Frugal, healthier vegan Patatas Bravas - a popular Spanish tapas combining crispy potatoes (baked, pan-fried, or air fried) with a simple tomato-based spicy dipping sauce! All with just a handful of ingredients, ditching the deep fryer, and ready in under an hour – perfect as a tasty tapas, appetizer, or side dish!
Crispy Healthy Patatas Bravas (Roasted, Sautéed, or Air Fried)
If you love potatoes and simple appetizers and sides, then this homemade patatas bravas recipe (also called salsa brava and papas bravas) is the perfect dish for you. Combining crispy potatoes with a spicy tomato-based sauce, this popular Spanish tapas is usually found in tapas bars across Spain but is just as easily made at home at a fraction of the cost! Even better, when making homemade, you can ditch the oil-heavy deep-frying method traditionally used in restaurants and stick to healthier roasted, pan-fried, or air fryer patatas bravas!
With this method, you parboil the spuds, toss them with a little oil and salt (to help roughen up the edges for extra crispiness), and then cook using your method of choice. The results are wonderfully crispy but with just a fraction of the oil! Even better, we've included two versions of tomato-based patatas bravas sauce below.
The first is a quick 'cheat' version that we love to pull out at a moment's notice, using ingredients already in our kitchen (including ketchup and sriracha) and no heating required. Don't look too shocked, though, because you'll be surprised at how amazing this simple combination works, and it's practically effortless too!
The second papa bravas sauce is closer to a more traditional version. It combines aromatics with canned tomatoes, slowly simmering them on the stovetop to develop the flavor and create a fantastic 'fresh' spicy tomato sauce. The one you decide to use is up to you!
Once prepared, serve the spicy Spanish potatoes as a hearty appetizer or side. We personally love to serve this patatas brava as part of a party spread or game-day snack alongside other tapas/small plates with olives, roasted peppers, pickles, vegan stuffed mushrooms, vegan calabacitas, bread, and more!
The Papa Bravas Ingredients
Potatoes: We recommend Russet potatoes, though Yukon Gold's would also work.
Oil: Use any neutral cooking oil, like olive oil.
Salt: We recommend using kosher salt. If using another type, adjust the amount to taste.
The spicy sauce: To keep this patatas bravas sauce delicious but frugal, we've made a quick 'cheat' spicy sauce with a combination of ketchup, sriracha, and Spanish sweet and/or hot smoked paprika (pimenton). The latter is optional but highly recommended.
The Add-ins and Variations:
Parsley: This is a popular garnish for salsa brava.
Black pepper: To sprinkle over the cooked patatas.
Garlic sauce: Use a vegan garlic aioli to drizzle over the patatas bravas sauce OR make your own (simply combine vegan mayonnaise with some lemon and garlic (or garlic powder) to taste).
Alternative patatas bravas sauce: If you want to make a more traditional version of the sauce, you can combine one small onion with 2-3 garlic cloves, a can of chopped tomatoes, the Spanish sweet OR hot smoked paprika (pimenton), and cayenne powder/chili powder (just a pinch, to taste) or sriracha. You may also need a pinch of sugar (or maple syrup) to balance the acidity in the tomatoes.
To cook the patatas bravas sauce: Simply sauté the finely chopped onion/garlic in a skillet for several minutes until translucent. Then add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 12-15 minutes (to allow the flavors to develop). Taste and adjust any seasonings, then enjoy it either as-is or use a food processor/ blender to blend until smooth and enjoy with the papa bravas.
How to Make Patatas Bravas?
Keep scrolling to the recipe card for the complete list of ingredients and recipe instructions.
First, preheat the oven to 425F/220C. Meanwhile, peel (optional), and chop the potatoes into even bite-sized pieces. We recommend around 2cm (¾-inch pieces) or 1-inch cubes.
Then, transfer the potatoes to a large pot and cover them with cold water. Swish the potatoes around in the water to remove the excess starch. Then drain and re-fill the pan – enough to cover the potatoes - with cold water and cover with a lid.
Bring the pan to a boil over high heat, remove the lid, and reduce the heat to medium-high. Cook the potatoes until just barely tender, around 5-8 minutes. This will vary based on how big you chopped the pieces.
Next, drain the potatoes, pat them thoroughly dry, and then toss with the salt and oil. Don't worry if they fluff up at the edges; this will help them crisp up even more!
