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School of tapas: Spanish tortilla or tortilla española

>> Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tortilla española

That’s right, tortilla española. This famous tapa at last after a long hiatus. Spanish tortilla is one of the few dishes that can be undoubtedly found all over Spain, if not the only one. It’s so interspersed in our identity that no region can claim to be the cradle of this ubiquitous dish or tapa. And as with every traditional dish, every family claims to prepare the ultimate version. Much debate goes on about the size to which the potato should be sliced, the kind of potato to be used, the seasoning, the degree of inner “runniness” (more cooked, more raw), with onion or onionless… it goes on and on. But the fact is that no matter how it’s made, it is a true favourite on all tables and at all Spanish homes, genuine comfort food. And by the way, my mother makes the best tortilla ever, of course…

And it’s not so difficult to make. Accurate doneness and seasoning take practice, but the result will always be edible, after all… Spanish tortilla is basically nothing more than potato, egg and salt. Some people claim that tortilla should also include some onion and that is a very common addition too, as it gives it a tasty twist that I also love, therefore I’m including this option in the directions. But let’s get to it:

Spanish tortilla
(for 6-8 tapa-sized portions)

  • 3 medium potatoes (waxy potatoes preferred)
  • 5 medium eggs 
  • 1/2 onion (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 cups (minimum) virgin olive oil for deep frying

Tortilla española
  1. Peel and slice the potatoes finely (see the photos). Peel and slice the onion if using. 
  2. Heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan or in a deep-fryer, to low-medium. Add the potatoes (and onion). The potato must be poached gently, not really fried. It is essential that the potato slices don't form any hard skin (nothing near potato crisps), they must be overly soft in the end. The poaching can take anything from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the type of potato. Turn them over once in a while with a slotted spoon if not using a deep-fryer. When done, drain them from the oil and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly and add the salt. I have my own rule of thumb for the amount of salt: one large pinch per egg, plus another one for the potatoes... sounds silly, but it works for me.
  4. When the potatoes have cooled down a bit, tip them into the bowl and mix well with the eggs. You can cut with a fork through the potatoes to make the slices smaller to better blend with the eggs. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, the potatoes will absorb some of the egg.
  5. Prepare a heavy bottom non-stick skillet that has just the right size to hold the mixture, it must serve as a mold to shape the tortilla. You need to form a cake that is something in between 1 and 2 inches thick. Brush it with olive oil and heat on medium-low.
  6. Cook the tortilla on low-medium heat so that it doesn't burn on the outside while it's still too soft on the inside, at least 5 minutes. Run a spatula around the edge to make sure it's not sticking. Then flip it over (that's the most interesting stage): carefully slide it on a plate large enough. Then, while you're holding the plate on one hand, turn the skillet upside down and place it on the plate. Flip the plate-skillet assembly over and cook the other side for another 5 minutes.
  7. Slide onto a plate and serve.
Tortilla española

Let me tell you something: frying in virgin olive oil is a must. It’s a sin not to cook Spanish tortilla in olive oil, be warned. And if you don't use olive oil, don't tell anyone, it could be life-threatening. Also remember: practice makes perfect. It’s easy to make an edible tortilla, but my friends, making an outstanding one takes superb ingredients and… your whole life. But I assure you, if there’s a dish worth mastering, this is it. Enjoy it on a sunny noon.

Tortilla española

25 comentarios:

FOODalogue January 14, 2012 at 2:50 PM  

I grew up eating tortilla and continue to make it (no onions for me) and would like to emphasize that the most important thing is to add the potatoes to the eggs (not vice versa) so they are thoroughly coated..though I never timed it. I will try 10 minutes next time for better absorption. Beautiful photos, as always, Miriam.

Ewa January 14, 2012 at 3:44 PM  

Hi... your tortilla looks really delicious...actually I didnt't know that spanish tortillas go with's a new thing to know and try soon:)

Frank January 14, 2012 at 4:09 PM  

Everyone's favorite tapa—and now we have the definitive recipe! Thanks so much for the in-depth, step by step treatment and important tips. I hadn't realized the importance of not browning the potatoes!

