Patatas bravas are a staple of tapas bars. And for good reason! No matter where you are from or what you grew up eating, it's hard to argue with a crispy fried potato and a good tomato-based dipping sauce. It's a comfortable foray into Spanish food for the uninitiated, but packed with a punch, heat-wise—hence the name, which literally means "fierce potatoes."
Of course, the best patatas bravas are going to be the ones you enjoy sitting at your favorite tapas bar where you don't have to lift a finger. Restaurants often fry them in duck fat, which brings a new level of luxury. But you can also make a great version at home with just a little effort. If you're planning a tapas party, this dish is almost a requirement.
When I'm making them for dinner, I serve them in a big bowl, family style, but when I'm having a summer shindig in my backyard and I want a fancier presentation, I like to stick the fried potato cubes on toothpicks for dipping in an authentic salsa brava (recipe included below). If you are cooking for an all-ages gathering, you can easily make this spicy dish more kid-friendly by serving them with a mild, classic ketchup or a mayonnaise-based sauce.
Patatas Bravas Recipe
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4 to 6 servings
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, plus additional
- 1/2 red or yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cups canned tomatoes
- 6 oz jar piquillo peppers
- 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1/2 Tbsp sweet Spanish paprika
- 1/2 Tbsp hot Spanish paprika
- 4 large baking potatoes, e.g. Russet
- Dice half an onion and mince the garlic cloves. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat until it starts to shimmer, then saute the garlic and onion for 5 minutes or until softened.
- Stir in tomatoes, peppers, sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar, if that's what you have), and both kinds of paprika. Simmer for 2 minutes, then add salt to taste and remove from heat.
- Blend your salsa brava in a food processor, high-speed blender, or with an immersion blender until smooth. Set aside at least half an hour to let the flavors meld (refrigerate if not using right away).
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place a baking sheet in the oven to warm.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, peel your potatoes and cut them into approximate cubes, about one-inch square. Don't worry too much about the shape; rustic is fine, we just want them to cook evenly.
- Heavily salt the water and wait for it to come back to a boil before adding the potato cubes. Parboil for around 10-15 minutes or until they are almost tender but still firm in the middle and holding their shape. Drain well.
- Heat olive oil in the bottom of a heavy skillet (oil should be 1-2 inches deep). When the oil begins to shimmer, fry the drained potato cubes just until golden brown on all sides, about 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle salt over the potatoes while they are cooking. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
- Carefully remove the hot baking sheet from your preheated oven. Transfer fried potatoes onto it, distribute them into an even layer, and put them into the oven for 10 minutes, or until perfectly crisp.
- Serve potatoes with the spicy tomato sauce drizzled on top, or on toothpicks with the salsa brava as a dipping sauce.
Spicy Aioli Dipping Sauce
Different regions of Spain serve this dish with different sauces. A spicy tomato-based aioli is a popular alternative to the traditional salsa brava. You can whip one up in no time with premade mayo from a jar.
- Reduce oil for sauteeing garlic and onion to 1 Tbsp.
- Add 3/4 cup mayonnaise, regular or reduced fat.
- Prepare sauce according to the salsa brava recipe above.
- After pureeing, add mayo and combine thoroughly.
- Readjust the salt and add a splash of hot sauce if desired.
- During tomato season, use fresh instead of canned. Roast them in the oven first to develop extra flavor and sweetness. Dump them, juice and all, into the blender with your other salsa ingredients.
- Try roasting red bell peppers for your sauce instead of jarred piquillos. You can do this either in the oven (which is efficient if you're also doing tomatoes) or on the top of a gas burner, peeling most of the charred skin off before you puree.
- Experiment with whole hot peppers as a substitute for some or all of the dried pimentón (paprika) in the original recipe. See the video below for a version with two small red cayenne peppers, which the chef sautees with onions and garlic.