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Papas Rellenas

Papas Rellenas! These delicious mashed potato balls are stuffed with seasoned ground beef, then breaded and fried for a most satisfying savory mouthful! A classic Cuban appetizer.
Prep Time40 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Cooling Time:20 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Cuban
Servings: 6
Author: The Kitchen Prep


  • Heavy bottomed pot or skillet
  • Potato masher
  • Baking pan
  • Aluminum foil
  • Slotted spoon or spider


  • 2 pounds Russet potatoes peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon milk can be non-dairy
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper or to taste
  • ¾ cup picadillo see recipe link in notes or in text above
  • 1 egg beaten
  • ½ cup plain breadcrumbs
  • canola or vegetable oil for frying amount will depend on size and depth of cooking vessel used for frying


Cook Potatoes

  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.. Place diced potatoes in the pot and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to pot. Place on warm burner to help evaporate any excess water.
  • Add salt, pepper and milk to potatoes and mash using a potato masher until smooth and lump-free. Set aside to cool, about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare breading station: Beat an egg in a small bowl. Place breadcrumbs in another bowl. Prepare a spot for placing breaded papas rellenas such as a plate or a foil-lined pan.

Form Papas Rellenas

  • Once the mashed potatoes have cooled, use a large spoon or spring-loaded ice cream scoop to scoop a ball of potatoes. Using your fingers, make an indentation in the center.
  • Fill the well with about a tablespoon of prepared picadillo. Carefully mold the edges of the well to start to enclose the indentation -- you may need another small scoop of potatoes to completely cover the hole. Use your hands to ensure that the filling is fully sealed in and pat the potato ball into a round shape.
  • Place papa rellena on plate or lined baking pan and continue with the rest of the potato mixture until it is all used up. I was about to get six papas rellenas out of this recipe, each about 3 inches in diameter.
  • Heat oil in a deep skillet or pot to 375°F. Carefully fry 1-2 at a time, turning on all sides until the exterior is golden brown and crisp -- this only takes a short time so keep an eye on them. (I pull them out a second or two early because they do darken a tiny bit once they're out of the oil.) Continue with the remainder of the papas rellenas.
  • Scoop them out onto a paper towel lined baking pan or cooling rack and allow to cool slightly before enjoying.


  • For Gluten Free Papas Rellenas- Use gluten free breadcrumbs in place of regular ones.
  • For Vegan Papas Rellenas - Make potatoes as directed. Use dairy free milk if adding to potatoes. Make vegan version of picadillo for stuffing. Roll potato ball in a bit of non-dairy milk (some like to whisk in a sprinkle of cornstarch to the milk) or vegan egg substitute instead of regular egg for breading.
  • Oven Baked or Air Fryer Papas Rellenas - If you prefer to skip deep frying (I'm typically not a fan myself), you can make these in the air fryer or oven. Note: While my attempts to make this modification to the cooking method tasted fine according to my husband, they did not hold their shape as well as they do with traditional frying.
    • In the Air Fryer: Spray the papas rellenas with olive oil or baking spray, place in the basket of an air fryer and cook at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until browned and heated through.
    • In the Oven: Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray the papas rellenas with olive oil or baking spray and place on a foil-lined baking pan. Bake for about 20 minutes or until browned and heated through.
Tip: While the traditional version of papas rellenas generally calls for meat, it's worth noting that you can probably stuff the interior with a variety of different fillings: cheese, cooked seafood, pulled pork, chicken, roasted vegetables... the sky's the limit!