Tortitas de Papa con Queso (Mexican Potato Cakes)

When life gives you too many potatoes (can there’s such a thing as too many potatoes) then make these delectable tortitas de papa or Mexican potato cakes. You can start from scratch our use leftover mashed potatoes and incorporate any additional flavors you’d like. This is a fun and budget friendly dish everyone in your family will love – it also happens to be one of my favorite ways to eat potatoes!

A white plate with tomato salsa and boiled pinto beans and two crispy Mexican potato cakes.
Tortitas de Papa with Tomato Salsa

What are Tortitas de Papa

Tortitas, when referring to this dish, means little cakes, and papa is the Spanish word for potato.

These little Mexican potato cakes, or potato fritters, are a delightful blend of comforting flavors and textures that create a beloved side dish or light dinner option. You could also serve them as an appetizer. 

I love making them with cheese but you can easily customize them with whatever you have on hand or to adapt them to different preferences or dietary needs in your family. 

There are so many different ways you can make and serve these fun potato patties, but you know me, I’m always looking for a faster and easier way to cook because, well, we’re all busy and need to get food on the table quickly most days.

Growing up my mom mostly made a variation of tortitas de papa with ground shrimp during the Lenten months.

I’ll be honest with you and tell you that I did not care for the smelly shrimp powder – even when I was a carnivore! They were also battered in whipped egg, like chiles rellenos, which I did enjoy. Occasionally she would make us the potato cakes with just cheese and those were one of my favorite things to eat as a child.

I’m a huge fan of potatoes and am so happy to share this veganized version of one of my favorite ways to eat them.

Something I love so much about this dish is that you can get really creative and make different combinations depending on what ingredients you have on hand. It’s a great way to use up leftovers too. 

View from above of an off white plate filled with tomato sauce and two large Mexican tortitas de papa with boiled pinto beans.
Mexican Potato Cakes with Tomato Salsa

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Potatoes are budget friendly and so is this dish.
You can start from scratch or breathe new life into leftover mashed potatoes.
Follow my recipe and make cheesy potato pancakes or mix in your favorite ingredients to create delicious variations. 
It’s a fun dish perfect for people of all ages.
You can serve it as an appetizer, side dish, a snack or a light lunch or dinner.

A view form above of a countertop with 6 small roma tomatoes, small white onion, two garlic cloves, a small bowl with salt and bouillon powder, a fresh jalapeno, small bowl with breadcrumbs, small bowl with chopped white onion, two large russet potatoes, a measuring cup with vegetable oil, shredded cheese, and small bowl with ground black pepper and salt.

Ingredients Needed

This is one of those great recipes that you can adapt depending on what needs using up in your fridge or what your family likes best. Below are the ingredients I used and after that I’ve listed some variations that you can play with.

Potatoes: I’ve used both Russet potatoes and White potatoes. I’ve never tested sweet potatoes but that may be interesting.

Onion: White onion is what’s most commonly used in Mexican cuisine.

Cheese: I used a dairy-free vegan cheese that melts. The brand’s I like are a Mexican brand called Güd and I also love Violife’s cheeses. Use your favorite brand.

Bread Crumbs: These will help the potato bind together. You can use regular or gluten-free breadcrumbs.

Seasonings: I only use salt and pepper but you can get creative here.

All Purpose Flour: To dust and fry the potato cakes. You can also use your favorite gluten-free flour. 

Olive Oil: To sauté the onion in. 

Vegetable Oil: This is for frying the tortitas de papa.

​Tomato Salsa: You’ll need roma tomatoes, white onion, garlic and jalapeno or serrano chiles. 

Ingredient Variations

  • Occasionally I use spring onion or fresh chives instead of the white onion.
  • You can add include some vegan protein by mixing in chopped ham, soy chorizo, or even vegan bacon bits.
  • If you have some leftover cooked or raw veggies that need using up, you can mix them into the potatoes. Anything from roasted or raw poblano peppers, corn, broccoli, carrots, or zucchini. Have fun experimenting.
  • For the salsa if you don’t have fresh chiles you can use guajillo instead. 

How to Make Mexican Potato Cakes

If you’re using leftover potatoes start on step two. Depending on how much leftover potatoes you have you’ll have to eye the other ingredients you add into the mixture.

Top view above the pot of an Instant Pot with chopped potatoes and pouring water over them.

Step 1: Cook The Potatoes
Thoroughly rinse and peel the potatoes. Chop into even-sized pieces then place in a pressure cooker pot, sprinkle in salt and pour in water. Secure the lid on the pot, move valve to Sealing, set to Pressure Cook and time to 5 minutes. Allow to cook then once done, carefully do a quick release.

You can also cook the potatoes in a large pot, over medium heat, on the stove top for about 15 minutes or until fork tender.

