Hash browns are typically fried in oil, but eliminating the oil is easy when you use a quality nonstick pan and know the best way to cut the potatoes. You can grate the potatoes, as is traditional, but using a spiral vegetable cutter (see Note) is the best way to go. This recipe yields two moderate servings but double the recipe for two large servings (each filling a dinner plate).
Potatoes are among my favorite foods, so it's surprising that I've only now, 15 years into my plant-based journey, begun eating hash browns on a somewhat regular basis. I made them once or twice before from the frozen package (they do come oil-free) as well as grating my own potatoes, and while both were good, they usually end up on the "too wet and soggy" side of things for my taste.
And then the clouds parted and the coolest little slicing tool came into my life! It's called the Benriner Cook Helper Slicer (see photo below; there are many other types and brands that also provide a similar effect, but this is the first one I tried and I love it). While it can cut any firm fruit or vegetable (apples, carrots, beets, etc.) into a variety of widths, it really shines with potatoes on their way to becoming hash browns.
The sliced potatoes are like fluffy white ribbons, so when they're cooking, air moves between the strands more thoroughly, and the hash browns don't get overly moist or gluey. I love this inexpensive little kitchen tool (it's about $30), and wanted to share it with you. However, if you don't have one, or aren't planning on getting one, you can still use the below recipe to make oil-free hash browns from freshly grated potatoes.
Having a quality non-stick pan makes this recipe a breeze (as well as pancakes and veggie burgers), and results in even browning and, of course, keeps the potatoes from sticking like a charm (stainless steel pans won't work). I have used and liked Berndes and Scan Pan brands. Quality non-stick pans are not cheap, but they are worth it. You can also make these hash browns in the oven if you don't have a non-stick pan.Print
Above: The Benriner Cook Helper Slicer can create "ribbons" of varying widths by switching out the cutting blades. For the above, I used a peeled Yukon gold potato then cooked it dry (no oil or water) in a quality non-stick skillet.
Above: When the hash browns are done cooking, they should be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Above: If you don't have a non-stick pan, or don't want to use one, you can cook the hash browns in the oven by putting them on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, and cooking at 400 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes, then flipping them over and cooking for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, watching that they don't over-brown. This method results in slightly crispier hash browns than when pan-frying. In the above photo, I used an unpeeled Russet potato.
Above: If you want more traditional looking hash browns (or don't have the slicing tool), grate a potato using the large holes of a traditional cheese grater. This method results in a wetter, more condensed pile of potatoes at the start of cooking, so the final result is usually pretty moist, but good. I eat my hash browns with a little ketchup and sometimes mustard. A spoonful of salsa and/or guacamole is also tasty(recipes for both here).
Hash Brown History
Hash browns, a staple breakfast food in the U.S., are made from potatoes that have been shredded, riced or diced, and then fried (usually in oil or butter). In some parts of the U.S., hash browns strictly refer to the shredded or riced variety, while potatoes diced or cubed are often used as side dishes (country fried potatoes or home fries). Originally, the full name was "hashed browned potatoes," later shortened to “hash brown potatoes,” and eventually just “hash browns.” They may have developed out of a Swiss breakfast dish called “rosti” (hash browns with chopped meat, leftovers, and other vegetables), a combination commonly referred to as “hash” or “bubble and squeak,” a dish that became popular in war-time Britain. (Source)
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