Healthy Patatas Bravas (Spanish Baked/Air Fryer Potatoes with Salsa Brava)
How to make patatas bravas, a simple, flavorful tapas (appetizer) combining crispy potatoes with a robust tomato sauce with a gentle kick of heat (salsa brava). Plus, this version is made healthier by omitting the deep-fryer for baked or air-fried potatoes, instead.
Wash and peel the potatoes. You can optionally keep the skin on the potatoes – if preferred. If peeling, save the skins to make potato peel chips!
Once peeled, chop them into cubes around ¾ inch/2 cm in size. Then rinse (to remove excess starch) and thoroughly dry with a kitchen towel.
Step 2: Cook the potatoes
Bake in the oven: spread the potatoes across a large baking tray and brush (or spray) with a little oil and gently toss to coat. Then bake the potatoes at 400ºF/200ºC for about 35-45 minutes. When ready, the potatoes should be golden brown and crispy.Air fryer patatas bravas: spread the potatoes in a single layer across your air fryer basket and lightly spray or drizzle with a little oil. Then bake at 400ºF/200ºC for between 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye after 20 minutes, as the size and type of your machine will make the time vary. Also, you may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your air fryer.It's best not to "crowd" the basket too much; otherwise, the potatoes are more likely to "steam" and won't crisp up as much.
Step 3: Prepare the patatas bravas sauce
Meanwhile, as the potatoes cook, it's time to prepare the salsa brava. First, finely chop the onion and garlic. Then grate (directly into a bowl to collect all the juices) or finely chop the tomatoes.
Heat up a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and then add a swirl of oil and the onion. Allow it to cook until softened and translucent (3-4 minutes).
Add the garlic, paprika, chili, and salt. Stir and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and bay leaf and reduce the heat to medium-low/low, allowing it to simmer for 15-20 minutes to reduce and thicken.It's important to simmer this slowly to allow the flavors to develop, so don't rush this step.
Give it a taste and adjust any of the seasonings to personal preference. Then remove the bay leaf.
You can enjoy the sauce chunky or use an immersion blender/blender to puree it until smooth (add a little water if needed).
Step 4: Compile the papas bravas
Once both elements are ready, it's time to compile and serve. Serve up the potatoes in a dish and spoon over the sauce. You can optionally further drizzle with some garlic sauce, then top with some finely chopped fresh parsley.
How to Store?
Make ahead: you can prepare the patatas bravas sauce (salsa brava) recipe several days in advance (3-4) and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. In fact, I recommend making the salsa brava a day in advance if possible - as it chills in the fridge overnight, the flavors will develop further, and it tastes even better than the first day!Store: once baked, I recommend eating the dish immediately, as the potatoes will become soggy while sitting (especially if covered in sauce). If you serve the potatoes ad sauce separately, you could store the leftover potatoes in an airtight container for several days.Freeze: you can freeze the potatoes and salsa brava separately, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so together. Allow them to cool and then transfer to separate freezer-safe containers and freeze for up to 6 months (for the potatoes) or 2-3 months for the salsa brava. Thaw in the fridge before reheating. Reheat: it's important to reheat the papa bravas the right way to get them to re-crisp again (though they won't go as crispy as when first cooked). Avoid the microwave at all costs. Instead, place them back in the oven or air fryer at 350ºF/180ºC until warmed through and crispy again. You could also pan-fry the potatoes with a bit of oil for crisper results.
Dry the potatoes thoroughly: after rinsing the cubed potatoes, make sure to dry them thoroughly. If they're wet, then they'll steam while cooking instead of becoming wonderfully crispy.
To pan-fry the potatoes: if you want to shallow fry (sauté) the potatoes, that's also possible. To do so, gently cook in the skillet with a little oil for several minutes. Then place in the fridge for 5 minutes. Then, return the potato to the pan on high heat and fry until golden and crispy. Drain the potatoes on paper towels before serving.
Toss with the sauce: while it's common to serve the papas bravas topped with sauce, you can also toss them with the sauce until thoroughly coated too.
Enjoy a patatas bravas breakfast: by topping the dish with a fried or poached egg. The yolk will drizzle over the crispy potatoes and make for an amazing, hearty, addictive breakfast dish.
For crispier baked/ air fryer potatoes: place the cubed potato in a pan with enough water to cover them and ½ teaspoon baking soda. Bring to a boil and then boil for two minutes. Then quickly drain the potatoes, add the olive oil, and stir/toss to coat (you don't have to be too precious with this as fluffy edges = crispier edges). Then cook the baked/air-fried potatoes until golden and crisp.
Using leftover patatas bravas sauce: salsa brava is good for more than just homemade patatas bravas. It makes for a delicious condiment (just like ketchup) to use with eggs, mixed into pasta/rice/quinoa, drizzled over pizza, and more!
Optional add-ins and variations:
Garlic sauce: you can use garlic aioli. However, I had some Lebanese toum in the fridge, so I used that (which is a LOT more robust than aioli). To make a "cheat" aioli, combine some mayonnaise with a bit of lemon juice and garlic paste (adjust the ratio to personal taste).
Sugar: while optional, a little sugar helps to balance the flavors and provide a subtle sweetness to the sauce. You can use regular granulated sugar or honey/maple.
Chili: instead of (or alongside) the chili powder, you could use fresh chili. The type you use will impact how spicy the sauce is. For example, for a milder sauce, you could use Spanish piquillo peppers; for medium heat, a jalapeño would work, or for a hotter version, then cayenne peppers or habaneros would work, etc. And so on, depending on what chilies are available to you.
Vinegar: to add a little extra "tang" to the patatas bravas sauce, you might like 1-2 tablespoon of vinegar. White or red wine vinegar work well, as does sherry vinegar.
Other herbs/spices: you can add extra flavor to the sauce with the addition of other herbs like thyme and oregano (just a pinch of either/both).