Salsa Brava Recipe

Photographs: Joshua Bousel

I'm fresh off an extended vacation to Spain, where patatas bravas was the starch of choice to accompany all of the incredible cured meats, aged cheeses, and fried vegetables that made up many of my tapas meals. During my two-and-a-half week journey, I never once encountered two patatas bravas sauces that were the same—they ranged from thin smoky tomato sauces to thick garlicky aiolis, each one having its own charm.

While my personal taste led me to like the spicy aioli versions best, the most unique and attention grabbing were the multi-layer tomato sauces. These had an intensity so strong that very little was needed to fully flavor the crisp, creamy spuds.

A stressful first week back at work had me longing to relive the relaxing long nights at Spanish bodegas and tabernas, so I fried up some potatoes and put together what I think is a pretty spot on interpretation of salsa brava. To the tomato, onion, and red pepper base, I added more garlic, vinegar, and hot and smoked paprika than I would have thought necessary in order to achieve the strong tang, smokiness, and heat that made this sauce so memorable. I was taken back to Spain in an instant.

Recipe Facts

Active: 15 mins
Total: 45 mins
Makes: 2 1/2 cups

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  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion (about 1/2 a medium onion)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (6 ounce) jar piquillo or roasted red peppers, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • Kosher salt, to taste


  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  2. Stir in tomatoes, peppers, vinegar, smoked paprika, and hot paprika. Cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

  3. Using a immersion blender, or transferring to regular blender, puree sauce until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and let sit for at least 30 minutes prior to use. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Special equipment