sweet potato latkes, gluten-free

We have fallen in love with sweet potatoes lately.

Look at them, so humble and lovely, nestled against each other. Sweet potatoes don’t call attention to themselves, the way the blowzy red tomatoes of August demand our noticing them. Zucchini are vivid green, with stripes sometimes. The peppers blare so bright they can can hurt the eyes.

Sometime, in the mid-winter, I wish for all that color. However, when I look at these sweet potatoes, I remember this is the time of quiet, of plants laying dormant, of grey skies and windows that are cold to the touch from the inside.

Sweet potatoes in January are just the right bite.

Sweet potatoes present so many possibilities.

Last month, Danny made a sweet potato cheesecake with a cranberry-pecan crust. No dessert has ever sold so fast at the restaurant where he works now. (I’d say I want a bite right now, but I am so done with sweet things after the cookie extravaganza of December that I will politely decline.)

We love sweet potato puree with pumpkin, curried sweet potato gratin (oh the gratins of winter, with the edges bubbling brown against the casserole dish), and baked sweet potato fries. I could eat those every night these days, with a touch of smoked paprika and ginger. We have a recipe for boulangerie potatoes in our cookbookthat might be even better with sweet potatoes than with Yukon golds. I also want to try Heidi’s sweet potatoes with coconut milk and macadamia nuts, Amy’s sugar-free sweet potato ice cream sandwiches, and this intriguing caramel corn from Jessica that has honey, sweet potato puree, and flax seeds.

(Okay, maybe my sweet tooth is coming back.)

And parsnips. Oh, the parsnip is even more humble than the sweet potato. Does anyone sing the praises of parsnips? I will, in a small quiet voice.

That’s what the parsnip has — a small, quiet voice. It has a faint sweetness amidst the vegetal sturdiness of the root vegetable. Sipping a spoonful of soup and finding a honeyed note of parsnip amidst the louder flavors is like hearing a compliment from your quiet friend, the one who is always there but doesn’t say much. It’s such a kind surprise that you remember it for months.

Combine parsnips and sweet potatoes and you have humble sweetness.

The past few weeks, we have been making latkes.

I know, we’re late. In the first week of December, my Twitter feed was awash in latke recipes for Hannukah. Folks I respect made them every which way, including spicing them with peppers or throwing in brown butter. As much as I wanted to make every recipe, I was drowning in powdered sugar and cinnamon for cookie fest 2010. I had to wait.

Besides, the quiet of January is a perfect time for latkes. Who needs a holiday to celebrate these swirls of shredded potatoes and shallots?

It doesn’t take much time to make latkes. Peel some sweet potatoes and parsnips directly into a bowl of cold water. You can use the food processor or you can use a box grater and work on your biceps at the same time. Sway to some music — I have fallen under the spell of Keane again, along with Ted Leo’s Biomusicology. Let the shreds sit in the water to remove the starchiness both offer. Try to keep the kid from dipping a spoon into the bowl, thinking this is some delicious soup.

She can play with the shreds after you have dried them, however.

This is satisfying too, to take up all the wet bits of sweet potato and parsnip, swoop them into a kitchen towel and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze until no more water drips from the bottom. This only takes a few moments. It’s worth it. You want latkes that crisp in the hot oil.

Next — and this might surprise you — grate in a few scrapings of fresh nutmeg.

Yes, nutmeg. It’s not just for holiday cookies, you know. In fact, a small amount of nutmeg — something like 1/8 teaspoon — in a savory dish lends a depth that you won’t find otherwise. Try a bit the next time you make pasta sauce or macaroni and cheese, then listen to everyone wonder just why your dish is so good.

Did you know that nutmeg was one of the spices for which Columbus was searching when he set sail from Spain? Or that it’s used in many Indian dishes? Of course, you probably think of nutmeg when you imagine desserts with cinnamon and ginger, but nutmeg also pairs well with cheese (especially ricotta), chicken, lamb, mushrooms, rice, and spinach. Plus, of course, all forms of potatoes, including sweet potatoes. (Thank you, Flavor Bible.)

If you’d like to learn more about spices and how to use them in your kitchen, we’d like to recommend Tony Hill’s wonderful book, The Spice Lover’s Guide to Herbs and Spices, as well as Monica Bhide’s helpful iPhone/iPad app, iSpice. Both are well-researched and particularly useful in the kitchen.

