Tortilla Espanola

Tortilla Espanola by Neil Morris - 04 August 2013


Region: The Basque County, Navarra

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Oven temp: hob

Difficulty: easy

Serves: 2-3


Tortilla Espanola, or Spanish Omelette, is a famous dish that most people have tried or a least heard about. It's origins are subject to much debate but it almost certainly started life in the Northern regions of Spain. There is evidence to suggest that it was first eaten by farmers and peasants in Navarra and the Basque Country during the 19th century but it has long been served in bars and restaurants across every region of Spain.

Despite the simplicity of the dish, there is still much debate about the ingredients and the cooking method of a tortilla espanola and all over Spain you can find subtle variations. It is s great dish to demonstrate how even the most basic recipe requires skill to execute perfectly. The ingredients and technique can dramatically affect the end result.

This version is as close to fool-proof as it gets and is designed to make a small tortilla for 2-3 people or enough for 4-6 as part of a tapas spread. Once you have mastered this version you can upscale the ingredients to create larger tortillas.

The Tortilla Espanol is an essential part of your Spanish cooking repertoire and it is a great way to learn how to cook a simple dish to absolute perfection.

Shopping list

  • 1 potato (patata)
  • 1 small onion or half a large one (cebolla)
  • 4 egg (huevos)
  • olive oil (aciete de oliva)
  • salt (sal)
  • freshly ground black pepper (pimienta recién molida negro)


Start by peeling and cutting the potato into small cubes of about 1 cm. Then chop the onion into similar size pieces until you have about the same amount of onion as potato. For this size of tortilla you will need an 8cm non-stick pan.

Now heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in the pan and add the onion and potato; the potatoes should be submerged at least half way in oil, add a splash more if necessary. You want the heat to be moderate so that the the oil is just bubbling.

Gently cook the onion and potato in this way for about 15 minutes so that they soften but do not brown; the potato should be just cooked but not breaking up.

In the meantime, break the eggs into a bowl and beat just enough to break up the yolks. Then stir in a good pinch of salt and pepper but do not over mix.

Strain the onions and potatoes, reserving the cooking oil, then add to the eggs and stir until well-coated. Leave to stand for a few minutes.

Add a good tablespoon of the reserved oil to a the same pan over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, pour in the tortilla mixture.

Using a wooden spoon, pull the mixture from the edge of the pan to the middle as it starts to set and work all the way round the pan doing this for about one minute. Then give the pan a good shake to make sure that the onion and potato are evenly distributed through the tortilla. This will ensure that the top is not to runny when you come to turn it.

Let it cook over a medium heat for about five minutes or until the top is just about set; if you get a very slight burning smell then it is definitely time to turn it.

Put a plate over the pan and turn in one swift movement; your tortilla espanola will now be on the plate. Put the pan back on the heat and slide the tortilla back in and cook the the other side for a couple of minutes. While it is cooking, use a wooden spoon to push in the edges of the tortilla as if you are tucking them under. This will give shape and height to the finished dish.

After two minutes the base will be cooked and you can slide the tortilla on to a board to serve. Add a touch more seasoning to the top while it is still hot and stand for a five minutes before serving. It can also be eaten cold.

For larger Tortillas adjust the proportions of ingredients and pan size accordingly.

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