German potato pancakes, or Kartoffelpuffer, are crispy shredded potato pancakes similar to hashbrowns, but bound with egg. Serve up this classic German street food with sour cream or applesauce for a cozy snack or side dish.
A couple of years ago we travelled to Cologne, Germany in December to visit the Christmas markets.
The cathedral market, with its extremely tall Christmas tree (which acted as an anchor for a canopy of twinkling lights over the market) was by far my favourite market in the city.
Hundreds of stalls lined the square outside of the Cologne cathedral selling everything from handmade Christmas ornaments and wooden gifts, to leather crafts and handspun candies. Music and people celebrating were everywhere.
And then the was the food. Delicious scents came from around every corner! Let me tell you, German street food – it’s amazing.
One of my favourite things that I ate that night was the kartofelpuffer, or potato pancakes. In my books, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as crispy fried potato, in pretty much any form. German potato pancakes are kind of like a round hash brown, but the difference is that they used egg to bind them together. Freshly fried and seasoned well with salt they were the most delicious evening snack – and went perfectly with a nice mug of gluhwein!
How to make German potato pancakes
Once you get past the shredding, these pancakes are pretty easy to put together. You can shred the potato and onion by hand on a box grater (this is the most lengthy way) or if you have a food processor with a grating attachment you can great them in that and have the work done in minutes.
When the potato and onion are grated, mix in the two beaten eggs, horseradish and flour then season well with salt and pepper.
Heat a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat and add about an inch of vegetable oil.
When the oil is hot (you can test with a drop of water) start adding the potato pancakes gently into the oil. I use a heaping serving spoonful and end up with 10 pancakes about the size of my palm.
When you add the potato mixture to the skillet, gently press the pancake mixture with the back of the spoon so that it forms a flat round cake.
Cook 2-3 pancakes at a time, taking care not to overcrowd the pan – this will cool down the oil and not only will the pancakes take longer to cook, but they will also absorb more oil while they are cooking.
The first side should cook for about 3-4 minutes. Using a spatula, you can check for doneness by gently lifting the pancakes. They are ready to flip with the bottom is a nice golden brown colour, then continue to cook the other side the same way.
Continue until all the pancakes are made. You can keep the cooked pancakes warm while the others are cooking by placing them on a rack in the oven heated to 350℉.
Tips and tricks
- The traditional way to make these pancakes is to peel the potatoes first. Save some time and give them a nutritional boost by leaving the skins on! Just be sure to give them a good washing first.
- These are BEST when they are eaten freshly cooked. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge, but they will not stay nice and crispy, so for the best flavour and texture eat these right away.
- I like my kartofelpuffer with sour cream and green onions, but a more traditional way to serve them is with apple sauce.
- Use the smallest grater or grating attachment you have – the finer the grate on the potatoes and onions, the lighter and crispier the interior of your pancake will be.
Dietary Considerations and Accommodations
This recipe for German potato pancakes is suitable for the following diets:
- dairy free & nut free
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German Potato Pancakes
- 2 lbs russet potatoes shredded
- 2 eggs
- 1 large onion shredded
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 tsp horseradish
- 1 tsp sea salt and pepper
- Peel and then grate the potatoes and onion into a large bowl.
- Add the flour, eggs, and horseradish then season well with sea salt and pepper and give everything a good mix.
- Cover the bottom of a heavy bottom sauce pan with an inch of vegetable oil then heat over medium heat.
- You can test if the oil is hot enough by adding a SMALL drop of water - when it sizzles away, the oil is hot enough.
- Add a heaping serving spoon of the potato mixture to the oil and use the back of the spoon to press it lightly into a flat round shape.
- Depending on the size of the pan you can add another pancake, or maybe 2. You want to make sure that the pancakes are well spaced out - adding too many pancakes to the pan at one time will reduce the heat of the oil.
- Fry the pancakes on the first side for about 2-3 minutes. Using a spatula, you can gently lift the bottom of the pancake to check for doneness. When the bottom is golden brown they are ready to flip.
- Flip the pancakes and cook on the second side for 2-3 minutes before removing from the pan.
- Keep in a heated oven until they are served.