These crispy, cheesy mashed potato cakes are the best way to give new life to leftover mashed potatoes. Don’t let those spuds go to waste!
For the love of potatoes
Potatoes are probably the most versatile food ever. You can make them into potato starch or potato flour to use in flour blends, make them into pierogi filling, or even cream of potato soup. Of course, there are the usual baked potatoes (my favorite way to make them is in their “jackets” right on the oven rack), French fries, potato chips, you name it.
I may be the only mother on the planet with a child who has never, ever liked French fries (really!), but everyone in my family can get on board with really creamy mashed potatoes. I often struggle with when to make my mashed potatoes, though, when they’re for a holiday and the kitchen is super busy.
I’m thrilled to report that, on a whim, I tried the frozen mashed potatoes from Trader Joe’s, and they happen to be amazing! You can defrost them at room temperature, in the microwave or on the stovetop, and they’re perfect no matter the method.
Of course, this recipe works amazingly well with homemade leftover mashed potatoes. But I felt like I had to tell you about the frozen ones. They’re such a find!
Can you fry mashed potatoes?
You actually can fry mashed potatoes without all of the added flavors and ingredients that we’ve used here. But they’ll fall apart as they fry unless they have at least an egg and some cheese to bind them.
Everything else that we add here, including the herbs and spices, bacon and onions, is for added flavor. Fresh, warm mashed potatoes have all the flavor they seem to need, but when they’re leftover for a day or so, they do tend to lose their flavor.
Are these potato pancakes?
These are not potato pancakes (latkes). Classic potato pancakes are made by shredding potatoes and onions, squeezing out as much moisture from them as possible, adding some eggs and flour, and frying patties of the resulting mixture.
They’re similar since we are making these mashed potato cakes with aromatics, eggs, flour, and potatoes, but latkes are way, way more work. Since you’re working with raw potatoes, they have tons of moisture that must be eliminated before frying.
If you don’t remove the moisture from shredded potatoes and onions before frying them, you will be covered in splattered oil. Plus, your latkes will be soggy and not at all crisp.
These mashed potato cakes have deliciously crispy edges and soft middles. And you do indeed have to shallow fry them to get those crisp edges.
But they really don’t splatter. And you can even make the raw mixture a couple days ahead of time and then shape and fry them as the craving hits.
A note about leftovers
Whenever I cook for the fall/winter holidays, I don’t just *oops* have leftovers. I plan for them. If there’s a guest who normally expects to leave with a care package of leftovers, plan for that, too.
You don’t want to be caught cooking the Friday after Thanksgiving. That is literally the only day of the year that I refuse to lift a finger in the kitchen. I’m not even making a bowl of cereal.
The day after that, when I’m already sick of the planned leftovers, I’ll be making these mashed potato cakes. And that leftover lasagna that has been making the cyber rounds lately. Except I’m the only one in my family who thinks it looks amazingly delicious…
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy-free: If you’d like to make these mashed potato cakes without dairy, first you’ll need to replace any dairy you might have in your mashed potatoes (the Trader Joe’s frozen mashed potatoes have dairy in them, so don’t use those if you’re dairy-free!).
The shredded cheese can likely be replaced with dairy-free shredded cheese like Daiya or Violife brands (my favorite dairy-free cheeses). Use dairy-free sour cream for serving, or skip that topping altogether.
Egg-free: There is only one egg in this recipe, but it is a workhorse of an egg! You can see by watching the how-to video that the only real binder is that one egg (in addition to the shredded cheese as it melts). I still think you could replace the egg with a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel).
Bacon: To make these pancakes vegetarian, you’ll need to 86 the bacon. It does add a tremendous amount of flavor, plus some fat. The flavor can probably be replaced with some cooked chopped mushrooms.
Sauté the mushrooms long enough that much of their liquid evaporates. You may still need to add some extra flour, though, to absorb their extra moisture. The bacon fat that is used to sauté the minced onions can be replaced with unsalted butter, or even just some olive oil.