austrian/ Dinner/ polish/ Side dish/ vegetarian dinner

Potato Pancakes

14 July 2020 | Last Updated: 23 September 2020

These crispy on the outside and soft in the middle potato pancakes are true comfort food. They’re quick to make, budget-friendly, and require only a minimal amount of ingredients (it’s just potatoes, an onion, an egg, and salt and pepper!). Special preparation method makes them super crispy!

Potato pancakes on a blue plate, small bowl with sour cream, parsley and chanterelle sauce

Where do the pototo pancakes come from?

True origins of potato pancakes are not known but they are very known in many Eastern European countries. This recipe is based on Polish potato pancakes that I know from my childhood (they are called ‘placki ziemniaczane’ in the Polish language). This recipe has also landed in my Austrian recipes category, as you can eat exactly the same dish in Austria or Germany, where it’s known as ‘Kartoffelpuffer’ (could be translated as potato puffs) or ‘Reibekuchen’ (shredded cakes).

What is the difference between potato pancakes and Jewish latkes? Latkes are more similar to fritters and can be made with different kinds of vegetables. Flour or matzo is also often added, and sometimes baking powder.

The difference between potato pancakes and hash browns (from the US) and Swiss Rösti is that the latter usually don’t contain eggs of flour.

potato pancakes with chanterelle sauce and sour cream sticked on a fork

Ingredients:

To make potato pancakes you really need just a couple of ingredients: potatoes, onion, an egg, and salt and pepper!

  1. Onion – can be omitted, especially if you plan to serve your pancakes with sweet condiments, like apple sauce (I’m leaving the onion anyway).
  2. Egg – egg binds the potato batter together and makes the pancakes easier to fry. If you want to make dairy-free potato pancakes or you’ve run out of eggs, you can omit it. Add 1 Tbsp of flour instead.
  3. Potato starch – If you want to make gluten-free potato pancakes, this is your recipe. My recipe is naturally gluten-free as there is no flour added. Many recipes call for adding flour, I prefer to add the potato starch that was naturally released while grating the potatoes (it will be at the bottom of the bowl with the liquid left from draining the potatoes). Potato starch binds the pancakes better than flour and in addition, they taste better (have more ‘potato flavor’). If you have forgotten to reserve the water from squeezing the potatoes and you don’t have the potato starch, you can add about 1 tablespoon of store-bought potato starch of flour to the batter.
  4. Salt and pepper – don’t skim on the pepper!
  5. Frying oil – must have a high smoke point – this means it can be heated to high temperature. Any high smoke point vegetable oil will do. Alternatively, use lard or clarified butter. Do not use regular butter as it’s not suitable for frying and it will burn too quickly. Olive oil also can be used – it would be better to use olive oil that is suitable for frying, not extra virgin olive oil which is more expensive and perfect for salads.
  6. Potatoes – the main and most important ingredient so make sure to choose the right potato! (more on that below).
ingredients needed to prepare potato pancakes

What kind of potatoes are best for potato pancakes?

There are 3 main types of potatoes:

  • starchy/mealy (like Russets, Idaho) – they are high in starch and low in moisture, they don’t hold their shape very well, they are great for mashing, baking and boiling
  • all-purpose (mixed potato type, like Yukon Gold)
  • waxy (like French fingerling, Red potatoes or new potatoes) are low in starch and high in moisture, but hold their shape better after cooking, are great for potato salad and roasting

If you’re in Austria or Germany, starchy potatoes are sold as ‘mehlige Kartoffeln’, all-purpose as ‘Speisekartoffeln’ or ‘vorwiegend festkochend’ and waxy as ‘festkochende Kartoffeln’.

The best potatoes for potato pancakes are starchy/mealy potatoes like Russets and the second best are all-purpose potatoes like Yukon Gold potatoes. They don’t release much water, make crispy pancakes that are not oily. Russet potatoes are super starchy which helps bind the ingredients and don’t release much water which makes them crispier and causes that they don’t absorb so much oil. They make great pancakes.

Do not use waxy or young potatoes as they are very watery. Watery potatoes are the worst kind of potato to use for these pancakes.

How to grate the potatoes?

This depends on your preferences, how you like your potato pancakes, more like pancakes or more like fritters?

