If you’ve spent any significant amount of time in Spanish tapas bars, you’ve probably experienced the joy of patatas bravas. This classic, cheap tapa is a simple combination of fried potatoes and salsa brava: a bright red, slightly spicy condiment that elevates it to the next level.
Learn how to make it at home with this Spanish bravas sauce recipe!
What is bravas sauce made of?
Like many classic Spanish dishes, an authentic bravas sauce recipe is based on just a few essential ingredients. Olive oil, seasonings, flour, and broth are combined to achieve the right flavor and consistency. Some modern recipes suggest tomatoes or tomato paste, but the truly traditional bravas sauce gets its color—and its spiciness—from a different key ingredient…
What makes bravas sauce spicy?
The not-so-secret ingredient in bravas sauce is pimentón, or smoked paprika. This seasoning is featured in a wide variety of Spanish dishes, from pulpo a la gallega to chorizo.
There are two main varieties of Spanish paprika: pimentón dulce (sweet) and pimentón picante (hot). For this bravas sauce recipe, you’ll want a combination of both, if possible. The amount of pimentón picante you use can be adjusted to taste, although most bravas sauce is relatively mild.
See also: A Short History of Spanish Paprika
If you can’t find pimentón picante where you are, you can also use a combination of pimentón dulce and cayenne pepper. If there’s no pimentón available at all, use regular paprika with cayenne or chili powder. Even if your local supermarket doesn’t stock the real thing, however, you’re likely to find it at a specialty food or spice shop.
What’s the history of bravas sauce?
It’s widely accepted that patatas bravas originated in Madrid, and they continue to enjoy great popularity both within and beyond the Spanish capital. Bravas sauce, by extension, was almost certainly born in Madrid as well; the sauce and the dish go hand in hand.
See also: An Easy Homemade Patatas Bravas Recipe
In fact, you’ll rarely find bravas sauce drizzled over any other snack or entrée. You don’t spread it on sandwiches or add it into recipes. Or rather, traditional Spanish chefs don’t—what you do in your own kitchen is up to you. If you want to slather bravas sauce over anything and everything, I support that.
Anyway, it’s said that patatas bravas and their signature sauce were created at either Casa Pellico or La Casona, two Madrid bars that have since closed down. Others claim that their origins lie on Calle Álvarez del Gato, where a modern bar called Las Bravas proudly advertises its legendary bravas sauce recipe.
Regardless of the true birthplace, Madrileños agree that this dish is one of the most iconic symbols of the city’s culinary identity.
Try all of Madrid’s local specialties on a Madrid food tour!
The best bravas sauce recipe
Try this quick and easy bravas sauce recipe to make your own patatas bravas. They’re perfect as an appetizer or party snack, or the main attraction of a homemade tapas feast!
Bravas Sauce Recipe
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 Tbsp. of pimentón picante hot smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. of pimentón dulce sweet smoked paprika
- 1 –2 Tbsp. of flour
- 1 cup of chicken broth or vegetable broth, for a vegetarian version
- Salt to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the pimentón dulce and pimentón picante and stir until combined.
- Add 1 tablespoon of flour and stir until combined. Keep stirring for about a minute, to toast the flour slightly.
- Over a medium-low heat, add the broth very gradually, stirring constantly. (This is similar to how you'd make a cream sauce. The flour will absorb the liquid and leave you with a delicious sauce.)
- The sauce should start to thicken as you incorporate the broth; add more flour only if necessary to achieve the right consistency (it should be velvety and smooth, but not so thick that it holds its shape alone).
- Reduce to low heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Drizzle over some fried potatoes and enjoy!
More Spanish sauce recipes:
What’s your favorite Spanish sauce? What did you think of this bravas sauce recipe?
Hi this sauce was great. I spend a month in Andalusia every summer and this is as good as any sauce I have had there, often better. Please recommend recipes other then potatoes that use this sauce
Delicious! I’ve always made a reduced down tomato sauce before and this is SO much better! Thank you!
Perfect! This came out silky smooth and flavorful.
I am struggling to create a paste with the quantity of 1/3 cup of olive oil and 1 tbsp of flour, maybe Irish cups are more generous? I have tried adding more flour but don’t want to ruin the sauce either, could you tell me in fl.oz. or tbsp how much oil you use please,
It should be about 80 ml if that helps!