Then, spread the potatoes across a parchment-lined (or Silpat lined) baking sheet and bake in the oven until golden brown and crisp (between 40-50 minutes). Make sure to turn/toss the potatoes every 10-15 minutes or so. That way, they'll evenly brown on all sides.
Meanwhile, prepare the patatas bravas sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl and stirring well.
When the potatoes are ready, transfer them to a platter, add a little salt (to taste) and serve the vegan patatas bravas either tossed with, drizzled with, or alongside the sauce.
For Shallow Fried Patatas
After par-boiling the potatoes, dry them thoroughly with a clean kitchen towel, then transfer them to a heated skillet (don't crowd the pan!) with a swirl of oil and fry until golden and crispy (usually 5-8 minutes), turning often.
Once ready, drain the potatoes over paper towels, then sprinkle with salt and serve.
For Air Fryer Patatas Bravas
First, preheat (if required) your air fryer to 400ºF/200ºC.
Then, spread the parboiled, dried, and seasoned potatoes in a single layer (with space between) in your air fryer basket and bake for between 20-25 minutes, shaking the basket halfway until golden and crispy.
The exact time may vary slightly depending on the make/model of the machine.
How to Make-Ahead and Store?
If you decide to make the simmered patatas bravas sauce, you can make it 2-3 days in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. However, the potatoes are best enjoyed immediately after cooking for the crispiest result.
However, if you serve the potatoes with the sauce on the side, the leftover potatoes can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. To reheat the spuds, simply add them to the oven (or air fryer) at 400ºF/200ºC until they warm and become crisper again. Alternatively, you could sauté the potatoes with a bit of oil.
Are patatas bravas healthy? The traditional version of this popular tapas dish is usually made with deep-fried potatoes, so not particularly healthy. However, this healthy patatas bravas recipe ditches the copious amounts of oil for healthier roasting/ air fryer/ pan-frying methods, so it is naturally lower-fat and lower-calorie.
Can I make this recipe oil-free? If you want super crispy results, I wouldn't recommend omitting it entirely. However, especially when air frying the potatoes, you can get away with using just a few spritzes of cooking spray/oil. Of course, if you use no oil at all, the potatoes won't become as crispy as expected, but you can try it.
Can you freeze patatas bravas? We haven't tried, though potatoes are freezer-friendly, and the simmered sauce should be too. We recommend allowing the elements to cool before transferring to separate containers and freezing for 3-4 months. Then, allow them to thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Top Recipe Tips and Notes
To peel or not to peel: This is entirely up to personal preference, as both ways work. Although, if you do decide to peel them, you can save the peel to rinse, dry, oil, and season, then roast into a healthy snack.
Don't crowd the potatoes: No matter which method you use for cooking the potatoes, if they're too crowded, they'll steam from the proximity rather than become wonderfully crispy.
Fluff up the potatoes: When tossing the potatoes with the oil and salt, don't be afraid to get the edges a little fluffed up. This will create lots of little ridges to crisp up when cooking for crispier results.
For even crispier potatoes: When you parboil the potatoes, add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to the pan. This helps draw starch to the surface of the potatoes and helps your spuds become wonderfully crispy and browned.
Adjust the spice: When making the quick 'cheat' patatas bravas sauce, I use a ratio of 3:1 ketchup to sriracha, which is a little on the spicy side. However, feel free to adjust this to personal taste. Likewise, with the other version of the sauce. It's always best to start with too little and build the spice, rather than the other way around.
Use Spanish paprika: It may seem a simple substitute to use regular paprika over Spanish, but the flavors DO differ. Spanish paprika is smokier and sweeter and has an extra depth of flavor. We recommend using either sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika – though you could even use a combination of both. Use regular smoked paprika in a pinch!
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the potatoes, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Put the potatoes in a pot, add cold water to cover, and swirl the potatoes around with your hand to remove excess starch. Drain, then cover the potatoes with cold water, cover, put on the stove, and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the cover, turn the heat down to medium high, and boil the potatoes until just barely tender, 5-8 minutes.
Drain the potatoes in a colander. Add the kosher salt, and toss with the salt. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl, add the olive oil, and toss to coat. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet (I lined mine with a Silpat so they didn't stick, but you could use parchment paper, or nothing). Put in the oven, and roast, turning and tossing occasionally, until crispy and golden brown, around 40-50 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the bravas sauce: put the ketchup, sriracha, and pimentón (if using) in a small bowl, and stir to combine.
When the potatoes are done, transfer them to a platter, add a little kosher salt, and serve with the bravas sauce on the side, or drizzled over the top.