Creamy mashed potato torpedoes are stuffed with a vegetarian filling in this delicious vegetarian version of a classic, Papa Rellena Peruana or Peruvian stuffed potato.
The papa rellena is basically the Latin American version of potato croquettes and just about every Latin American country has their own version. Though most often the papa rellena is almost always stuffed with a mixture containing ground beef. In this version of the recipe I am going to show you how to easily replace the ground beef and create a Peruvian stuffed potato that still has all the flavor and authenticity as the original.
In Perú, the beef is flavored with onions, garlic and the aji amarillo, the essential Peruvian aji chili pepper. The filling also includes egg, purple olives and raisins.
It seems that the exact way on how to assemble the papa rellena varies by recipe and by person. I’ve seen it where everything is all mixed together and others where the filling is topped with a single raisin, olive, strip of aji amarillo and slice of egg before forming it into a ball. For my recipe, I took the route of saving some time and mixed it all together.
History of the papa rellena peruana
Potatoes are widely available in Peru and make up a large part of the cuisine. FACT: Potatoes actually originated in Peru and there are around 3,000 different varieties of potato grown in Peru.
It’s said that during the War of the Pacific with Chile, Peruvian soldiers needed food to carry with them during their long walks with no towns or cities along the way. They figured out that making a potato dough, filling it with cooked meat, forming it into a cylindrical shape and finally frying it up made a food they could easily carry wrapped in a cloth.
When the soldiers returned home they brought this dish back with them and over time the recipe developed into what it is today with the addition of the extra flavors and a serving of Salsa Criolla, a common Peruvian condiment that is basically a red onion salad. Today this dish is served in homes as a meal, it’s on restaurant menus and also a favorite street food.
Finding a vegetarian replacement to make papa rellena peruana
The first vegan/vegetarian version of peruvian stuffed potatoes I tried was made with dried soy protein and I must say it was excellent. But soy is one of those ingredients that some people don’t eat for health reasons such as at high risk for estrogen based cancers (breast cancer) or an allergy, so I wanted to look for another alternative.
I tested three versions of the filling to make great tasting papa rellenas using lentils, eggplant and mushroom. The lentil filling took second place. The flavor was great, but the texture of the lentils was just too soft. I think I would like to try it again with a different type of lentil such as Beluga black lentils or French green lentils which are both a little firmer in texture. I also think that it would work well with a combination of the lentil and eggplant. More ideas to try for the future!!!
The winner ingredient for the filling was by far the eggplant. The meatiness of the eggplant resulted in a firmer texture than the mushroom or lentil, and the flavor also worked well with the other ingredients.
As far as the mushroom, for this recipe it just didn’t really work. I love the flavor of mushrooms but for me, I didn’t find it to be a pleasant taste with these ingredients and the texture didn’t work well stuffed inside the mashed potato.
Three tips for making papa rellena
Don’t skimp on the aji amarillo
This peruvian aji is the most commonly used chili pepper in Peruvian cuisine and not only provides some heat but it also has a fruity flavor that it lends to the dishes containing it. Living outside Peru may present some obstacles in trying to find
BEST OPTION: Use fresh or frozen aji amarillo peppers if you can locate them. This may be tough outside Peru but if you live in a larger city with a good Latin American market you may get lucky and find them frozen.
SECOND OPTION: If not aren’t able to find them fresh or frozen, your next best option is to use aji amarillo chili paste. One chili is about 2 T of the chili paste more or less. You can alter this amount to achieve the spiciness you want but you will still add some of the fruity flavor this pepper is most known for to your filling.
LAST OPTION: The last option is to substitute another pepper. But using a substitute may alter the flavor as the peppers are either much spicier or don’t have the same fruitiness. The two substitutions I am most familiar with are the serrano pepper and the habanero pepper. The serrano pepper is close to the aji amarillo in terms of its spiciness but it won’t have any similarity to the flavor profile of the aji amarillo. And the habanero pepper has a similar flavor component but is much, much spicier so you will need to use less of it.
