Low-Fat Latkes: Oxymoron or Possibility?

December 23, 2016

Clever chefs have forged ahead and made this traditional delectables lower in fat, yet still wonderful in taste.

Chanukah (aka Festival of Lights) celebrates when Judah Maccabee and his four brothers formed a resistance group in ancient Israel to fight against the Greek-Syrians of Judea who had destroyed the Second Temple. Battle weary and exhausted, they realized there was only enough oil to light one more night in their tenuous battle. But, the impossible... or a miracle... occurred; that same small oil lasted eight nights and the Maccabees triumphed. Starting Saturday night, Jews around the world light candles for eight nights, and celebrate by eating donuts or potato pancakes (latkes) fried in oil. Alas, fried foods, loads of fat, and the perils of simple carbs have made many celebrants re-think these foods, but clever chefs have forged ahead and made the traditional delectables lower in fat, yet still wonderful in taste. 

The typical ingredient list for latkes includes eggs, flour or matzo meal, Russet or Idaho potatoes, onions, and a little salt and pepper. Even if you stick to frying, it's best to substitute the potatoes with buttery rich Yukon potatoes. Olive oil is best but safflower or sunflower are okay. Fleshing out the potatoes with grated, well-drained zucchini or grated carrots or parsnips adds flavor, nutrition, and a little oomph to these delights as well. Loads of seasonings are important, too, and you can spice things up with a little cayenne or lighter white pepper, add a little chopped green onion or chives.

Apple sauce is a traditional and naturally low fat accompaniment, as is sour cream, and fortunately there is now a choice of low fat sour cream or, even better, yogurt or ricotta cheese. Fruity accompaniments can be cranberry or cranberry apple sauces, tangy chutneys or, or for a ritzy combo, a dab of sour cream and a dollop of caviar (fish roe.) 

If you'd like a sweeter latke, use sweet potatoes instead of white ones or make them with cooked kernels of corn and serve with jam.

Perhaps the biggest "fat saver" is to bake rather than fry the pancakes. Oil is still necessary yet, by using spray can oil on the pans, you'll have the best of both worlds: a traditional latke and a lower-fat intake.