Patatas bravas

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With the month drawing to a close, we’re about to wrap up our exploration of Spain. But of course, we can’t move on before talking about one of the most popular tapas dishes – patatas bravas! This was Jen’s favorite dish while we were there, and it’s one that any self-respecting tapas restaurant should have. It’s a hearty side dish with a spicy seasoning that gives the potatoes a memorable kick.

The dish’s name means “fiery potatoes ” or “angry potatoes” (no, not “brave potatoes,” as many websites bizarrely claim – not every word is a cognate, guys!) Also note the use of the word “patatas;” if you’re an American who took Spanish in school, you probably know the word “papas” instead. This is one of the many subtle differences between Latin American Spanish and continental Spanish. If you’re planning on taking a trip to Spain, do a little research on the differences before you head over – though most people will probably still understand you, it’ll definitely make things easier.

This recipe from Serious Eats is the closest to what we ate in Spain. It has lots of dry spice and a little bit of sauce to balance the starch, but it isn’t smothered in sauce like so many Americanized versions. It’s possible that heavily-sauced versions are eaten in other parts of Spain, but this is what we ate in Barcelona.



  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, cut into 1- to 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, grated on a microplane (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups peanut or canola oil for frying
  • 2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika


  1. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with 2 quarts water. Add vinegar and 2 tablespoons salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, and 2 teaspoons water in bowl of food processor. Run processor until homogenous, about 5 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl. With processor running, slowly add canola oil in thin, steady stream, stopping to scrape down sides as necessary. Sauce should thicken and come together. Transfer sauce to a large bowl set in a heavy pot lined with a towel. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Season to taste with salt, lemon juice, and black pepper. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a 12-inch non-stick or cast iron straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat to 350°F. Add potatoes in single layer and cook, shaking the pan and flipping the potatoes with a spatula or tongs occasionally until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Using slotted spoon or wire-mesh spider, transfer potatoes to bowl lined with paper towels. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4.  Pile potatoes in a large bowl, drizzle with allioli, sprinkle with paprika and scallions, and serve, passing extra alli-oli tableside. Extra alli-oli will keep in the refrigerator for at least 1 week.

As the comments say, there is some debate over whether or not this is classic patatas bravas. However, I can confirm that it’s the dish we had (with that name) while in Spain: Here’s a photo we took in Barcelona right before devouring the whole thing. Delicious!



One thought on “Patatas bravas

  1. Pingback: Spain masterpost | Travel Fare

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