I remember the first time I ever encountered a smashed potato. A colleague at work forwarded a recipe from Bon Appétit, one that called for boiling a bunch of small, thin-skinned potatoes before draining, crushing, and roasting them into crispy, olive-oily oblivion. They were delicious on their own and even better with fun dips and toppings like garlic-flecked yogurt, pickled onions, and a scatter of fresh herbs.
From that moment on, the technique has stayed securely in my repertoire as an easy side. Every time I’ve made them, they’ve been a little bit different. Sometimes I’ll be boiling potatoes for another use and squirrel a few away for smashing and crisping up another day. Or maybe I’ll roast the potatoes first instead of boiling them to save time and dishes.
One of my favorite ways to switch up smashed potatoes trades the thin and crispy for something softer, creamier, and more flavorful, taking inspiration from Portuguese batatas a murro.
The Portuguese Difference
Batatas a murro, literally smashed or punched potatoes, is a traditional side dish in Portugal that differs in one key way from the Americanized smashed potatoes: Batatas a murro are gently smashed. They are broken open and slightly flattened, keeping much more of the creamy interior intact than your typical smashed potato.
After breaking open, the little caverns created are ready for olive oil, salt, and plenty of garlic and final bake to crisp up slightly. They are creamy, tender, crispy, and packed with garlic and olive oil flavor.
How To Make Portuguese Smashed Potatoes (Batatas a Murro)
To make batatas a murro, scrub some small potatoes (ideally waxy ones). Roast them on a baking sheet with a little bit of olive oil at 400°F for 30 to 60 minutes (depending on the size of your potatoes), or until the largest one is fork-tender all the way through. Lightly smash them directly on the baking sheet, just to break them open.
Sprinkle plenty of chopped garlic over each potato, then season with salt and generously drizzle with olive oil. Roast again until they’re starting to crisp on the bottom and the garlic is gently toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve as a hearty side to something nice and saucy like glazed oxtails, braised short ribs, or a spicy pork stew.
Tips for Smashing Potatoes
Smashed potatoes can be made using boiled potatoes or roasted, so use whichever method you prefer. If you boil your potatoes, make sure to drain them well and let the remaining water evaporate from the skins before you smash; excess water not only makes them a bit slippery but wet potatoes take longer to crisp up.
There are various ways you can smash potatoes, so you’ll have to choose what works best for you. Whatever method you choose, smash them directly on the baking sheet you’ll finish cooking them on. This way, you won’t have to move them around and accidentally break them apart.
- The One and Done: Take a second baking sheet and set it on top of the potatoes. With kitchen towels in both of your hands to prevent knuckle burns, hold the short edges of the top baking sheet and press gently down to smash all of the potatoes at once.
- The Pestle Press: Place a pestle in the center of a potato and firmly press. Depending on the size of the potato and the pestle, this may leave an indentation in the potato where the center is flatter and the edges are not flattened, a perfect cup for garlic and oil for batatas a murro.
- The Cup Smash: Pick a large, flat-bottomed cup and place the cup on a potato. Firmly press to flatten. Pieces of potato may stick to the bottom of the cup, so rub with a little olive oil before using.
- The Angry Fist: Wrap your fist in a clean kitchen towel. With the potatoes on a baking sheet, place the flat part of your fist—the joint before your fingers meet your hand—onto a potato. Press firmly to smash until the potato cracks open.