(This is our chance to announce that Danny and I have been chosen to be part of the McCormick Real Gourmets program. We’re happy to be joining some of our other favorite bloggers in this program — Jaden from Steamy Kitchen, Jenny from Picky Palate, and Nicole from Pinch My Salt — to learn more about spices and share what we’ve learned here with you. To be completely transparent, we are being paid by McCormick and we were sent a big batch of spices last week to try out in our kitchen. However, we regularly use McCormick spices, especially the Gourmet collection. They are available at our grocery store on the island. More and more, we want our recipes to use what is readily available to most of you. Once we got the confirmation that all the single-ingredient spices in the McCormick Gourmet line were gluten-free, we felt especially comfortable sharing this with you.

This week, I’m flying to Maryland for two days — leaving Lu for the first time! — to visit the McCormick kitchens. I’ll be looking in particular at their practices to avoid cross-contamination to make sure that everyone gluten-free feels comfortable using these spices.)

We like to grate our nutmeg fresh, for the strongest taste. That’s why the microplane gleams in this photo.

With the smell of fresh nutmeg in the air, we heated up grapeseed oil in the cast-iron skillet. Time to make some sweet potato latkes.

We think you will fall in love with these too.

p.s. You may have noticed some changes around here. We’ve been migrating this site from Blogger to WordPress. Did you notice that everything is in Garamond now? Or that you will now be able to print the recipes straight from the site? There are plenty of ways this place will be better for the change.

And thank you to the brilliant Thomas Dawson for doing this for us!

Be patient, however. We’re still in the midst of it. If you look at the recipe index, you’ll see there are better categories! And photos! But I have to go through all 667 posts and put categories on them before that will be complete. Give me some time. If you are looking for a specific recipe, such as biscuits, go to your favorite search engine and plug in “gluten-free girl biscuits.” Soon, you can just search here.

GLUTEN-FREE SWEET POTATO-PARSNIP LATKES

Once you have grated the sweet potatoes and parsnips and squeezed and grated some nutmeg, pull out some yogurt. Guess what! You don’t have to use eggs to make these latkes. And if you can’t eat cow’s milk, try the yogurt you can eat here. (I think a coconut milk yogurt might be particularly good. You only need 3 tablespoons, after all.) You just need a binder, a little protein, to hold together the latkes. Frankly, we found out that yogurt works because we ran out of eggs before making the latkes for photographs yesterday.

It’s a new year. Why not eat something for breakfast that is healthy, easy to make, gluten-free, egg-free, and potentially dairy-free?

If that sounds like a mouthful, all you need to know is this: these latkes are a gracious surprise in the morning.

1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 or 2 large parsnips, peeled
2 large shallots, peeled
1/8 teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (the McCormick dried thyme works well)
3 heaping tablespoons yogurt (use full-fat and the kind you like)
60 grams (about 1/3 cup) potato starch
kosher salt and fresh-cracked black pepper
1/4 cup grapeseed oil

Grating the sweet potato and parsnips. Grate the sweet potato and parsnips into a large bowl of cold water. Let them sit for a few moments to release their starches. Unlike potatoes, sweet potatoes are not particularly starchy, so you won’t have much starch remaining at the bottom of the bowl in the end. However, you want to remove whatever starch you can.

Squeezing out the water. Grab a kitchen towel, or paper towels, and put it over a colander. Scoop the shredded sweet potatoes and parsnips into the towel with a slotted spoon. After you have moved them all over, grab the kitchen towel, close it up at the top, and squeeze all the water from the vegetables over the kitchen sink. Keep squeezing until the sweet potato and parsnip shreds are dry. Transfer them to a large bowl.

Finishing the latke batter. Grate the shallots into the sweet potato bowl. Add the nutmeg, thyme, and yogurt and mix it all up with your hands. Pour in the potato starch and toss everything together. You want the mixture to cohere without being starchy or clumpy. Season it with salt and pepper.

