German Potato Pancakes with Applesauce
Basics, Potatoes, Sides, Vegetarian

German Potato Pancakes (‘Reibekuchen’)

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Last Updated on 4 years by Tim

German potato pancakes are one of my favorite childhood memories. They’re best eaten directly out of the pan while they’re still super crispy dipped in chilled apple sauce or sour cream.

Today, I am going to teach you how to make them served with apple sauce. But potato pancakes can be served in so many more ways than this. They are great with sour cream and smoked salmon or as a side for roasts and stews. Dipping them in a rich and savory stewing liquid will make for a flavor explosion in your mouth.

Their versatility is the reason that I included them as part of my Basics Series. So after you’ve tried the plain traditional way of serving them with apple sauce feel free to include them as a side to whatever dish you like. I love serving them for brunch with a sunny side egg on top.

The Building Blocks of German Cusine Series
This article is part of my basics series, which will introduce you to key ingredients and preparation methods. You can find all these articles in the ‘Basics’ category of this blog. Listed below are the articles that have yet been published in this series:

German potato pancakes require only a few ingredients

It’s best to choose a starchy potato variety for this dish. That way your potato pancakes will require the addition of fewer binding ingredients such as eggs and flour.

This is one of the few dishes that don’t require you to pre-cook your potatoes so that it can be whipped up super quickly once you got the hang of it.

You just need to peel the potatoes and onions and then shred them. How fine you shred them is up to your personal preference. I tend to like mine on the finer side.

Potato Shreds

To save yourself some time I highly recommend you to use your food processor for shredding the potatoes and onions. Especially if you’re preparing a larger batch.

Remove excess water

Potatoes are vegetables so they possess a high water content. To achieve a light and fluffy pancake texture it’s best to add as few binding ingredients to the pancake mixture as possible. Therefore, it’s best to squeeze out the excess water of your potato and onion shreds so that you won’t have to add too much flour later on.

Wrap the shreds in a large kitchen towel to squeeze out the excess moisture and reserve the potato liquid in a mixing bowl.

The starch in the potato water will set at the bottom of the bowl. So after about 5 minutes, you can carefully drain the excess water leaving you behind with the potato starch.

You can then add the potato and onion shreds into the bowl. That way you’ve gotten rid of excess moisture in the shreds while preserving the natural present starch to bind the pancake mixture together.

Potato pancake mixture

You can then add your eggs and flour and season the pancake mixture to taste with nutmeg and salt.

Giving the pancake mixture a brief mix is enough. It shouldn’t be dense but fluffy and light.

It might look too lose at first and you might’ve doubts if it will hold together. However, you will see that the pancakes will hold together just fine once you start frying them in the pan.

Tips for frying your potato pancakes

For frying, it’s important that you add enough clarified butter to your pan so that the bottom is covered with at least 1/8-inch clarified butter. That way your potato pancakes will cook more evenly and there’s only little risk of burning them.

It’s best to use medium heat for frying so that your pancakes don’t brown too quickly. You want the center to be cooked completely by the time the crust is golden brown.

When forming the potato pancakes, press them into a disk using your hands. Then, place them inside the pan and lightly flatten them out using a spoon or fish slice.

Frying the potato pancakes

Once frying, don’t touch them for 3-4 minutes. Let them develop their crust. Turn them over once they are stable enough to not fall apart and golden brown on the first side. It’s best to use a fish slice for this. Fry on the other side for 3-4 minutes or once golden on both sides.

After taking them out of the pan it’s best to drain the potato pancakes on paper towels to remove any excess grease. They can be kept warm in the oven, however, they are best served directly out of the pan.

How to make the apple sauce

It’s best to cook the apple sauce in advance so that it has enough time to cool down.

I like to add some depth of flavor to mine by first caramelizing some honey and cinnamon before adding the apples into my pot. I then let the apples cook until they are tender enough to be easily mashed.

Caramelizing honey and cinnamon

It’s best to season your apple sauce before blending or mashing so that the seasoning is evenly distributed throughout the entire sauce.

When seasoning, be careful and don’t add in too much salt. You don’t want the dish to taste salty. Your goal is to enhance the flavor without imparting any saltiness.

Be generous with the lime juice. The acidity will balance out the natural sweetness of the apples.

You might wonder why I used lime juice in place of the more commonly used lemon juice. It’s because of the unique flavor you get from the limes. It’s a perfect match for apples.

Lemons are more neutral in taste than limes so you can also substitute lemon juice or even a few drops of apple cider vinegar if you don’t have any limes on hand.

It’s up to you whether you like your apple sauce chunky or smooth

You can go rustic if you want and mash your apple sauce by hand but I prefer mine to be super smooth so that I first blend it in a blender and then pass it through a fine-mesh sieve. That’s totally optional if you want to save yourself some work. But let me tell you, the super-smooth creamy texture is spectacular.

Passing the apple sauce through a fine-mesh sieve

Let your apple sauce cool down completely before serving. That way you will have a beautiful contrast between the hot and crispy potato pancakes and the cool and smooth apple sauce.

I like to serve this as a main dish preceded by a savory soup.

For this recipe, it’s important that you work quickly. The potatoes and apples will quickly discolor after shredding and cutting. So you want to cook them as fast as possible to preserve their bright natural color.

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