Root Veggie Latkes


Another Autumn treat from 2011 that needs rediscovering…


Pancakes aren’t just for potatoes anymore.  I love potatoes, but there is something endearing about supporting the Underdog.  The humble rutabaga, or ‘Swede’ as the Brits call it, can look huge and weird in the produce section, often ignored like an ugly duckling.

Rediscover those Roots, that’s what I say!  Taste the Tubers..



“…Prior to the introduction of the potato to the Old World, latkes were, and in some places still are, made from a variety of other vegetables, cheeses, legumes, or starches, depending on the available local ingredients” (wikipedia)  Great—next I will do a Black-eyed Pea and Sweet Potato Latke topped with Peach Chutney and Greek Yogurt.  I give myself full permission to stretch definitions, break boundaries.  I give you permission too.



The not-so-ugly duckling

These little cakes can be made with eggs, or with sticky rice to hold it together if you’re looking for a vegan option.  Eggs make it easier but it can be handy to learn a new trick.  Amaze your vegan friends.  Inspire your college-age offspring who has transformed into a vegan while away at school, and now is coming home for Thanksgiving wanting you to cook for them and three vegan friends they are bringing along!



Tip #1  Soak the rutabaga and sweet potatoes in salt water to remove the starches, then drain in a towel and squeeze to remove moisture.  It isn’t necessary to soak the vegetables in salt water but I think they behave better and crisp nicely in the pan.  If you are crunched for time, don’t worry about it.


Tip #2  Finely grated vegetables will stick together better than coarsely grated ones.  You can also pulse chop them in a food processor.  The finer the chop the more dense and smooth the texture.  For these I used a coarse hand grater which gave it a textured layered look—they held together fairly well once they were cooked.




Years ago I served 90 people Potato Yam Pancakes at an off-site dinner.  With so many last minute tasks, I needed to prep the cakes ahead of time so I grated the potatoes and the yams, blanched them, then drained and refrigerated them overnight covered with plastic so minimal oxygen could get in.  (Hmm, I wonder if this will work…)  The next day I mixed up the rest of the ingredients and fried them, and the little cakes help up beautifully.  Whew!  There is no certainty when experimenting.


Why am I telling you this?  Because you can cook the vegetables if you want to.  It will be different, but it will be good.  The stickiness of cooked tubers will help hold things together—another handy tip if you are not using eggs.  Perhaps they will be more like a croquette than a latke but they will be tasty.  Leftover cooked root veggies in your fridge?  Toss with eggs and seasonings and fry them.  Yum.


photo by David Cavagnaro 

So which is it, a yam or a sweet potato?  

What we often call yams are actually sweet potatoes (of the morning glory family) with a deep orange color.  True yams are related to lilies and are from a completely different botanical family.  In the U.S. you might only find true yams in African or Central American food stores.  I just like the word “yam”, so I use it.


This recipe is a melding of many minds.  The sweet potato-leek idea came from a 2002 Bon Appétit magazine (thanks Coleen!), the rutabaga is from my interest in a non-nightshade cake, and the sticky rice option from my friend Britney who made it without eggs.


Have fun!



Root Veggie Latkes

Prep Time: 20-30 minutes    

Cook Time: 20-30 minutes


Peel and grate:

2 cups Sweet Potato (a.k.a. yam—Garnets or Jewels have a nice deep-orange color)

1 1/2 cups Rutabaga, or combination of other root veggies like Parsnips or Turnips

Soak the grated roots in a bowl of salt water for 15 minutes.

Drain in a strainer, then use your hands or wrap in a towel and squeeze out the moisture.

Small dice or chop in food processor:

1 1/2 cups Leeks, or minced Green Onions of you cannot find Leeks

Combine all vegetables in a bowl with:

1/3 cup Rice Flour

1 1/2 Tablespoons Cornstarch or Arrowroot

1/2 tsp Sea Salt

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/4 tsp Pepper

3 eggs, whisked

OR VEGAN VERSION use instead of eggs:

1 1/2 cups sticky Arborio rice, or leftover rice pulse-chopped in a food processor with 2-4 Tbsp water

Mix well and let sit 15 minutes.  It may not hold together perfectly but it will when fried.


Heat Canola or Coconut Oil in a skillet, medium heat—hot enough to sear the cakes, but not so hot that they  burn quickly. 

Shape into 2 inch patties and place in the hot oil.  Fry long enough that a crispy crust forms on the bottom, 2-3 minutes.   Carefully flip and fry the other side.  The vegan ones will need gentle handling. 

Add a little more oil before frying each batch. 

Keep latkes warm in a low-temp oven until ready to serve.  



Serving suggestions:

-Greek Yogurt or Drained Yogurt and Pear Apple Chutney

-Sour Cream and Apple Butter or Applesauce

-Horseradish Dijon Mayonnaise and diced Apples

-Cranberry Sauce and Feta

-Lox or Smoked Salmon

-Cooked Pears sprinkled with Smoked Paprika or Ground Chipotle




1 thought on “Root Veggie Latkes”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *