Food & Drink

Ham Croquettes 

Makes about 30 croquettes

Golden-fried ham cakes—a Basque dish any Southerner is sure to love

Photo: Simon Bajada

“The kroketa is the darling of the dinner table in Basque Country and throughout Spain,” says Marti Buckley, an Alabama native who lives in Spain and authored the new cookbook Basque Country: A Culinary Journey Through a Food Lover’s Paradise. “Fried until golden and made to be eaten by hand, the croquette’s crunchy bread crumb exterior gives way to a thick, creamy interior that calls to mind mashed potatoes or melted cheese.” Variations on the classic ham version include salt cod, chicken, or bacon.

“One secret to croquette excellence is the extra step of infusing the dairy with the star ingredient,” Buckley says. “When made with ham-infused milk and cream, the resulting béchamel takes on a new, subtly flavored life. Jamón Ibérico is more flavorful than its cousin, jamón Serrano, but you can use either.”


    • 3¼ cups whole milk

    • 1 cup heavy cream

    • 1 ham bone (optional), or 3 slices Ibérico or Serrano ham

    • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter

    • ½ onion, diced fine

    • 3 cups all-purpose flour

    • Kosher salt

    • 5 oz. Ibérico or Serrano ham, finely chopped

    • 3 large eggs

    • 2 cups dry bread crumbs

    • Olive oil, for frying


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, cream, and ham bone and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for at least 15 minutes before straining out the solids.

  2. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent and very tender, about 15 minutes. Increase the heat to high. Add 1 cup of the flour and stir with a whisk for about 1 minute. While whisking vigorously, add the milk-cream mixture, little by little at first, then working up to ½-cup increments, until all has been incorporated. Add a generous pinch of salt. Taste the béchamel and add a bit more salt, if desired.

  3. Mix the chopped ham into the béchamel. Chilling the mixture in a roasting pan for at least 1 hour, or in a pastry bag overnight, will make it easier to form a perfectly shaped croquette.

  4. Beat the eggs in a bowl. Spread the bread crumbs over a rimmed baking sheet or large plate. Spread the remaining 2 cups flour on a separate plate.

  5. If your croquette base is in a roasting pan, scoop about 2 tbsp. of the mixture and form it into a small ball. Dredge the ball in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip it in the egg, allowing the excess to drip off, and finally roll it in the bread crumbs to coat. Set the coated ball on a clean, dry plate or baking sheet until ready to fry.

  6. If your croquette base is in a pastry bag, snip the tip from the bag to leave a hole about 1 inch in diameter. Pipe roughly 3-inch logs of croquette base onto the plate with the flour, cutting them with a butter knife or other straight object. Sprinkle with more flour to coat, then, working one at a time, dip the pieces in the egg, allowing the excess to drip off, and finally roll them in the bread crumbs to coat. Set the coated pieces on a clean, dry plate or baking sheet until ready to fry.

  7. If you aren’t frying them immediately, the breaded croquettes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months, and can go straight from freezer to fryer when desired. (To freeze, put the croquettes on a baking sheet, freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer bag.)

  8. In a heavy saucepan, heat 1 to 2 inches of olive oil over high heat until it reaches about 350°F. To test the oil, throw in a few bread crumbs; when they sizzle on contact, the oil is ready. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pot, fry the croquettes until golden brown, turning them occasionally to cook evenly. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle immediately with salt.

  9. Transfer to a platter and serve warm.

  10. Notes: The finer the bread crumb, the more classic the croquette. Using panko bread crumbs will result in more modern croquettes.

    You can also double up on bread crumbs instead of using flour, coating the croquettes in bread crumbs, then egg, then again in bread crumbs. This results in extra-crunchy croquettes. Experiment to find your favorite texture.

Excerpted from Basque Country by Marti Buckley (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018.