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My Polish great grandmother’s potato pancakes are a family favorite comfort food! Serve the fried pancakes with sour cream or applesauce for a light dinner, or offer them as an easy side dish alongside your favorite entrée. It’s a simple, old-fashioned recipe that stands the test of time!

Overhead shot of a plate of great grandmother's best potato pancakes recipe

How to Make Potato Pancakes | 1-Minute Video

Potato Pancake Recipe

Most European cultures have their own version of potato pancakes that have been enjoyed for generations. Whether you’re German, Irish, Polish, or Russian, it’s very likely that these shallow-fried pancakes of grated potato, flour or matzo meal, and a binder such as egg or applesauce are a part of your family’s heritage.

Polish Potato Pancakes

This particular version comes from my Polish great grandmother. My grandmother was the first to actually write down the potato pancake recipe, which she prepared for our family every time she came to visit. I recently found my mom’s handwritten recipe on a 30-year-old piece of paper…and I knew that I needed to share it here! Literally translated in Polish as placki ziemniaczane, these pancakes were a food staple in 17th-century monasteries…and quickly became a part of peasants’ diets by the 18th and 19th centuries.

Potato Pancakes Around the World

Potato pancakes are the national dish of Belarus and Slovakia. In Germany, potato pancakes are a very common menu item at outdoor markets and festivals. You might recognize potato pancakes from these other cultures as well:

  • Switzerland: called rösti, this variation never contains egg or flour.
  • Germany: German potato pancakes are called kartoffelpuffer. They’re very similar to this Polish recipe, and commonly enjoyed at home or as a popular street food at Volksfests and holiday events like Fasching, Karneval and Christmas markets.
  • United Kingdom: the British potato cake consists of flour, eggs, shredded potatoes and onions. Some people add tomato or cheese to the mix as well.
  • Ireland: called boxti, these pancakes are similar to those served in Britain, with more starch and often with buttermilk and baking soda.
  • Korea: called gamja-jeon, the Korean potato pancake is made by pan-frying grated potato and potato starch in oil. The potato mixture is sometimes mixed with onion, chili, and perilla leaf, and is often seasoned with salt and served with soy sauce. 
  • United States: hash browns are similar to these traditional potato pancakes, and are a classic breakfast food in this country.
Shredded potatoes in a colander

What is the difference between potato pancakes and latkes?

Latkes are potato pancakes that Ashkenazi Jews have prepared as part of Hanukkah celebrations since the mid-1800s, based on an older dish that dates back to at least the Middle Ages. They’re not always made with potatoes, and instead might be made with vegetables, cheeses or legumes. Latkes are typically a bit thicker than potato pancakes, too.

Are potato pancakes the same as hash browns?

While similar, potato pancakes and hash browns are not exactly the same. Potato pancakes are typically held together with egg and flour, while hash browns are usually just shredded potatoes mixed with seasoning and sometimes onion.

Process shot for potato pancake recipe

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the simple ingredients that you’ll need for my great grandmother’s potato pancakes. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Russet potatoes: peeled and then grated. My grandmother always insisted on grating the potatoes by hand (no matter how many pancakes she was making!), but the food processor is a great shortcut.
  • Onion: adds subtle savory flavor.
  • Egg: gives the pancakes structure and slight lift.
  • All-purpose flour: a binder that helps hold the mixture together.
  • Salt and pepper: to enhance the other flavors in the pancakes.
  • Baking powder: a leavening agent that gives the pancakes a little bit lighter texture.
  • Oil and butter: for frying. The butter adds flavor to the pancakes while the oil has a higher smoke point.
Process shot showing how to make potato pancakes

How to Make Potato Pancakes from Scratch

The simple, rustic pancakes come together quickly with just a few affordable staples.

  1. Use a box grater or food processor to coarsely grate the onion and potatoes, then squeeze dry.
  2. In a large bowl, use your hands to gently combine the grated potatoes and onion with the egg, flour, salt, pepper, and baking powder.
  3. Scoop about ¼-cup of the potato mixture into a hot skillet that’s coated with butter and oil. Fry each pancake for 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. You’ll need to work in batches so that you don’t over-crowd the pan.
Tray of potato pancakes on a table

Why are my potato pancakes soggy?

If you find that your potato pancakes are soggy rather than crispy, it’s likely because your skillet and oil are not hot enough. The oil and pancakes should sizzle when they hit the pan. Also, do not overcrowd the pan by trying to cook too many pancakes at once. Work in batches. If you put too many pancakes in the skillet at the same time, it brings down the temperature of the oil and the pancakes tend to steam rather than fry.