Making a taster. Set a large cast-iron skillet (or similar heavy-bottomed pan) over medium-high heat. Pour the grapeseed oil into the hot pan. (Move the kids out of the kitchen.) Grab 1 tablespoon of the latke batter and put it in the hot oil, gently. Cook until both sides are browned, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Allow the tiny latke to cool, then taste it. Did it fall apart in the pan? Add more starch. Does it need more seasoning? Add that.

Cooking the latkes. When you have the latkes the way you want them, turn the burner onto medium-high heat again. When the oil is hot, add 1/4 cup of the latke batter at a time, pressing down on the top when it is in the pan. Do not crowd the pan. We put in 3 latkes at a time. Allow the bottoms to brown, about 3 minutes, and carefully turn the latkes over, cooking for about 3 minutes. Be careful to avoid oil splatters. Remove the latkes from the pan when they are as browned as you wish.

Continue cooking the rest of the latkes. Sit down to eat.

Makes 8 latkes.

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65 comments on “sweet potato latkes, gluten-free

  1. Nina

    Welcome to your new online home, Ms. Garamond. I used to be Ms. Avant-Garde. Now, I think I’m the default setting, Times New Roman Bold.

    Seriously, congrats on all fronts, and I must say that I grew up on my Prussian (Polish/Russian) Grandmother’s latkes (but she wanted us to be American, so she called them Potato Pancakes) and I never thought of substituting sweet potatoes. Sounds perfect. I also love and grow parsnips. They make everything sweeter…

    1. admin

      Nina, why am I not at all surprised that you are the first to comment and the one to appreciate the font! thank you.

  2. April

    Those look fantastic — and you combined my love for sweet potatoes, latkes and nutmeg! Can I hug you?

  3. Lisa Nicole

    These look fantastic! I have to make them this coming weekend. I have never made latkes without eggs, love that.

    My father owned a Mediterranean restaurant for 25 years. He put nutmeg in his lasagna and we always had rave reviews.

    Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    1. shauna

      I had never made latkes without eggs either. I sort of panicked for a moment. They were wonderful. I don’t know that I’ll ever use eggs again. We have other uses for them!

  4. jas

    oh delish! I love having little nibbles like these for breakfast. I do potato + zucchini ones with an egg on top. nom nom nom .….

    PS. So weird seeing white sweet potato as here, in Australia, sweet potato is normally a creamy pinkish colour.

    1. shauna

      I think the creamy pinkish ones are called yams here. From what I understand, we don’t get true yams in the US. Of course, it’s entirely possible that you have completely different sweet potatoes down there!

  5. Winnie

    There are three main things about this post that I love. First, we enjoy latkes throughout the year in my home and I particularly love ones with sweet potatoes. The nutmeg is a great touch. Two: the photo where Lu’s hand appears is awesome. Three, your migration to wp and the fact that your recipes are now printable is fantastic! Have fun in Maryland. ps I got my site redesigned a few months ago and still have not finished re-categorizing my recipes. And I did not have anywhere close to 667 recipes…good luck :)

    1. shauna

      well thank you. I keep trying to get photos without Lu’s hands but she keeps reaching for the food. And of course, I’m not really complaining.

      I’m really excited that the recipes are printable now. If there’s anything else you want, let me know!

  6. Liz

    This looks perfect coming into week two of the gingerbread cookie detox program-we are due for some (more) snow and these will be on our snow day cooking menu. Thanks!

  7. Anita / Married ...with dinner

    I love nutmeg in savory foods. It’s one of the secret ingredients in my thanksgiving stuffing and my family’s meatloaf (which happens to be GF, now that I think of it)!

    I hope you’re loving the WordPress system — it’s so awesome once you get use to it. :)

    1. shauna

      I am loving this system, particularly the fact that I can answer your comment directly. I’m sort of swoon mode right now. I want some of your meatloaf!

  8. Jen Yu

    Praise be! You’re on wordpress! :) Looks fantastic as does the recipe. Now to gather some sweet potatoes. By the way, as Danny can attest — if you lived in Colorado you wouldn’t have to characterize winter with the words “grey skies” because… we get A LOT of sunshine. Come back and visit us. xxoo

  9. kamran siddiqi

    Shauna, I’m seriously considering to move to Seattle! You make my stomach scream “nom nom, nom! Me want!” Also Lu’s hand in that photo– that kid is adorable, but you already know this. :)

  10. justcooknyc

    love the new WordPress blog, the font, having you back to blogging after a well-deserved break, and so on. and you know, i’ve tried those fancy new McCormick spices after we got some at Blogher… definitely approve. have a fun trip. although i can’t believe you’ll be just about one state away and not visiting nyc. and oh yeah, i am dreaming about latkes now.

