Papa rellena, meaning stuffed potato, is a traditional and popular dish full of Peruvian flavors which is eaten as starter, for lunch or dinner or in between, hot or cold. It’s one of these typical Peruvian comfort foods everyone loves and makes you feel at home. A must-eat.
Traditional Papas rellenas are made wrapping small portions of spicy ground beef, hard-boiled egg, olives and raisins in a mashed potato dough, which then is formed into an oval shape (like a small American football) and deep or pan fried until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Served with Salsa Criolla and sometimes rice a simple though delicious Peruvian dish is born.
Origins of Papa rellena
As with so many dishes, it is unclear where the origins of Papa rellena are. While already since pre-Hispanic times ancient cultures in today’s Peru wrapped perishable foods in leaves or some sort of dough to preserve it and make it easier to carry when working far from home, travelling, hunting or going to war, some say Papas rellenas are a modification of Empanadas, which came to Peru with the Spaniards, and were created for the first time during the War of the Pacific when Peruvian soldiers trying to hide from Chilean troops on their way from base to base wrapped minced and fried beef in a potato dough.
Making Papas rellenas at home
- Making Papas rellenas at home is really easy, even though forming them is a bit tricky at the beginning and your first results might not be visually appealing; never mind, they will taste great anyway.
- Be aware that the potato dough should rest in the fridge for at least an hour, best overnight, before it’s used to wrap the beef mixture which should be cold as well and given a few hours that all the flavors can come together. So, best prepare the potatoes and the meat filling a day before assembling the Papas rellenas.
- Traditionally, Papas rellenas are stuffed with a beef filling. However, today you find chicken, fish, and vegan / vegetarian fillings in Peru as well. So, get creative.
- The potato dough can be made with white or yellow potatoes, or a mixture which, in my opinion, works best to get the right creamy though structured texture. Some people even add yucca to it.
- One of the key ingredients of Papas rellenas, which gives the beef filling its characteristic spicy, but fruity flavor, is Aji panca. In case you can’t get fresh ones, go for Aji panca paste which I always use and which is usually readily available in Latin American stores abroad.
LimaEasy’s Recipe for traditional Papas Rellenas
Ingredients for the potato dough:
- 1 kg (2 pounds) potatoes
- 1Tbsp flour (if you only use white potatoes)
- 1 egg
Ingredients for the ground beef filling:
- 450 g (1 pound) minced beef
- 1 small onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tomato finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1-2 Tbsp Ají panca paste
- 2-3 Tbsp of water
- 2 eggs
- A small handful of raisins and warm water
- 8 black olives
- All-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- Oil for frying
Preparation of the potato dough:
- Cook the potatoes in a saucepan with boiling salted water. Most people recommend cooking the unpeeled whole potatoes. But, as they have to be hot for making the dough and I’m not a fan of peeling hot potatoes, I usually peel the potatoes and cut them in medium-sized cubes and cook them this way which additionally reduces the cooking time.
- Anyway, once the potatoes are tender, drain them and allow to rest briefly until the vapor is gone. If necessary, peel the potatoes and then mash them or pass them through a potato ricer immediately. If you only used white potatoes, add a tablespoon of flour. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I as well use a bit of aji amarillo spice), add the egg and mix with a spoon or best your hands until well combined.
- Allow to cool and place for at least one hour, best overnight, in the fridge.
Preparation of the ground beef filling:
- First prepare all your ingredients: finely chop the onion, mince the garlic, cut the tomato in quarters, remove the seeds and then cut them into small cubes, boil the eggs, peel them and cut into cubes, soak the raisins in warm water, cut the olives into quarters, and finely chop the parsley.
- Then heat oil in a frying pan, and in portions brown the minced meat from all sides. Season slightly with salt and pepper. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
- In the same frying pan heat a bit of oil, add the onion, the tomato cubes and the garlic stirring until soft, then add the tomato paste, the Aji panca paste and a good splash of water. Bring to a boil, season with salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano, and let simmer slightly for a minute or two.
- Add the meat, and the parsley and cook over low heat for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool. Then add the eggs, the olives and raisins and allow to rest for another hour, best in the fridge overnight.
Assembling and frying the Papas rellenas:
- First knead the cool and rested potato dough for a few seconds with floured hands. If you are a beginner, best divide the potato dough into 6 to 8 portions.
- Then, flour your hands, take a portion of the potato dough, and flatten it in your hand. Place a portion of the meat filling (about a tablespoon or two) in the center of the potato dough and close the edges forming a typical oval shaped Papa rellena. Repeat with the rest of the potato dough and filling. The worst is done.
- Now, whisk two eggs in a bowl; put flour in another one. Roll each Papa rellena first in the eggs, then in the flour, shaking the excess flour off.
- Fry the Papas rellenas in hot oil from all sides until crispy and golden brown. Drain them on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Serve immediately accompanied with Salsa Criolla. Or put in the fridge, eat cold or re-heated later.