Arts & Culture

How to Make Ukrainian Potato Pancakes (Deruni)

Deruni and onions cooking in an electric skillet. Photo by Liliana Palmer for the Beacon

This is a very easy recipe for Ukrainian-style potato pancakes. They go very well with Tzatski and you can use them in a variety of meals as a great side dish. One of the advantages of potato pancakes is that they have much more structure than hash browns, meaning you can use them for more things as they’re more of a fork and knife sort of thing. Potato pancakes are generally used as a side for dinners, unlike hash browns, but there’s no reason you can’t use them for breakfasts too. 

I adapted this recipe from UkraineFood

Serves 2 or 3 as a side. It won’t make a lot of pancakes but if you have a main course as well it’s a sensible portion. You may want to double it. Contains egg and gluten.


3 cups of grated potatoes (2-3 small potatoes should roughly cover it)

1 egg

3 tablespoons flour (white flour originally, but you can substitute)

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Vegetable oil

Optional garnishes:

Sour cream

Applesauce (trust me)

Caramelized onions


Fresh dill (this is a Ukrainian dish, after all)


  1. Wash potatoes and peel them.
  1. Grate the potatoes. Ideally each piece should be about as thick as a drinking straw, but smaller than that is fine too. 
  1. Put the grated potato in a mixing bowl and crack the egg into it. Mix in salt, pepper, and flour and combine it into a batter.
  1. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan or electric skillet. If you’re not used to cooking with oil, a tablespoon is a safe bet, and make sure to spread it across the cooking surface – areas without any oil will likely burn your food. You can add more if you are worried but don’t overdo it. Also, remember that different oils burn at different temperatures, so don’t substitute out the generic vegetable oil unless you know what you’re doing. 
  1. Once the oil is shimmering and you can feel the heat from putting your hand over it, scoop up a small handful of the mixture, press it into a disc in your hands, and toss it onto the skillet from above so it slaps onto the surface. This helps flatten it and keeps your hands away from the oil. Press the top side of the pancake with a spatula to finish forming it, and repeat. The pancakes cook VERY quickly, possibly in under a minute a side, so try to get the pancakes cooking as soon as you can. 
  1. Frequently check each pancake by lifting the corner with a spatula. When they are crisp and golden, flip them. Once both sides are done, transfer to a plate. If you’re doing a large batch make sure there’s still enough oil if you’ve been cooking for a while.
  1. Ideally, serve your pancakes immediately. If you want, you can keep the skillet going a bit longer to conveniently brown some onions as a garnish. In Ukraine, sour cream is absolutely non-negotiable and is always served with these. German potato pancakes are often served with applesauce too, which works very well here. There’s nothing really stopping you from having the pancakes without a garnish, but you should really try at least both the sour cream and applesauce because they are delicious with deruni.

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