Latkes have a long and storied history dating back to the Ashkenazi Jews who prepared these diminutive potato pancakes for Hanukkah since the mid-19th century. They were inspired by an ancient recipe that had been used since the Middle Ages. The word latke is derived from the word “oladya” which translates as a small pancake.
Even though the most well-known latke recipe includes a combination of grated potatoes, eggs, flour, and sometimes finely chopped garlic and onions, there are countless variations to this beloved dish. These include legumes, grated vegetables such as zucchini and carrots, and various grated or powdered cheese varieties.
What really makes a latke sing are the toppings. Traditional ways to top a latke include spooning applesauce on top or dolloping it with sour cream, but there are endless ways to get creative when it comes to topping your latke. Include a few of these ideas at your next latke gathering. Your latke-loving guests will thank you for it.
Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese
Smoked salmon was made for latkes. Spread room temperature cream cheese over the entire side of the latke and top with slices of smoked salmon. Sprinkle capers and finely chopped chives over it and serve with a lemon wedge.
Mango Chutney and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Mango chutney is an upgrade from the applesauce that is traditionally used as a latke topping. It adds a spicy note to the neutral flavor of the latke that is countered by the sweetness of the mangoes. Toast pumpkin seeds until they are slightly golden brown and aromatic and sprinkle on top of the chutney. Serve alongside a bowl of plain Greek yogurt for a tangy finish.
Freshly Whipped Cream and Berries
There’s really nothing better than this simple but always welcome combination of silky cream that has been freshly whipped into gentle peaks and spooned atop a latke. Spread the cream generously over every inch of the latke and top with your favorite spring or summer berries. For extra sweetness, sprinkle the berries with sugar the night before and refrigerate until the next morning. Sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon on top and breakfast is served.
Nutella, Bananas, and Chopped Hazelnuts
This flavor combination is all the rage in Paris where it is wrapped up into a warm crepe. It works just as well with latkes. Saute sliced bananas over medium heat in a nob of butter for a few minutes to soften them up. Spread nutella over the surface of the latke, arrange the bananas on top, and sprinkle with toasted, coarsely chopped hazelnuts.
Hummus, Black Olive Tapenade, and Sundried Tomatoes
Invite the Mediterranean to your next latke gathering. Spread hummus over your latke and then a thin layer of black olive tapenade. Spoon a few sundried tomatoes on top and drizzle the entire latke with their infused olive oil. Sprinkle the tomatoes with thinly sliced basil and crumbled feta for a bright finish.
Porcini Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Onions
Infuse your latkes with the flavors of France with this topping combination that brings an earthiness to your latke party. Saute thinly sliced onions or shallots in butter over medium heat until their natural sugars are coaxed out and they are tender and caramelized. Add thinly sliced porcini mushrooms about halfway through. Once everything is soft and aromatic, sprinkle with fresh thyme or finely chopped tarragon. Spoon over your latke before topping it with crumbled goat cheese.
Peaches and Ice Cream
This is a latke dessert that will be requested time and time again. Over medium heat, saute sliced peaches in butter until they are just tender. Turn the heat down to low and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon and saute for one minute more. Spoon the peaches over your latke and top with a scoop of softened vanilla ice cream.
Cheese Curds and Gravy
Take a cue from Canada on a cold winter’s day by topping your latke with the classic poutine combination of warm gravy and cheese curds. This is a nice way to use up the gravy from a holiday party and is the perfect foil to a cold afternoon. First top the latke with cheese curds and then drizzle the gravy on top. Sprinkle with finely chopped rosemary for a gourmet finish.
Header image courtesy of Johnny Miller.