Spanish Tortilla

September 19, 2013

In Cooking from Every Angle, we hear from our fearless leaders: Food52 co-founders Amanda & Merrill.

Today: Amanda shows us to whip up a pared-down version of Spain's potato omelet.

Spanish Tortilla

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I don't know when we Americans got it into our heads that omelets had to be served hot from a pan. We eat hard-boiled eggs at room temperature, so why shouldn't we be able to eat an omelet in the same way? The Italians do it with their frittatas, which are sometimes served warm, but are often cooked ahead of time, and sliced and served later in the day. And not enough love has been given to Spanish tortilla, which is like frittata's heftier cousin, a layering of potatoes and onions swaddled in eggs. Tortilla is served at lunch, as a tapas, and is rarely eaten warm.

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 could be called Spanish-ish tortilla -- I took a nod from Italy and cooked the tortilla like a fritatta (I also sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top -- sorry, Spain!). You can eat it hot, if you like, but it also makes for a great lunch or snack once it's cool. Now, let's get to making it:

Spanish Tortilla ingredients

Gather your ingredients: eggs, yellow onion, white potatoes, grated parmesan, butter, and olive oil. Next cook the onions in oil and simmer the potatoes in water.

Spanish Tortilla set-up

Admire your prepped ingredients, whisk in hand.

Whisking the eggs

Whisk the eggs with a large pinch of salt until smooth but not super frothy.

Pouring the egg into the potatoes and onions

After sauteeing the onions in oil, combine them with the cooked and sliced potatoes, and pour in the egg.

Gently mixing the egg and potatoes

Gently fold together the eggs, potatoes, and onions. There should be just enough egg to pool around the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil and butter into either a seasoned cast iron skillet or a non-stick pan and pour in the egg mixture, gently nudging and flattening the potatoes. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake in a hot (400 F) oven until crisp and brown on the edges, about 20 minutes.

The tortilla just out of the oven

Remove this beauty from the oven and let cool until it's just warm, then loosen the edges with a thin spatula and invert the tortilla onto a serving dish. Now, either let it cool completely and cut into wedges, or cut it into wedges and serve while still warm.

A slice of tortilla

Spanish Tortilla

Serves 6

2 pounds white potatoes, peeled
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
8 eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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Amanda Hesser

Written by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.


Conchi D. April 4, 2016
Eso no es tortilla de patatas ni de lejos
Looks great but the video and the printed recipe are different.
luisa P. May 3, 2015
me encanto tu receta pero porque no la pones en español
Denise May 3, 2015
Potatoes and eggs - a Friday night staple during Lent when I was a kid. I make it occasionally now, swapping out the ketchup that I used to drizzle on it for Sriracha, my now-adult preference. Thanks for this version.
Todo E. November 15, 2013
Wow. The passion that is awoken when people write about tortilla. Great post and pictures Amanda. We spent a few days researching (and eating tortillas) in Spain for our blogpost and can't believe we missed yours. Did you hear about the crisp or chip tortilla, giant tortilla and de-constructed tortilla?
Author Comment
Amanda H. November 17, 2013
I love your post! And I'm definitely going to try the Ferran Adria potato chip method. Thanks for sharing this.
Clara P. September 27, 2013
Sorry, but no Spanish put cheese in a tortilla. Only if you're making a cheese tortilla. And everybody fries the tortilla (fliping it right is a big milestone for everyone), baking is just lazy.
sel September 27, 2013
you are correct regarding the cheese, unheard of.....the cheese thing is Italian, not Espanol. Baking is another Italian
step, for the fritata. Flipping the tortilla is the easiest
step, as you know.
PaigeBakes September 25, 2013
Thanks, Amanda! I can't wait to try this recipe. I'm sorry that so many (actually only several individuals) got their aprons in a knot over your lack of adherence to their dogma. I'm still going to enjoy this I'm quite sure! BTW, apron knotters please don't reply to me and wish me luck with this recipe. It's clear you don't mean it with your turned up noses so please save the hot air.
Paula October 8, 2015
Love Yr comment to the uptight people in the kitchen;) lol Relax and COOK!
Lusty D. September 24, 2013
Does anyone know what size skillet Amanda used when she made this? Looks like a lot of eggs and potatoes but wow does it look delicious...
Author Comment
Amanda H. September 24, 2013
It's a 9 or 10 inch skillet.
Vstarr71 September 23, 2013
I'm amazed by these comments. The best point would have been to post examples of your beloved recipes and stop criticizing! Whatever you want to call this dish, I don't really care.....I'm going to try it (frying the sliced potatoes and onion with the olive oil)! Thank you Amanda!
pokolik September 24, 2013
I did that, in a previous comment. But Mrs. Hesser thought I was being "uncivil" and deleted it (sigh).
sel September 24, 2013
tupperbear September 23, 2013
Amanda - I thank you for this "version" of what I savored in Spain many years ago. Sorry I missed all the hubbub...but made three your way for a post wedding brunch this Sunday and got rave reviews - for both the simplicity and the great flavor.
Kathleen C. September 23, 2013
I don't care where anyone is from, or how you make your tortilla. What bothers me is the complete lack of courtesy and consideration. Clearly, you spent more time researching tortillas than researching simple manners. Thank you, Amanda et al, for sending us beautiful dishes and recipes, each week. And, thank you for your gracious response to less than gracious comments.
phyllis September 23, 2013
Thanks, Kathleen.
pokolik September 24, 2013
Kathleen, I don't need to research tortillas, I've been eating them since I stopped being fed baby food, and cooking them for nearly 40 years. But yes, researching does make sense otherwise. About lack of courtesy and consideration, bad manners, please tell me where that is: simply voicing one's opinion is not a crime, it's not even "yammering" (well, it is in dictatorships and evil sects, which this site isn't). I follow Food52, I think it's a great site that mostly gives me inspiration, but I don't know what's wrong with trying to correct what I see as a huge mistake (even if I was wrong or no one agreed!). Also, I don't expect to be thanked and praised for giving away tips for a good "Spanish" tortilla, and it's good to know that people like you don't care, but being accused of lack of courtesy and consideration is just too much. People here who have eaten the real thing have already made their point, and I wouldn't like to go on with it. But as sorry as I am to disturb some of you, I'll have to keep on answering this kind of comments (I don't like people bullying others and telling them to shut up). As I said before, webmasters can always kick us out if they feel it's the right thing to do (sigh again), and readers can go on boiling their potatoes and baking their Spanish-ish-ish tortillas in the oven if they feel like it.
sel September 24, 2013
well said! there is no need to be uncivil, after all....the comment made Pokolik is well founded. Her examples speak volumes.
Would you make a pizza with sliced white bread and ketchup? Doubtful....Nor would you make an american icon, 'hamburger'
incorrectly done? NO, i am certain there would be a huge
influx of comments.
phyllis September 23, 2013
All this yammering about traditional vs nontraditional is tiresome. Yes, this is an "untraditional" Spanish recipe that tastes delicious and that was borrowed and riffed upon. Are the Italians all up in arms because my gravy is different than some of theirs. Doesn't every culture have a dumpling and a chicken soup? Thank you for the clarification and let's move on and enjoy the community and the food.
sel September 23, 2013
Believe, if the Italians read something like this, it would be heard. Enjoy your tortilla your own way...
pokolik September 23, 2013
Phyllis, I respect the right to change traditional recipes, write them, then publish them. Please respect my right to dissent. Problem is... (1) Don't call it what it definitely isn't. (2) Frankly, I doubt the result is any satisfactory. - You just don't make your "Italian" pizza using sandwich bread and ketchup, and you don't make your "American" burgers with pork and baked in the oven. Even if they taste delicious, that's not what you call them. Also, can't people take criticism? I don't get it.
sel September 23, 2013
i concur,
sel September 23, 2013
interesting comments.....plz. understand, i am Espanola..
i have read her book, i know where to get ingredients, if
necessary. Now, if you notice, this subject has become quite interesting, not only do we have different folks giving their
best, we also have folks like me. From Spain.
That said Bubba, enjoy your tortilla Espanola, your own way.

