Spanish Tortilla

By Ann Fulton

Make this traditional Spanish dish in your own kitchen with a few basic ingredients and enjoy it as a light meal, a satisfying snack, or a filling addition to a Spanish-themed charcuterie board.
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Make this traditional Spanish dish in your own kitchen with a few basic ingredients and enjoy it as a light meal, a satisfying snack, or a filling addition to a Spanish-themed charcuterie board.

 

In Spain it’s called a tortilla Española, sometimes a tortilla de patata.

The name translates to Spanish tortilla or potato omelet, and the humble yet versatile fare is celebrated as a national dish in Spain, appearing in bars, restaurants, and homes far and wide.

When I lived in Spain years ago, I ate this inexpensive combination of eggs, potatoes, and onions for lunch almost every day. Cooked just right, there’s a lovely creaminess to the tortilla, which can be eaten as is, sandwiched into a fresh baguette, or cut into bite-size pieces and enjoyed on a tapas platter.

Although delicious straight out of the oven, Spaniards traditionally eat their tortillas (which are decidedly different than Mexican flour and corn tortillas) room temperature or cold. A generous wedge is often consumed as a light meal. Cut into bite-size squares, the tortilla makes a popular tapa.

Most casual restaurants in Spain have a tortilla sitting by the bar all day, ready to be tucked inside a halved baguette and served as a “bocadillo de tortilla.” Curiously, these hearty sandwiches are served without condiments – it’s just the egg tortilla and the bread, which may be rubbed with olive oil and salt – but the quality and freshness of the simple ingredients makes them incredibly delicious and satisfying.

The perfect Spanish tortilla is just the slightest hint undercooked in the center, making it tender and flavorful with a hint of creaminess. Because the ingredients are so simple, it’s especially important to not overcook the tortilla, which can create a dry outcome. If you’re not sure, I recommend using a quick-read thermometer. When taken in the center, the temperature should read 200℉.

Make this traditional Spanish dish in your own kitchen with a few basic ingredients and enjoy it as a light meal, a satisfying snack, or a filling addition to a Spanish-themed charcuterie board.

Leftover tortilla made a deliciously easy lunch recently. A Spanish tortilla is traditionally served as is, or with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. That said, I have discovered it is delicious topped with Italian Salsa Verde. The batch pictured in this photo had been in my fridge for over a week and is a great go-to sauce. Smoked Paprika Aioli offers another complementary sauce option for those who like to layer flavors with condiments. 

Traditional recipes fry the sliced potatoes in a cup or so of olive oil and do all the cooking on the stovetop. This is a messy venture, and it’s difficult to determine when the bottom of the tortilla has reached the signature golden brown hue.

In the process, it’s easy to overcook the center. And then there’s the task of flipping the thing. This task becomes easier with a plate, but there’s always the potential for a burn – or a mess!

Years ago, I was tipped off to Amanda Hesser’s shortcut method, which calls for boiling the potatoes until they’re barely tender and then baking them with the whisked eggs and golden-brown onions. 

The results were delicious, and the golden crust was impressive. Over time, I have adapted the recipe lightly and have added details and helpful hints to ensure a perfect outcome.

Full disclosure: Beyond the nontraditional but highly effective method of preparation, cheese is not customary in a Spanish tortilla. You could omit the sprinkle of Parmesan, but I think it adds a welcome hint of complementary flavor.

How do you serve a Spanish tortilla? 

  • As a simple, unadorned wedge, either warm or room temperature.
  • Drizzled with a good olive oil and/or flaky sea salt.
  • Cut into bite-size pieces and served as an appetizer.
  • Bite-size pieces of the tortilla will also add a filling element to a charcuterie board or Spanish-themed tapas plate.
  • For a traditional Spanish “bocadillo,” tuck a wedge or two into a piece of very fresh baguette and serve as a sandwich with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt. You could mimic this with your favorite sandwich bread.
  • Though sauces aren’t traditional, they will add an extra layer of flavor to the humble fare. My two favorites are Italian Salsa Verde and Smoked Paprika Aioli, which can be dolloped over top, used as a dip, or as a bocadillo/sandwich spread.