Pouring water into a stainless steel pot with roma tomatoes, white onion, garlic cloves, and jalapeno pepper.

Step 2: Make The Salsa
While the potatoes are cooking place the tomatoes, onion, garlic and chile in a pot and pour in enough water to cover them. Simmer on the stove until everything is softened. Turn off the heat and set aside. 

Browning finely chopped white onion in a small black frying pan.

Step 3: Cook The Onions
While the potatoes and salsa are cooking you can heat up the olive oil in a pan and once hot add the finely chopped onion. Stir now and then and add a little splash of water if needed to help them cook and brown and caramelize a bit. Once cooked set aside to cool.

A collage of four photos showing mashing potatoes then mixing in shredded cheese, breadcrumbs and seasonings.

Step 4: Prepare the Potatoes
Once the potatoes have cooked, drain and place in a large bowl. Allow to cool until you can handle them. (You could also rinse with cold water to cool down faster, just make sure drain potatoes well to remove as much water as possible.)

Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes until there aren’t any large chunks left, then mix in the cooked onions, season with salt and pepper, and grated cheese or any other ingredient you are using. Mix until well combined then taste for salt.

​Next mix in the breadcrumbs gradually and mix until well combined. The mixture should not be sticky, if so you can add a little more breadcrumbs. 

Showing shaped potato cakes on a cutting board.

Step 5: Shape the Tortitas
Grab some of the potato mixture and make a flat patty and place on a large cutting board or baking sheet. Continue shaping the patties until you’ve used up all of the potato mixture. Place in the refrigerator to cool for at least 10 minutes or until ready to cook.

Pouring blended tomato salsa into a saucepan to cook.

Step 6: Make The Salsa
While the tortitas chill in the fridge you can blend up the cooked salsa ingredients with some vegetable bouillon powder and a little salt. Also add half a cup of the boiling broth and blend until smooth. Taste for salt and adjust if needed. 

Pour into a saucepan and cook on very low heat for about 10 minutes. If needed you can add more of the boiling broth or vegetable broth to get the salsa to your desired consistency.

Frying one Mexican potato cake in hot oil.

​Step 7: Cook The Potato Cakes
Heat up the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and while it’s heating up you can coat the chilled potato cakes in the flour. 

Test the temperature of the oil by dropping a small piece of the potato mixture into it and it should bubble quickly. 

Carefully place a potato cake (or as many as you can fit without overcrowding the pan) into the hot oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes on one side then carefully flip over and fry another 2-3 minutes on the other side. You’ll know they’re ready when they are golden brown on both sides.

Carefully remove the fried tortitas de papa and place on plate lined with paper towels or on a wire rack over a large baking sheet to drain off the excess oil. 

Repeat until all of the potato cakes have been fried and make sure there’s always enough oil in the frying pan to cook them. If needed add a little bit more then give it a couple of minutes to heat back up.

​Step 8: Cool and Serve
Once you’re finished frying them, allow to cool slightly before serving. See serving suggestions below. 

A collage showing how to serve a plate of cooked Mexican potato cakes with blended tomato salsa and boiled pinto beans.

How to Serve

Pour some of the cooked tomato salsa on a plate then serve two or more (depending on the size) tortitas the papa on top of the salsa. Drizzle with more salsa and maybe a dollop of sour cream if you’d like. I also like to serve with some homemade frijoles de olla or refried beans if I don’t have whole cooked beans. Serve right away so they don’t get too soggy. 

You can also serve as an appetizer with a green side salad and serve the tomato salsa on the side for dipping into to. 

A white plate filled with tomato sauce and two large Mexican tortitas de papa with boiled pinto beans.

Nancy’s Tips

Another fun way to prepare these tortitas de papa would be to stuff them with the cheese instead of mixing it into the potato mixture.   
If you eat eggs you can crack a large egg into the potato mixture to help it bind stronger.
If you eat dairy you can use crumbled cotija cheese or parmesan cheese. I once also had them at a restaurant with a cheddar-like yellow Mexican cheese. Anything would work. 
Most meat eaters will eat these meatless potato cakes, but if you have some hardcore ones in your family you could always mix in some ham or serve their favorite protein on the side. 
Back when I still ate fish, my boyfriend made them with canned tuna. He’d shaped the patties, dust in flour, dip in beaten egg then dredge in breadcrumbs and fry. They were quite delicious.
Instead of frying you can cook them in the air fryer and cook at 400°F or 200°C for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown on both sides. Flip halfway through. 

Taste

The taste of these little potato fritters is savory, creamy, potato-ey, and a little sweet from the onions. The salsa adds umami flavor with just a tiny touch of heat – of course you can make the salsa as mild or spicy as you’d like. 