Choose the right potatoes
Potatoes are generally somewhere on a spectrum ranging from dry/floury to waxy. You don’t want to use a super waxy potato and you don’t want to use a dry or floury potato either. The best bet is to shoot for a potato variety that is in the middle of these two extremes. You want to avoid overly floury potatoes that result in a dry, cooked potato consistency. Dry potatoes will cause the papa rellena to fall apart when cooking or you may have difficulty even forming it into its shape. On the other hand, the waxier potatoes are firmer and more difficult to mash into a smooth texture.
Your best bet for choosing potatoes to use to make this dish are called all-purpose potatoes and fall somewhere in between dry and waxy. Some options include: Red Gold potatoes which are red on the outside but have a yellow flesh and the more popular Yukon Gold potato.
You need to use your hands
To make your potato into the correct shape you MUST use your hands. I even sometimes mix the oil into the potatoes with my hands to ensure that the potatoes are mashed enough. But for sure the easiest way to flatten and shape your potato “footballs” is to use your hands, cupping them up around the potato with the filling to help close the gap and seal the filling inside. So pull up your sleeves, wash your hands and get your hands into it!
Don’t be turned away by the long list of ingredients or instructions as this recipe is actually pretty easy. It will take you a bit longer for this recipe so save them for a day when you aren’t rushed. If you need some help with getting the right shape, check out the video in the recipe card.
Vegetarian Papa Rellena Peruana
- 1 medium red onion finely diced
- 4 fresh garlic cloves finely diced
- 1 T canola oil
- 2 aji amarillo peppers finely diced*
- 1 roma tomato
- 2 cups eggplant finely diced
- 2 T raisins chopped
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 hard boiled egg chopped
- 1/3 cup purple or black olives sliced
- 2 T parsley chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 pounds potatoes
- 1 T canola oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
To cook potatoes
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup canola oil for frying
- 1 large red onions
- 1 aji Amarillo
- 1 limes
- 2 T red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 T cilantro chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a medium pot of water to boil (large enough to submerge tomato). Cut an “X” in the bottom of the tomato. When water boils, add tomato and cook for 1 minute. Remove from water and place into cold water. Easily peel the skins from the tomato then cut it in in half and scoop out seeds. Cut remaining tomato into small pieces and discard the seeds.
- In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and add onions and garlic. Lower temperature to medium and cook until onions and garlic are soft, stirring frequently.
- Add the aji and cook until softened. Next add tomato and cook until tomatoes are just about soft. Then add eggplant and sauté just long enough to soften 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, add raisins, egg, olives and cumin and mix well. Then add parsley and salt and pepper. Adjust and taste. Refrigerate mixture while you cook potatoes.
Prepare potato mixture
- Cut the potatoes into cubes with the skin intact. Place them into water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender. When cooked, remove from water and allow to cool slightly. When you can handle them, peel the skins from the potatoes and press the cooked potatoes through a potato press.
- Add 1 T canola oil and salt and pepper to taste to potatoes.
- Flatten out a portion of potato into the palm of your hand making a little dent in the middle to make room for the filling. Place the filling in the center and shape the potato into an oval with the mixture in the middle.
- Place egg into a bowl and mix well with a fork. Dip potato in egg and then in flour to coat.
- Heat canola oil in a pot until hot. Add potatoes gently to the oil and cook until the outsides are lightly golden.
Prepare salsa criolla
- While the potatoes are cooking make the salsa criolla.
- Slice onion into feathers and soak in cold water for five minutes. Drain off water.
- Devein and remove seeds from aji and then cut into julienned strips.
- Combine onions and aji. Add vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together ingredients.
- Serve papa rellena with salsa criolla.
Shop this post
Did you try out this recipe for Papa rellena peruana? Was it your first experience with making Peruvian stuffed potatoes? Tell me about your experience and your thoughts by leaving me a comment here on the post! Or if you prefer, send me a message using the chat function in the bottom right corner of your screen. I personally respond to all messages. If you take photos, be sure to tag @cookeatlivelove so I can see your creations!