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Helen Wallerstein’s Potato Latkes

November 16, 2023
Helen Wallerstein’s Potato Latkes

Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Image

From Food, Hope & Resilience: Authentic Stories and Remarkable Recipes from Holocaust Survivors, by June Hersh. Copyright © 2023 by June Hersh. Reprinted by permission of The History Press, an imprint of Arcadia Publishing.

With Helen’s recipe you achieve latke nirvana: a potato pancake that is light and crispy. Helen grates her potatoes on the finer side, but you can shred them if you prefer more texture. Make sure you have plenty of sour cream, applesauce or simply sugar on hand to dunk, cozy up to or sprinkle on top.

Latkes play nicely with a variety of vegetables. Grate or shred 2 carrots or 1 large zucchini into the latke mixture for a unique taste.


  • 5medium russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1medium onion, grated (use a large one if you like a strong onion flavor)
  • 4eggs, beaten
  • ½cup matzo meal
  • 1-2teaspoons salt
  • ¼-½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½cup vegetable oil for frying
Yield: 24 latkes


  • Step 1

    In a food processor using the metal blade, or using a box grater, finely grate the potatoes. Place them in a colander and squeeze out all the liquid. Grate the onion, using the food processor pulse feature to capture any small chunks. Stir the onions, eggs, matzo meal, salt and pepper into the potato mixture.

  • Step 2

    Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until very hot (a drop of water should dance in the pan). To test the seasonings before frying the entire batch (you wouldn’t want to taste the raw potato and egg mixture), drop one tablespoon of the mixture into the hot oil, fry for several minutes on each side and drain on a paper towel. Taste the latke and add more salt or pepper if needed. Now you are ready to make the rest.

  • Step 3

    Drop a generous tablespoon of latke batter into the skillet and flatten the pancake with the back of a spatula. Turn the latkes over when the underside is nicely brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Fry until golden on both sides. Drain on waiting paper towels.

  • Step 4

    Repeat this process, adding more oil to the pan and a touch more matzo meal to the mixture if needed to absorb the excess liquid that will collect in the bowl. Serve hot.