  • potatoes grated on the small holes of a box grater – are softer and the center is more creamy, this kind of pancakes is more traditional, this is how my Grandma is making them
  • half of the potatoes grated on the small holes and half on the big holes – this is my favorite option – these pancakes are still soft and ‘pancake-y’ in the middle but super super crispy on the edges
  • potatoes grated on the big holes of a box grater – less traditional, taste more like fritters, are super crispy but require more cooking time to be cooked through in the middle

You can grate the potatoes by hand (this is, unfortunately, the best option) or with a food processor. I don’t recommend pureeing the potatoes in a food processor so that they almost resemble a mash, although some people prepare them this way. Try out a couple of options to see what you like best!

Recipe variations:

This is a basic recipe for potato pancakes but you can modify it freely or add other seasonings to make them more interesting.

You can season the pancakes for example with: garlic, paprika powder, onion powder, garlic powder, chopped parsley or dill, Parmesan cheese.

One of my favorite recipes for potato pancakes uses chanterelle mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. I absolutely love them. Proceed as in the recipe below (in the recipe card at the bottom of the post), but grate the pancakes only on the small holes of the grater, and add 7-oz(200g) finely chopped chanterelles or button/cremini mushrooms, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese and 1 heaped teaspoon of chopped dill to the batter. Fry as described in the recipe.

What kind of pan to use:

It’s best to use a heavy-bottomed frying pan. It distributes heat more evenly and maintains high temperature throughout the whole surface. You can use non-stick pan or well-seasoned cast iron or enameled pan. I like my pancake pan, which I use to cook all types of fritters, pancakes or crepes. It has low rims which makes flipping pancakes super easy.

How to make potato pancakes step by step:

left: grated potatoes and onion, right: drained potatoes in a blue bowl
  1. Grate the potatoes.
    Grate half of the potatoes and the onion on the big holes of a box grater, then grate the remaining potatoes on the small holes of a box grater. Mix together with 1 teaspoon of salt and let stand for 15 minutes.
  2. Drain the potatoes.
    After this time squeeze out as much water as you can from the potatoes, reserving the water (!) in another bowl (I’m just taking a handful of grated potatoes and squeeze them out with my hands, but you can also use a fine mesh-strained and a spoon or wrap the potatoes in a clean kitchen cloth to do it).
left: potato starch in a blue bowl, right: potato pancakes batter

3. Discard the liquid from the bowl, leaving a thick white paste that will be at the bottom of the bowl (potato starch).

4. Combine with the other ingredients.
Combine the grated and drained potatoes and onion with a lightly beaten egg, and potato starch together. Season lightly with salt (the mixture should be at this point lightly salty) and generously with black pepper.

frying the potato pancakes on a black pan

5. + 6. Fry the pancakes:
Pour a couple of tablespoons of frying oil into the pan and warm it up over medium or medium-high heat (the amount of oil will depend on how big the pan is, there should be enough oil to cover a minimum of 1/3 of the thickness of the pancakes, and better would be t least 1/2 of their thickness). When the oil is hot, scoop 3-4 heaped tablespoons of batter onto the pan (or as many as will fit in your pan without overcrowding the pancakes, about 1 heaped tablespoon of batter per pancake), flatten it with a fork into rounds about 1/4 – 1/3 inch (1/2 – 3/4 cm) thick. Cook until golden then flip over and cook on the other side until golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain the excess fat.

Enjoy!

How to keep the pancakes from falling apart:

  • drain the pancakes well – squeeze them out as much as you can
  • form small round pancakes, smaller pancakes are easier to flip over
  • use enough binder (an egg and potato starch), if your potatoes were more watery and there’s still lots of liquid in the bowl, drain them again or add some flour to the batter
  • well heated oil and pan are important

How to serve potato pancakes:

  • Sour cream is obligatory.
  • My absolute favorite way (and one of the most popular in Poland) is with chanterelle sauce and sour cream. If you can’t find chanterelle mushrooms where you live or they’re out of season, you can use the button or cremini mushroom, you can cook them the same as in this recipe. The sauce tastes best with chanterelle mushrooms though, but I might be biased because chanterelle mushrooms are my favorite kind of mushrooms!
  • Hungarian goulash or letscho (meatless Hungarian goulash)
  • sour cream, smoked salmon, dill, optionally caviar
  • sprinkled with sugar and served with apple sauce – it may seem weird and for a long time I didn’t want to even try them this way but they’re really delicious and go well together!
  • Ratatouille (French summer vegetable stew).

