive. I appreciate you sharing that about religious and non religious holidays. ~Renee Fontes

    • Priscilla December 18 at 9:44 am #

      @Renee – Thank you so much. The history and significance of food in cultural traditions is something of great interest to me. That’s why I like to feature regular folks cooking foods of their heritage on my blog.

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