    1. shauna

      Justin, I’m glad you approve. I remember how much you pushed us to include dried herbs in the cookbook! We were stubborn. Now, we will.

      And I’m bummed I’ll be so close and can’t have a meal with you.

  11. Liz

    These are genius. My mother-in-law had stomach cancer two years ago (she is doing well now), and has several foods that irritate her now, one of which is egg. Others include raw onion, raw garlic, and bananas. Her husband is a baker, so this makes it hard for him to make something for her. I can’t wait to share this recipe with both of them, or to make them in my kitchen.

    1. shauna

      I’m SO glad, Liz. It’s hard for us to meet the needs of everyone reading, but we’re going to work with more and more egg and dairy replacements for folks like your mom.

  12. Lauren Denneson

    Hooray! you’re back. I’ve always loved these topped with applesauce.
    Also, I wanted to say that I think you are right about the gums (that you posted about on Facebook). I did a little experiment to see how different my chocolate chip cookies would be without xanthan gum, and they are the same!! I know cookies are easy, and the true test will be breads and muffins, but it sounds like you are leading the charge and will have some great ideas posted soon, and I’m looking forward to more experimenting on this front!

    1. shauna

      I’m so glad you have made cookies you love without the gums. (I still can’t face cookies!) I’m convinced we don’t need them for anything! Muffins are wonderful without them. We’ll show you our favorite new muffin recipe next week.

  13. Tara

    Oh gosh, WordPress is certainly the “in” place to be, isn’t it? I see a lot of people moving over lately. Anyway, I definitely appreciate the font change! So much more pleasing to my eyes.

    And thanks for validating dried herbs. We try to be all fresh here (Josh, in fact, insists on it), but there are times when I need to fall back on dried, and I honestly don’t feel like any less of a cook for doing so. Interestingly, recently I’ve seen some chefs I respect tremendously using more dried herbs in ways that are obvious to the diner — not sure what that really says about the herbs, but at least it makes me feel better!

    Anyway, welcome back!

  14. Kirsten MacLeod

    Oh Shauna, thank all the goodness in the world for you!
    Thank you so much for making so much sense, and sharing… well… everything! about being, eating, cooking, and living, gluten free. I cannot explain how inspiring and helpful finding your site has been to a newly diagnosed celiac (3 weeks GF), and how HOPEFUL you have helped me feel through this transition. Your site is all about the positive, and joyful. It’s so refreshing, and *necessary* to someone feeling the absence of good sandwich bread that tastes like 12 grain, whole wheat bread, etc.
    I so thoroughly enjoy every uplifting and joyous post, especially when I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself! I often laugh out loud. And your eloquence is to be admired.

    There is so much to learn, and your site has given me the inspiration and motivation that I needed to *want* to learn everything I can about cooking. With all of your explanations and links, it makes it so much faster, and easier.
    I am so grateful to you for being exactly you, and for sharing yourself with us.
    Thank you.
    May you always be this joyful, and generous of yourself.

    Hugs,
    Kirsten

    1. shauna

      Kirsten, thank you for this sweet comment. Gosh, I don’t even know what to say. You’re welcome. And welcome here! Congratulations on your diagnosis. I’m serious! You are going to be feeling so much better soon.

  15. Denise @ Creative Kitchen

    Absolutely adore sweet potatoes!! In fact, I just made sweet potato pancakes over at Creative Kitchen. And like you…I’m quite addicted to roasted sweet potatoes. I can shamelessly put away an entire baking sheet myelf. ;)

    These latkes look scrumptious!! I’ve made similar recipes to latkes…but never latkes themselves. I must give these a try. I’ve got organic sweet potatoes and parsnips already here. Thanks for sharing!!

  16. shauna

    Denise, it’s not much of a shame when sweet potatoes are so good for you! So glad you have the ingredients on hand. Have them for breakfast tomorrow!