Storage / make-ahead / reheating tips:

I have for you some storage and make-ahead tips, but please bear in mind that the best-tasting potato pancakes are made fresh, just after preparing the batter and everything else is second-best.

Can you leave the potato pancakes batter and fry them the next day?

Yes. Cover the freshly prepared batter tightly with plastic foil (the foil should touch the surface of the batter) and put in the fridge for up to 24h. The batter will be very watery on the next day so you need to drain it again very thoroughly and lightly season again with salt and pepper. The batter will also darken, but you won’t see it after frying the pancakes as they will be just golden from frying. These pancakes will be more oily in comparison to freshly prepared pancakes.

How to store cooked potato pancakes?

Wrap them tightly in plastic foil or put in a tightly closed container, store in the fridge for up to 48 hours.

How to reheat cooked potato pancakes?

You can either reheat them in an oven preheated to 375°F (190°C) until warm or put them on a dry or just lightly-oiled non-stick pan and cook until warm and crispy (the second option is better but more labor-intensive if you have more pancakes to reheat).

Freezing: The pancakes and the batter can not be frozen. This results in very mushy and tasteless pancakes.

Potato pancakes on a blue plate, small bowl with sour cream, parsley and chanterelle sauce

FAQ:

Why are my potato pancakes falling apart?

You haven’t drained the potatoes properly or your potatoes were very watery. The other reason could be that you’ve tried to flip them too soon, reduce the heat and try to cook them a little longer.

Why my pancakes are raw in the middle but burned on the outside?

You’ve cooked them over too high heat. Try lower the heat next time. The other reason could be that your pancakes are too thick, try to form thinner patties next time (thinner pancakes taste better!).

I’ve got less pancakes than the recipe yields, why?

Maybe your pancakes were bigger than mine or the potatoes were more watery so you’ve got less potato pancake batter from the same amount of potatoes.

How many potato pancakes per person?

It depends how do you serve them. I would serve about 2-3 pancakes as a side with a meat sauce (like pork goulash) or 4-5 pancakes as a side with vegetarian sauce (like mushroom sauce) or on the sweet side with sugar and applesauce.

Potato Pancakes

Amazing potato pancakes that are soft in the middle and super crispy on the edges.
potato pancakes
Print Recipe
0 from 0 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 2 servings (9 pancakes)
Calories 611kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs (900g) potatoes
  • 1 small/medium onion
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • frying oil

