Grandma Gussie’s Potato Knishes

Tina Wasserman
Recipe by
Tina Wasserman

In my family, knishes weren’t the large, square, hard cushions of dough with potato on the inside; they were a soft patty of potato dough with fried onions encased in the center. No family function at my grandmother’s house was without this treat, and you had to act fast or you didn’t get to grab more than one. When she was recovering in the hospital from a heart attack, everyone centered their conversation on Grandma’s knishes.

Subliminally everyone knew that the precious recipe had not been written down. No one was able to comprehend “a bissel” (little) of this and “a shiterein” (handful) of that until one day I came across a recipe that reminded me of Grandma’s knishes. With a little tweaking, I now pass the recipe on to the next generation.

4 1/2 cups dry mashed potato (no liquid or fat added)
3 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
1/2 cup or more flour or matzah meal
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 teaspoons salt, divided use
1/4 cup olive oil or chicken fat
3 large onions, finely diced
Additional olive or vegetable oil for frying knishes
  1. Mix the potatoes, eggs, flour or matzah meal, pepper, and 2 teaspoons of salt together to form a smooth, but slightly sticky dough. Set aside for 20 minutes while you fry the onions. 
  2. Heat a 10-inch skillet over high heat for 20 seconds. Add the oil or chicken fat and heat for another 10 seconds, turning down the heat if the oil begins to smoke. Add the onions and sauté until the onions are dark golden brown but not burnt. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining teaspoon of salt. 
  3. Heavily flour a board and your hands with flour or matzah meal. Take about 1 tablespoon of dough and, using your fingertips, flatten it in your palm or on the board until it is about a 2- to 3-inch circle. If dough is too sticky, roll in additional flour or matzah meal.
  4. Place a scant teaspoon of the onion mixture in the center of the circle, and fold the dough edges over the filling to meet in the center to create a smaller, filled circle of dough.
  5. Place on a floured plate until ready to fry or fry immediately. Note: These should not stand too long, or they will get soggy.
  6. Heat a clean frying pan for 20 seconds. Add the additional oil to a depth of 1/4 inch and heat for 15 more seconds.
  7. Place the knish seam side (the side where the dough came together) down in the hot oil and fry over moderate heat for 4 minutes or until golden brown. Flip the knish over and fry until the other side is golden, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spatula to paper towels to drain. Let cool for a minute or so.
  8. Serve as soon as they are not too hot to handle. Enjoy!
Additional Notes
  • Cooked mashed potatoes tend to hydrate when they sit out for a long time. To prevent excess moisture, use within an hour of mashing or leave the potatoes whole until ready to proceed with a recipe. 
  • These knishes are perfect for Passover if you eliminate the flour. However, the dough will be smoother if flour is used. 
  • Matzah meal acts like a sponge, absorbing excess moisture in dough. To allow for this, the mixture must rest for 15–20 minutes before using. 
  • Sometimes tossing the dough very lightly on a floured board will make the dough less sticky and the process of shaping will be easier.