  17. valerie

    I am excited about this recipe. I am in the process of turning over my kitchen to completely gluten free. I as so excited when I found your blog, it has been a lifesaver. I gave up gluten in March of 2010. I never thought I would ever get to eat anything with taste again. So finally I am adding brands and food back into the my diet. I have lost 76 pounds and feel better than ever. Again thank you for your recipes and inspiring writing.

    1. shauna

      Valerie, I am so glad you’ve had such a great experience finding your health! And I’m happy we could help in any way.

  18. Manoli

    I’m so happy you are back, and with one of my favourite foods in the world: sweet potatoes! I love them in any way or form! I shall be cooking these latkes immediately. Here in Barcelona we have an autumm tradition. As soon as November comes these shacks appear on the streets where you can buy roasted sweet potatoes and chesnuts. They fill the air with the most wonderful scents. I love autumm food. Shauna, congratulations on all the changes, i can only imagine how much work it is!

  19. Elizabeth

    Oh, how I would love to tour the kitchens with you! I live and work here in that part of MD and have been gluten-free for four years now, following your blog for more a year and a half. Please take me with you. In return, I can give you a tour of my work: we plan, schedule and receive all of the Hubble Space Telescope’s images and data. Come see how we make the science meaningful and beautiful!

  20. SusanLC

    Dear Shauna– You love Keane, too?! Honestly, I could not live without them now. That beautiful tenor voice calms my weary soul. Anytime I need to de-stress, I listen to them.
    I have to admit that your website blog has challenged me to try new recipes this year. Thanks to you and Danny– for inspiring us to use our creative juices in the kitchen.

    1. shauna

      I do love Keane. Someone gave me their first album the month after it came out and I found myself on the bus, early in the morning on the way to teach school, listening to it over and over again while I read The New Yorker. Now, almost nothing about that sentence is still true of my life! But I still love Keane.

  21. Jammy Chick

    The site redesign looks fantastic — and the new font is so much easier to read! I make regular potato latkes with a zucchini grated in — the green would provide a really nice color contrast to your sweet potato version.

  22. Sue

    Can anyone tell me why the potato starch is soaked out of the potatoes, yet added back in powdered form? I would like to learn why this is done.

    The recipe and the site both look fantastic–thank you!

  23. Summer

    Forgive me for stating the obvious, but why do you squeeze out all the starch and then add potato starch back in? Is the point just to get rid of the “wet” starch or the water? Just a bit confused.

    1. shauna

      Sue and Summer, that’s a good question! Sweet potatoes and parsnips don’t have as much starch as potatoes, but they still do have some starch. Soaking them releases the starch from them, letting you control just how much starch you want in the recipe to hold the latkes together.

      Have you ever made homemade potato chips? If you don’t soak them and remove the starch, then dry them, they will never crisp up. So, the same is true here. If you soak some of that starch off, your latkes will be crisp. You put the the potato starch in as a binder. You could really use any kind of gf flour you want here, for that reason.

      You could certainly simply grate the sweet potato and parsnip and just squeeze them in the towel if you wanted to skip the soaking step. But I think you’ll find the latkes will be crisper if you soak them a bit.

  24. Desi (The Palate Peacemaker)

    Shauna, I must admit your accidental absence of eggs and substitution of yogurt is a very, very happy one for me! This past holiday season, I was dreaming about latkes (haven’t had them in years), but since I can’t eat eggs, I thought I’d given them up forever. So glad you did the experimentation I needed for me! And I’m so excited to try these out… Thanks for everything you do! :)
    Desi

  25. Amy @ SS&GF

    Welcome back!! I am on a much needed break now. Time to read is a good thing. I’ve actually rested all day. I feel like a new person. I love your latke recipe. I’d never made and my husband kept asking for some. With some coaching from my mother-in-law I made latkes that were received with flying colors. Your version does sound perfect for breakfast. Or anytime, really. Thanks for the sharing my sweet potato ice cream sandwiches. Made my day!

    Hugs,
    Amy

    1. shauna

      Hey Amy, you enjoy that break. I wish mine had been a bit more restful (there was so much behind-the-scenes work to do!), but it sure is good to be back here.

      And your ice cream sandwiches look lovely!

