May 13, 2004
Spanish Tortilla

The first time you eat a Spanish tortilla, a thin cake of potatoes and egg, you're amazed that two average ingredients could make such a sublime dish. The sliced potatoes give the tortilla density, while the eggs keep the layers moist. The combination creates an unsuspected sweetness that makes a second, or even a third, piece hard to resist.

Spanish Tortilla

The tortilla begins with three baking potatoes and a onion, thinly sliced. Heat a cup of olive oil, or a combination of olive oil and a cheaper, neutral oil, over medium heat and add the potatoes and onions in several layers, salting between each layer. Cook, turning periodically to keep the potatoes separate, until the potatoes are tender but not brown.

Meanwhile, beat three eggs until frothy. Once the potatoes and onions are cooked, drain them, reserving two tablespoons of oil, and add to the eggs. It's important to let the potatoes sit in the eggs for 15 or 20 minutes, since this allows the eggs to penetrate the potatoes.

Add the reserved oil to a pan over medium-high heat. Spread the egg and potatoes across the pan and cook until the bottom begins to brown. Now we come to tricky part: cover the pan with a plate, flip the pan, and slide the now inverted tortilla back into the pan. Many an excellent tortilla has landed in the sink when some hot eggs or oil dripped onto the cook's hand. Don't feel bad if you lose a tortilla sometimes, it happens to everyone. Experienced tortilla makers like to flip it several times to better mold the shape, but beginners should be satisfied with one turn.

Once both sides are brown, slide the tortilla out of the pan and allow to cool. This dish is best served at room temperature. Like a stew, the flavors improve the second day. Some like to smear mayonnaise across the top, and Las Bravas in Madrid covers their tortilla with a spicy sauce, but it's also excellent with no embellishments.

Posted by at May 13, 2004 10:19 PM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

Thanks for the recipe - I had this a few times when on the infamous Spain trip with Barrett a few years ago (mostly because my Spanish was so bad and I kept forgetting they would not involve Mexican tortillas...). I'm going to give it a try over the weekend! Does it ever include any spices?

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 14, 2004 at 6:26 AM

No, never any spices. Spainards don't really do spice very often.

Since you can serve it at room temperature, it makes a great pic-nic food. Try it with mayo between slices of baguette.

Posted by Todd on May 14, 2004 at 7:50 AM

It sound to me like it needs some salad or fresh tomatoes on the side - but then it seems to me that on that trip to Spain everything would have been nice with a bit of salad or some fresh tomatoes on the side! I will refrain from adding spice, though.

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 14, 2004 at 8:03 AM

Yes, I had several dinners of tortilla and a green salad. It's a good combination.

Posted by Todd on May 14, 2004 at 8:46 AM

We hit a tapas bar last night and had just about everything but the tortilla. Now I wish I'd had some.

Posted by Barrett on May 14, 2004 at 9:16 AM

I make this every so often too... I usually add some peas to it to give it some color, but the green salad is pretty much a necessity. With some crusty bread and a nice Ribera del Duero it makes a pretty fantastic vegetarian dinner.

Oh, I also put some black pepper usually, but that may not be very Spanish.

Posted by paul on May 14, 2004 at 6:18 PM

I agree with paul, of course, that the peas are a good addition. Our dad makes this often, and when my Italian husband came home to the states with me, it was the first home-cooked meal he ate. Delicious with salad, crusty bread, and a handful of olives.

Posted by Jackie on May 19, 2004 at 11:09 AM

Thanks for the recipe - I lived in Spain for a year and always loved the tortilla with baguette, but have been unable to make a successful one myself! Now I can try again.

Posted by Julie on November 4, 2004 at 11:33 AM

whoa cool site.

Posted by sara on November 29, 2004 at 9:38 AM

Black pepper is definitely not Spanish -- and you have to ask for it at the restuarants, but be prepared for the waiter to say they don't carry it. A variation that you might consider: pour half the mix in, sprinkle grated cheese to lightly coat , and then gently pour the rest of the mix in. Makes for a delightful surprise. I also sometimes mix the cheese in the mix. Other additives include spinach, and crumbled bacon. Leafly herbs in moderation can add nice touch too.

Posted by Kayle on January 18, 2005 at 5:12 PM

I was planning on making Spanish tortillas to accompany my school Spanish project. About how long does this recipe take to make and how many does it serve?

Posted by Elyse on March 28, 2007 at 3:15 PM

It takes nearly an hour to make if you count the time that you allow the cooked potatoes to soak in the egg mixture. 15-20 minutes to cook the potatoes and onions, 15-20 minutes to soak and then another 10-15 minutes to cook the egg and potato mixture. It would serve six as a side dish, I think - best served with a nice salad!

Hope it turns out for you!

Posted by Meg in Paris on March 29, 2007 at 2:32 PM

Thanks for the recipe. Once made how long can I keep it in the fridge or can I freeze it

Posted by Ann Cresswell on August 14, 2008 at 8:17 AM

Once cooked if you wanted to serve tortilla's ata buffet what temperature would you need to keep them at?

Posted by Hannah Strickland on May 11, 2009 at 9:23 AM

I studied three years at a university in Madrid and have traveled extensively throughout the country. During my travels I discovered that there are probably as many recipes for tortillas de patatas in Spain as there are recipes for Sauerbraten in Germany or chili in Texas.

I make a small (four-egg) tortilla de patatas for my husband and myself about once a month. On those occasions when my husband is away on business, I sometimes make a tortilla for myself, eat half and refrigerate the remaining half for lunch the next day. I nuke the refrigerated half for a short time to bring it up to slightly warmer than room temp. I find that the warmed up half tastes even better than the first half. I have never tried freezing a tortilla de patatas.

Not being a culinary purist, I frequently experiment with ingredients that I happen to have on hand at the moment such as sliced mushrooms, frozen peas, jalapeņo slices, chile pepper strips, pimientos, diced ham, chorizo, Italian sausage, etc. And occasionally, I add a tablespoon or so of minced garlic to the pan while cooking the potatoes and onions.

The pan I use for the final step results in a tortilla about 2 inches thick. And since I occasionally like a bit of "heat" with many of my foods, I occasionally put a few drops of Tabasco sauce on my tortillas, just as I do with my scrambled eggs.

Sometimes I cut a slice of the tortilla and make a bocadillo with a crispy crusty baguette.

So many possibilities.

Posted by Susana de la Luz on May 1, 2010 at 11:46 PM

Do not ever freeze a tortilla, the potatoes go all watery when you freeze them and actually you should not put it in the fridge as dries the eggs and loses all the moisture, best way to keep it nice for the 2 day is cover it with a damp clothe or you can also use a soup plate as a cover. and that you need to keep the mixture sitting for 15 to 20 mins is not true the more you wait the drier tortilla you will get!!!! Im spanish and I know what im talking about

Posted by Ainara Iglesias Calzada on October 27, 2010 at 5:31 PM
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