Spicy and flavorful, papas a la Mexicana are breakfast potatoes with jalapeño, onion, garlic, tomato and cilantro. A popular vegetarian breakfast taco filling, this healthy, easy, Mexican-inspired recipe is vegan, whole food plant-based and oil-free.
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Papas means "potatoes" in Spanish. And, a la Mexicana means "Mexican style" literally. Usually, when you see something on a menu with "a la Mexicana" at the end, it will have spicy chile peppers (jalapeño, serrano, etc.) and possibly onion and tomato in it. So, papas a la Mexicana roughly translates to "Mexican style potatoes with spicy chile peppers, onion and tomato".
To make this recipe fast, we're using pre-cooked potatoes. I typically steam a big batch of potatoes in my Instant Pot each week and use those potatoes for meals throughout the week. Here's how to steam potatoes in the Instant Pot.
🧄 Ingredient notes
- Potatoes - Pre-cooked or pre-steamed potatoes make this meal cook up really fast without the need for any oil. Russet potatoes and yukon gold potatoes both work well for this recipe. To steam potatoes easily: Instant Pot Steamed Potatoes.
- Jalapeño - Jalapeño pepper adds spiciness and flavor to these breakfast potatoes. We remove the seeds to tame the heat level. Feel free to keep those in, if you like it spicier. Or, use serrano pepper, which is hotter than jalapeños.
- Tomatoes - Fresh roma tomatoes work best for this recipe.
- Onion - Choose a yellow onion or sweet yellow onion for this recipe.
📋 Substitutions and variations
Here are some suitable substitutions for the ingredients in this recipe:
- Pre-cooked potatoes - instead of pre-cooked or steamed potatoes from the refrigerator, you can use raw potatoes or frozen cubed hash brown potatoes. If you choose to use raw or frozen cubed potatoes, the cooking time will be longer and you'll likely have to add a little water to help the potatoes steam/cook in the pan. It's also helpful to cover the pan while the potatoes are cooking to lock in the moisture so they will cook all the way through.
- Yellow onion - instead of yellow onion or sweet yellow onion for this recipe, you can use white onion or red/purple onion.
- Roma tomatoes - instead of roma tomatoes, you can use any fresh tomato, even cherry tomatoes that have been sliced or quartered (if they're large).
- Jalapeño - instead of jalapeño pepper, use serrano for more heat and spiciness. To reduce spiciness, use ½ a green bell pepper or omit the peppers altogether.
- Garlic - instead of fresh garlic, you can use canned minced garlic or crushed garlic.
- SOS-free - make this SOS-free by omitting the salt
Switch things up with these variation ideas!
- Add bell peppers - add mixed bell peppers to the dish
- Extra spicy - double the jalapeño, include the seeds or use serrano peppers to make it extra spicy
- Tofu scramble a la Mexicana - substitute all or some of the potatoes for crumbled firm or medium tofu. Use tofu scramble seasoning to give the tofu flavor, along with the jalapeño, tomato, onion and garlic.
- Cheesy - add 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast to the potatoes at the end of cooking to inject a cheesy flavor to the dish.
- Breakfast burrito - stuff a large flour tortilla with papas a la Mexicana along with beans for a breakfast burrito.
- Make it in the air fryer - Make these oil-free papas a la Mexicana in the air fryer, as an alternative method of cooking them
Step-by-step instructions for how to make oil-free papas a la Mexicana using pre-cooked potatoes.
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook 3-5 minutes, until they are starting to turn translucent.
Add minced garlic to pan and stir. Sauté for 1 minute.
Add a tablespoon of water, if it starts to stick.
Stir in diced jalapeño pepper to the onions and sauté for 2 minutes.
Stir in cubed, pre-cooked potatoes and season with salt and pepper.
Cook potatoes for 8-10 minutes, until the potatoes are heated through and are turning golden brown on the outside. Stir and flip the potatoes every 1-2 minutes, allowing time for them to brown by having contact with the bottom of the hot skillet. Some potato will start sticking to the bottom of the pan. It's okay. When we add the tomatoes, the moisture will help deglaze the pan and release all that delicious flavor.
Add diced tomatoes to pan and stir everything together. Reduce heat to medium low.
The moisture and juice from the tomatoes will sizzle and start to soften what has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down.
Turn off the heat. Stir in the fresh cilantro. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, as needed.
Serve hot with warmed corn tortillas.
How to warm corn tortillas on a gas stove
Turn on your gas burner to medium low or low heat. Warm one corn tortilla at a time for 20 seconds on each side. Use tongs to flip the tortilla.
This is about the most amount of char you should have on the tortillas. Much more than this and they will taste burnt and become tough and hard. So, keep a close eye on them!