Tips for Spanish Tortilla success:

  • A well-seasoned cast iron pan is ideal here, although an oven-safe, non-stick skillet could be used.
  • Use a waxy potato like a Yukon gold or red potato. Do not use Russet potatoes. I learned the hard way that they will turn to mush.
  • Cook the potatoes until tender with the slightest hint of resistance when poked with the tip of a sharp knife. That way, they will slice easily and won’t crumble and break when tossed with the onions and eggs.
  • To easily turn the tortilla out of the pan, let it cool for a few minutes. Then place a platter or large plate over the pan and, holding the plate tightly against the pan with both hands, swiftly invert the whole thing. The tortilla should pop right out.
Helpful hint: Yukon gold and red potatoes are easy to peel after they are boiled.

I used to peel the potatoes before boiling but have discovered the skins pull right off, and with less potato loss, after they are cooked.

Make this traditional Spanish dish in your own kitchen with a few basic ingredients and enjoy it as a light meal, a satisfying snack, or a filling addition to a Spanish-themed charcuterie board.

Thinly sliced potatoes make for better texture and overall flavor in the tortilla. The egg mixture can then circulate between those thinner slices, creating uniform flavor instead of thick layers of each component. I aim for ⅛-inch thick slices, or as thin as I can get without having the slices crumble, This is also reason to cook the potatoes until just tender, as overcooked potatoes tend to crumble when sliced. 

Make this traditional Spanish dish in your own kitchen with a few basic ingredients and enjoy it as a light meal, a satisfying snack, or a filling addition to a Spanish-themed charcuterie board.

When mixing the ingredients, be sure to separate the potato slices so the egg mixture thoroughly coats them. You can gently fold the mixture with a spoon or spatula, or you can use your hand.

Make this traditional Spanish dish in your own kitchen with a few basic ingredients and enjoy it as a light meal, a satisfying snack, or a filling addition to a Spanish-themed charcuterie board.

Once the ingredients are combined, the mixture is returned to the pan the onions were sautéed in and cooked until the eggs set around the edges, about 2-3 minutes.

Make this traditional Spanish dish in your own kitchen with a few basic ingredients and enjoy it as a light meal, a satisfying snack, or a filling addition to a Spanish-themed charcuterie board.

Parmesan cheese is sprinkled evenly over the top, and the tortilla finishes cooking in the oven. This makes a potentially messy flip unnecessary. 

Make this traditional Spanish dish in your own kitchen with a few basic ingredients and enjoy it as a light meal, a satisfying snack, or a filling addition to a Spanish-themed charcuterie board.

This is what the tortilla looks like hot out of the oven…

Make this traditional Spanish dish in your own kitchen with a few basic ingredients and enjoy it as a light meal, a satisfying snack, or a filling addition to a Spanish-themed charcuterie board.

..and while you could serve it from the skillet, I loosen the edges with a dinner knife…

To easily flip the tortilla out of the pan, place a plate over the skillet and then invert.

…place a plate over the top of the skillet, hold tightly with both hands, and then flip over. The tortilla will pop right out. Also, the instructions call for cooling the tortilla in the pan for 5-10 minutes, which removes the risk of burning your hands. 

Make this traditional Spanish dish in your own kitchen with a few basic ingredients and enjoy it as a light meal, a satisfying snack, or a filling addition to a Spanish-themed charcuterie board.

The initial cook time on the stovetop starts the browning process, giving the bottom of the tortilla this deliciously golden hue. The tortilla is now ready to cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. 

Make this traditional Spanish dish in your own kitchen with a few basic ingredients and enjoy it as a light meal, a satisfying snack, or a filling addition to a Spanish-themed charcuterie board.

For a hint of extra flavor and flare, you may drizzle with a good olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Optionally, the tortilla can be cut into bite-size squares and served as an appetizer or on a Spanish-themed charcuterie board or tapas platter.