Storing and Reheating

​Allow leftovers to cool completely then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

Reheat in the air fryer for 4 minutes or you can also use the microwave.

A white plate filled with tomato sauce and a fork cutting into two large Mexican tortitas de papa with boiled pinto beans.
Nancy Lopez author of Mexican Made Meatless

Gracias

I’m so happy you stopped by. If you have any questions or want to let me know how you liked this recipe, do leave a comment. Muchas gracias, I appreciate you!

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View from above of an off white plate filled with tomato sauce and two large Mexican tortitas de papa with boiled pinto beans.

Tortitas de Papa con Queso (Mexican Potato Cakes)

Nancy Lopez & MexicanMadeMeatless.com
A fun and budget friendly dish everyone in your family will love. Serve with tomato salsa and beans as a main meal or with a green salad as a light lunch.
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Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chilling Time 10 minutes
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Mexican, Vegan Mexican Recipe
Servings 11 potato cakes*
Calories 341 kcal

Ingredients
  

Potato Cake Ingredients

  • 2 lbs potatoes
  • water for boiling
  • 3/4 cup white onion finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt adjust to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper adjust to taste
  • 1.5 cups shredded vegan cheese
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil or as needed

Tomato Salsa Ingredients

  • 6 medium-small roma tomatoes
  • 2 whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 small white onion cut in half
  • 1 to 2 fresh jalapeño peppers or Serranos or 1 guajillo
  • 1/2 cup water from boiled vegetables
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt adjust to taste

Instructions
 

  • Place potatoes in a pressure cooker pot, sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon salt and pour in water. Secure the lid on the pot, move valve to Sealing, set to Pressure Cook and time to 5 minutes. Allow to cook then once done, carefully do a quick release.
  • While the potatoes are cooking place the tomatoes, onion, garlic and chile in a pot and pour in enough water to cover them. Simmer on the stove until everything is softened. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  • Heat up the olive oil in a pan and once hot add the finely chopped onion. Stir now and then and add a little splash of water if needed to help them cook and brown and caramelize a bit. Once cooked set aside to cool.
  • Once the potatoes have cooked, drain and place in a large bowl. Allow to cool until you can handle them. (You could also rinse with cold water to cool down faster, just make sure drain potatoes well to remove as much water as possible.)
  • Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes until there aren’t any large chunks left, then mix in the cooked onions, season with salt and pepper, and grated cheese or any other ingredient you are using. Mix until well combined then taste for salt.
  • ​Next mix in the breadcrumbs gradually and mix until well combined. The mixture should not be sticky, if so you can add a little more breadcrumbs.
  • Grab some of the potato mixture and make a flat patty and place on a large cutting board or baking sheet. Continue shaping the patties until you’ve used up all of the potato mixture. Place in the refrigerator to cool for at least 10 minutes or until ready to cook.
  • Blend up the cooked salsa ingredients with some vegetable bouillon powder and a little salt. Also add half a cup of the boiling broth and blend until smooth. Taste for salt and adjust if needed.
  • Pour into a saucepan and cook on very low heat for about 10 minutes. If needed you can add more of the boiling broth or vegetable broth to get the salsa to your desired consistency.
  • Heat up the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and while it’s heating up you can coat the chilled potato cakes in the flour.
  • Test the temperature of the oil by dropping a small piece of the potato mixture into it and it should bubble quickly.
  • Carefully place a potato cake (or as many as you can fit without overcrowding the pan) into the hot oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes on one side then carefully flip over and fry another 2-3 minutes on the other side. You’ll know they’re ready when they are golden brown on both sides.
  • Carefully remove the fried tortitas de papa and place on plate lined with paper towels or on a wire rack over a large baking sheet to drain off the excess oil.
  • Repeat until all of the potato cakes have been fried and make sure there’s always enough oil in the frying pan to cook them. If needed add a little bit more then give it a couple of minutes to heat back up.
  • Once you’re finished frying them, allow to cool slightly before serving.

Serving

  • Pour some salsa onto the plate then place two potato cakes on top, drizzle with more salsa and serve some boiled beans on the side if desired. Serve right away.

Notes

-You can also cook the potatoes in a large pot, over medium heat, on the stove top for about 15 minutes or until fork tender.
– To serve as a light lunch or appetizer serve with a green salad and some salsa on the side for dipping.
Please note that the nutritional information above is just a rough estimate. The final values will depend on the brand of cheese you used as well as how much oil gets absorbed by the potatoes. 
I made 11 large half cup sized tortitas, you can get double that if you make them smaller. 

Nutrition

Serving: 11servingsCalories: 341kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 7gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 12gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 546mgPotassium: 405mgFiber: 3gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 123IUVitamin C: 19mgCalcium: 110mgIron: 1mg
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