Potato Pancakes (Draniki) are a Belarusian staple. This blog post will teach out all about the best potatoes to pick, the best seasonings to add, and, most importantly, how to make sure you end up with crispiest, most delicious Potato Pancakes (Draniki) Belarus has ever seen.
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Ah, Belarus. I love you. I love you for your grit; I love you for your perseverance; I love you for your fun festivals and traditions. But mostly, Belarus? Mostly, I love you for bringing me this Potato Pancake (Draniki) recipe.
I almost didn’t make Potato Pancakes (Draniki) for Belarus week. I was going to wait for Poland to roll around sometime in like…. 2024, and then FINALLY I was going to bless your lives with a killer recipe for Potato Pancakes.
But, really, do any of you want to wait until 2024 for a good Potato Pancake recipe? Yeah, me either.
So, here we are. 5 years ahead of schedule. Youuuuureeee welccoommmemee.
Origin of Potato Pancakes (Draniki)
Potato Pancakes (Draniki) are popular in Belarus for one specific reason. Belarus shares a border with Poland! And since Belarus gained its independence from the USSR, it hasn’t had much time to form its own true traditions and recipes yet. It’s working on it, that’s for sure! But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the flavor profile of Belarus.
Belarusians are smart though, because they took one of the best foods from Poland and made it their own (some may argue that Potato Pancakes actually originated in the USSR as well, in which case, Potato Pancakes are entirely Belarusian by default. I’ll leave it up to you what you decide to believe).
So… are Potato Pancakes just… Pancakes?
Well, not quite. Potato Pancakes(Draniki) bear no resemblance to what we consider “pancakes” here in America. Potato Pancakes are made by grating potatoes, mixing them with an egg, some cornstarch and some seasonings, and then frying them on the stove. They’re normally eaten with sour cream and maybe a side of meat, but if you’re in the mood for a little sumthin’ sweet, you can also top your Potato Pancakes (Draniki) with applesauce.
What’s the Secret to a Good Potato Pancake?
Simple! You have to pick a potato with a high starch content, and then you need to make sure that starch sticks around. Potatoes like idaho potatoes, russet potatoes, etc, are great options for making potato pancakes. These potatoes have a high starch content and therefore crisp up quite nicely. On the other hand, potatoes with a low starch content, like a redskin for example, tend to not be the best for this type of recipe.
Without getting TOO technical, I’ll tell you that this is because in potatoes with a high starch content, the dense starch cells grow and separate when you are cooking. When they separate, it’s easier for the potato to crisp. When the starches all stick together in potatoes with low starch content, the crisp is a lot harder to achieve.
What to Do Once You Pick a Good, Starchy Potato
So once you’ve picked out a nice, starchy potato, peel it and grate it. I normally choose the larger side of the grater. As you grate each potato, put them in a bowl of water to keep them from browning. Once you’ve finished grating all of your potatoes, remove them from the water, put them in a paper towel, and squeeze out all of the water.
Don’t just drain the potatoes into the sink though. Make sure that you squeeze that excess water into an empty bowl. Here’s where the magic happens. Once the water settles, you should find (in both bowl… the one that you first soaked the potatoes in AND the one that you squeezed the water into) a cloudy, white substance has settled at the bottom of the bowl.
Drain that extra water out but DO NOT discard this white substance. This is the leftover starch, and it should immediately be put right back into your shredded potatoes. You need this starch to make your Potato Pancakes (Draniki) nice and crispy. Viola.
Flavoring Your Potato Pancakes
Every recipe for Belarusian Potato Pancakes (Draniki) is incredibly simple. Potatoes, onion, maybe an egg. None of the recipes I found had any seasonings or, truthfully, any flavor. I made one Potato Pancake like this and thought “NO WAY, JOSE. I NEED SOME FLAVOR IN THESE, STAT!!”
So, in went the salt, the pepper, the onion powder, the garlic powder, the paprika, the sour cream. Ahh… that’s more like it. Scrumptious with a hint of that sour cream flavor packed right in. Just the way I like it.
Fry Em Up
Frying is hard, man. It’s really difficult to just look at a big pot of oil over a flame and decide “eh, that looks hot enough.” I’ve tried this quite a few times, and it’s not really the best tactic.
My favorite method for figuring out if your oil is hot enough is as follows… When you want to check your oil, use a wooden chopstick. If you stick the tip of the chopstick straight down into the oil and little bubbles start to form around the wood within 3-5 seconds, you’re good to go. If it takes a little longer or no bubbles come at all, heat the oil up a bit more.
Phew! I think you know everything about Potato Pancakes (Draniki) there is to know. But if you don’t, leave me a comment. I’d love to answer any more questions you may have. If you like the recipe, post a photo to Facebook or Instagram and tag @TheForeignFork or hashtag #TheForeignFork. If you liked this potato recipe, also check out my recipe for Jeera-Aloo from Bangladesh. Thanks for stopping by! I’ll see you soon.
Potato Pancakes/Draniki (Belarus)
- 6 idaho potatoes
- 1/2 sweet onion grated
- 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp sour cream
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- vegetable oil for frying
- sour cream for topping optional
- applesauce for topping optional
- Peel and grate the potatoes. Place grated pieces in a bowl of water.
- When all of the potatoes have soaked in the water, lay out a piece of paper towel. Fill the paper towel with the potatoes, bring the corners together and squeeze the excess water out of the potatoes and into a separate bowl.
- Once the water settles, discard the brown water at the top. At the bottom of each bowl (where the potatoes originally soaked and where the extra water was squeezed into) there should be a white, cloudy substance at the bottom of the bowl. Scrape out this substance and put it back into the potatoes.
- Mix the rest of the ingredients into the potatoes as well.
- Heat the oil on the stove. When oil is hot enough (for tips, see blog post above), add about 2 tbsp of potato mixture to the oil. Flatten with a spatula, and fry until brown. Flip and fry until the other side is brown. Drain on paper towel to remove excess oil. Serve with sour cream or apple sauce. Enjoy!