Instructions

  • Grate the potatoes: Grate half of the potatoes and the onion on the big holes of a box grater, then grate the remaining potatoes on the small holes of a box grater. Mix together with 1 teaspoon of salt and let stand for 15 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes: After this time squeeze out as much water as you can from the potatoes, reserving the water in another bowl (!) (I'm just taking a handful of grated potatoes and squeeze them out with my hands, but you can also use a fine mesh-strained and a spoon or wrap the potatoes in a clean kitchen cloth to do it). Discard the liquid from the bowl, leaving a thick white paste that will be at the bottom of the bowl (potato starch).
  • Combine with the other ingredients: Combine the grated and drained potatoes and onion with a lightly beaten egg, and potato starch together. Season lightly with salt (the mixture should be at this point lightly salty) and generously with black pepper.
  • Fry: Pour a couple of tablespoons of frying oil into the pan and warm it up over medium or medium-high heat (the amount of oil will depend on how big the pan is, there should be enough oil to cover a minimum of 1/3 of the thickness of the pancakes, and better would be at least 1/2 of their thickness). When the oil is hot, scoop 3-4 heaped tablespoons of batter onto the pan (or as many as will fit in your pan without overcrowding the pancakes, about 1 heaped tablespoon of batter per pancake), flatten it with a fork into rounds about 1/4 – 1/3 inch (1/2 – 3/4 cm) thick. Cook until golden then flip over and cook on the other side until golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain the excess fat.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • If you’re not sure if the pancakes are cooked through: just cook one pancake and cut it in half. If it’s raw in the middle but already nicely golden on the outside you can cook it a little longer over very low heat until cooked through in the middle. Cook the remaining batter over lower heat.
  • Ingredient notes:
    • Potatoes – best are starch/mealy potatoes like Russets or all-purpose potatoes like Yukon Gold. Do not use waxy or young potatoes as they are very watery.
    • Onion – can be omitted, especially if you plan to serve your pancakes with sweet condiments, like apple sauce (but I personally am leaving the onion anyway).
    • Egg – egg binds the potato batter together and makes the pancakes easier to fry. If you want to make dairy-free potato pancakes or you’ve run out of eggs, you can omit it. Add 1 Tbsp of flour instead.
    • Potato starch – If you have forgotten to reserve the water from squeezing the potatoes and don’t have the naturally released potato starch, you can add about 1 tablespoon of store-bought potato starch or flour to the batter.
    • Frying oil – Any high smoke point vegetable oil will do. Alternatively, use lard, olive oil for frying, or clarified butter. Do not use regular butter as it’s not suitable for frying and it will burn too quickly.
  • How to grate the potatoes – if you want softer pancakes, grate the pancakes on the small holes of the grater, if you want them to taste more like fritters – grate them on the big holes. My absolute favorite way is to grate half on the big holes and a half on the small holes.
    You can grate the potatoes by hand (this is, unfortunately, the best option) or with a food processor. I don’t recommend pureeing the potatoes in a food processor so that they almost resemble a mash, although some people prepare them this way. Try out a couple of options to see what you like best!
  • Recipe variations:
    • You can season the pancakes for example with: garlic, paprika powder, onion powder, garlic powder, chopped parsley or dill, Parmesan cheese.
    • One of my favorite recipes for potato pancakes uses chanterelle mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. Proceed as in the recipe above, but grate the pancakes only on the small holes of the grater, and add 7-oz(200g) finely chopped chanterelles or button/cremini mushrooms, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese and 1 heaped teaspoon of chopped dill to the batter. Fry as described in the recipe.
  • How to serve potato pancakes:
    • Sour cream is obligatory.
    • My favorite way – with chanterelle sauce and sour cream. If you can’t find chanterelle mushrooms where you live or they’re out of season, you can use the button or cremini mushroom, you can cook them the same as in this recipe.
    • Hungarian goulash or letscho (meatless Hungarian goulash)
    • sour cream, smoked salmon, dill, optionally caviar
    • sprinkled with sugar and served with apple sauce – it may seem weird and for a long time I didn’t want to even try them this way but they’re really delicious and go well together!
    • Ratatouille (French summer vegetable stew).
  • Storage / make-ahead / reheating tips:
    I have for you some storage and make-ahead tips, but please bear in mind that the best-tasting potato pancakes are made fresh, just after preparing the batter and everything else is second-best.
    • Can you leave the potato pancakes batter and fry them the next day?
      Yes. Cover the freshly prepared batter tightly with plastic foil (the foil should touch the surface of the batter) and put them the fridge for up to 24h. The batter will be very watery on the next day so you need to drain it again very thoroughly and lightly season again with salt and pepper. The batter will also darken, but you won’t see it after frying the pancakes as they will be just golden from frying. These pancakes will be more oily in comparison to freshly prepared pancakes.
    • How to store cooked potato pancakes? Wrap them tightly in plastic foil or put in a tightly closed container, store in the fridge for up to 48 hours.
    • How to reheat cooked potato pancakes? You can either reheat them in an oven preheated to 375°F (190°C) until warm or put them on a dry or just lightly-oiled non-stick pan and cook until warm and crispy (the second option is better but more labor-intensive if you have more pancakes to reheat).
    • Freezing: The pancakes and the batter can not be frozen. This results in very mushy and tasteless pancakes.
  • How many potato pancakes per person? It depends on how do you serve them. I would serve about 2-3 pancakes as a side with a meat sauce (like pork goulash) or 4-5 pancakes as a side with vegetarian sauce (like mushroom sauce) or on the sweet side with sugar and applesauce.
  • Calories: 1/2 of the recipe = 4 1/2 pancakes, without the sour cream and the mushroom sauce that are shown on the photos. This is only an estimate!
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine austrian, German, polish
Keyword crispy potato pancakes, kartoffelpuffer, polish potato pancakes, potato pancakes

Did you make this recipe? Let me know how you liked it and give it a star rating in the comments below! You can also add a photo of your creation!

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