Super fluffy on the inside, and crispy and golden on the outside, these patatas bravas, or Spanish potatoes, are such a treat that are so good smothered in a spicy tomato aïoli. No fancy ingredients needed!
These potatoes are covered in paprika and chipotle for that lovely hint of smoky flavors, and the tomato aïoli is of course garlicky and lemony too!
Each time I have tapas, it is because I crave patatas bravas. They ALWAYS have to be on table whenever we have tapas. And it is the first thing I order if I go to a tapas restaurant. It's something about crispy potatoes and spicy sauces. The sauce can be made as spicy or as mild as you want it, so you don't have to worry about the heat level!
What are patatas bravas? What does it mean?
Patatas bravas are deep-fried potatoes originating from Spain, hence they are often known as Spanish potatoes in English speaking countries. The main difference between patatas bravas and French fries, is the shape of the potato. Patatas bravas are cut into bite sized cubes, while French fries are cut into sticks (which I'm assuming you already know!).
Patatas bravas translate to brave potatoes and they are always served with a tomato based sauce (salsa brava). And sometimes also served with garlic aïloi. I'm talking a little more about the sauce under the paragraph titled The spicy tomato aïoli.
What to serve with patatas bravas?
As I mentioned earlier, these patatas bravas are always served at our tapas night in, and is also the one dish that I absolutely have to order when I go out for tapas. That does not mean that tapas is the only way you can enjoy them!
I like to serve them with Spanish meatballs, or albondigas, and unfortunately I don’t have a recipe for that yet (working on it and will update once I have it), but what you can do, is serve them with these Lebanese meatballs that are actually quite similar!
More recipes that would work really well with patatas bravas:
- Orange shawarma chicken (omit the naan and serve with potatoes instead)
- Garlic rosemary buttered steak (obviously!)
- Honey mustard cream sauce and chicken (or any meat)
- Classic shawarma chicken (maybe add a green salad to it as well)
- Healthy baked lemon chicken (it's what we call a balance, right?)
- Moroccan oven roasted carrots (just give me all the sides please!)
- Sriracha Honey Glazed Pork (although I would omit the tomato aïoli)
The best potatoes for patatas bravas (or any fried potatoes)
There are two main categories of potatoes, waxy and starchy potatoes.
- Waxy potatoes are good for boiling, baking and roasting. You can use them for frying too, but starchy potatoes will work better. Waxy potatoes will keep their shape well and have a creamier flesh. This includes most red-skinned potatoes, and small and round potatoes. Examples: New potatoes, Red Bliss, and Folva.
- Starchy potatoes have less moisture and they are highly absorbent so they will not keep their shape well, but that just makes them more suitable for deep-frying. The russet potato is the most common variety here, or Maris Piper in the UK. And is the classic French fry potato! In Norway you can look for fingerling potatoes (mandelpotet), Kerrs Pink and Pimpernell.
- Bonus: all-purpose potatoes are kind of the best of both worlds. The Yukon Gold potatoes fall into this category, and will be great to use for both boiling and frying. To translate this for Norwegian readers, I would classify both Asterix and Beate as all-purpose potatoes.
All in all, choose either Russet, Yukon Gold, fingerling or Asterix potatoes for the best result. However, any potatoes would most likely be delicious.
The spicy tomato aïoli
Most serve patatas bravas in a tomato sauce or a tomato sauce + aïoli. The tomato sauce is called a salsa brava, translated to brave sauce. This is because of the bright, red color and that it is slightly spicy.
However, I really love aïoli (aka garlic mayonnaise) and it is therefore crucial for me to have that on my Spanish potatoes! I therefore mix the tomato sauce and the aïoli into one delicious sauce and I'm never looking back.
This tomato aïoli is spicy, a little smokey, and very creamylicious. Easy to make with just a few staple ingredients. You can of course make mayonnaise from scratch, but store bought is also fine. Simply mix all the ingredients together, and taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
How to store and re-heat
Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. The tomato aïoli should be stored in a separate, sealed container. Remember that cooked potatoes can’t stay long in room temperature. After about 2 hours, they have to go in the refrigerator or else bacteria can grow and make them unsafe to eat.
You can actually re-heat patatas bravas or fried potatoes to be crispy again (although not as crispy as the first time). Add a few tablespoon neutral oil to a skillet and set the temperature to medium-high.
Once the oil is hot, add a few potato pieces and fry. How long it takes will depend on how much moisture the potatoes have absorbed, it could take about 5-10 minutes. Once golden, remove excess oil with paper towels and serve immediately.
To make healthier patatas bravas - bake them
If you want to make these a little healthier, there’s no problem in baking them in the oven. You can par boil as mentioned in the recipe card, and dry as normal. Once dry, put on a baking sheet and drizzle with about 2 tablespoon olive oil and the spices as mentioned. Give it a good mix and arrange the potatoes in one layer. Bake in a pre-heated oven of 500F (250C) for 30-40 minutes - stir the potatoes once.
If you don’t mind frying them, that is of course the real way of doing it, and the texture and flavor is hard to beat.
Why using baking soda makes the best crispy potatoes
One trick to make your potatoes extra crispy, is to parboil the potatoes in salted water with baking soda (aka alkaline water) in it. The baking soda breaks down the pectin and draws the starch to the surface. Once you drain the potatoes, add them back into the pan with some oil and shake.
That makes the outside of the potato kind of coated in a mash slurry, and this in turn leads to more browning and more crispiness. Serious Eats has more explanation of this technique, if you're so inclined.
How to make patatas bravas
Peel the potatoes (leave on if desired or if using waxy potatoes) and cut into about 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes. Place in cold water, for up to 24 hours but an hour is also fine. If you plan on letting them sit in water for longer than that, add a splash of vinegar to the water to avoid the potatoes getting brown. Once done, drain.
Boil new water and add 2 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoon baking soda. Once it’s boiling, add the potatoes. Boil the potatoes, under lid, for about 2 minutes. Drain again and put back into the pot with a little oil to shake them up. Now pour on to a cooling rack (preferably one where the potatoes don’t fall through, but hey that was what I got!). Let them completely dry and completely cool before the next step.
If you want to bake them, see paragraph under ‘To make healthier patatas bravas’, otherwise we are frying these goodies! In a shallow pan, pour in oil that can take high temperature, e.g. canola, corn or sunflower oil.
The oil is hot enough when you take a wooden spoon into the oil and it sizzles around the spoon, or you can try with one piece of potato to see if it sizzles. Fry for about 5-6 minutes or until golden and crispy.
Drain on paper towel and mix with the spices (chipotle chili powder, smoked paprika, regular chili powder, salt and pepper). If you want you can also sprinkle with fresh herbs like parsley. Serve with the spicy tomato aïoli and more tapas dishes, if desired. Enjoy!
Did you like this patatas bravas recipe? Here’s more comfort food I think you will like:
- Rosemary French Fries with Garlic Cream Cheese Dip
- Cheesy and Herby Scalloped Potatoes
- Cheddar Herb Sweet Potato Mash
- Homemade Lasagna with Béchamel Sauce
- Easy Beef and Beans Enchiladas
- Chipotle Cheddar Burger
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