Finally, remove as much moisture as possible from the potatoes and onions before frying. The extra step of straining off the liquid creates crispy potato pancakes!

Close up side shot of crispy potato pancakes recipe on a white plate

How to Serve Potato Pancakes

You can serve the warm potato pancakes as a main entrée for dinner, along with any of these light toppings and sides:

The pancakes are also a great side dish that goes well with just about any meat. Here are a few dishes to eat with your potato pancakes:

Pouring maple syrup on a stack of crispy potato pancakes

Preparation and Storage Tips

  • Prep ahead! To prepare the pancake mixture in advance, grate the potatoes and onion ahead of time and store in an airtight container or Ziploc bag in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Don’t worry if they discolor a bit — you’ll have crispy, golden brown potatoes at the end!
  • You can cook the potato pancakes in advance, drain them on paper towels, and then wrap tightly and store in a single layer in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Be aware that leftover, reheated potato pancakes can be a bit heavier than fresh-from-the-skillet pancakes, so cooking at the last minute is always my preference. That said, it’s not necessarily convenient, and that’s when reheating comes in handy!
  • Cooked potato pancakes will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. To freeze, cool the pancakes completely, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and cover with plastic wrap. Once frozen, transfer the pancakes to a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag or other airtight container.
Plate of great grandmother's potato pancakes recipe on a white plate

How to Reheat Potato Pancakes

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place pancakes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake the pancakes in the oven just until heated through (about 7-10 minutes for refrigerated pancakes or 15-20 minutes for frozen pancakes).

Nutrition

Made with just a few simple ingredients and lightly pan-fried in a small amount of oil and butter, this potato pancakes recipe can be a nutritious addition to just about any diet. Nutrition facts will vary depending on the ingredients that you use (this is just an estimate). Each 2-pancake serving includes about 175 calories, 1 gram of fat, 5 grams of protein and 39 grams of carbohydrates. This does not include the oil or butter that is absorbed in each pancake as it cooks. This particular potato pancakes recipe is not vegan, gluten-free, Keto-friendly or low-carb.

Stack of potato pancakes on a plate

Recipe Variations

  • Adjust the salt to suit your taste. I use 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, which is specified in my great grandmother’s recipe. Some folks find that too salty, so you may like to reduce the amount.
  • Add extra seasoning, such as garlic powder or paprika. If you like the pancakes spicy, try a dash of cayenne.
  • Scale the recipe up or down to suit the size of your family. For instance, cut the ingredients in half for fewer pancakes, or double or triple the recipe to feed a larger group.
Side shot of potato pancakes on a serving tray

Tips for the Best Potato Pancake Recipe

  • You want the potatoes and onions coarsely grated. My grandmother always used the largest holes on a box grater, so that’s what I do! You can also use a food processor to make the job quicker and easier, if you prefer.
  • Russet potatoes work best in this recipe because they have a high starch content, which helps to bind the pancakes together. I do not recommend substituting with red or yellow potatoes.
  • Remove the moisture from the potatoes and onions by draining for a few minutes in a colander after grating. Then, just before combining with the rest of the ingredients, squeeze out any excess moisture with a dish towel. The dryer the potato mixture, the crispier the pancakes!
  • Make sure that your pan is hot enough so that the potatoes sizzle in the skillet. Use a combination of butter (for flavor) and an oil that has a high smoke point (such as vegetable oil or canola oil).
Hands serving a plate of the best potato pancakes recipe

More Easy Potato Recipes to Try

Overhead shot of a plate of great grandmother's best potato pancakes recipe

Great Grandmother’s Potato Pancakes Recipe

4.95 from 20 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings 6 – 8 people (about 14 pancakes total)
Calories 175 kcal
My Polish Great Grandmother's Potato Pancakes recipe is a family favorite comfort food!

Ingredients
  

  • 4 large russet potatoes (about 3 lbs.), peeled
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt, to taste (I use 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per my grandmother's recipe, but some folks find that too salty, so adjust according to your taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • Butter and vegetable oil, for frying
  • Optional, for serving: warm applesauce, maple syrup, or sour cream

