Vegan Rellenos de Papas

published Sep 29, 2021
Vegan Rellenos de Papas Recipe

The best part about these rellenos de papas? They're completely vegan.

Makes8 large potato balls

Prep35 minutes

Cook1 hour 10 minutes

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Angled down photo of blue plate with a broken open fried potato ball with mushroom stuffing. Fork on plate. Red and white cotton napkin on the left. There is a Malta non-alcoholic malt beverage bottle with some poured into a glass. In the background is a wood board with more fried potato balls. Plant overhead.
Credit: Photo: Amber Gress; Food Styling: Krystal Rack; Prop Styling: Vanessa Vazquez

Rellenos de papas — fried mashed potato balls stuffed with ground beef — are a popular Puerto Rican street food. When I was 7 years old, my grandmother, who was born in Puerto Rico, made me my first relleno de papa and I instant fell in love. And who could blame me? The warm hug of the mashed potatoes combined with the savory meat filling was incredibly delicious.

Fast forward to 2016, when I became a vegan. Traditional rellenos de papas were off the menu, but I was determined to keep this taste memory alive by creating a vegan twist on my childhood favorite. With a few tweaks (vegan butter, plant-based egg for dipping), I was able to make the potatoes vegan. The filling took a little more work, but I brought in meaty oyster mushrooms to stand in for the beef and cooked them with sofrito and sazón to infuse the filling with Latin flavor. For a more traditional beef texture, you can also use plant-based meat for the filling.

Credit: Photo: Amber Gress; Food Styling: Krystal Rack; Prop Styling: Vanessa Vazquez

If you’re new to rellenos de papas, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind when you make them. The mashed potatoes should be completely cool and stiff enough to mold with your hand. Press each ball into your hand, creating a disk, then spoon your filling in the center of the disk. Be sure there isn’t too much filling because the ball will be hard to close and too big to eat. You’re looking to form a ball about the size of a tennis ball. 

When it’s time to fry, grab a pot or a skillet with high sides. You’ll be frying in four cups of oil, so you want to have plenty of room for frying so the outside of each relleno de papa is a light golden-brown. If you want to make them ahead, stuff and shape the balls, then refrigerate or freeze them. If they’re frozen, let them thaw in the fridge before breading and frying. Once they’re fried, serve them hot and watch them disappear!

Vegan Rellenos de Papas Recipe

The best part about these rellenos de papas? They're completely vegan.

Prep time 35 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes

Makes 8 large potato balls

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the potato mixture:

  • 3 pounds

    russet potatoes

  • 1 tablespoon

    plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 6 tablespoons

    vegan butter

  • 1/4 cup

    plus 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, divided

  • 1/2 cup

    JUST EGG plant-based liquid egg substitute

For the filling and deep frying:

  • 1 pound

    fresh oyster mushrooms

  • 1/2

    medium bell pepper, any color

  • 1

    large clove garlic 

  • 4 cups

    plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

  • 2 tablespoons

    green sofrito, such as Goya Recaito

  • 1

    (.17-ounce) packet sazón seasoning, preferably Accent

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 8

    pitted green olives (optional)

Instructions

Make the potato mixture:

  1. Peel and cut 3 pounds russet potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Place in a large pot, add 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, let 6 tablespoons vegan butter sit at room temperature.

  2. Drain the potatoes very well and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Return the potatoes to the pot. Add the vegan butter, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cornstarch, 1/2 cup Just Egg, and the remaining 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Let the mixture cool completely.

  3. Divide the potato mixture into 8 equal portions (about 6 ounces or 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons per portion). Roll each portion into a rough ball and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Make the filling:

  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Trim 1 pound oyster mushrooms. Pulse in two batches in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, about 20 pulses per batch. The mushrooms should resemble the texture of cooked ground beef. (Alternatively, finely chop by hand.) Trim and cut 1/2 medium bell pepper into small dice. Finely chop or grate 1 large garlic clove (1 teaspoon).

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the mushroom mixture (reserve the bowl), 2 tablespoons green sofrito, 1 packet sazón, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushroom mixture is tender and all of the moisture is evaporated, 12 to 15 minutes. Return the mixture to the reserved bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Assemble and fry the potato balls:

  1. Cut 8 pitted green olives in half if desired. Working with 1 potato ball at a time, set on a work surface and press into the ball to form a cup shape (you can use the bottom of a 1/4-cup measuring cup to form the indentation). Pick up the ball, spoon in 1/4 cup of the mushroom filling, and press 2 olive halves into the filling if using. Gently reshape the potato mixture to completely cover the filling and form into a neat, firm ball. Place on a plate. (At this point, you can coat and fry them, or refrigerate them and then coat and fry later. The colder and firmer they are — at least 2 hours — the easier they are to fry.)

  2. Heat the remaining 4 cups vegetable oil in a 10-inch high-sided skillet over medium heat until 375ºF. Meanwhile, line a plate with paper towels or fit a wire rack over a baking sheet. Spread the remaining 1/4 cup cornstarch on a plate. Roll the potato balls in the cornstarch one at a time to thoroughly coat. Return to the plate.

  3. Fry in 3 batches: Add the potato balls to the oil and fry until light golden-brown on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully flip them over with 2 spoons and fry until browned on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potato balls to the paper towels or rack to drain. Let cool slightly before serving.