Spanish Tortilla

By • September 19, 2013 65 Comments

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Author Notes: With a recipe that contains little more than eggs, potatoes, and onions, you will find many different techniques applied to the preparation of each ingredient. Some call for shallow frying the potatoes in oil and using the oil to cook the tortilla. Some call for cooking the tortilla on the stovetop and flipping it several times while cooking, in order to firm it up and round the edges. I've done this and it produces a great tortilla but not everyone has two pans the same size or, understandably, the will to invert a steaming hot panful of eggs into another hot pan.

For the version I'm sharing here -- which you could call Spanish-ish Tortilla -- I took a nod from Italy and cooked the tortilla like a fritatta (I also added a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese). You can eat it hot, if you like, but it also makes for a great lunch or snack once it's cool.
Amanda Hesser

Serves 6

  • 2 pounds white or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • Salt
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 8 eggs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  1. Place the potatoes in a medium pot. Cover with water, season with about a tablespoon of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender when prodded with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and let cool, then cut into 1/8-inch slices and put them in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Warm 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt, and cook until translucent and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Scrape the onions into the bowl with the potatoes.
  3. Lightly whisk the eggs until smooth, then add them to the potatoes and onions, and gently fold everything together. The potatoes should not be sticking together -- make sure the egg separates each slice. Season with salt and pepper and fold once more.
  4. Set a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron pan over medium high heat. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and the butter. When the butter foams, pour in the potato-and-egg mixture and pat it down so it's even on the top. Sprinkle the cheese on top, let the eggs set around the edges, and transfer the pan to the oven. Bake until the eggs are almost set in the middle and the tortilla is browned around the edges, about 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool on the stovetop. Run a thin spatula or knife around the edge of the tortilla to loosen it, then invert it onto a plate (this may be a 2-person job). If you'd like to serve the tortilla warm, invert it while it's still warm. Slice and serve. If you'd like to serve it with garlic mayonnaise, I won't argue.
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Comments (65) Questions (1)

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26 days ago Elena

Spaniard here!! :)
As Mickey said below, there are as many ways to make a "Tortilla de Patata" as families are in Spain but please, do not ever use butter make Tortilla. Olive oil is what it needs.
From my perspective, the tastiest version is when you "boil" the potatoes in olive oil. Cut the potatoes in thin slices (I don't like to cut them in cubes) while heating the oil. The oil has to be bubbly, but not extremely hot, and it has to cover the potatoes, so you'll need a good quantity. The potatoes will come out tender and really tasty. If you put the onions together with the potatoes, they will be ready at the same time. I don't like to find big chunks of onion in my tortilla, so I try to chop the onions in thin and small pieces.
When they are ready (aprox. 20 minutes, they have to break if you try to pinch them with a fork) place the potatoes and onions in a colander, so they strain the excess oil, and let them cool a bit. Whisk the eggs with the salt (I've always been told that perfect tortillas should be made with 6 eggs, hehe) and add the onions and potatoes.
Place a pan on the stove to a medium heat, with a bit of olive oil. For 6 eggs I use a 25 cm pan. When the pan is warm enough, pour the mix in and make sure it doesn't get too hot or it'll burn. Keep the medium heat, so it slowly cooks on the inside without burning the outside. Flip it with a plate, let it cook on the other side and voilá!
The time on the pan depends on how you like it (runny or more dry).
I know this version might be a bit heavy and you'll need to use a lot of olive oil, but it's delicious, and you can reuse the oil to make more Tortillas!
If you want to make it a bit lighter, instead of boiling the potatoes in water (they will be soaked and will have no flavor) here's a little tip: cut the potatoes, place them into a big glass or ceramic bowl, add a bit of olive oil and place in the microwave for 15 to 20 minutes (mixing a bit in between so they all cook evenly). Cook the onions separately in a pan (same pan you'll use later for the tortilla) with olive oil. Then mix the potatoes, onions, salt and eggs, and use the same pan you used to cook the onions.
Tortilla de patata admits lots of other ingredients, but for me the perfect one is just potatoes, eggs and onions (and salt and olive oil). You can add cheese, other veggies, meat (such as chorizo or jamón), but honestly, it doesn't need them. So my advice? Try it first with just the three basic ingredients, I'm sure you'll absolutely love it!
For me, making a good Tortilla is an art, so do not lose hope if you need more than one attempt to find the perfect balance between ingredients.
And remember, no butter!!! ;)
Hope it was helpful!!

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2 months ago Sue O'Bryan

Tortillas and frittatas are endlessly useful. I absolutely love this photograph.

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3 months ago Che

Tortilla in Argentina means what it does in Spain. Americans are familiar to the "tortilla" used by Central Americans and Mexicans -- closer proximity and more of them in the USA. But, true, it is an omelet and can be eaten for any meal, hot or cold. When cold and cut, fingers or toothpicks; eaten hot, a lovely mixed or green salad with it is perfect!.

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3 months ago Frankie

New+to+this+site:
Recipe+sounded+super.++Who+cares+if+it+is+"frittata"+or+"tortilla".++When+I+cook+Sauerkraut+German+style,+all+who+eat+it+want+to+know+"what+brand+is+this".++And+it+is+not+a+brand,+but+a+German+way+to+cook+sauerkraut.++So+omelets+are+frittatas+are+tortillas,+++Not+a+brand,+but+a+way+to+do++it.++Can't+each+person+"cook"+and+be+happy?++Not+as+disciplined+as+baking!

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5 months ago Margarita Uricoechea

I absolutely love this recipe! It's easy and tastes delicious. However, I have a suggestion that I think helps coating the potatoes. In a bowl I whisked the eggs, added salt and pepper, then the onions. And finally the sliced potatoes. With a spatula I had to separate some, but it was very easy and delicious once again!