Bubba M. September 23, 2013
A parting note: Read Penelope Casas' cook books for all things Spanish; food, customs and traditions...she is not the only word and was native only by marriage, but she probably did the most for bringing true Spanish cuisine to the US. Sadly she passed away this summer. And if you don't have access to authentic markets: order Spanish ingredients from La Tienda.
pierino September 23, 2013
I will loudly second Bubba Mac's rec for the work of the late Penelope Casas. And for sources in addition to La Tienda I would recommend La Espanola which makes regional Spanish meat products in its own plant---stuff that is not allowed for import (yet). Odds are much of what La Tienda is selling comes out of this plant.
But on the subject of "traditional" let's not forget that Ferran Adria's El Bulli outside of Barca was, for ten years running, rated best restaurant in the world. There was practically nothing he was doing that was traditional.
pokolik September 23, 2013
OK, not all food has to be traditional, but he wasn't calling his dishes what they weren't.
sel September 23, 2013
Of course, as with all cooks, things are re-invented, using the
traditional way. Lets not forget this. Also, the recipes that this El Bulli used were all his concoctions....most were not
of Spanish tradition. They were the 'new wave' as we see and here throughout the world. By the way, El Bulli closed.
MrsPrincess07 September 23, 2013
Regardless of what culinary region this recipe is inspired from, it looks great! I'm not a food snob so I could careless. It looks great for a cold morning!
brenda U. September 23, 2013
How about we all just thank Amanda for this luscious recipe,
trying savoring it just as it is, and leave it at that?
A beautiful recipe is a creative gift of the heart. Why burden it with all this puny critiquing and senseless bickering?
It's like hanging a tote bag on a butterfly wing.
sel September 23, 2013
your comments really voice your emotions, we all have our
thoughts that merit respect. Good luck with your tortilla ...:)
sel September 23, 2013
Would love to put it to rest, however, have you noticed the amount of interest in this? seems like there are concerns regarding your recipe and its authenticity...

'We' that share the same feeling just want to clear the air...
After all, it is our traditional recipe.

You will find Amanda, all commentaries made, myself included,
have given input already regarding the do's and don'ts of the
tortilla Espanola. Using this info. one could easily realize
the recipe standard. :)

Dee S. September 23, 2013
As a Spaniard, this looks delicious, but it is not an authentic Spanish tortilla. We would not use parmesan cheese, or any cheese for that matter. And the eggs should not be browned. Although, that could be a matter of personal preference in-home, the eggs should not be browned and the edges should never be crispy. In fact, we would never put it in the oven, only cooked on the stove top. This is a fritatta. Certainly delicious. But, not a Spanish tortilla.
sel September 23, 2013
exactly, i have been trying to make this point to the author and others....:)
Author Comment
Amanda H. September 23, 2013
Sel, I think your point has been made (and my name is Amanda, btw). Seems like a good time to put the topic to rest. I stand by my headnote and I welcome you to add your recipe to the site, which would be a wonderful and constructive way to share your knowledge and personal experience with making tortilla.
Alfredo D. September 22, 2013
Where is the Chorizo ??
sel September 23, 2013
up to you, i don't use it just the way it is.
sel September 22, 2013
Hola, Maria, lo que dices is correto