  26. Ruth

    My grandpa used to make a parsnip/carrot mash for Thanksgiving… butter, salt, pepper… amazing :-) The latkes look amazing!

  27. Manoli

    Hi Shauna,
    I made the latkes this morning with sweet potatoes and parsnips from the farmer´s market. They were crisp and delicious! We actually ate them with some good manchego cheese and quince paste alongside. Strange combo, but somehow it worked! Thanks!

  28. Wendy

    Yay for the new look! And the recipe! Thanks for adding parsnips– another use for me, I love them!
    Nutmeg is great onPORK CHOPS! And for depth in your spaghetti sauce try a pinch of ground cloves. Deep and hearty! Spicy! I also love exclamation! It is like saying YES!

  29. marla

    Hi Shauna! Wow, you do have so many great things going on over there :) Love seeing little Lu’s hand as she reaches in to take some of this latke mixture and assist in the preparation. Sweet potatoes always speak to me, but I dig the parsnip take too! Congrats on your partnership with McCormick — can’t wait to see what you cook up for us. xo

  30. Vivian

    This looks great! I am talking about both the latkes and the website. Kudos to you for transitioning so nicely! I love both sweet potatos and parsnips and these are an excellent side for almost any meal. Have a great trip!

  31. Annelies

    I love sneaking parsnips into potato recipes. My MIL made a great mashed potato & chevre side dish for Thanksgiving with parsnip playing a small role. My kitchen has been awash in Mumford & Sons these days when I’m cooking, though I have a soft spot for Keane too. The blog & its design changes look great!

  32. angela

    Shauna,
    You might not know, but are parsnips in the same family as white potatoes? My boyfriend is allergic to white potatoes but not sweet potatoes. I would love to try parsnips but I don’t want his throat to swell! Also, would cornstarch be ok in place of the potato starch? thanks! :)

    1. Jerome

      Angela, parsnips are not in the same family as white potatoes–they’re actually more related to carrots :)

  33. Feast on the Cheap

    Oh my goodness…sweet potatoes are my absolute favorite (preferably glazed in a little brown sugar, nestled next to a slab of roasted turkey). These look fabulous — and will be on my plate very soon, I’m sure!

  34. Bobbie

    All I can say.….fabulous!! Made these tonight and were a huge success!

    Thanks Shauna, for all you do! I greatly appreciate it!

  35. Cathy

    Shauna, thank you! I am a high-fiber, multi-grain cookie addict(really) that has been gluten-free since September. I know how to do gluten-free since my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease at 22 months old. She is now a gorgeous 20 year old. I cannot tolerate xantham gum so I have been desperate. I love the simple almond butter cookies that I make but I need more. I am so excited! This is such an awesome blog. You are a goddess!

  36. Eileen

    I love the new look & tools, too– so useful! Thanks so much for this lovely recipe. It’s a real help to have an extra veg like we always seem to add already in there & tested!

    Down here in the deep south, USA we eat & use sweet potatoes a lot, and can get all sorts including true yams, white sweets (aka boniatos or Cuban sweets) and more. I did a little digging on them last year for our CSA (which has shared 6 different varieties so far, including all 3 types!) and just like the “standard” potatoes they cover a wide spectrum of starchiness, creaminess, sweetness & moisture. The whites you used are the closest in all those qualities to the potatoes traditionally used for latkes so they’re the most likely successor for a shredded cake like the lovely ones you’ve done. A creamier or moister sweet potato will be harder to do as a shredded potato cake but would work well if mashed then pattied-up.

  37. Megan

    I am glad I found this recipe! Today as my husband and I were driving I said … I wonder if potato and sweet potato latkes would taste good? And knowing that you’ve made them here and seeing those pictures I know now that indeed they would taste good! I can’t wait to try them. Thanks.

  38. Kate

    has anyone tried making this dairy-free? Maybe the cream from full-fat coconut milk could substitute for the yogurt? I’m trying to find a good egg-free, dairy-free binder so I can give these a shot!

  39. Yui

    I need to say that I completely agree with you about the nutmeg. To my taste this is the best spices, along with oregano. My family always put this spices in almost all the foods we cook. It’s like a magic you pour into the kitchen :)
    Love the latkes. Can’t wait to try it soon.
    How to Make Sweet Potato Fries