I’d love to know if you try this recipe. Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo @fountainavenuekitchen on Instagram and Facebook. Your feedback is always appreciated.

Spanish Tortilla
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings (10-12 when serving as an appetizer)
This humble meal is endlessly versatile – serve it any time of day, hot or cold, as either the centerpiece of the meal or an appetizer. My family enjoys the tortilla as a make-ahead breakfast with a side of fruit or for dinner with roasted vegetables or a salad. It’s perfect for packed lunches too, as the tortilla tastes great at room temperature. 
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds Yukon gold or red potatoes* (preferably of similar size for even cooking; DO NOT USE RUSSET!)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced or thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large eggs (I use 9 if a few seem to be on the smaller side)
  • ⅓ cup (30g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) butter
  • Optional for serving: a sprinkle of flay sea salt and pepper; a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil,
Instructions
  1. Place the whole, unpeeled potatoes in a medium pot. Cover with an inch or two of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the precise level of heat and size of potatoes. (Tip: You want the potatoes to be tender, but not so tender that they crumble when sliced.) Drain, remove to a plate or cutting board, let cool so you can comfortably touch them. Peel the skin with your fingers (it will slip off easily, and it’s okay if you miss some spots), and then cut the potatoes into ⅛-inch slices. Thin slices create the best final texture. (Helpful hint: For easy transfer and cleanup later, I slice the potatoes on a dinner plate.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 400℉.
  3. Warm 1½ tablespoons of the oil in a 10-inch non-stick, ovenproof skillet – seasoned cast iron if possible – over medium heat. Add the onions, season with a pinch or two of salt, and sauté until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Set the pan aside so the onions cool slightly.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth. Add the cooked onions, sliced potatoes, and season with salt and pepper. (I use one very lightly rounded teaspoon Morton’s kosher salt and about ¼ teaspoon pepper; adequate seasoning is important given the simplicity of the ingredients.) Gently toss to combine and coat all the potato slices with egg. (Tip: The potatoes should not be sticking together – make sure the egg separates each slice. It may be helpful to add the potato slices with your hands, separating the slices as you go.)
  5. Return the skillet (the one from which you just scraped out all the onions) to medium heat and add the remaining 1½ tablespoons oil and the butter. When the butter foams, pour in the potato-and-egg mixture, and pat it down so it’s even on the top. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top, and cook until the eggs set around the edges, 2-3 minutes, and then transfer the pan to the preheated oven. Bake until the eggs are just barely set in the middle and the tortilla is lightly browned around the edges, about 15-20 minutes. (The internal temperature should be closing in on 200℉.)
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes on the stovetop. Run a thin spatula or knife around the edge of the tortilla to loosen it, and then invert it onto a plate or platter. (Tip: I place a plate directly over the top of the pan and, with both hands holding the pan and the plate together, quickly but carefully flip the whole thing upside down so the tortilla pops out onto the plate.) If desired, drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch or two of flaky sea salt.
  7. The tortilla may be enjoyed warm or at room temperature for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Slice into wedges for entrée portions or into bite-size pieces for tapas.
Notes & Tips

*You want a waxy potato like a Yukon gold or red skinned potato, which are lower in starch and higher in moisture than other varieties. A standard baking potato, like a Russet, will crumble when sliced thanks to its drier, starchier makeup.

*To peel or not to peel? I used to peel the potatoes before boiling but now leave the skins on. Once boiled, the skins will pull off easily with your fingers. So much easier than peeling first! Yukon skins are thin, however, so you could leave them on if preferred.

Pan size is important: A 9-inch diameter pan runs the risk of overflowing, while a 12-inch pan will yield a thin tortilla and will cook faster.

Optional for serving: Beyond an extra sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, Spanish tortillas are traditionally served unadorned. For those who enjoy the addition of a sauce, I recommend Smoked Paprika Aioli or Italian Salsa Verde.

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