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Less-Oil Latkes

latkes made with less oil

Delicate. Crisp outside. Meltingly soft inside. Very, very satisfying. My friends, I do believe I have solved the Great Hanukkah Dilemma, one faced by healthy eaters everywhere: I made fantastic latkes that pay homage to the Hanukkah story—they get a brief sizzle in oil—without becoming heavy bombs of fat. (Not that there’s anything wrong with the fully-fried kind; lord knows I love them. But, y’know, Weight Watchers…)

Last night’s experiment started with my go-to latke recipe, from Faye Levy’s International Jewish Cookbook. But instead of frying those pups in half a cup—and usually more—of oil, I used just three tablespoons, at least one tablespoon of which drained off during the latkes’ idyll in a hot oven. The result looked like a distant cousin of the originals, which you see below—these new ones are darker around the edges and paler in the center, lacier.

Texturally they’re different, too—lighter-than-air and yet lush in the center. And you Weight Watchers readers will appreciate this: they’re only one PointsPlus each!

Harry, who was practically exploding with glee last night—he got to light his fire truck menorah AND the one he made in Hebrew school! And he got an awesome gift! And there were latkes!—nearly blew a giant hole in my Hanukkah fun. Dude’s got issues with crunch. He’s fine with chips, cookies, and the like, but when it comes to hot food he’s a bit of a freak. Fish sticks can’t be too crisp. Won’t go near the crunchy top of my macaroni and cheese (or, usually, the underneath, but that’s another story). Doesn’t even like toast, people. So I was nervous about this—though he was doing an anticipatory happy dance, once he sat down at the table he made a face, announced he didn’t like “that black stuff” (aka the best part: the crunchy bits) and tried to go right back to playing with his new toy. But we compared latkes to French fries (which, although crunchy, are acceptable. Go figure), and had a little Hanukkah miracle of our own. Harry ate latkes. More than one. At the end of dinner there was a small pile of extra-crunchy debris he’d left behind, but hey, I was more than willing to help him out with them. That’s what moms are for.

Less-Oil Latkes
Adapted from Faye Levy’s International Jewish Cookbook
Makes about 15 pancakes
Weight Watchers: these are 1 PointsPlus each; 3 of them are 4 points

4 large potatoes (about 1 1/4 lbs), peeled
1 medium onion (about 1/2 lb)
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying [the recipe calls for about ½ cup, but I find that it always takes much more—I suspect because my frying technique ain’t what it should be since I do it so rarely]
Applesauce or sour cream for serving

  1. Shred the potatoes and onion, using the shredder disc of a food processor or the large holes of a grater, and transfer to a large bowl of ice water. Let them soak for 30 minutes. [If you’re pressed for time, you can skip the soak and just go right to the next step.] Preheat the oven to 475°F.
  2. Drain the mixture in a colander; squeeze to press out as much liquid as possible, then transfer to a clean kitchen towel, roll it up, and squeeze with all your might. You want this to be as dry as possible so the potatoes will crisp up as soon as they hit the hot oil. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the egg whites, salt, flour, and baking powder.
  3. Pull out a pair of rimmed baking sheets and lay a cooling rack inside each. Set them near the stove. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a cast-iron or nonstick skillet, and when it’s nearly smoking use two soup spoons to drop in about 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture at a time. Flatten lightly with the back of a spatula, and cook just until it’s firm enough to flip, around 2 minutes. Cook on the other side for 2 minutes more, then transfer to one of the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining potato mixture—drizzle a bit of oil into the pan if it looks too dry; you shouldn’t need more than an additional tablespoon.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through, and serve with applesauce or sour cream.

Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Looking to make a lot of Less-Oil Latkes? Like, a LOT? Check this out.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Karen Koenig

    Debbie – these sound awesome!! I kept meaning to check out the recipe and now I am going to have to make them! Crunch is the best part 🙂 And I am glad Harry decided to have some!

  2. Laura


    I made these last night. Hands down, the BEST latkes I have EVER made. I’m not Jewish, so I didn’t grow up eating latkes, and I had to learn to make them on my own. For years, I’ve had such trouble getting the mix right — too wet, too greasy, etc. These were perfect. I definitely suggest taking the time to soak the potatoes and onions.

    Thanks so much!


    1. Debbie Koenig

      Woo hoo! Thanks for reporting back Laura. So glad you liked them!

  3. Brette Sember

    We make them every Christmas Eve (we’re not Jewish but it’s become one of our traditions). I’m going to try this out this year. I usually try really hard not to use a lot of oil, but like you, usually end up adding more than I want to.

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Good luck, Brette! I made a quadruple-batch for a party this weekend & they came out great. Used about 1/2 cup oil, total, for almost 10 pounds of potatoes.

  4. Alison

    Hi Debbie, I usually try to sneak in some grated zucchini. Do you think I could do that with this recipe?

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Hi Alison! I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. You might want to salt the shredded zucchini & let it sit in a colander while the potatoes soak, to draw out some of the moisture–then squeeze it well when you do the potatoes & onions. If you do try it, please report back! Good luck, and Happy Hanukkah!

      1. Alison Gross

        These were delicious with grated zucchini mixed in (and the green vegetable hater didn’t even notice)! I’m going to make these latkes every time. Yum!

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