Papas Rellenas are a traditional Cuban delicacy. Here you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to make them!
Our closest friends are 100% Cuban-American. Victor and Frances, met as teenagers through their Cuban parents. Both sets of parents fled Castro’s Cuba in the late 50’s and settled in the United States.
Every Cuban party has trays of Papas Rellenas, meat filled potato balls, and Croquettas, ham filled potato cylinders. (This post was originally published on March 11, 2013 and has been updated to contain nutritional information. As an Amazon Affiliate I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases.)
What are Papas Rellenas?
Papas Rellenas is a traditional Cuban snack. They potato balls stuffed with ground beef or picadillo. I learned how to make croquettes in cooking school, which are basically mashed potatoes with egg yolks, formed into cylinders, rolled in bread crumbs and fried. Cuban food has its roots in Spain, and is less spicy than other Latin cuisines.
You will not find two recipes for picadillo that are alike. Every family has their own “secret” recipe. Some recipes called for green peppers, some called for green olives with pimentos, some for tomato paste, and others for wine and tomato sauce. While it is not hot spicy, I wanted to give the picadillo a hint of smokiness, so I added some smoked paprika and a pinch of cayenne. Once fried, they can be kept warm in the oven.
The shape of Papas Rellenas also makes a perfect hand-held school lunch.
They can be served as an appetizer or main dish. This is also a great recipe to use up left-over mashed potatoes.
How to make Papas Rellenas
First you’ll need a batch of cold firm mashed potatoes. This works well with leftover mashed potatoes. Or you can make them earlier in the day and refrigerate until you’re ready to assemble them. Instead of traditional mashed potatoes, these are made with egg yolks, which helps them hold their shape.
After forming potatoes into a ball, make a hollow.
Put about 1 tablespoon picadillo inside indentation.
Repeat with remaining potatoes and meat.
Roll each ball in egg mixture then in breading. Place on baking sheet. Chill 2 to 4 hours.
Heat oil in a deep-fat fryer or deep frying pan. I used a deep frying pan and about 1 1/2 inches of oil. When oil is hot, carefully place 2 or 3 balls in pan, using a slotted spoon and turn until golden brown on all sides, 2 or 3 minutes. Transfer to clean baking sheet lined with paper towels.
Hold in warm oven until all papas are fried.
Can you freeze Papas Rellenas?
Yes! You can freeze them two ways. First, prepare them up to the breading, wrap well and freeze. This is the way I prefer, as they will taste freshest when cooked. Allow them to thaw in the refrigerator before frying them. You can also freeze them after they are cooked, but I only do this if we have leftovers.
Some of the items used in this post are available at my Amazon Affiliate Store.
- 4 large potatoes about 2 pounds
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 egg yolks lightly beaten, (reserve whites)
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1 egg beaten
- 2 egg whites
- For the Mashed Potatoes (make ahead)
- Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender, drain. Mash potatoes into a large bowl. Add butter and milk, mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in beaten yolks. Cool or refrigerate potatoes. These should be stiffer than regular mashed potatoes.
- For the Picadillo
- Heat olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook a few minutes until translucent. Next, add garlic, continuing to stir until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add ground beef stirring to break up meat.
- Add paprika, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook until beef is brown throughout. Stir and adjust seasoning to taste, adding more if necessary.
- Mix 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup bread crumbs in a shallow bowl.
- Beat the 2 egg whites and 1 egg and place in a bowl.
Assembling the Papas Rellenas
- Using about 1/4 cup stiff, cold mashed potatoes, form into a ball.
- Flatten ball and make a hollow.
- Put about 1 tablespoon picadillo inside indentation.
- Enclose meat in potatoes, forming into a ball. Place on baking sheet.
- Repeat with remaining potatoes and meat.
- Roll each ball in egg mixture then in breading. Place on baking sheet. Chill 2 to 4 hours.
- Heat oil in a deep-fat fryer or deep frying pan. I used a deep frying pan and about 1 1/2 inches of oil. When oil is hot, carefully place 2 or 3 balls in pan, using a slotted spoon and turn until golden brown on all sides, 2 or 3 minutes. Transfer to clean baking sheet lined with paper towels.
- Hold in warm oven until all papas are fried. Makes approximately 2 dozen, depending on the size.