Belarusian Potato Babka – Белорусская Картофельная Бабка

This hearty Belarusian potato babka is made from grated potatoes, flavored with bacon bits or salt pork and sautéed onions. It’s usually baked into a type of casserole until it’s golden on top and creamy and fluffy in the center.

Belarusian Pototo Babka, a potato casserole or potato cake made with grated raw potatoes, sautéed bacon and onions. It's golden and crisp on the outside and tender and fluffy on the inside, served with sour cream.

I love recipes that feature my Belarusian roots. I can still remember watching my both my grandmothers make potato babka and climbing up on the chair behind the kitchen table to enjoy this potato goodness. I have come to find out that my husband, also with strong Belarusian roots, grew up eating this too.

Potato Babka is very similar in taste to Potato Pancakes, but cooked in a different way. The potatoes are creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Using raw grated potatoes makes the texture so unique. Just like potato pancakes, it is delicious served with sour cream.

What is Potato Babka?

Potato Babka is very popular in Belarus. It is made with grated raw potatoes. The potato batter is flavored with sautéed onions and salt pork or bacon. The batter is made similarly with potato pancakes, so the flavor is very similar but it is prepared by baking the potato mixture kind of like a casserole, instead of frying it into thin pancakes. The potato babka is crisp and golden on the outside and fluffy and tender on the inside.

Other countries prepare something similar, like the Babka Ziemniaczana in Poland. I am sharing our family version of this recipe.

Ingredients For Potato Babka: 

Ingredients for Potato Babka
  • potatoes – my favorite type of potatoes to use in Potato Babka or Potato Pancakes are gold potatoes. The starch level is just right, the potato batter isn’t too watery, the potato mixture doesn’t become too gray and, in my opinion, the flavor is the best too.
  • onions – I like to add a bit of grated onion to the potato batter. It keeps the potato mixture from turning gray too quickly and the color stays a pretty golden even after baking too. You can omit the grated raw onion, if you prefer. A sautéed large onion is a traditional ingredient in this recipe, however. Cooked until golden, it adds an iconic sweet and hearty flavor to the potato babka.
  • salt pork or bacon – in Belarus, salt pork was more commonly used to make “shkvarki”, as we called them. We would caramelize chopped onions and cook salt pork pieces until they were crisp and golden and serve those over cooked potatoes, mashed potatoes, with vareniki and other things like that. In America, bacon is more common. Bacon will have more of a smoky flavor. You can use either. You can also adjust how much you want to use, half a pound or an entire pound, if you want it to be heartier and more “bacony”. It’s completely up to you. I like to save some of the bacon bits and serve them with the Potato Babka when it’s done cooking, to add a bit of crunch to it.
  • all purpose flour this will help to soak up some of the liquid from the grated potatoes and just a small amount will help to give the potato babka the right texture without making it too dense or gummy.
  • egg
  • sour cream – I use a small amount in the potato batter and then serve it on the side with the cooked Potato Babka.
  • salt, ground black pepper, to taste

Preparing the Potato Batter

Grating potatoes and onions on a box grater for the Potato Babka batter.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, grate the potatoes on the fine holes of a box grater.

I like to grate 3/4 of each potato on the smallest and finest holes of the box grater and the remaining 1/4 of year potatoes on slightly larger holes of a box grater, but still smaller than the type you would use to grate cheese. I like that it adds just a bit of texture to the Potato Babka. The largest holes of a box grater will be too large to bake through and might still be raw, so you would need to cook the Potato Babka longer. It will also not have the correct texture for a traditional Potato Babka. The potato mixture needs to have a batter consistency.

Can you use a food processor to grate the potatoes?

Yes, but I think the box grater will give you better results, a better texture, but that is up to you, of course.

I also suggest grating a small raw onion to mix with the potatoes. The raw onions help to keep the potatoes nice and golden and prevent them from turning brown and gray too quickly. They also give them a mild onion flavor in addition to the sautéed onions. This is optional.

Potato Babka tutorial

I cook the Potato Babka in a 10 inch cast iron skillet, so I cook the onion and bacon in the same skillet first. On medium low heat, cook the bacon until it is golden and crisp. Remove the bacon from the skillet and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside some of the bacon to serve on top of the Potato Babka after it is cooked.

Discard most of the bacon grease, saving only 1-2 Tablespoons. Add the onions to the skillet along with the reserved bacon grease and cook on medium heat until the onions are tender and slightly golden around the edges.

In a large bowl that you used to grate the potatoes, add the sautéed bacon and onions, the egg, flour, 2 Tablespoons of sour cream, salt, ground black pepper. Mix to combine.

Use a pastry brush to spread the bacon grease up the sides of the cast iron skillet. The bottom should already be greased from when you were sautéing the bacon and onions.

Pour the potato mixture into the cast iron skillet and even it out. Place into the preheated oven and bacon for about 45 minutes.

Brush the top of the Potato Babka with some of the remaining bacon grease, melted butter or oil. Some Belarusians even like to spread out a thin layer or sour cream all oven the top of the Potato Babka. This will give it a more golden exterior. Return the Potato Babka to the oven and increase the heat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the potatoes are completely cooked through.

