A quintessential German treat beloved across every region of Germany, Kartoffelpuffer are not only a favorite dish to serve at home but are also a popular street food found at local Volksfests and holiday events like Fasching, Karneval and Christmas markets.
In particular these German potato pancakes bring back memories of going to my Oma and Opa’s house. Throughout my childhood and through young adulthood my Oma would regularly make these when we went over to their house. My brother and I would play cards at kitchen table with my Opa while my Oma stood over the stove with the crackling sounds and smells of frying Kartoffelpuffer filling the air. Before long, plates of hot Kartoffelpuffer were set out on the table and we helped ourselves to a sprinkle of powdered sugar and generous heaps of applesauce. My Oma knew to make big batches of these Kartoffelpuffer because my brother and I could rarely get enough of them.
Depending on the region of Germany, Kartoffelpuffer are also known as Reibekuchen, Reibeplätzchen, Reiberdatschi and Grumbeerpannekuche.
You may also be familiar with Swiss Rösti. But those are something different. The key difference lies in the size of the grated potatoes: Rösti are shredded whereas Kartoffelpuffer are finely grated. Also, with Rösti the potatoes are sometimes grated raw but more often are parboiled whole in their skins for a few minutes so that the center is still hard, then peeled and grated once they’ve cooled down. Because the potatoes are grated/shredded on the largest setting (in German, “grob geraspelt”) to get large, long strands, parboiling them first prevents the outside of the Rösti from burning before the potatoes are thoroughly cooked through. Grated onions are usually added and sometimes bacon and cheese, depending on the region. Rösti are also fried longer until they are light brown and crunchy.
Kartoffelpuffer on the other hand are made from potatoes that are grated raw and grated finely (allowing them to cook quickly and evenly). The shredded potatoes are wrung out in a clean dish towel and then mixed with egg, finely grated onion and flour and then fried to light golden. The end result is a crispy exterior and soft interior.
Kartoffelpuffer can be served sweet or savory. Most commonly they’re served with apple sauce or other fruit compote, and/or dusted with powdered sugar, but are also served savory-style with a yogurt-herb sauce or with meat as part of a meal.
In a word, they’re simply DELICIOUS!
Let’s get started!
Use a grater or food processor to finely grate the potatoes. You don’t want thick strands. Either place the grated potatoes in a colander and thoroughly squeeze the liquid out with your hands or place them in a clean dish towel and wring it to squeeze out the liquid.
Place the drained grated potatoes in a bowl along with the grated onion, eggs, flour and salt. Use your hands to knead the mixture together until you have a thick, tacky mass. Don’t let this mixture sit for long before frying it.
Heat some oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add 1/3-1/2 cup (depending on size preference) of the potato mixture to the frying pan and flatten it with the back of a spoon to form pancakes. Fry the Kartoffelpuffer on both sides (about 3-5 minutes) until golden brown. Place the fried potato pancakes on paper towels to briefly blot them and then immediately serve them while hot.
Serve with applesauce, fruit compote, or powdered sugar or serve it savory-style with some herbed yogurt, quark or creme fraiche or with meat and gravy.
Authentic Kartoffelpuffer (German Potato Pancakes)
- 2 1/2 pounds starchy potatoes, peeled and very finely grated
- 1 small yellow onion, very finely grated
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or more if needed)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- neutral-tasting oil for frying
- Thoroughly wring out the liquid in the grated potatoes by placing them in a colander and squeezing them with your hands or by placing them in a clean dish towel and wringing out the liquid.
- Place the drained grated potatoes in a medium-sized bowl with the grated onion, eggs, flour and salt and use your hands to work it into a tacky mixture. Add a little more flour if needed. Do no let the mixture sit for long before using it, use it immediately.
- Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and place 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the mixture (depending on size preference) in the hot pan and flatten into pancakes with the back of a spoon. Fry on both sides for 3-5 minutes until the Kartoffelpuffer are golden. Place them briefly on paper towels.
- Serve immediately while hot with applesauce, fruit compote or powdered sugar. For a savory version serve with herbed yogurt, quark or creme fraiche or with meat and gravy as part of a meal.