Keep the tortillas warm and soft by stacking them inside a clean dish towel or cloth napkin while you warm the rest of the tortillas. The cloth also prevents the bottom tortilla from getting soggy from condensation by touching the plate it's resting on.
Warming the corn tortillas this way helps to strengthen them for corn tortilla tacos. This way they don't break as easily.
If you don't have a gas stove, no worries. Warm your corn tortillas, stacked together, on a plate in the microwave for 30 seconds. Flip the stack and heat again for 30 seconds.
🧯 Food safety
- Wash hands with soap and water before cooking
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended, especially those tortillas warmed over the fire!
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
⭐️ Expert tips
- Don't multitask when warming the tortillas. They burn very quickly and can even light on fire. Keep a close eye on them!
- Don't use your hands to flip the tortillas, you could burn yourself. Use long-handled tongs to flip them.
- Don't cook the potatoes over high heat. They will burn before they've warmed through all the way. Then, when you add the tomatoes to deglaze the pan, you'll have an unpleasant burnt taste throughout the whole dish.
- Large non-stick skillet - this is the most important piece of equipment for this recipe. This allows you to cook the potatoes without having to use a large amount of oil. We don't use any at all, in fact. This keeps this spicy potato recipe low in calories and healthy.
🥡 Make ahead and storage tips
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. This dish can be made ahead and then reheated in the microwave for breakfast.
👨👩👦👦 Serving suggestions
For an even lighter breakfast, serve papas a la Mexicana with these less authentic, but still delicious sides of fruit or a non-starchy vegetable: steamed broccoli, air-fried zucchini or calabaza squash, mango, grapes, sliced banana, pineapple or melon.
Choosing to serve these healthy breakfast potatoes with fruit or non-starch veggies makes it a filling and healthy meal for fat loss.
Usually, papas a la Mexicana is at least vegetarian, but could also be vegan, depending on what fat is used to cook them in a restaurant. When ordering breakfast tacos in Texas, papas a la Mexicana is the one filling most likely to be vegan or vegetarian. Most other options will include meat and/or egg.
Yes! Potatoes were first cultivated in South America and quickly made their way to North America, including Mexico. They have been eaten and traditionally in Mexico for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
🗺 Cultural influences
Breakfast tacos are very common and popular in Houston, Texas, as well as other parts of Texas. They are a delicious way to start the day.
Most authentic fillings for breakfast tacos include meat or egg. However, papas a la Mexicana is one of the few (if not the only!) common breakfast taco filling that is vegan, plant-based and vegetarian.
You do have to check to make sure it's vegan, since some food trucks, taquerias and restaurants may cook their potatoes in butter or lard. Also, some flour tortillas have lard or butter in them, so opt for corn tortillas if you don't know for sure.
This recipe is inspired by food experiences in my diverse hometown of Houston, Texas and by the strong cultural influences of my family and friends from Mexico. See About for more information on my cultural influences and how I attribute recipes.
💜 More recipes you'll love
If you love this papas a la Mexicana recipe, check out these other TexMex and Mexican-inspired plant-based recipes!
Papas a la Mexicana (oil-free Mexican-style breakfast potatoes)
- 1 onion diced, about (2 cups or 250g
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 jalapeño de-seeded and diced
- 5 pre-cooked potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces, about 5 cups or 900g
- 3 roma tomatoes diced, about 2 cups or 400g
- sea salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- ½ bunch cilantro minced, about ½ cup or 45g
- corn tortillas for serving (optional)
- Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook 3-5 minutes, until they are starting to turn translucent.1 onion
- Add minced garlic to pan and stir. Sauté for 1 minute. Add a tablespoon of water, if it starts to stick.3 cloves garlic
- Stir in diced jalapeño pepper to the onions and sauté for 2 minutes.1 jalapeño
- Stir in cubed, pre-cooked potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook potatoes for 8-10 minutes, until the potatoes are heated through and are turning golden brown on the outside. Stir and flip the potatoes every 1-2 minutes, allowing time for them to brown by having contact with the bottom of the hot skillet. Some potato will start sticking to the bottom of the pan. It's okay. When we add the tomatoes, the moisture will help deglaze the pan and release all that delicious flavor.5 pre-cooked potatoes, sea salt, black pepper
- Add diced tomatoes to pan and stir everything together. Reduce heat to medium low. The moisture and juice from the tomatoes will sizzle and start to soften what has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down.3 roma tomatoes
- Turn off the heat. Stir in the fresh cilantro. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, as needed. Serve hot with warmed corn tortillas.½ bunch cilantro
How to Warm Corn Tortillas over Gas Stove
- Turn on your gas burner to medium low or low heat. Warm one corn tortilla at a time for 20 seconds on each side. Use tongs to flip the tortilla.corn tortillas
- Keep the tortillas warm and soft by stacking them inside a clean dish towel or cloth napkin while you warm the rest of the tortillas.