Cast Iron

Spanish-ish Tortilla in Cast Iron

October 28, 2021
4.3 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

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. —Amanda Hesser

Watch This Recipe
Spanish-ish Tortilla in Cast Iron
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 6
Ingredients
  • 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
In This Recipe
Directions
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Angie
    Angie
  • robin lewis
    robin lewis
  • Chef Devaux
    Chef Devaux
  • Sue O'Bryan
    Sue O'Bryan
  • Mar Pom
    Mar Pom
Amanda Hesser

Recipe 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.

83 Reviews

nicole July 14, 2020
This was delicious! Very simple, but the flavor really shines. A perfect addition to brunch with my girls.
 
Daniel H. April 23, 2020
Just made this and it was delicious, thank you! The only question I have is how you made yours so fluffy and light with all those air pockets inside? The flavor of mine was great, and it inverted cleanly with a beautiful golden brown exterior, but it was very dense with no air pockets like the one in the picture.
 
Angie April 13, 2020
I've never made this dish before. Deductive reasoning tells me to put the tortilla on top of the eggs before putting the pan in the oven. Do I need to let the eggs cook a bit before I do this?
 
Author Comment
Amanda H. April 14, 2020
You want to mix the eggs and potatoes together before putting it in the oven.
 
Angie April 14, 2020
Right, sorry. Forgot to mention I understood that part, easily enough from the directions. Directions make no mention of the tortilla.
 
Author Comment
Amanda H. April 14, 2020
Ahh -- by tortilla, are you thinking of the flatbread used for tacos? For this recipe, the final product (which is essentially an egg and potato dish) is the tortilla. Hope this helps!
 
lgh07 August 12, 2019
Made this without the cheese. Big mistake. So blah. Much bland. Don't leave out the cheese.
 
Raquel P. December 9, 2018
oh and I omitted the cheese since I don't eat dairy.
 
Raquel P. December 9, 2018
Wow, this turned out really good and was so easy. thanks!! I added diced ham and spinach to mine but otherwise followed the recipe. Also, the only cookware I have that is also oven safe is a Lodge dutch oven (porcelain enamel on cast iron), ha. Wasn't sure how it was all going to work out but it turned out perfectly cooked and slid right out onto the plate. I did cook it in the oven a bit longer (about 30 mins total) but this could just be because my oven is old and doesn't run as hot as other ovens I have used.
 
robin L. August 8, 2017
Food52's Zwillig Madura pans are oven-safe 'up to 400 degrees.' Is that the one Food52 would recommend? (Or what pan did you use? I don't know if I trust my cast iron ones to be nonstick-enough...)
 
robin L. August 8, 2017
...Or the Ballarini pans...?! They look good. Oven-safe up to 500 degrees...
 
Chef D. November 21, 2015
yes as a few have said, Spanish cooking is done with olive oil not butter.
 
Elena July 2, 2015
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!!
 
Uyen P. December 20, 2015
Thank you so much for sharing with us how you'd make it. I've tried it your way twice now, and it's so delicious. My family is now making requests for these. I appreciate that you included the lighter version. :)
 
Elena December 21, 2015
Thanks Uyen!!! I'm glad you liked it!! :D
 
Kat January 7, 2016
Thank you so much for contributing to this discussion! I'm going to try it your way :)
 
Mar October 25, 2019
Another Spaniard here!
Hola Elena! I agree with you 100% :) I would like to add some comments on the top of yours, to help dummy and clumsy cooks like me.
After researching, reading about how to prepare some of the most famous "tortillas" in Spain and some experience cooking it, here are my conclusions:
1. Use per each 100gr of potatoes, 1 big egg and 1 pinch of salt. Maybe it will lack salt, but better too sweet than too salty.
2. Use always and only extra virgin olive oil. As Elena said, you can filter it and reuse it afterwards to whatever you cook. It will bring a fabulous extra flavour to whatever you prepare: fish, meat, eggs, vegetables...
3. After burning several times the onion, thats what I do. I cook onions and potatoes separately. While I peel the potatoes, I put the onions in a pan with generous oil and middle-low temperature until it gets a golden - brownish colour.
4. Once the potatoes are ready as Elena explain, I add them the onion with its oil. I increase the temperature of the fire and wait, mixing them once in a while, until some of the edges of the potatoes get golden and crispy.
5. Drain the mixture very very well in a colander. Don't worry about breaking the potatoes a little, actually, if that happens, it's better.
5. Whisk the eggs with the salt, but just the minimum. The moment the yolk and white mix well, stop! Add the potatoes with the onions and mix again only the minimum.
6. To cook the tortilla, the amount of oil must be minimum. Reuse the pan that you have used for the potatoes not adding more oil, or add a few drops of the oil of frying the potatoes and spread it all over the pan with a piece of paper towel.
6. For a 6 eggs "tortilla" I use a 23 cm pan, and I usually cook it 4 mins, flip it with a dish, 2 mins more, flip it again and 1 min more. Let it rest at least 10 mins. Even if you like it very well done, the centre must be juicy. If not with the rest and the residual heat, it will end up too done and dry.
7. Before flipping it, you have to be sure that you can take off the borders of the tortilla with a wooden utensil and that the tortilla slides over the pan. It's normal if the first time you try to flip the tortilla is a disaster. It is usual to break or spill part of the mixture. Place everything at the pan, with a wooden utensil, press the borders giving a round shape to the tortilla and it will look fantastic.
8. Indeed, the Spanish tortilla is not a low calory food. Please, don't boil the potatoes! I have heard about the option of doing the potatoes in the microwave, but I have never tried. One of my friends cooks the potatoes and onions with some oil and salt in the oven, and it's a great option. I would recommend you to place the mix in the oven, preheated at 200 C. And mix every 20-30 mins until they get done.
Enjoy a lot!! and I hope you can understand my freestyle English ;)
 
Sue O. May 27, 2015
Tortillas and frittatas are endlessly useful. I absolutely love this photograph.
 
Che April 25, 2015
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!.
 
Frankie April 22, 2015
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!
 
Margarita U. February 21, 2015
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!
 
Mar P. February 13, 2015
Please, Spanish tortilla in the oven?
Really…? No, seriously?
 
Suhyun Y. December 30, 2014
I love the picture above.
 
JohnSkye April 22, 2015
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.
 
Christine June 13, 2014
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.)
 
FrankieFrazier January 16, 2015
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
 
amy April 2, 2015
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.
 
Mark M. April 23, 2015
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.
 
Mar October 25, 2019
Hi Frankie. Scroll and look for Elena's comment. There you will find it. And you should use 1 big egg every 100g of potatoes ;) I would also recommended you to use a potato variety soft to the touch :)
 
mboerner June 12, 2014
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.


 
mboerner June 12, 2014
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?
 
Mar October 25, 2019
In a bowl! ;)
 
Jorge O. June 12, 2014
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.
 
amy April 2, 2015
agree! I hate seeing people manipulate a dish that is already perfected & still call it a tortilla!
 
CheffieEmily March 25, 2014
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