What Can You Use Instead of a Cast Iron Skillet?

You can also use any type of baking dish to bake the Potato Babka. The baking time will vary depending on the baking dish that you use.

I have also portioned out the batter between some smaller ramekin dishes and baked individual portions of potato babka. This is a very cute presentation and is much faster to cook through.

Other Variations of Potato Babka:

Instead of using bacon or salt pork, you can sauté some chopped pork shoulder or chicken and add it to the potato batter along with the sautéed onions. Instead of the chopped meat, you can also brown some ground meat or sausage. Make this vegetarian by leaving out the meat and using some sautéed mushrooms or other vegetables, like bell peppers.

Serving the Potato Babka:

Potato Babka is best served right away. Cool it for about 10-15 minutes, then cut into portions and serve with sour cream, sliced green onions or chives and some reserved bacon bits.

A glass of cold milk or buttermilk are also very Belarusian options. My grandfather would highly approve:).

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Belarusian Potato Babka

  • Author: Olga’s Flavor Factory
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x

Description

This hearty Belarusian potato babka is made from grated potatoes, flavored with bacon bits or salt pork and sautéed onions. It’s usually baked into a type of casserole until it’s golden on top and creamy and fluffy in the center.


Scale

Ingredients

4 lbs raw potatoes, peeled (I prefer gold/yellow potatoes, but baking/ Russet potatoes will work too)

1 large onion, chopped

1 small onion, grated, optional

1/21 lb bacon, cut into small pieces

1 large egg

2 Tablespoons sour cream

2 Tablespoons all purpose flour

 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

To serve: sour cream and green onions


Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Grate the potatoes on the smallest holes of a box grater. (You can also use a food processor to process the raw potatoes into a batter that is the consistency that you would need for potato pancakes.)
  3. Grate a small onion on the smallest holes of a box grater as well and mix with the grated raw potatoes. 
  4. In a 10 inch cast iron skillet, cook the bacon on medium how heat until the bacon is golden and crisp. Remove the bacon from the skillet and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Reserve some of bacon to garnish on top of the Potato Babka when it’s done cooking. 
  5. Save some of the bacon grease 1-2 Tablespoons and discard the rest. Sauté the remaining chopped onion in some of the reserved bacon grease on medium heat until it is tender and slightly golden around the edges. Set the cast iron skillet aside to be used to bake the Potato Babka in. Do not wash it. 
  6. In the large bowl that you used to grate the potatoes, add the sautéed bacon and onion, the egg, flour, 2 Tablespoons sour cream, salt, ground black pepper and mix to combine. 
  7. Use a pastry brush to distribute some of the bacon grease around the sides of the cast iron skillet, the bottom should already have enough bacon grease.
  8. Your in the potato batter and even out on the surface. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes.
  9. Brush the top of the Potato Babka with more of the reserved bacon grease, melted butter or oil. This will help to crisp up the top of it. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the Potato Babka for another 10-15 minutes, until it is golden and crisp on the outside and cooked through on the inside. 
  10. Take the Potato Babka out of the oven, cool for 10-15 minutes and serve hot. Garnish with the reserved bacon, sliced green onions and serve with sour cream. Potato Babka is best served right away. 

Notes

Other Variations of Potato Babka

Instead of using bacon or salt pork, you can sauté some chopped pork shoulder or chicken and add it to the potato batter along with the sautéed onions. Instead of the chopped meat, you can also brown some ground meat or sausage. Make this vegetarian by leaving out the meat and using some sautéed mushrooms or other vegetables, like bell peppers.

Keywords: potato babka, potato cake, potato casserole with bacon and onions, Belarusian potato babka, Russian Potato casserole

This is an updated version of the Potato Babka recipe that was originally published on April 13, 2012. I have updated the photographs and clarified the instructions to make it even more user friendly and enjoyable.

13 Comments

  • Roza

    Olga this came out delicious!! Thank you so much for sharing you recipes with us. The ingredients are simple the steps are easy and to top it off there are pictures too!! I enjoy trying your recipes.

  • Liliya Kovalevich

    Hi, I am making this right now. Hopefully it turns out great. Husband is Belorussian and I am Ukrainian so I never had it when I was little. He loves this dish and made it for me but I love the ingredients that you add. Thank you for doing this blog. It’s a lot of work. I love how you post pictures up every step of the way. 🙂 Keep up the good work.

    • olgak7

      Thank you Liliya! I really enjoy sharing my favorite recipes with all of you. Blogging is my creative outlet and I LOVE food and cooking in general.
      I hope you like the potato babka:) It’s such a comforting and homey dish. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • olgak7

      That’s great, Svetlana! I think most Belarussians tried this at one point or another. I love sharing favorite family recipes and then discovering that other people enjoyed them in their family too.

  • Tallya

    Hi Olga!

    I’m Belarussian but don’t remember ever eating this… I wonder why, as I mostly relate to you when you talk about Belarussian food 🙂 This looks and sounds really good though, I will have to make it soon.

    Thanks!

    • olgak7

      Well, like any food, not every family makes it. Some do, some don’t. Ha ha. It was very common in Minsk (where my Dad grew up and our family lived) and Baranovichy (where my Mom grew up).

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