Patatas Bravas

Meet my new favorite happy hour snack: Patatas Bravas, also known as the absolute best bar food on the planet. I've reinvented this classic Spanish bar bite in a way that's super flavorful, easy to make at home, and a lot lighter and fresher than the original.

We recently spent some time in southern Spain and absolutely fell in love with the tapas scene. Tapas are small plates, served alongside a round of drinks. Basically, you sit down, get a $2 glass of local red wine, and a little plate of food magically appears without you having to ask for it. Then you get another round of drinks, and more food magically appears. Then you walk a couple miles to a different bar and do it all again. Life is good!

Our experience with tapas was incredibly eclectic, which is half the fun. You have no or little control over what's going to appear (except perhaps a humble plea of "tapas vegetarianas??"). It's all part of the tapas culture, which is one of relaxation.

One of the most classic tapas in Spain is Patatas Bravas. It's essentially potatoes (usually fried, usually in bite-sized pieces) with a flavorful, often red, sauce. The sauce varies widely between regions and between restaurants; sometimes it's tomato-based, sometimes roasted red pepper, often some sort of aioli.

Patatas Bravas are the ultimate bar food because they check all the boxes. Salty! Crispy! Oily! Spicy! They're so incredibly satisfying. I completely fell in love with this dish while we were there, and may have gotten a few extra rounds of drinks in hopes that it would appear.

When we got home, I immediately started on a mission to recreate Patatas Bravas in my own way. I wanted to bake the potatoes rather than fry them, and make a sauce that was super flavorful but also completely plant-based. I also wanted to add some additional spices and herbs, which although not traditional, really are delicious.

I chose to use fingerling potatoes because they're so tasty and I love being able to leave the skin on. Roasting the fingerlings in olive oil, salt, and pepper makes them delightfully crispy and satisfying. No frying needed. Actually, I'd argue that roasting creates even more flavor than frying.

The sauce is killer. Make it, slather your Patatas in it, then save the leftovers to put on absolutely everything else.

In this awesome sauce, roasted red peppers provide sweetness and some char, and lemon juice makes it all so bright and zingy. Toasting garlic, paprika, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne in olive oil yields such a lovely and complex spice. Finally, blending in half a can of white beans provides plant-based body to the sauce, making it feel thick like a mayo-based sauce without being heavy.

Loving that colorful cocktail? It's a Negroni! We were surprised to see a lot of gin in southern Spain, and the region is also loaded with orange trees, so to me a Negroni felt like the perfect pairing.

Patatas Bravas are the perfect dish for a weekend evening when you're looking for something unfussy, comforting, and fun. Open a couple bottles of Spanish red wine (I fell in love with Ribera) or make some cocktails, find some friends, do tapas, and pretend you're wandering the bar scene in a Spanish city.

Please share your creation so I can see how you've interpreted the concept! Tag "The Rogue Brussel Sprout" on Facebook or hashtag #theroguebrusselsprout on Instagram.

Looking for some other great casual snacks for a group? Check out my Brussel Sprout Nachos, which are my absolute favorite happy hour snack.

Thoughts About Ingredients
(These are all just suggestions, since rogue is more fun than recipe)

For the Potatoes
  • Fingerling potatoes. Assume a pound or two per person for a meal, less for snacking. Red, purple, or a mix of colored potatoes would work great too. The smaller the potatoes, the easier they'll be to work with.
  •  A few tbsp good, flavorful olive oil. Bonus points for Spanish!
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Zest of a lemon (save the juice for the sauce, below)
  • 1-2 tbsp za'atar. We saw this in all the spice markets in southern Spain and brought a bunch home, it's a delightful seasoning blend that I highly recommend getting your hands on. If you can't find it, a mixture of cumin, thyme, and sesame seeds with suffice.
  • Flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sel
    For the Sauce
    • 2 red bell peppers
    • A few tbsp good, flavorful olive oil. Bonus points for Spanish!
    • A couple cloves of garlic
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 0.25-0.5 tsp cayenne pepper. I suggest 0.25 tsp, unless you really like heat.
    • Juice of one lemon
    • Generous salt and pepper
    • Cannellini or great northern beans. You'll probably need about half a 15-oz can, but it will depend somewhat on the size of your peppers and on your preference for how thick you want the sauce to be.
    • Sesame seeds
    • Fresh mint. I think the mint makes a lot of sense here, given the middle-eastern influence in the flavors of this dish. But basil or parsley would work equally as well.

    Thoughts About Method
    (These are all just suggestions, be creative and make it yours)
    1. Prep the potatoes. Cut them into bite-sized pieces of uniform size to that they all cook evenly. Leave the skin on, it's so tasty!
    2. Place the potatoes on a metal baking sheet and toss them with olive oil. Don't skimp on the oil- this is bar food! A couple tablespoons will ensure they get really golden and flavorful. Add generous black pepper, and roast them for ~20-25 minutes at 450 degrees until golden and tender.
    3. Meanwhile, fire-roast the peppers. I like to do this right in the flame on my gas stove. If you don't have gas, the broiler will work fine (in which case you'll want to do this piece before you start roasting the potatoes).
    4. Place the peppers in a paper bag or in a closed container for a couple minutes while still hot to help the charred bits of the skin come off. Then, using your hands or a towel, rub off most of the charred bits; this will ensure your sauce stays bright red.
    5. Place a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet and get it hot. Mince up your garlic and add it to the oil. Then add your powdered spices (paprika, chili powder, cumin) and toast it all for a minute, just until fragrant (but not browned). This will tame the garlic a little bit, and bloom the spices so that they become more flavorful.
    6. To a high-power blender, add your fire-roasted peppers, the oil with all the garlic and spices in it, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and about half a can of white beans. Blend it all for a couple minutes to get a smooth sauce.
    7. Taste your sauce and adjust as necessary. If it needs a bit more pop, add more lemon juice (a touch of vinegar will also work) and more salt. If it needs more body, add another small handful of beans. Then blend again.
    8. When the potatoes are almost finished roasting, remove them from the oven and toss them with lemon zest and za'atar. Return them to the oven for another couple minutes to soften the lemon zest and bloom the spices, but watch that they don't burn.
    9. Remove the potatoes from the oven again and salt them generously. I like to do this at the end so that the salt really pops, but while the potatoes are still hot so that the salt sticks to the oil. Don't be shy with the salt- again, this is bar food! Salty, crispy potatoes are just the best.
    10. Serve right away, while everything is still hot and the potatoes are crispy. You can make up a big serving dish of potatoes garnished with sauce (which is how we always saw it in Spain), or serve the sauce on the side. Then garnish as you see fit.


    Please follow The Rogue Brussel Sprout on Instagram!