Need a quick and gluten-free side dish that's super delicious? Try these Instant Potato Pancakes! They have gooey cheddar cheese, sweet thyme, and are made with nutrient-dense Greek yogurt.
Coming from a German family, I was always familiar with German potato pancakes. But also coming from a very large family, my grandma would often make them with either leftover mashed potatoes or instant potatoes to save time and money.
When we set out to make our own potato pancakes we wanted to try and pack some more nutrients in them while keeping them economical and super tasty! To do this, we added thyme and cheddar cheese for flavor. Then we used Greek yogurt to add protein and create a rich and buttery texture.
Not only are these delicious, but they are super quick to make, will fuel you for a day of adventure, and are cheap to make! Those are some pretty big wins in our book!
Looking for more easy potato recipes? Try these!
Ingredients and Substitutions
All substitutions are a 1:1 substitutes unless otherwise noted.
Instant Potato Flakes: Ok, instant potatoes. These are obviously necessary for these pancakes but are also a staple of many American homes. They're simply dehydrated mashed potatoes making them gluten-free and very allergen friendly. Just be sure they are not processed in a plant that also deals with gluten if you need them to be gluten-free.
Substitutions: Mashed potatoes can be used in place of the instant potatoes AND the milk. You can also use any flavor or brand of dry potato flakes you like. To ensure these are gluten-free (if needed) we recommend making Idahoan instant potato pancakes with Idahoan instant mashed potatoes or using Hungry Jack to make Hungry Jack potato pancakes.
Eggs: Eggs are critical to helping bind these pancakes. Because they don't have the flour that typically helps bind a pancake, using 2 eggs for more “glue” is necessary. Plus, it adds more protein!
Substitutions: Sorry, no substitutions for this. You may be able to use an egg substitute like Just Egg or Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacement but we have not tested it.
Greek Yogurt: Plain Greek yogurt is a staple in many of our recipes because it can be used in so many ways! It adds healthy fat to create a buttery texture and adds more nutrients to these potato pancakes to help keep you fueled for your day.
Substitutions: Any plain Greek yogurt or Greek-style yogurt can be used, including plant-based.
Milk: Just like you need milk to rehydrate instant potatoes, we need to do the same to make these pancakes.
Substitutions: Any kind of unsweetened milk will work. We have tried it with skim milk, hazelnut milk, and oat milk and all work great!
Cheddar Cheese: We like to use sharp cheddar cheese because it adds more cheesy flavor with less cheese!
Substitutions: Any of your favorite cheeses will work for these cheesy potato pancakes. Our favorites are pepper jack cheese, white cheddar, gruyere, or Colby jack.
Spices: These pancakes rely on just a few basic spices, garlic powder, thyme, salt, and black pepper. Garlic is a brainer for German pancakes and thyme adds a lovely sweetness.
Substitutions: We use dried thyme because it's easier to keep on hand. However, fresh thyme is always best if you have it! I don't recommend using fresh garlic in place of the garlic powder unless you like bites of garlic in your potato pancakes. You can always leave out any of these spices if absolutely necessary. Or, you can replace the thyme and garlic with your favorite fresh herbs.
Recipe Testing Notes
Throughout our testing of these Instant Potato Pancakes, we learned some key things that worked and didn't work. Here are the key takeaways!
- Wait to flip: We learned very quickly that these pancakes are brittle because they don't have flour to provide structure. This means that when flipping them, they'll break apart if you aren't careful or if they haven't cooked long enough. Letting them cook the full 2 to 3 minutes on each side allows the eggs to do their job and bind the potatoes, thus helping the pancake stay together when flipped.
- Two eggs are a must: So in a typical recipe, flour and eggs work together to bind and give structure to baked items. The flour is concrete and the eggs are water. However, in this case, we don't have flour and the potato flakes don't act like flour at all because they absorb way more liquid. This means in order to create a pancake that holds together and is not dry and crumbly we need to use more eggs than a typical pancake.
- The batter will get thick: Another thing we learned quickly is that as the batter sits, it becomes thicker. This is because the dried potato flakes will continue to absorb liquid until fully saturated. But, we want the batter to be thick so this is more of a PSA to not be surprised when the batter continues to thicken as it sits.
How to Make This - Step by Step
Step one: Mix everything
Yup, that’s it! Just mix everything together in a large bowl or medium bowl and heat a pan over medium-high heat. I recommend this be a large non-stick pan.
