Zucchini Latkes With Parmesan, Pine Nuts, and Basil Recipe

Shredded zucchini and the bright, herbal flavors of pesto make for a refreshingly light, spring-y riff on latkes.

Zucchini latkes served on a yellow plate with apple sauce.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • Squeezing the patty mixture in cheesecloth helps eliminate excess moisture, making the results more consistent and helping the latkes brown more efficiently.
  • Shredding the ingredients in a food processor ensures a hearty, consistent size and shape for the latkes.

Pure, unadulterated, old-school latkes are a thing of wonder. Done right, they're crisp and lacy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. They come in many shapes and sizes—some people like 'em super thin and flat, others prefer them dense and meaty. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to the tried-and-true combination of potato, onion, egg, and matzo meal (plus a generous dash of salt and pepper). Why mess with a good—nay, perfect—thing?

Some would say: Don't. They would argue that when it comes to latke variations, it's all mishegas. And they wouldn't be entirely wrong. Latke variations are like the bubbly, outgoing grandchildren of the classic. Like all grandchildren, some are annoying overachievers, while others are total disappointments.

Well, not these guys. These latkes are the cool, laid-back, creative grandkids, the ones who are confident enough to hang with their grandparents instead of pretending they don't exist. They respect tradition—they just want to try something new, and ain't nobody gonna stop 'em.

This variation contains the core staples of the traditional latke—you'll need potatoes, onions, egg, and matzo meal. And it follows the same basic latke-making technique. But it also integrates other vegetables and spices, herbs, and even nuts and cheese. If this is mishegas, then mishegas is freaking delicious.

Overhead shot of bowls of ingredients for making zucchini-Parmesan latkes: shredded zucchini, shredded potato, chopped onion, grated Parmesan, basil leaves, pine nuts, and lemon zest

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

I'm a zucchini fiend, so this one was a no-brainer. But, while zucchini are delicious, they also have a very delicate flavor that can easily be overwhelmed. Chopped basil and lemon zest help that light, grassy quality shine. Once I had basil in there, a pesto-flavored lightbulb went off, and I dove for some pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. The combination was so successful, I'm tempted to start adding zucchini to my pesto in the future.

These latkes are especially tender and refreshingly light. They have an airy, springtime quality that makes me think of them as the salad course of my all-latke dinner.

Overhead view of several latke variations: beet-walnut with horseradish cream, spiced sweet potato-carrot-acorn squash, and zucchini-parmesan-pine nut-basil.
Other delicious deviations from latke norms: beet-walnut with horseradish cream and spiced sweet potato-carrot-acorn squash.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Zucchini not your thing? Try this bright pink beet version, or this vibrant sweet potato, carrot, and squash latke.

December 2014

Recipe Facts

Active: 60 mins
Total: 60 mins
Serves: 24 latkes

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds (680g) zucchini, trimmed and shredded on the shredding disk of a food processor (6 cups shredded)

  • 1 pound (450g) russet potatoes, peeled, trimmed, and shredded on the shredding disk of a food processor (3 cups shredded)

  • 4 1/2 cups chopped onion (approximately 5 medium onions)

  • 3/4 cup loosely packed grated parmesan cheese

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped basil leaves

  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest from 1 lemon

  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts

  • 3 large eggs

  • 3/4 cup matzo meal, plus more as needed (see note)

  • 1 tablespoon (12g) kosher salt, plus more if needed

  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed

  • Canola or peanut oil, for frying

  • Unsweetened applesauce and sour cream, for serving

Directions

  1. Working in roughly 2-cup batches, wrap zucchini, potato, and onion in cheesecloth that has been folded over twice. Tie corners around the handle of a wooden spoon and twist bundle until liquid flows out and vegetables are dry. Add squeezed vegetables to a large mixing bowl and toss to combine thoroughly.

  2. Add parmesan, basil, lemon zest, and pine nuts and stir to combine. Mix in eggs and matzo meal. You should be able to form patties that just stick together in your hands; if the mixture is too wet, add more matzo meal, 1 tablespoon at a time, until patties can be properly formed. Stir in salt and pepper.

  3. Heat 1/2 inch oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until a shred of potato immediately bubbles when dropped in. Form a small amount of latke mixture into a disk and fry on both sides until golden brown to test for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

  4. Form patties about 3 inches wide and 1 inch thick in the center and slide into pan (no more than 4 at a time). Fry until a golden-brown crust forms on bottom, then flip using a slotted spatula and fork and fry until golden brown on other side and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes per side. If a darker crust is desired, continue cooking on each side to desired doneness.

    Zucchini latkes frying in oil

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  5. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels and let cool for 2 minutes. Serve with applesauce and sour cream at the table.

Special Equipment

Cast iron skillet, food processor, cheesecloth, rimmed baking sheet

Notes

The exact amount of matzo meal needed will depend on how moist your vegetables are. Start with the suggested amount, then add more if needed, working in 1-tablespoon increments, until you can form patties that stick together in your hands.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
129 Calories
7g Fat
13g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 24
Amount per serving
Calories 129
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 9%
Saturated Fat 2g 8%
Cholesterol 26mg 9%
Sodium 274mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 10mg 48%
Calcium 55mg 4%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 276mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)