Cooking With Confidence
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Appetizers, Beef, Economical, Main Dishes, Stuffing Stuff

Papas Rellenas

by Nick

When Betsy and I were in Cuzco preparing for our Incan trail hike, we went out to eat at this pretty fancy place one night.

Keep in mind that fancy in Peru is like $15/person.

Anyway, Betsy got this dish called papas rellenas (stuffed potatoes) and while it was completely delicious, I also thought that it was probably street food that they were just charging more for.

Indeed I was right and over the next many days we saw various street vendors with their little papas rellenas stations selling essentially the same stuffed potatoes for about a tenth of the price.

Street food or fine dining though, these are some seriously delicious items. Although they are a bit of work to make, they are worth it if you have the time.

Yield
8 stuffed potatoes
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Papas Rellenas

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef (or mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Serrano pepper, minced
  • 2 cups grated pepper jack cheese
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Oil for frying
  • Cucumber Salad:
  • 2 medium cucumbers, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 lime, juice only
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Helpful Equipment

Directions

1) If you have leftover mashed potatoes, they would work best for this dish, but otherwise peel and cube your potatoes and cook them in simmering, salted water (1 tablespoon kosher salt per gallon of water) until they are fork tender, about 10 minutes.

2) Drain potatoes and add in butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mash well. Let potatoes cool before using in the recipe.

3) For filling, add diced onion to a medium skillet over medium-high heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and cook until onions are soft.

4) Add in beef and cook until beef is browned. Drain off any grease that has accumulated and add peppers, garlic, and spices. Continue to cook for a few minutes.

5) Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Let filling cool slightly then mix in grated cheese.

6) Heat at least a few inches of oil to 350 degrees in a large, sturdy pot.

7) To make papas, mix an egg into the cool mashed potato mixture.

8) Then take about 1/4-1/3 of a cup of mashed potatoes in your hand and make a small well in the center. Add a few tablespoons of beef filling. Cover with another small amount of potatoes and carefully mold the potatoes around the filling. Have patience and work slowly!

9) When the potato is formed (it's okay if some filling is showing), coat it well in all-purpose flour and set aside. Repeat until all filling or potatoes are gone.

10) When done, deep-fry potatoes at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes until they are a deep golden brown. Work in batches depending on the size of your pan.

11) Drain potatoes on a paper towel and keep warm in a 250 degree oven.

12) Serve with cucumber salad.

The Mashed Potatoes

On this particular day, I made fresh mashed potatoes for the dish but the absolute best way to make this dish happen is to use leftover mashed potatoes.

If you want to make them fresh, just peel and chop up a few medium-large potatoes.

peeled

Tip: Use leftover mashed potatoes.

Simmer the potatoes in lightly salted water for about 10 minutes until they are fork tender. Then drain them and mash them up!

Unfortunately, you’ll need to let these potatoes cool down before proceeding with the recipe which is yet another reason why leftovers are good.

I seasoned my potatoes simply with butter and salt and pepper.

mashed

Gotta cool these down.

The Filling

The papas we had in Peru were filled with chicken, but you can almost any filling you can dream up. I went with a ground beef filling cooked down with onions, a spicy pepper and lots of spices.

Just cook the onions in a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat until they are soft, then add the ground beef and cook it until it’s nicely browned. Pour off any extra grease from the beef and add your peppers, garlic, and spices.

filling

Get it?

Let this cook for a few more minutes so the flavors can mingle.

Then let it cool slightly and stir in your grated cheese.

cheese

Cheese is important!

A Quick Salad

These suckers are easiest to make if both your potatoes and filling are at least room temperature so while you wait for them to cool off go ahead and make the quick cucumber salad.

The salad is nice and crunchy and has some acidity which pairs great with the rich potatoes.

Just toss everything together in a bowl and set it aside until serving time.

salad

I think this is important.

Making the Papas

While I think you can use almost any mashed potato recipe, it does help to have a slightly drier potato base since you will be shaping them. You’ll also need to add an egg to them so they stick together.

egg

Egg it on.

When you’re ready to make your stuffed potatoes, scoop out about 1/4-1/3 cup of potatoes. Scoop it into your hand and make a little well in the center.

Then add a few tablespoons of filling to the potato well. You can really stuff these guys.

potato

Go big here.

Then add enough potatoes to the top and kind of shape the potatoes around the filling until you have what looks like a potato!

Don’t worry if some of the filling is leaking out. Not a big deal.

potato

A re-made potato!

Before frying these, toss them in a bowl with just all-purpose flour. The flour will stick to the outside and make a light, but important, crust.

I recommend making all the stuffed potatoes and then frying them.

As always, when frying, please use a deep fry thermometer so you can make sure your oil is a perfect 350 degrees.

You’ll want to fry these in batches so you don’t crowd your pan. I recommend doing 3-4 at a time depending on the size of your pan. They will need about 8-10 minutes to get nice and golden brown.

fried

Get your fry on.

When you pull them out, let them drain on a paper towel for a few minutes and then you can keep them warm in a 250 degree oven.

This was my test run and it came out freakin’ perfect.

potatoes

The test run.

My favorite part about these is how they almost just look like whole potatoes but then you fork into one of them and see the beautiful filling.

boom

BOOM.

A vegetarian version of these would be great with mushrooms and cheese or maybe black beans and cheese?

These are a bit of work but they really are delicious and would be a really fun appetizer for a party if you’re looking to try something ambitious.

Or you could sell them for $1 a piece on the street and make approximately nothing!

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13 comments on “Papas Rellenas

  1. My daughter loves these things. We buy them pre-made at the grocery store deli- but I will make them at home now! Thanks!!

  2. It does seem like some work, but I have a vegetarian guest coming at the end of the month who I think would love your alternate version.

  3. Nick, when you were in Peru did you have some of their green salsa verde? That stuff is the bomb and I think it would be really good with these rellenas. I plan on making them for dinner tonight with your cucumber salad and the salsa verde.

    1. Totally. Love that stuff. It would go great with this dish. I’m not sure you can easily find the peppers they use though unless you grew them yourself. You’re right though that I think any salsa verde would rock with these.

  4. These look so good! Almost like potato “footballs” {the right name escapes me} but stuffed with beef.
    Growing up in Russia, we had a similar combination of flavors but in a simpler version: layer of mashed potatoes topped with a layer of cooked ground beef, and topped with a layer of mashed potatoes. That got baked and was served with pickles. YUM.

  5. I have found a couple of recipes for the salsa verde and using jalapenos or serranos have been able to replicate the flavor pretty well. Just made my batch of it and have the potatoes cooking now. Looking forward to these for dinner. Thanks for the recipe!

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