(Note: this post was originally published on May 23, 2019, and the photos were updated on March 28, 2020. The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)
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.
However, classic Patatas Bravas in Spain are pretty heavy. They're fried and the sauce is usually dairy-laden. I really cherished every bite of them there, but it's not the sort of thing I typically cook at home.
When we got home from Spain, 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.
In my version of the 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. The sauce is killer. Make it, slather your Patatas in it, then save the leftovers to put on absolutely everything else.
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Doesn't this look like the most perfect evening? Salty potatoes, decadent sauce, and a cocktail... it's a classic and much-adored combination for a reason.
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.
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
A much more nourishing take on the classic Spanish tapas dish, these Patatas Bravas feature salty roasted potatoes and a roasted red pepper sauce that gets its creaminess from white beans!