German potato pancakes are delicious discs of pan-fried grated potatoes – golden and crispy on the outside with a fluffy potato middle. In Germany they are called Kartoffelpuffer although in some parts of the country they are known by other names such as reibekuchen. In Bavaria for example they are referred to as Reiberdatschi.
Read on to learn all about Kartoffelpuffer (1-2 mins read)
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Regardless of the name kartoffelpuffer are an ubiquitous German side dish, appetizer, popular street food and any time of day snack. They are popular on beer garden menus and at folk festivals such as Oktoberfest, they are also sold as at Christmas markets alongside roasted nuts and Gluehwein. Everyone loves them – they a virtually a staple of the cuisine, especially when presented with applesauce.
What is the Difference Between Latkes and German Potato Pancakes?
German potato pancakes are similar to latkes or Irish boxty but do not use matzo meal like the former or flour, buttermilk and soda like the latter. They are completely gluten free and there is no potato boiling involved either.
Background for This German Potato Pancake Recipe
This recipe is based on how German homecooks prepare Kartoffelpuffer and is as authentic as it gets. I learned how to make them from my landlady in Freiburg when I studied there. On Sunday afternoons she frequently conjured up a batch of potato pancakes and we had a beer or two while I told her about my week and she kindly corrected my German.
When she made Kartoffelpuffer she didn’t add a thickening agent but instead used the potatoes’ own starch – the traditional approach. On occasion she determined that she only needed the yolk of the eggs in order not to make the potato mixture too runny.
After cooking the crispy treats myself over the years I find that it is easier to just add a tablespoon of potato or other starch (corn, arrowhead root etc). But if you’d like to make authentic Kartoffelpuffer – use the starch from the potatoes (see prep steps below).
Traditional Kartoffelpuffer Ingredients
To make German potato pancakes you need:
- starchy potatoes (such as Russet potatoes in the US)
- corn or potato starch (you can use the starchy water released by the potatoes as well)
- seasonings – salt and pepper, nutmeg and anything you might fancy to add such as onion or garlic powder
- vegetable oil for frying
- a heavy bottomed pan such as a cast iron skillet is very convenient for frying them
TIP: You can also grate a couple of garlic cloves and/or half an onion and mix it in with the potatoes – this is commonly done. In this case I recommend that you only use egg yolks due to the extra moisture from the onion.
How to Make German Potato Pancakes – Step-by-Step Instructions
- First grate the potatoes. The most efficient way is to place a colander, a large sieve or large cheese cloth over an appropriately sized bowl and use a box grater right over the ste up. You can use a food processor with the right setting if you’d like and then transfer the grated potatoes to a colander/sieve/cheese cloth.
- Let the grated potatoes drain for 10-15 minutes. You can press them down a few times to squeeze out more moisture. You will notice that the starch from the potatoes settles to the bottom of the bowl underneath the drained liquid (see step #3). This is the stage where you can choose to discard the water and reserve the starch to use for the Kartoffelpuffer or discard everything altogether.
- Next beat the eggs with the salt, pepper, nutmeg and starch. Mix with the drained grated potatoes and heat about 1/4 cup of cooking oil over medium to medium-high heat.
- Drop a spoonful of the potato mixture into the hot oil and press with the back of the spoon to flatten.
- Fry the potato cakes until golden brown on each side and do not overcrowd the pan. Drain over paper towels. You can keep them warm in the oven while cooking the following batches.
TIP: If you want to use the actual potato starch instead of adding starch it is very helpful to grate a few of the potatoes very finely and the rest coarsely as shown.
SHORTCUT: For really easy potato pancakes it is absolutely possible to use store-bought frozen hash-brown potatoes. Simply bring them to room temperature (you may need to drain them as well) and follow the rest of the recipe.
What to Serve with German Potato Pancakes?
Kartoffelpuffer are such a versatile item – delicious on their own as a snack/appetizer but also great as a side dish to roasts and brats.
In beer gardens they are traditionally served with apple sauce. In Bavaria sauerkraut is commonly added to them.
My favorite way to enjoy them is with lax and green onions. If you like sour cream – add a dollop.
You can also consider creamy horseradish sauce like this one to dip the potato pancakes in. Or make a traditional German quark dip if you can source the correct dairy product.
Storage and Reheating
German potato pancakes taste best when just prepared. Try to make just enough to have them all eaten.
If you do have leftovers however, store them in an airtight container in the fridge.
To reheat use a medium heat non-stick frying pan so that they warm through as their outsides crisp up a bit.
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- 2 lbs starchy potatoes, such as Russet (see substitute suggestion in notes)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tbsp corn or potato starch (use if you do not intend to use the starch from the potatoes)
- cooking oil, as needed for pan frying
- Peel and coarsely grate the potatoes*. Place in a colander or large sieve over appropriately sized bowl and let drain for 10-15 minutes. Press a couple of times to help the process along. (Alternatively, place the grated potatoes in a clean cheese cloth and squeeze out all the water.)
- Once most of the liquid from the potatoes has collected at the bottom of the bowl, move the drained potatoes to the side and either discard the liquid and reserve the starch settled underneath it or discard everything.**
- Beat the eggs with the salt, pepper, nutmeg and if using the 1 tbsp of corn or potato starch, then add to the potatoes.
- Heat 1/4 cup of cooking oil in a frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. When hot, add a large spoonful of potato egg mixture to the oil and flatten it out using the back of the spoon. (Do not overcrowd the pan).
- Fry until each side is golden and crispy, about 4 minutes per side, depending on how large the pancakes are.
- Drain the cooked potato pancakes over paper towels before serving. Serve while still hot with apple sauce or sour cream as a dip.
Substitute suggestion: Use 1 1/2 lb of frozen hash-browns instead. Bring to room temperature and start at Step 3 of the recipe. Add the 1 tbsp of starch.
*You can finely grate a couple of the potatoes if you plan on using their own starch instead of adding a tablespoon of starch as per the recipe.
** If you'd like to use the starch derived from the potatoes, carefully pour out the watery liquid from the bowl and save the starch settled at the bottom.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 294Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 93mgSodium: 641mgCarbohydrates: 52gFiber: 5gSugar: 3gProtein: 9g