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 200°F. Place 2 nonstick baking sheets in oven.
  • Using box grater or food processor fitted with grating disc, coarsely grate onion. Transfer the grated onion to a colander and set the colander in a sink to drain.
  • Next, use the grater or food processor to coarsely grate the potatoes. Add the potatoes to the colander with the onion, and leave in the sink to drain for a few minutes.
  • In large bowl, whisk together egg, flour, salt, pepper and baking powder.
  • Using a dish towel, gently squeeze excess liquid from the potatoes and onion. Add potato mixture to the bowl with the egg.
  • Use your hands to gently combine the ingredients.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Scoop about ¼ cup of the potato mixture at a time, and place in the skillet. Use a spatula to gently flatten the potato mixture into a pancake. Repeat with remaining potatoes.
  • Fry the potato pancakes until golden brown on each side (about 3-4 minutes per side). Then use a spatula to remove the pancakes from the skillet and drain on paper towels. Once drained, place the pancakes on the warm baking sheets in the oven to keep them warm while you finish frying the rest of the pancakes in batches.
  • Use paper towels to carefully wipe out the skillet in between each batch of pancakes, adding 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet with each new batch. Continue frying 3-4 pancakes at a time until you have used all of the potato mixture.
  • Serve the pancakes warm with applesauce, maple syrup or sour cream.

Video

Notes

  • You want the potatoes and onions coarsely grated, so I like to use the largest holes on a box grater (just like my grandmother used to do). You can also use a food processor to make the job quicker and easier, but my grandmother insisted that the hand-grating yielded a better texture.
  • Russet potatoes work best in this recipe because they have a high starch content, which helps to bind the pancakes together. I do not recommend substituting with red or yellow potatoes.
  • Remove the moisture from the potatoes and onions by draining for a few minutes in a colander after grating. Then, just before combining with the rest of the ingredients, squeeze out any excess moisture with a dish towel. The dryer the potato mixture, the crispier the pancakes!
  • Make sure that your pan is hot enough so that the pancakes sizzle when they are dropped into the skillet. I like to use a combination of butter (for flavor) with an oil that has a high smoke point (such as vegetable oil).
  • Made with just a few simple ingredients and lightly pan-fried in a small amount of oil and butter, this potato pancakes recipe can be a nutritious addition to just about any diet. Nutrition facts will vary depending on the ingredients that you use, but each 2-pancake serving includes about 175 calories, 1 gram of fat, 5 grams of protein and 39 grams of carbohydrates. This does not include the oil or butter that is absorbed in each pancake as it cooks, which can be hard to estimate. This particular potato pancakes recipe is not vegan, gluten-free, Keto-friendly or low-carb.
  • Prep ahead! To prepare the pancake mixture in advance, grate the potatoes and onion ahead of time and store in an airtight container or Ziploc bag in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Don’t worry if they discolor a bit — they will look normal once they’re cooked!
  • You can cook the potato pancakes in advance, drain them on paper towels, and then wrap tightly and store in a single layer in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Be aware that leftover, reheated potato pancakes can be a bit heavier than fresh-from-the-skillet pancakes, so cooking at the last minute is always my preference. That said, it’s not necessarily convenient, and that’s when reheating comes in handy!
  • Cooked potato pancakes will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. To freeze, cool the pancakes completely, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and cover with plastic wrap. Once frozen, the pancakes may be transferred to a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag.
  • To reheat potato pancakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place pancakes in a single layer on a baking sheet that has been lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray (for easy cleanup). Bake the pancakes in the oven just until heated through (about 7-10 minutes for refrigerated pancakes or 15-20 minutes for frozen pancakes).

Nutrition

Serving: 2pancakesCalories: 175kcalCarbohydrates: 38.7gProtein: 5.4gFat: 0.7gSaturated Fat: 0.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 26.6mgSodium: 1024.7mgPotassium: 854.4mgFiber: 3.1gSugar: 2g
Keyword: Polish potato pancakes, potato pancakes recipe, Potato Sides
Course: Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: European
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in February, 2020. The photos were updated in February, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious! This is a keeper recipe! Made exactly as directed. It was, however, a lot for a family of four. And it took forever to grate 3lbs of potatoes and an onion. Next time, I’ll halve the recipe since I didn’t need or want any leftovers. This recipe made about 8-10 pancakes that were approx 4-in wide.

  2. 5 stars
    I made these for an impromptu Octoberfest meal for my family and they were a hit. My mom recently had a stroke and couldn’t tell me how to make her potato pancakes but these were just as good. I’m definitely keeping this recipe in my file of favorites. Thank you so much for sharing your family recipe.

    1. Thank you, Donna! I’m so glad that you enjoyed them. It’s nice to have nostalgic recipes to turn to when the craving strikes, so I’m glad that these lived up to your mom’s version!

  3. This is exactly what I am looking for and sounds like how my mom would make these. Will definitely try. Glad I found this recipe and thank you

      1. 5 stars
        I made this recipe yesterday morning and it is perfect, just what I wanted in a potato pancake. I just cut the recipe in half as Only needed for two people, yummy and thanks again