The Spanish potato omelette (tortilla de patatas or tortilla española) is one of the most known, widespread and tasty recipes you can possibly find in Spanish cuisine. It’s available all over the country and you are likely to find it on the menu of most Spanish restaurants and bars (in Spain and abroad!). This dish is so important that there are ongoing debates and research about where it originates from. Until not long ago, there was a widespread belief about the tortilla being invented in the Basque Country during the First Carlist War. The military troop of the General Tomás de Zumalacárregui stopped at a farmhouse. The lady the troop was served by had nothing left to cook but some potatoes, onions and eggs, which she decided to combine in an omelette.
However, some years ago publications revealed that the tortilla is more likely to come from a small town in the province of Badajoz, near the Portuguese border. Locals were trying to make bread out of potatoes and to cook it in a pan, which resulted in a potato omelette. This recipe then evolved with the potato being fried before making the omelette.
The more traditional version of a Spanish potato omelette includes potatoes, eggs, salt and olive oil. It is, however, quite common to also add onion. Local variations may also include garlic or green and red pepper, others cut the omelette in half and fill it with all sorts of ingredients or top it with a sauce or cheese. The omelette is sometimes cooked quite thin, whilst others make it big and very thick. Some people like the egg runny. Some cut the potatoes in wedges, or dice or slices. The tortilla is so widespread that there are uncountable recipes. The recipe below is a simple potato omelette with onion as you would find it in many restaurants. If you don’t want to become frustrated whilst cooking it, ensure that you deep fry the potatoes, that you have a high-quality non-sticking pan (many Spaniards will have a frying pan for omelettes only at home!) and that you have a plate that is big enough to cover your pan in order to turn the omelette. Once ready, you could serve this with fresh bread and pipirrana on the side, or top it with some garlic and parsley sauce.
Before you get cooking, there is one more thing: no matter what Jamie Oliver might have told you, the Tortilla de Patatas is not cooked with chorizo!
Spanish Potato Omelette
- 800 g white potatoes
- 1 large onion
- 1/2 litre olive oil to fry + 2 spoons of olive oil
- 6 medium-sized eggs
- 1 tsp salt
Peel the potatoes and cut them into slices. Peel and roughly chop the onion (the pieces shouldn’t be too small, otherwise they will burn during the frying process).
Pour the oil in a large pan over high-heat. Once piping hot, fry potatoes and onions together for about 2 minutes. Then reduce heat to low.
After roughly 10 minutes, when the potatoes and onions are soft, put the heat up again and fry for another couple of minutes until golden brown. Then remove potatoes and onions from the oil with a slotted spoon and leave to drain in a colander.
Meanwhile break the eggs into a large bowl, add the salt and whisk until smooth.
Once the potatoes and onions have cooled down a little, add to the eggs and mix.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat with a spoon of olive oil. Then add the potato, onion and egg mixture.
After 2-3 minutes, place a plate over the pan (holding it well) and turn upside down, so that the omelette falls on the plate. If necessary add some more drops of olive oil to the pan and then carefully slide the omelette back in it (exposing the cooked part at the top). Leave for another couple of minutes and then use a clean plate to serve.
Use a light olive oil or substitute for sunflower oil.