J e l e n a January 14, 2012 at 6:07 PM  

Such a simple dish, but so tasty and visually effective.

tasteofbeirut January 14, 2012 at 9:39 PM  

Thanks Miriam for a perfect recipe and directions! I love the Spanish tortilla and witnessed my daughter who never cooks make it once; I have been hooked and was looking for a great recipe and found it now.

Sarah January 14, 2012 at 9:50 PM  

This turned out really well. I will have to try your recipe. I have never had success with this.

Miriam January 15, 2012 at 2:06 PM  

Thanks everyone for your comments and tips! I think I will revise the post in a month or so and complement it with everybody's feedback, love that!

Ruth Reynoso-Sance January 16, 2012 at 5:55 PM  

I love tortilla! One of my favorite foods as a child :-) Congrats on the top 9!

Anonymous January 16, 2012 at 9:19 PM  

It is very funy that I had no idea that all my life we ate Tortilla Española! My mother used to make this when she had no made and had to cook--in Brazil. It was something fast and simple, to eat with the daily rice, beans and meat. I think she got it from the mix of cultures in South of Brazil--where we lived. But she just sauteed the potatoes, if I recall it well...

alyce@culinarythymes January 16, 2012 at 11:36 PM  

This looks so good. Congrats on top 9.

Rebekah F January 17, 2012 at 1:02 AM  

I found your post on FoodBuzz and I'm so glad I did. My husband and I were in Spain this summer and had a tapa much like this. I'm so excited to be able to make this at home to bring back the memories!

Belinda @zomppa January 17, 2012 at 1:03 AM  

Not everyone can do this properly, and you do it absolutely perfectly!

Quiche-ing Queen January 17, 2012 at 2:50 AM  

I would love to try this sometime. I really enjoy your Spanish dishes you make and share with us. This looks really delicious.

sunnylove January 17, 2012 at 9:08 AM  

I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.I'm quite sure I’ll learn many new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!Patek Philippe Silver Case Black

Anh January 18, 2012 at 12:41 AM  

this is a great post! Thanks for the tutorial!

Sarah January 18, 2012 at 5:13 PM  

I love this potato and egg tapas, such simple ingredients, but together they make something splendid.

Barcelona Home Dinners January 18, 2012 at 8:05 PM  

Hi, check our Spanish tortilla on :))

Magic of Spice January 18, 2012 at 11:05 PM  

Your tortilla is a divine!

Jonny January 20, 2012 at 6:39 PM  

Miriam: there are plenty of bloggers out there who wouldn't consider posting a tortilla recipe because it's so simple. To your closing remark that it's easy to make an edible tortilla but to make a perfect one takes a lifetime, that is the essential point - that in most cases, the simpler the recipe, the greater the importance of technique. It has amazed me ever since I first tasted tortilla how something with just three ingredients, four counting the olive oil, can have such complexity to its taste and texture, and how much difference there can be between one tortilla and the next.

Lauren of Spanish Sabores January 26, 2012 at 2:10 PM  

Yum! Tortilla is hands down one of Spain's best offerings. I happen to prefer mine a bit raw... and with the onions!

Michael Procopio January 26, 2012 at 6:51 PM  

Your tortilla is so beautiful, it looks as if someone took a bite out of the serving plate in an effort to get closer to it.

Junglefrog January 30, 2012 at 5:28 PM  

I've had many many tortillas in my life and some were really good and other were really bad.. :) I've even made a few myself which were ok but not as good as your version here!

Amanda! February 1, 2012 at 7:48 PM  

This is tapas from the heart!

Laurie Hager February 9, 2012 at 8:43 PM  

Dear Miriam,

I just shared this recipe and post on our Facebook page for La Tienda. What a delicious find! Hope you are doing well and having a cozy winter,


Cristina, from BA to Paris February 10, 2012 at 7:27 PM  

I have to confess I learnt to make tortilla only a few months ago, which is a real shame considering all my ancestors are Spanish. A Madrileña friend taught me! Amazing, but she gave me the same recipe!


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