Wonderful recipe, worked perfectly as written and tastes like Barcelona to me. Very similar to the way enchilada sauce is made. Funny that,
Thanks for the easy recipe. Tried is first time around as I’m hosting a Spanish tapas evening with friends and I couldn’t be happier. I added hot paprika and a pinch of chilli powder to give it a kick and it tastes great. Consistency is perfect after adding half a tablespoon more flour. Yay! 😀
Gorgeous one of the best recipes out there simple to do simple to cook
Many Thanks Dave
Perfect! You just need to keep stirring as you are adding the stock a little at a time, at first it curdles a bit but then comes together if you persevere thank you so much for this recipe it takes me back to Spain ❤️❤️
Hi! If I only have hot paprika on hand is it find to just use that paprika for both callings of paprika? We often eat spicy so the heat won’t be a concern, I’m more worried about the flavor. Thanks!
It should work fine!
Hey, this was great and super easy. I added some chili lime seasoning at the end and it really worked!
Would chicken stock work as a substitute for chicken broth?
I had an issue with the consistency of the sauce. The sauce got too thick very quickly. I ended up having to make a second cup of broth to thin it to a consistency that would drizzle. I didn’t need all of the broth but simply stirring it didn’t work. On the plus side everyone loved it. I’m hoping I can achieve the right consistency without the extra broth next time.
You have to add broth in over low heat to make the recipe work
I added a splash of white balsamic to add a bit of sweetness and sour to flesh out the flavor profile.
I’ve been making bravas sauce like this for some time, since we first visited Spain 30 years ago, in fact. As my wife became Celiac a few years back I thicken it with chickpea flour, though. We moved to Spain, in the mountains of North Granada, 2 years ago and all the bars in the village serve their patatas bravas with ready made sauce, bringing the bottle to the table with the potatoes, but we have found a few places in nearby towns that make their own, though we have to check if it’s gluten free first. We had delicious patatas bravas in a bar in Almeria recently that had jalapeno peppers in, which really gave it a kick.
Just made it.I only had normal UK supermarket paprika so thought I’d add some chilli powder. Next time I’m going to use less as it made it vindaloo strength. Nice flavour though and suprisingly easy to make.
This recipe doesn’t work at all. 0/5. Adding the dry ingredients to the hot oil does not make a paste of any kind, and adding the broth to that obviously won’t help. I even tried using less oil, more dry ingredients, hotter oil, etc and frankly I feel stupid thinking adding some spice to olive oil would ever work. Very disappointing.
Hi there Ben — did you add the flour as well? While adding the spices alone won’t quite form a paste, once the flour is in there it definitely will, much like when making a roux for the base of any sauce. Then adding the broth little by little will thin our the floury paste (which on its own would be inedible). This is the classic way to make bravas sauce here in Spain, and it always works for me! Best of luck!
i had the same problem, follow the recipe exactly. The oil was quite warm to begin and sizzled slightly as i added the paprika and flour. It didn’t thicken until i put it back on the heat, so maybe next time try that. Even with that small boost of heat, the flour sucked up the oil and made the roux quickly. It definitely doesn’t have the same dark colouring as pictured though.
Dave Big Chief
The recipe doesn’t tell you to remove it from the heat. Watch a youtube video on making a ‘roux’. This is the same except it has added paprika. Once the flour is fried off, you add the stock… as you would if you were making a white or cheese sauce. If it tastes of flour, you didn’t cook the flour in the oil for long enough. It is really basic cooking 101. You’re welcome.
Mine thickened as would a cream sauce. Try again, letting the olive oil warm until it shimmers slightly, then allow the paprikas to absorb the oil while stirring. As soon as they absorb the oil, take it off the heat, stir in the flour and return to lo -med- heat, still stirring. Whisk in the broth only after the paprika & flour has formed a paste – I used hot broth, not cold, which might make the difference.
first had potatas bravas in Panama City. Have been trying to duplicate it for a year and your recipe nailed it perfectly.
So happy to hear this!
Hi I live in Sydney and am about to host a Spanish reunion party in two days time
Can I make the Bravas sauce ahead
Thank you for great recipes
Yes! A few days ahead is no problem.
Thanks for publishing this simple, authentic recipe. I just returned from a trip to Spain and Italy which included a much anticipated visit to ‘Las Bravas’ in Madrid, a place I used to haunt in my early teaching days in the city. Going back for ‘una de bravas’ was a highlight of the trip! I had always looked for a recipe that came close to their signature sauce, and yours is the closest I have found. Muchísimas gracias y aproveche!