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We’re in the middle of the eight-day-long Jewish holiday of Chanukah (or Hannukah or Chanukkah or Hanukah, etc. etc. The spelling doesn’t matter!) – the Festival of Lights.

hanukkah.dreidelsLighting candles on the menorah, telling the Chanukah story, spinning dreidels, winning gelt, and sharing gifts are all a fun part of the festivities.

But the BEST part of it all – to me, anyway – is that it’s VEGAN LATKE TIME!

Pronounced lot-kuh (or some people say lot-key), this traditional Chanukah food is essentially a potato pancake.

It’s made of grated potatoes, onions, and generally eggs (but can be made latkevegan!), fried in oil to remind us of the miracle of Chanukah.

Each year, it is known that Sarah is going to temporarily transform into the Latke Monster.

My whole family knows to expect it, and they don’t even try to prevent it anymore.

It goes like this:

I creep around the kitchen as the latkes are being fried (my mom or my husband Hanes does the frying, as I would be eating them all as they came out of the skillet if it were my job).

Once they’re ready, I possessively hoard at least 15 of the precious little potato pancakes onto my plate in a frenzy of once-a-year-latke delirium.

There’s no talking sense into me. I have crazy latke eyes and will not listen to reason.

At the smell of latkes, I transform...

At the smell of latkes, I transform…

Then I gorge myself on as many as I can – about eight, maybe nine if I can force it – making myself a tad queasy. But I persevere. Because they are SCRUMPTIOUS!

As I lie on the couch in a latke stupor, the rest of the latkes are taken from my plate and redistributed to other reasonable ones who did not hoard them.

Oh, will I ever learn?

Probably not. But it’s ok, because the latkes I’m consuming are cruelty-free!

Since becoming vegan three years ago, we’ve been making an egg-free, vegan version of these golden delights, and it doesn’t detract from their deliciousness one bit.

There is many a Jewish bubbe (grandmother) who will raise her eyebrows skeptically when told latkes can be made without the eggs.  But don’t let her discourage you.

You can celebrate Chanukah, uphold your cruelty-free ethics, and impress your Bubbe at the same time, no problem, with this absolutely perfect recipe from VegNews Magazine, by Robin Robertson:

Vegan Potato Pancakes

  • 1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and grated (My tip: use a food processor)
  • 1 small yellow onion, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Safflower oil, for frying (My tip: you can use any kind of oil. We used canola.)

What You Do:

  1. Place potatoes in a colander and set over a large bowl. Using your hands, squeeze out excess liquid. Pour off liquid and place potatoes in bowl. Add onion, parsley, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and mix well.
  2. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat a thin layer of oil. Take a heaping tablespoon of batter and flatten it before gently placing in hot oil. Make three or four more potato pancakes this way, and add to skillet without crowding pan. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once, about 8 minutes total.
  3. Repeat with remaining potato mixture, adding more oil as necessary. Place cooked potato pancakes on paper towels to drain, then transfer to an ovenproof platter and keep warm in oven until all pancakes are cooked.

We made these for friends this year, and since we had company, I tried very hard not to transform into the Latke Monster. It kind of worked.

The latkes turned out wonderfully. Crisp, golden, and delectable. Here they are, in all their frying, golden splendor:

Vegan Latkes Chanukah 2012

My hand was slapped away immediately after this picture was taken.

It makes a lot of sense to make vegan latkes, really, from a Jewish standpoint.

Care for animals is a very Jewish value. Tz’aar Ba’alei Hayim is the Jewish concept of not causing living creatures to suffer.

Leaving out the eggs, which come from chickens who live in tiny cages and are treated terribly, is right in line with this value.

In the Torah, the Jewish bible, the obligation to prevent the suffering of animals is expressed through many mitzvot (commandments) meant to spiritually elevate people through acts of kindness to animals. Click here to learn more about the treatment of animals in Judaism.

Back to our Chanukah dinner, says the Latke Monster:

We also served a spicy, tomato-based soup, filled with chunks of sweet potato, zucchini, and onion, plus Israeli cous cous:

Moroccan Soup

Salad with that awesome vegan Caesar dressing that I love (recipe in this blog post) was also available, but these side dishes are mainly for show.

We all know that latkes are the star of the night.

Here is my VERY subdued plate:

Vegan Chanukah plate

As you can see, I like my latkes served with Tofutti vegan sour cream. Other popular options are ketchup or apple sauce.

For dessert, we served vegan sugar cookies in Chanukah shapes. My niece and goddaughter decorated with blue sprinkles (didn’t they do a great job?!):

Vegan Chanukah cookies

See, Bubbe? It can be done!

Whether you celebrate Chanukah or not, I highly recommend trying these vegan latkes at some point. Beware the Latke Monster though. I just might show up at your door.

To unleashing the Latke Monster in all of us!


P.S. If you enjoyed this post or know someone who will, please send them a link! Thank you! I love my readers a latke!