Perfect for game day or any appetizer party, Croquetas de Jamon are tasty Spanish Ham Croquettes that are filled, not with potatoes, but with a creamy bechamel sauce.
Croquetas de Jamon: Spanish Ham Croquettes
You’ve probably herd of croquettes: tasty, fried little bites that are often served as appetizers.
Croquettes originated in France, where they feature a mashed potato center, but when croquettes traveled down to Spain, they became croquetas, and took on something a bit different.
Rather than being filled with potatoes, Spanish croquetas are filled with a creamy bechamel sauce.
In Spain, these bites are traditionally served in bars and restaurants as a tapas dish. Spanish coquetas can include a variety of other fillings added to the bechamel, like chicken, mushrooms, spinach, cheese or salt cod. But today, we’re making the most popular type, croquetas de jamon, ham croquettes.
What is Bechamel Sauce?
Bechamel sauce is sometimes called “white sauce”. It is a basic sauce made from a cooked butter and flour roux that is then mixed with milk.
The classic bechamel ratio is 1 Tbsp of butter and 1 Tbsp flour mixed with 1 cup of milk makes a nice and thin sauce. Two Tbsp of each makes a medium thick sauce, and three makes a very thick sauce.
To make croquetas we vary from the basic bechamel recipe slightly by adding more flour than fat to create a VERY thick sauce that can be shaped once it has chilled.
A Two Day Process
Speaking of chilling, the bechemel and ham mixture NEEDS to be refrigerated overnight in order for it to be firm enough for you to be able to shape it into little thumbs to make the croquettes.
Day one, you make your bechamel and mix in the ham. Traditionally, croquetas de jamon use Spanish Serrano ham, which can be a bit pricey to get here in the States. So, feel free to substitute any cooked ham you may have leftover from dinner or you grab from your deli.
On day two, you shape your croquetas de jamon and bread them. Then, they’re ready for either the freezer or the frying pan!
A Great Make Ahead Appetizer Recipe
Croquetas de jamon can be fried right after making them, but they are also the perfect appetizer to make ahead of time for a party.
Once breaded and frozen, you can store them in an air-tight container in the freezer until you are ready to fry them up and serve them to your guests, who will pretty much instantly fall in love with the creamy center, crispy exterior, and salty bits of ham.
Croquetas de Jamon (Spanish Ham Croquettes)
For the “Dough”
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Scant 1/2 c unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 c milk, at room temperature
- ¼ lb ham, diced into small pieces
- Pinch nutmeg
- Salt (to taste -- only needed if your ham isn’t too salty)
For Breading the Croquetas
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ½ - ¾ c bread crumbs
- Oil for frying
To Make the Filling
- Melt butter and oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add the flour and stir to moisten it completely. Sauté the flour until it begins to turn a light brown color 2-3 min.
- Add the milk a little by a little, stirring constantly to incorporate each addition, until you have added it all. (At first, it will look like you won't be able to get a smooth sauce, but continue working your sauce with a rubber spatula as you add a little milk at a time and it will smooth out.) Reduce the heat to medium low as needed, if your milk seems to scald before you can mix it into the roux. Continue heating the mixture as needed until it is creamy, thick, and smooth.
- Add the diced ham and nutmeg. Mix well.
- Taste your mixture and add salt as necessary.
- Remove your mixture from the heat and let it cool slightly
- Transfer the croqueta dough into a casserole dish and cover it with plastic wrap (or a lid). Refrigerate the dough overnight.
Shaping the Croquetas
- Place the beaten egg in a shallow bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in a second, wide bowl.
- (We found it easiest to shape all the croquettas first and then bread them. But, if you have extra hands in the kitchen, now is a good time to employ their help, assembly-line-style.)
- Working with roughly 2 Tbsp of dough at a time, shape the chilled dough into little, fat thumbs. (Your hands will get sticky while shaping the dough. Keeping them lightly floured helps to cut down on the stickiness.)
- Dip each croqueta, one at a time, in the beaten egg, turning to coat.
- Then, roll it in the breadcrumbs, pressing to coat.
- Place the breaded croquetas on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Once all the croquetas are breaded, place your baking sheet in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, to firm them up slightly.
If Cooking Immediately
- At this point you can heat ½ inch of vegetable oil over med high heat in a shallow skillet. (When you drop a little flour or bread crumbs into the oil and they sizzle, the oil is ready.)
- Fry your chilled croquetas in batches, making sure not to crowd the oil, 1-2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
- Remove the croquetas from the frying pan and place them on a paper towel lined platter to cool slightly.
- Serve warm!
If Freezing For Later
- Once the croquetas are frozen solid, transfer them to an airtight container until you are ready to fry them up.
- To fry your croquetas from well-frozen, let them thaw on the counter for 10-15 minutes before frying.