Papas Rellenas are a traditional Cuban delicacy. Here you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to make them!
Sophie’s best buddy, Kate, is 100% Cuban-American. Kate’s parents, Victor and Frances, met as teenagers through their Cuban parents. Both sets of grandparents fled Castro’s Cuba in the late 50’s and settled in the United States, hoping to find a better way of life for their children.
Sophie spends so much time with Kate and family, that Frances calls Sophie, her “third daughter”, I call her my little “Cubana“. One of Sophie’s favorite Cuban dishes is Papas Rellenas, potato balls stuffed with ground beef or picadillo. Every Cuban party has trays of Papas Rellenas, meat filled potato balls, and Croquettas, ham filled potato cylinders, from one of the local Cuban restaurants in our area.
I’ve always wanted to make them. We made 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. I researched about five different recipes and did not find two recipes for picadillo that were alike. 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 they are 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.
Savory meat filled potato balls.
- For the mashed potatoes (cold, firm potatoes are best. If you want to cut corners, most grocery stores have pre-made mashed potatoes in the refrigerated section.)
- Mashed Potatoes
- 2 pound potatoes (about 4 large, peeled and cubed)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 egg yolks (lightly beaten, (reserve whites))
- 1/4 cup whole milk or cream
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- reserved egg whites (plus one whole egg, beaten)
- For the mashed potatoes
- 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.
- Assembling the Papas
- 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.
Here is a step-by-step guide to making Papas Rellenas:
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.
This is the recipe for picadillo, for placing inside of the Papas Rellenas:
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 or 2 Tablespoons olive oil (depending on how lean your meat is.)
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon each cumin and smoked paprika (to taste.)
- Pinch of cayenne
- 8 Spanish olives (finely chopped (green olives stuffed with pimentos))
- 2 Tablespoons juice from olives
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook a few minutes. Next, add garlic, continuing to stir until garlic is fragrant. Then, add ground beef, stirring.
- Add paprika, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper, stir and adjust seasoning to taste. Cook until beef is brown throughout.
- Stir in chopped olives and olive juice. Remove pan from heat and cool to room temperature, until cool enough to handle.