Cilantro-Jalapeno Latkes

The traditional Jewish favorite gets a makeover with the lively flavors of lime, jalapeño, and cilantro. Seeded jalapeños make for mild latkes, but the chipotle sour cream still has some kick. If you want fire in both, leave the seeds in and garnish with additional jalapeño slices. Always use starchy potatoes, such as baking potatoes, for latkes; they’ll hold together best.–The Editors of Cooking Light

LC Sauce Optional Note

We’ve got nothing against the dipping sauce that accompanies these latkes. Nope. In fact, we quite like it. But honestly? These latkes don’t need it. They taste quite complete all on their own. Or, truth be told, alongside some guacamole or tomatillo salsa, for reasons articulated quite well in the comments below by recipe tester Melissa Maedgen. So we consider the sauce optional for this recipe, though essential in other instances, like with chicken wings and potato chips and all manner of fried things. But do whatever feels right.

Cilantro-Jalapeño Latkes

A stack of four cilantro-jalapeño latkes on a plate, with sliced jalapeño on top and sour cream on the side.
The Editors of Cooking Light

Prep 30 mins
Cook 40 mins
Total 1 hr 10 mins
6 servings
5 / 5 votes
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For the chipotle sour cream (optional)

  • 6 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce or less to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon grated lime zest preferably organic
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • Salt to taste

For the latkes

  • 6 cups peeled and shredded russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 cup (1 medium) grated onion
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons seeded and finely chopped jalapeño pepper
  • 1/4 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil


Make the chipotle sour cream (optional)

  • Combine the sour cream, chipotle, lime zest and juice, and salt in a small bowl and stir well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the latkes

  • Combine the potato and onion in a colander, place it in the sink, and, if time permits, let drain for 30 minutes, occasionally pressing down on the mixture with the back of a spoon. Squeeze the potato and onion mixture to remove any excess moisture and then pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Dump the dry potato and onion mixture into a large bowl, add the flour, and toss to combine. Add the cilantro, jalapeño, cumin (if using), salt, and egg and mix well.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil and swirl to coat. Spoon a heaping 1/4 cup potato mixture loosely into a dry measuring cup. Plop the mixture into the skillet and flatten it slightly with the back of a spatula. Repeat to form 6 latkes (or however many will fit comfortably in the skillet). Fry the latkes, flipping once, until golden brown, 3 1/2 to 7 minutes per side, depending on how brown and crisp you like the outside of your latkes. Remove the latkes from the skillet. Repeat with the remaining oil and potato mixture. Sprinkle with salt to taste and serve warm with the chipotle sour cream, if using.
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Classic Potato Latkes Variation

Omit the chipotle sour cream as well as the cilantro, jalapeño, and cumin. Increase the grated onion to 1 1/4 cups and add 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme with the flour. Serve with unsweetened applesauce combined with a dash ground cinnamon.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

How fun! I love when a recipe shakes up a food with a long, long history. I enjoyed the finished pancakes immensely and, true to style, I had the leftovers the next day with a poached egg (holla!). They were a little spicy but not intimidating. A few testing notes: 1 cup grated onion came from a medium to large onion, but don’t be bashful if you want more. I added the cumin, but even at 1 teaspoon it got lost—yes, really. As some frequent latke-makers will note, 3 ½ minutes per side is not enough to get the exterior good and crisp and the center soft and cooked as it should be. My timing was more like 7 minutes per side. Use a big pan so you can keep the batches to a minimum. And I found that 1/4 cup batter makes a nice-size pancake. Two of these babies per serving is swell. Enjoy!!

Please don’t shy anyway from these if you’re cilantro-averse like I am. Instead of the cilantro, I threw in 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, and all was right in the world. To make these latkes, I mixed together everything BUT the potatoes and flour and then folded in them in. I avoided clumpy flour that way. Apparently, I didn’t spoon enough of the mixture into my 1/4-cup measure because I got 16 latkes. My first few were a little on the skimpy side, so a heaping measure is probably the way to go. Keep an eye on the heat; by the time I was done cooking, I dropped the heat to medium. Cooking time stayed the same.

You’re going to look for reasons to make more of the chipotle sour cream. It’s delicious! I actually doubled the recipe because I didn’t think 6 tablespoons would be enough. It could use a bit less lime in my opinion and a pinch of salt. Be sure to stir it well before serving, especially if you’re holding it for awhile. Lite sour cream works just fine, if you’re so inclined.

The latkes, on their own, were quite good. The cooking time specified was just right. Could the cumin be optional? Absolutely. It really isn’t doing anything for these latkes. If I were to make these again, I would leave it out, and I would also double the salt, as the final product was a bit underseasoned.

As for the chipotle sour cream, you need to keep in mind that the longer you let this sit before serving, the more the chipotle flavor will come to the foreground. Which might seem like a good thing, but in this case, maybe not. I found that the sour cream did need some salt added—1/4 teaspoon makes a big improvement. The lime zest is pretty much overwhelmed by the chipotle and was undetectable.

As I was making, and later eating, these latkes, something seemed wrong to me. I had a hard time putting my finger on it at first. This morning I had the leftovers for breakfast, and ate some with the chipotle sour cream, and then had the idea of eating the rest with some leftover tomatillo and avocado salsa I had in the fridge. That’s when it all came clear to me. The latkes were so much better with the salsa! Latkes are not a part of my culinary heritage, although having had a German paternal grandmother, I am not a complete stranger to the potato pancake. But the ingredients that this author used to “spice up” his latkes are ones that I grew up eating, and by extension, cooking with. The “kitchen sink” approach that this author took to Mexicanizing his latkes doesn’t work for me. It might be that many people would think of ingredients such as fresh jalapeño, cilantro, cumin, and chipotle as all being Mexican, and thus they must all go well together. But to me, there is a right way and a wrong way to combine them. I would not usually, for example, combine chipotles with fresh jalapeños, whereas I might combine them with other dried chiles. Similarly, I am unlikely to put cumin into a dish with fresh chiles and cilantro. For me, this is an intuitive thing. I have never felt a need to put it into words until now, but there are unwritten rules in my head. The reason the latkes tasted so much better with my green salsa is that the ingredients (fresh chiles, tomatillos, avocado, cilantro) are an appropriate match for those in the latkes. I think these latkes would also be great with a simple guacamole, or with a sour cream that features lime and cilantro. But the chipotle just doesn’t go here. It’s a strong flavor. One that I love, but it’s a bully, and it really just killed all the nice fresh ingredients in the latke.

Originally published December 02, 2013


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  1. 5 stars
    I make a similar Japanese dish called okonamiyaki and top it with shrimp, avocado and a some homemade korean bbq sauce. Cannot wait to try it out with the jalapeño and cilantro.

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve made potato pancakes almost my whole life, but the regular kind, can’t wait to try these out. One thing I do differently is grate the potatoes into a pot of cold water, then rinse a couple times til water runs clear. This keeps the grated potatoes from turning reddish brown. Clean like that, they can sit on the counter for an hour no problem. Then, roll it all up in a dishtowel and squeeze to drain excess water off.

  3. 5 stars
    Goodness, these must be the most glorious latkes I’ve ever laid my eyes on! You’ve captured the crisp factor with aplomb…a sure fire measure to get this recipe running in the kitchen soon.

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