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Nov 28, 2006 02:33 PM

Potato Pancakes vs. Hashbrowns

I love both of them, but I don't quite understand the difference between potato pancakes and hashbrowns. My guess is that hashbrowns tend to be softer and chunkier, and potato pancakes tend to be thin and crispy. But then again, I've had potato pancakes that taste like hashbrowns, and hashbrowns that taste like potato pancakes. Can anyone clarify this for me?
My next question is for recipes... are eggs really needed in either? What about flour or matzo meal? I've seen a lot of recipes that have you soak the potatoes in water to get rid of the starches and then drain them, but in culinary school, one of the chefs freaked out when a fellow student did that, and he had them put the potatoes, unrinsed and undrained, into the pan (without any eggs--I believe she was making potato pancakes). My ideal pancake or hashbrown would be thin and crispy with just a hint of soft middle--do coarse shredded potatoes work better for this, or finely shredded? Thanks for your help!

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  1. Potato Pancakes and hasbrowns are almost totally different.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tamerlanenj

      Okay, well, thanks for the comment, but all you did was point out what I already admitted--I don't know the difference. Care to clue me in?

    2. I think hashbrowns are just potatoes and onions, while potato pancakes have a bit of egg and matzoh meal added to give them a little more heft. I'm also in the light and crispy (not thick and heavy) potato-pancake camp, so I like to shred my potatoes and onions coarsely and squeeze out all their excess liquid. Add an egg and a few tablespoons of matzoh meal, lots of salt and pepper, and fry in plenty of oil. Don't shred too much potato at once, as it gets gray and watery after standing.

      1 Reply
      1. re: dixieday2

        Do you feel the egg helps get the pancake crispy and thin? I'v used recipes that call for a beaten egg white as well, and those got really crispy...

      2. I would say that comparing potato pancakes to hashbrowns are like comparing a ground beef to a meatball.

        The hashbrowns are just potato and maybe onion cooked on a griddle/pan till browned and cooked through. Potato Pancakes have eggs and matzo meal/flour to bind it together and then are pan fried in a larger amount of oil.

        1. I never use flour or matzoh meal in my potato pancakes...just potatoes (with all liquid squeezed out), scallions, egg, salt & pepper. I find the egg is enough of a binder and this helps the potatoes get crispier.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JennS

            But the main idea is that potato pancakes aren't just potatoes shredded and fried and hash browns are (usually w/out onions when I get them at breakfast places in SF Bay Area). Whether or not the pancakes have matzoh or whatever in them.

          2. I usually add a little baking powder to my potato pancakes.