Spanish Tortilla

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Classic Spanish tortilla, or a Spanish potato omelette, with the emphasis on potato. Thinly sliced potatoes, fried in olive oil, layered in a pan, covered with beaten eggs, and cooked.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

To a native Californian like myself, a “tortilla” is round and flat, and comes in only two styles, flour and corn. So the concept that a tortilla could also be a thick potato omelette, took some getting used to. But that is the difference between a Spanish tortilla and a Mexican tortilla.

The Spanish version is made by frying thinly sliced potatoes in olive oil, then layering those slices in a pan (preferably a cast iron frying pan), covering with beaten eggs, and cooking until set.

It’s perfect for a weeknight meal, and only requires a few ingredients which you likely have in your pantry. It’s good warm, room temperature, or cold, and makes for great leftovers.

Now I’ve never been to Spain, but if you have, and you recall a favorite version of the Spanish tortilla, please let us know about it in the comments. For those of you for whom this concept is entirely new, I do encourage you to try this recipe, I think you’ll like it!

Spanish Tortilla Recipe

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  • Yield: Serves 2-4

Waxy potatoes such as Yukon Golds or red-skinned new potatoes work well in this dish. Avoid using russets. This recipe is meant for a 9 inch diameter pan. If your pan is larger, add a couple eggs. If your pan is a full 12 inches, add 4 eggs, another potato and another green onion.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2-3 green onions (or 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion), chopped up to the light green parts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt

Method

1 Slice the potatoes (peeled or unpeeled) into disks between 1/4 and 1/8 inch wide. (Helps to use a mandoline for this purpose.)

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2 Pour the olive oil into a cast-iron or hard anodized aluminum pan (a pan that will be able to take the heat of a broiler in the oven) and heat it over medium-high heat. When it is hot enough to sizzle the potatoes as soon as they hit the oil – test with an end piece – start frying them in one layer. Working in batches, fry until they are lightly browned, not crispy. When they are done, let the potatoes dry on a paper towel and salt them well. Keep frying until they are all cooked.

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3 When the potatoes are all done, pour off most of the oil and sauté the onions. When they are just starting to crisp, turn off the heat. Arrange the onions so they are evenly covering the bottom of the pan. Arrange the potatoes on the pan in a scalloped pattern.

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4 Turn the heat back on to medium, and pour in the eggs. Add a generous pinch of salt. Shake the pan to get the eggs to coat everything in the pan. Let this cook until you see the edges of the tortilla begin to set, then put the pan under the broiler.

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5 Cook it under the broiler for 5 minutes, or until the top browns. (If you prefer to finish the tortilla on the stovetop instead of the broiler, slide the tortilla out of the pan onto a plate. Then invert the pan over the plate, and flip the whole thing, pan and plate so that the tortilla falls back into the pan, less-cooked side down.) Remove the pan and set it to cool for at least 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve. It’s also good at room temperature, and will keep a couple days in the fridge.

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Links:

Wikipedia on Spanish tortilla

Potato, Parsnip, and Watercress Tortilla from Cannelle et Vanille

Oven-baked tortilla espanola from Lydia of The Perfect Pantry

Ferrán Adrià´s bag-of-chips tortilla from Ximena of Lobstersquad

Spring-time Tortilla Espanola from Hank at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

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Showing 4 of 36 Comments

  • Camille

    My French mother in law makes this same dish and it is superb! All this time I thought this was a Gaelic treat, now, I know the truth!

  • kaitana

    Hi!
    I live in Spain, and Tortilla is probably our favourite dish… it’s, in fact, our national treasure! I think you exposed the recipe very well, I only have one comment: here in Spain we usually use diced potatoes, instead of sliced. However, that depends on the cook. My mother usually makes them with diced potatoes, onion and green pepper. Also, she takes it away from fire just a minute before it is completely cooked, so it doesn’t get so dry.
    Oh! Another trick is to beat the eggs with a little milk before mixing them to the potatoes, that makes it spongy.
    Try cutting some slices of tortilla and putting them between two loaves of bread (chapatta, for example). That is our traditional Bocata de Tortilla

    Thank you for your suggestions Kaitana! ~Elise

  • Rachel

    I’m an American, but I’ve lived in Spain 2 times, adding up to about a year and a half in total. And being a vegetarian in a country where the concept is pretty strange, I’ve eaten tons of tortillas. I agree with Kaitana. Tortilla is typically made with diced not sliced potatoes. I also would recommend more potatoes. With a 2-6 (or more!) ratio of potatoes to eggs, you’re getting more of an omelette with potatoes than a Spanish tortilla. You’ll see it both ways, but all of the homemade ones I’ve had have been more potato based – and much tastier! The recipe I was given by my housemom says 500 g of potatoes (1 lb) and 8 eggs. A couple other pointers – I wouldn’t layer the onions and potatoes like that. Mix them up! And finally, I’ve heard from some peole that after beating the eggs, you should mix the potatoes and onions in the eggs in a separate bowl before returning it to the frying pan. My housemom didn’t say that, but I’ve tried it both ways and find mixing it outside the pan works better for me.

    And do try the Bocata de Tortilla. It really is great! Rub some tomato on the top slice of bread for a Catalán version, or add roasted red peppers (I think you can buy those in the States) for another common variant on the sandwich.

  • Evelyn

    I lived with a Spanish family for a semester in college (in Santiago de Compostela), and my host mother was the most fantastic cook. Before I left, I had her show me how to make Spanish Tortilla because it was so delicious. She diced the potato, like the previous poster mentions, and used a regular onion. She also flipped the tortilla instead of broiling – when the one side is done, put a plate on top of the pan, and using potholders, flip it all over so the tortilla lands on the plate. Then you slide it back into the pan, uncooked side down.

    Thanks for posting this!

  • Lisa

    I love Spanish Tortilla! In my version I use chopped and slightly sautéed CHORIZO!! Yummy. I will usually make it on Christmas eve to serve on Christmas morning with warm biscuits and coffee. I agree with Kaitana with the milk suggestion and my potatoes are usually diced as well. Thanks for posting! :-)

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