tapas: spanish tortilla (tortilla española)

tortilla espagnola (Spanish egg and potato omelette)
This ubiquitous tapa is served all over Spain. It is also a fabulous lunch dish; a great way of using any leftover boiled potatoes and both cheap and easy to make. 
While it is a rather forgiving recipe and you can use any vegetables such as peppers or courgettes as you like, so long as they are chopped to the same size and you need to keep the proportion of eggs to vegetables the same (basically one egg to one potato). You could also use leftover scraps of ham too. I am rather fond of peas in mine. (Although in my mind, every day is Pea Day!) 

While this is an easy recipe, there are a few tips for success. Firstly think of this as potato and onion bound together with a bit of egg, rather than an egg omelette with potato and onion! You will also need to use quite a lot of olive oil - probably more than you are used to using. The onions need to be cooked in a good three tablespoons of oil until soft and caramelised. Don't rush the cooking of the onions. They need slow caramelisation to inject the tortilla with big flavours. 

I use a favourite omelette pan to cook the tortilla. It's small enough to be manageable rather than using a big frying pan. However, a blini pan would also work very well too if you want to cook individual portions - small and perfectly formed.

Some recipes suggest using raw potatoes, which is fine, but they will take much longer to cook and add more calories (and mess too!) Use cooked potatoes, fried on a low heat long enough take up the flavour of the oil, but not so long that they are browned or crisped. This way, they will not fall apart during cooking. 

Another tip is not to try to turn the tortilla (as outlined below). Yes, I know it looks as if I am contradicting myself, but to make life a bit easier for yourself, after adding the egg and cooking until the whole mess is beginning to set (5 to 10 minutes), it should still look a tiny bit runny in the middle and the underneath has browned, finish the top off under the grill for two to three minutes.

While this does taste brilliant hot, it is a great tapa that can be made in advance, as it often tastes better since all the flavours get a chance to get to know each other. You can also serve with a little of a tomato sauce on the side. It also makes great picnic food.

Serves: 4 as lunch
Skill level: Easy


4 x medium potatoes, peeled, roughly diced and parboiled
½ x Spanish onion, roughly chopped
4 x large eggs, beaten
salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil (preferably Spanish), to fry

fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, to serve


  1. Parboil the potatoes for 5 minutes in lightly salted water, Drain well and steam off any extra liquid. (Wrap in a clean tea towel to make sure that the potatoes are completely dry.)
  2. Take a small, shallow, heavy-based omelette pan and shallow fry the potatoes in olive oil until they are golden brown (about 10 minutes). Drain (reserving any oil) and leave to cool.
  3. Return the oil to the pan, more if necessary. Add the onion and cook until soft and lightly coloured. This will take about 10 minutes.
  4. Drain the onions, reserving the oil.
  5. Return about 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and heat gently.
  6. Add the fried potatoes and onions to the beaten egg, and then pour into the hot pan, lifting the edges to allow the uncooked egg to run underneath, (as you would with an omelette). Cook very gently for about 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. When the surface looks set (after about 5 to 10 minutes), run a thin, plastic spatula under the underside of the tortilla as it makes it easy to get out of the frying pan. Then cover the omelette pan with a flat plate large enough to act as a lid. Turn the pan upside down onto the plate and then slip the uncooked side of the omelette into the pan to finish cooking for a few minutes. Then run the spatula under the underside of the tortilla again before turning the pan over onto a serving plate.
  8. Don’t overcook the tortillas as it is best when the omelette is still slightly moist in the middle, rather than too dry.
  9. Cut into neat, small squares and spear each one with a cocktail stick.
  10. This can be served both warm and just above room temperature.


  • Chorizo tortilla - cube or slice some semi-cured chorizo and fry in a little olive oil until cooked. Drain then cool slightly. Add the cooked chorizo to the potato, onion and egg mixture. Cook as above. Delicious with a dollop of garlic mayonnaise or romesco sauce.
  • Spinach tortilla - cook about 100g of young (baby) spinach leaves in a little olive oil, until wilted. This will only take 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and cool slightly. Add the wilted spinach to the potato, onion and egg mixture. Cook as above.


o cozinheiro este algarve said...

My all time favourite tapas and summer lunch dish.I use the Moro recipe, and find it foolproof.
You´ve jogged my memory might make one this weekend. Thank you.

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

I've got a Moro cookbook - I will check out their version. I'm not sure whose version this is - I think it's probably a combination of Elizabeth Luard (one of my go-to writers for Mediterranean food and Janet Mendel - who has a lovely book called something like My Spanish Kitchen!)

Anonymous said...

You'll be kicked out of Spain if you even THINK of using boiled potatoes. Just sayin'...

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

I know :) But in my defence they were only slightly boiled . . . perhaps just the one kick then!