Step two: Start cooking
If you are using a non-stick pan then there is no need to use oil or butter on the pan. But, if not using a nonstick then definitely add butter or oil prior to frying. As for putting the batter on the pan, we recommend using two spoons to gently scoop and spread enough potato mixture for 4” pancakes. It's also helpful to use a large spatula for flipping, as they are fragile.
Step three: Repeat and enjoy
Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes until golden brown (or a little darker), then flip and cook another 3 minutes. Just keep making pancakes and enjoy them with sour cream and fresh chives!
Watch How to Make This - Step by Step
Use a non-stick pan. This makes life so much easier with these pancakes because they're brittle to begin with. By limiting any possibility of them sticking to the pan or spatula, you can almost guarantee a perfect pancake!
If your potato pancakes are falling apart, this can be because they're too dry OR too wet, which I know is annoying. If they're too dry, the pancakes will crumble when you try to flip them. If they're too wet they will not cook through and will end up sloughing off when trying to flip them.
Latkes are usually made with shredded potatoes, are fried, and thus have a crunchy texture. Whereas a potato pancake is usually made with mashed potatoes and is not fried in oil. This leads to a creamier interior and a slightly crisp exterior.
You sure can! To do this, simply leave out the milk and instant potato flakes and substitute both of them for 1.5 cups of leftover mashed potatoes.
There are so many ways to mix up these potato flake pancakes with different flavors. Here are some of our favorites!
- Jalapeno Cheddar Potato Pancakes: For these pancakes, add 1 deseeded and diced jalapeno to the potato mixer. Dice the jalapeno very small to ensure you get a little in every bite.
- Mexican Inspired Potato Pancakes: I love to add 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning or a ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the potato pancake mixture for a fun flavor kick!
Want to Save It For Later? Here's How!
This is the ultimate meal prep recipe! It whips up quickly, stores fabulous in the fridge, and is eaten cold (no reheating required!). However, due to the sauce and fresh ingredients, it's not freezer friendly.
Fridge: These will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge in an airtight container. When ready to eat, simply microwave for 45 seconds until heated through or heat in the oven for 5-10 minutes. I also don’t mind eating them cold, straight from the fridge!
Freezer: To freeze these, let them cool completely Then transfer them to a freezer-safe plastic bag being sure to only place them in a single layer. It can be helpful to place them on a baking sheet and freeze them flat for 1-2 hours before placing them in a plastic zip bag.
To reheat from frozen, defrost them on the counter for 10-15 minutes, or in the fridge for a few hours. Then, reheat in the microwave or oven.
Potatoes have long been the subject of food preservation. Before the invention of these dehydrated potato flakes, different cultures around the world had found ways to preserve the hardy and versatile potato. The Incas, in Peru, created a product known as chuno. These were thinly sliced potatoes that were set out overnight in the cold. The Incas would scrape ice off of them every morning until properly freeze-dried and then store the potato thins as rations. (source)
Ways To Serve
These potato pancakes are super versatile; not only do they make a great side dish but they can be the base of many other recipes. These are just a few ways we love to eat them!
- With toppings: Some favorites are a dollop of sour cream (or Greek yogurt), green onions, apple sauce, cranberry sauce, or with our Flamethrower Sauce.
- As breakfast: These make a great base for all the breakfast fixings. Eggs Benedict comes to mind with instant potato pancakes, a fried egg, ham, black beans, avocado, and Chipotle Hollandaise.
- As a bread sub: Dan often will eat these as a gluten-free substitute for bread in an open-faced sandwich. A favorite is to enjoy a pancake with all the burger fixings like a California Avocado Burger.
Did you try this and love it? Leave us a review, we would love to hear from you!
- 1 cup Instant Potatoes gluten free
- 2 eggs
- ⅓ cup Greek Yogurt 1 individual 5.3oz yogurt cup
- 1 cup milk any kind
- ½ cup cheddar cheese shredded
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. While that heats, mix everything in a bowl. The batter will get thicker as it sits and that's ok!
- Use two spoons to scoop enough batter to make a 4" pancake onto the pan. Because the batter is thick you will need to spread it out using the spoon.
- Let this cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Use a large spatula to gently flip the pancakes as they are fragile.
- Repeat until he batter is gone and then enjoy!