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Latke Cookies Are a Hanukkah Miracle

Food52 logo Food52 11/30/2021 Emma Laperruque
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Though latkes are inseparable from all the Hanukkahs of my life, the word itself is barely older than my grandmother. "Latke" nudged its way into the English language in 1927, thousands of years after the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem.

“There’s nothing traditional about the contemporary American latke,” Yoni Appelbaum writes in The Atlantic. “Virtually every element of it is a lie.”

What is now a potato pancake fried in oil was once a buckwheat pancake fried in schmaltz. And what was once buckwheat pancake fried in schmaltz was once a cheese pancake fried in butter.

“The first Hanukkah latkes, which were made with ricotta cheese, date back to 13th-century Italy,” according to Leah Koenig. The word "latke," she explains, does not hinge on potatoes. “Instead, it’s derived from 'elaion,' the Greek word for olive oil, and is connected to the Hanukkah tradition of indulging in fried foods.”

Add all this up and I can’t help but disagree with the “nothing traditional” part. Because sure, modern American latkes are not the same as 13th-century Italian latkes. But I inherited them from my mom, who inherited them from her mom, who inherited them from her mom. If that isn’t tradition, what is?

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There is, however, nothing traditional about latke cookies. Absolutely, utterly nothing. They are an optical illusion, the answer to the question that no one needed answered but here I am to answer anyway: What if latkes were cookies?

Video: 3rd Hour of TODAY celebrates Hanukkah with latkes (TODAY)


While the potato pancakes I grew up on are so savory, applesauce alongside is a sweet respite, latke cookies take an illegal U-turn. Like the original, they are mostly potatoes. But the rest of the ingredient list is inspired by another Jewish favorite born of Italian tradition, the coconut macaroon.

“An Italian cookie made of almonds, sugar, and egg whites...won the hearts of Jews way back in the day because they could be eaten on Passover,” Molly Yeh writes for 100 Most Jewish Foods. “After migrating to France in the 16th century, this cookie was eventually sandwichified and fancied up into the Parisian macaron that we know today. Elsewhere, including in the States, coconut was subbed in for nuts to make a sturdier, more shelf-stable cookie.”

These cookies use neither Russets nor coconut. Instead? Crunchy potato chips—a whole bag of them, crushed by hand, then bound back together with condensed milk that caramelizes in the oven. As with classic latkes, eggs act as the mediator. But don’t worry, there’s no onion.

The result is crispy-edged, custardy-centered, deeply potato-y. Thanks to chips being fried to begin with, plus melted butter for good measure, the cookies evoke a similar thrill to state-fair funnel cake. Yet instead of a deep fryer, or even a deep skillet, all you need is a mixing bowl and sheet pan.

When I was texting my family about all of this, my brother couldn’t wait for the recipe to publish before making a batch and sending me a photo and exclamation point. Maybe these'll become a tradition along with latkes after all.

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Latke Cookies

By Emma Laperruque

  • 3/4 cup (234 grams) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted or salted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 (241-gram/8½-oz) bag Ruffles potato chips

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