potatoes en pipian rojo tacos.jpg

These destroy every last winter blah. We roasted creamy Yukon gold potatoes and smothered them with a silky red sauce made rich by the addition of toasted sesame and pumpkin seeds. On top, a fresh green relish is the perfect complement to brighten up the dish and cut some of the richness. Because the sauce is done in two stages, we admit the recipe seems a little fussy, but it's not difficult. And it's totally worth it. And with fresh tortillas, totally good enough to serve when entertaining casually.

Potatoes in Pipian Rojo (for Tacos) with Three-Pepper Relish

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makes about 2 dozen tacos

For the potatoes in pipian rojo

2 lbs potatoes (we used Yukon gold), cut into 1-inch dice

3 TBSP vegetable oil (we used peanut), divided

5 cups water

2 vegetable bouillon cubes (no salt added, or low sodium)

1/3 cup sesame seeds

2/3 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1 onion, sliced

3 garlic cloves, halved

3 dried ancho chiles, seeded and roughly chopped/torn (we last got ours at La Esperanza at Washington Pike and Whittle Springs Rd and were pleased with the freshness)

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp salt

For the three-pepper relish

1 large green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

1 medium poblano pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

1 medium-large jalapeno, seeded (as desired) and roughly chopped

1 sun-dried tomato in oil

generous 1/4 tsp salt

juice of half a lime

To serve


Preheat the oven to 450 while you chop your potatoes.

In a roasting pan, toss the diced potatoes with 2 TBSP of the oil and cook, stirring every 20 minutes, until golden and browned on the edges, about 45-55 minutes. When finished, set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 5 cups water in a medium sauce pan with the bouillon cubes. Once dissolved, turn the heat off, but cover loosely to keep the broth warm.

While the cubes soften, in a dry skillet or two-burner griddle, toast the sesame seeds and pepitas, tossing frequently and being careful not to burn them. (We used the double-burner griddle, and put the seeds on separate ends so that we could toast them both simultaneously, but pull one end off a burner when they were finished. If you don't have a griddle, you can simply toast the seeds in two batches. Toast the sesame seeds until fragrant and a bit darkened, then the pepitas until they pop and begin to turn golden.) Set aside.

In large pot, heat the remaining 1 TBSP of oil over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic until the onions soften and just begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the ancho pieces, and stir to coat with the oil for about a minute. Add oregano, cumin, paprika, and salt, plus 4 ladles of broth (about 2 cups), then reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.

While the pot simmers, grind the toasted seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor (a coffee grinder will result in a smoother final sauce) and set aside. Make the relish by placing all ingredients in a chopper or food processor until finely chopped. Adjust the salt and lime juice, if necessary.

Carefully puree the hot onion-chile mixture in a separate container, then pour it through a mesh strainer back into the pot, pushing it through with the back of a large spoon. The resulting sauce will be incredibly silky. Return the sauce to medium heat, and add the ground seeds and the remaining broth. Simmer until thickened, another 10-15 minutes.

To serve: Pour the sauce over the roasted potatoes and stir well. Some of the potatoes will mash a bit during this process, and that's okay. Good, actually. Keep the potatoes warm in a low oven (no higher than 200) while you prepare your tortillas so the mixture can continue to thicken [see Note]. Assemble tacos immediately and top with the three-pepper relish.

[Note: Fresh tortillas are always recommended (that's a variation on the recipe we make from Viva Vegan!). Tacos are good, but they become seriously great when you take the extra time to make a batch of tortillas right before digging in. But here's the important part: The thicker sauce that results from sitting in the low oven for the additional 15-20 minutes it takes to make the tortillas is a filling much more fitting for a handheld foodstuff. Without thickening, the sauce would probably be too messy for tacos.

Even if you're using packaged tortillas, you can still make this happen. Just put the filling in the oven while you warm the tortillas in a skillet or griddle on the stove top. (If you don't want to make your own tortillas, at least warm the ones you buy. It makes a difference, especially in texture and pliability.) 

Or, finally, skip all that and simply serve the potatoes in their saucier form over rice or polenta, or with warm tortillas on the side for scooping and dipping. We're flexible. But we really loved these as tacos.]