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5 months ago Mar Pom

Please, Spanish tortilla in the oven?
Really…? No, seriously?

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7 months ago Suhyun Yun

I love the picture above.

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3 months ago JohnSkye

yeah, the pic is great, the layering is perfect, but doesn't look like it was created by the "stir it all together" method described in the recipe.

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about 1 year ago Christine

Beautiful pic. Perhaps since Americans seem to need to create fusion versions of every simple authentic dish from other countries, take off "Spanish" from the recipe title. Parmesan cheese is never used. Stove-top / flip method is the norm. Some of my tias in Spain add a small pinch of baking powder to the egg mix to create a puffier version. Also, don't add too many potatoes...like making a good paella, it's about the art of balancing the ingredients. (This came to mind when I've seen American friends make paella that is absolutely overfilled w/ chicken.)

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6 months ago FrankieFrazier

How many potatos should you use? Can you post your recipe? My son went to Spain and adored this dish. I would like to make him an authentic one like his host mom made him!! Thanks a bunch

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4 months ago amy

Frankie, look for penelope casas recipe and technique, it is a traditional SPANISH tortilla. This is not. Flipping is easy, just follow her instructions & use a non-stick pan.

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3 months ago Mark Mann

Those stupid Americans, always trying to subvert recipes. This should only be allowed to be printed in Spanish so those idiots would be prevented from using unapproved ingredients and methods.

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about 1 year ago mboerner

I make this all the time for guests with a salad. I have found that it is important that the potatoes be well seasoned and tasty, BEFORE you pour on the eggs. I don't get a good separate potato feeling from mixing the eggs with the potatoes beforehand.


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about 1 year ago mboerner

Jorge Obrayen--Interesting. Can you tell me if the eggs are just added to the fried potatoes after they are crisp and quickly cooked, or does one mix the (fried potatoes) in a bowl?

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about 1 year ago Jorge obrayen

While these ingredients reflect the tortilla - less the Italian cheese - this is more or a potato frittata. The traditional Spanish kitchen had no oven and fried the potatoes. This approach is not unlike Spanish "tapas" with Japanese ingredients.

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4 months ago amy

agree! I hate seeing people manipulate a dish that is already perfected & still call it a tortilla!

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over 1 year ago CheffieEmily

This makes me so happy. I just spent 10 days doing a culinary tour of Spain with fellow culinary students. We learned how to make this and consumed our fair share. It just makes me smile to stumble across this

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over 1 year ago German

I've been serving spanish tortilla in Baraka restaurant for quite some time now, with different variations. But what makes it SOOO special, is that we coat little pieces of potatos in olive oil, and then we bake them until crispy. The onions, on the other side, we sautee them until really tender, but not caramelized. We cool everything thoroughly. The pan should be oiled and smoking hot, and the potatos and onions already combined with the eggs and well seasoned. Toss into the pan, until a golden egg skin forms on the bottom (you'll have to guess this). And then, skills! Flip the tortilla, using a plate or a flat lid to help you transfer out, and then back in. If you like it babee, it'll take you like 3 more minutes on medium slow fire. This is how WE like it. Thank you for everything, I enjoy all of this so much.

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over 1 year ago German

oh, the potatos are little cubes, and the onions are sliced.

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over 1 year ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks so much for sharing your technique -- it sounds great!

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over 1 year ago mboerner

What should have been explained is that "tortilla" is the Spanish word in Spain for an omelet. Spanish-speaking Americans use the word "tortilla" for the cornmeal dish that Americans know. "Frittata" is the Italian word for such an omelet.

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over 1 year ago Laurie

Does one layer with the tortillas? I'm confused.

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over 1 year ago Laurie

Tortillas are not in the ingredient list and barely mentioned in the recipe. I'm assuming one puts the cooked potato, egg mixture in a tortilla.

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over 1 year ago mboerner

No. What should have been explained is that "tortilla" is the Spanish word in Spain for an omelet. South Americans used it for another dish.

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over 1 year ago mboerner

Fritta is the Italian word for such an omelet.

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over 1 year ago gualiwood

NIce frittata...

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over 1 year ago Ileana Morales Valentine | a little saffron

Do you think I can double this and cook in a big 13-inch cast iron skillet? Trying to feed 12 people for brunch.

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over 1 year ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

If you double it in an 13-inch pan, it will be quite thick. I'd either do 10-inch pans or a 13-inch and an 8-inch. I hope this is helpful!

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4 months ago amy

Amanda is wrong, yes you can use a large pan if you are doing to traditional way of making a traditional Spanish tortilla. We have seen beautiful, large tortillas in many cafes & restaurants all over Spain, and I cook one every Sunday for my 4 boys. Just make sure to flip it a bunch of times.

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over 1 year ago Gus'Mom

I as wondering what size pan to use? I apologize if it is mentioned somewhere but I missed it.

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over 1 year ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

I only said large but wasn't specific about the diameter. I'd aim for a 10-inch pan.

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over 1 year ago Mikey Fernández

Spaniard here. I don't really get the comment from "Pokolik". First up, there are as many ways of cooking a tortilla de patatas as families are in Spain. For example, my mother doesn't boil the potatoes, she fries them with onion and green pepper, (she even adds some chorizo). But my best friends boils it, and so on...

The fact that the recipe calls for an oven bake instead of frying in the pan, makes a lot of sense, because it is easier & less complicated than turning the tortilla with the help of a plate...

The fact is that this tortilla looks DELISH... and it is great to see so many people from other countries doing their own version.

:)