Caramelized onion latkes (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Caramelized onion latkes (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Caramelized onions and ‘bacon’ give these latkes oomph

Looking to change up your latkes this year? Try these. They are filled with the oomph of caramelized onion and, if you want, the smokiness of “bacon” — using turkey, beef or plant-based strips.

This recipe, as its title suggests, can be prepared two ways — with and without the meat/plant addition. Both are delicious, and with eight nights of Hanukkah starting Dec. 18, I hope you’ll have an opportunity to try both.

The onions and “bacon” can be made ahead and refrigerated for two days. Use at room temperature. Individually freeze cooked latkes on a baking sheet, then wrap and freeze for up to two weeks. Reheat frozen latkes on an ungreased baking sheet in a 400-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Caramelized Onion Latkes Two Ways

Serves 4 to 6

  • 8 oz. turkey, beef or plant-based “bacon” strips
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs. onions, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. plus ½ tsp. salt
  • 2½ lbs. russet potatoes
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup flour, plus as needed
  • Applesauce
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley or green onions

WAY ONE: Fry the meat or meat-substitute according to package instructions in a 12-inch skillet until crispy and brown. Set aside.

Wipe solid bits from skillet. Add 2 Tbs. oil. Heat on medium-high until a sliver of onion sizzles. Stir in thinly sliced onions, scraping up any browned-on grease and turning onions to coat in oil. Sauté, stirring occasionally and adding oil as needed, until they begin to soften (about 10 to 12 minutes). Stir in ½ tsp. salt. Lower heat to medium-low. Continue to stir occasionally, adding oil if needed, until deeply browned, very soft and very much reduced (about 40 to 50 minutes). Remove with slotted spoon onto paper towel–lined plate. Set aside ½ cup for garnish. Do not rinse skillet.

Scrub potatoes if not peeling. Grate potatoes and whole onions into a large mixing bowl using a hand grater or a food processor with the shredding blade. Mix with hands and press down, squeezing shreds. Discard accumulated liquid.

Finely chop garlic and parsley leaves together. Mix with grated shreds. Squeeze again, discarding liquid.

Coarsely chop caramelized onions (but leave garnish in slices). Add chopped onions to shredded potato and onion. Chop meat or plant strips into ¼- to ½-inch pieces, and add to shreds with pepper and 1 tsp. salt. Mix. Press again, discarding liquid.

Mix in eggs, then flour. Let sit 10 minutes. Mix again, then press and discard liquid.

Set a cooking or baking rack over a rimmed baking tray. Have ready a second bowl for excess liquid. Oil plate to hold shaped patties. Once latkes are made, wipe out skillet, removing solids. Place skillet over medium-high heat and add ¼ inch of oil.

To make latkes, take a small handful of batter. Squeeze well over second bowl to remove liquid. Compress into a patty 2½ to 3 inches in diameter and about ½ inch thick. Place on oiled plate. (If latkes are not holding together, stir 1 tsp. flour into shreds.) Repeat.

Oil is ready when a potato shred sizzles (350 degrees). Use spatula to gently slide 4 to 5 latkes into oil. Press spatula down on top of latkes. Cook 4 to 5 minutes until bottom is golden, edges are brown and center is firm. The spatula should go under the latke without any resistance. Carefully flip and fry about 2 to 3 more minutes until golden underneath. Drain latkes on rack. Repeat, adding oil and adjusting heat as needed. Return oil to a sizzle between batches.

Serve garnished with applesauce, reserved caramelized onions and chopped parsley or green onions.

WAY TWO: To make the recipe without meat or meat substitute, add 2 Tbs. oil to 12-inch skillet and cook sliced onions as directed. All directions remain the same except mixing in the meat or plant product. For this version, sour cream makes a great garnish.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].