Tortilla de Patatas

The Tortilla is a typical Spanish omelet made from eggs, potatoes and onions but can be found in many variations with different ingredients such as vegetables, fish or meat.

Since the Tortilla is common all around Spain it can be seen as a national dish along with Gazpacho and Paella – although the latter has rather regional roots and is more spread due to its popularity with tourists.

Tortilla espanolaThe word “tortilla” is a diminutive for “torta” and originally means small cake in general. In order to distinguish the Spanish Tortilla from egg omelets (“tortilla francesa” in Spanish), the dish is often referred to as tortilla de patatas or tortilla española. It is also not to be confused with the tortilla from Mexico and its neighboring countries, which is a simple flatbread made from corn or wheat.

The traditional egg and potato omelet is usually prepared at home but can also be found packaged in supermarkets.

A Dish for the Military?

The origin of the tortilla is not precisely known. It is first documented at the beginning of the 17th century in the notebooks of Francisco Martínez Montiño and was initially called Tortilla de Cartuja. This variation was invented by Carthusian monks prepared with cream.

The actual tortilla de patatas, however, is described for the first time in 1817 in an anonymous letter to the Spanish Parliament, which reports about the poor living conditions of farmers in the province of Navarra.

Legend has it that the tortilla de patatas was invented in the 19th century during the Carlist Wars of a peasant woman in Navarra. When General Zumalacárregui was hosted at the farm, the farmer’s wife had to prepare a meal for the military. Since she did not have any other ingredients apart from potatoes, eggs and onions, she invented the tortilla de patatas in this emergency situation.



Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2 portions


  • 500 g potatos, predominantly waxy
  • 150 g onions
  • 4 eggs
  • 250 ml olive oil
  • salt


  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into small (0.5- 1 cm) cubes. Besprinkle with a teaspoon of salt.
  2. Heat 250 ml olive oil in a pan and add the potato cubes. The potatoes should be just covered with oil. Reset the temperature to medium heat and cook the potatoes for about 12-15 minutes.
  3. Sauté the onions in a second pan with a little olive oil for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
  4. Break the eggs into a bowl, add some salt and beat them with a whisk.
  5. Separate the potatoes with a sieve from the olive oil. Add the potatoes and onions to the eggs into the bowl and let it rest for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil at high temperature and pour the tortilla mixture into the pan. Fry it for 2 minutes until the mass begins to brown. Then flip the tortilla using a plate.
  7. Simply put the plate on the tortilla and turn the pan so that the tortilla is on the plate. Then slide the tortilla back into the pan. Fry the tortilla from the back for about 1 minute. The tortilla should still be liquid inside.

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Photos byAdrian Scottow, Luca Nebuloni

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