This classic Spanish Potato Tortilla (aka Tortilla de Patatas or Torta Espanola) is a lightened-up version made with thinly sliced potatoes, caramelized onions, eggs, and olive oil that can be served for tapas, breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Life is very simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucious
What is a Spanish Potato Tortilla?
(By Silvia Sampere of Silvia Cooks). Potato tortilla, or Tortilla de Patatas, is one of the most popular dishes of Spain. Although there are as many interpretations of this dish as there are people, Potato Tortilla is prepared quite similarly everywhere in the country. There is a slight division in the population (yes-onion and no-onion supporters), but most people will agree on one thing: the best potato tortilla is their mother’s.
There is no clear proof of the origin of Potato Tortilla: some say it comes from the Galicia region (they pioneered the growing of potatoes), some say Extremadura, others Navarra… others say the potato tortilla originated in Belgium!
Although potatoes arrived to Spain from the Americas (or Indias, as they were called then) in 1573, this is a relatively recent recipe, becoming popular in the 19th century. People used to prepare it with pork lard instead of olive oil and, originally, onion was not part of it (now considered a must by many). When potatoes arrived, they were seen as a flavorless, bland ingredient, and only gained traction in the 18th century, when wheat was scarce and expensive. It is said this was, in part, thanks to an Irish man, named Henry Doyle, living in Madrid, who convinced the king at the time about the benefits of this precious, undervalued vegetable.
5 simple Ingredients in Potato Tortilla:
- olive oil
How is Potato Tortilla typically served?
If you come to Spain, you will find potato tortillas in restaurants, bars and at homes. It is eaten as breakfast, aperitivo during weekends, at lunch or for dinner. We will prepare it on any given day and also for a special occasion. It can be eaten freshly made, at room temperature or cold, straight from the fridge. As a tapa, served with some olives, croquetas and bread with tomato spread; or as a main, enjoyed with a nice salad and maybe roasted chicken.
Variations of Spanish Potato Tortilla:
Some tortillas are thick and heavy, others are thin and light. You can make it so that it’s well-cooked and a little dry on the inside, or allow the eggs to cook only briefly, which makes it a little soft and wet.
The onions and potatoes are typically fried in a generous amount of olive oil, then poured into beaten eggs and finally fried on a pan, flipping it halfway and cooking it on both sides.
For this recipe though, we will take the basics and make it lighter, healthier and slightly more simple. Instead of deep-frying the vegetables, we will roast them until soft. This ensures a nice caramelization while keeping it lighter, by using less oil than usual.
How to make Potato Tortilla like a local:
- Type of potato: a white or yellow all-purpose or waxy variety will do. Any potatoes that are versatile and good for baking, ideally with low % of starch.
- How to cut the potato: you can chop the potato into relatively thin and equal slices, or slice it into irregular pieces so that some parts caramelize more than others.
- The fat: I strongly recommend using a nice cooking olive oil (lighter color). Although its taste is sometimes considered strong, it is part of the tortilla flavor. Technically, you could use any type of cooking oil or even pork lard, like they used to in the old days.
- Add the salt to potatoes afterward, not before: this helps reduce the amount of water that the potatoes release during the roasting process. This is especially important when you fry any starchy ingredient and you’re looking for crunchiness (versus sogginess).
- Use Good eggs, lightly beaten: if possible, use high-quality free-range eggs and beat them only a little, no need to whisk them too much or too vigorously.
- Proportions: this is a personal choice, and it will determine how dry or soft the inside of your tortilla turns out. Here, we will be using approximately 1 large egg for 100g of potato.
- Let the ingredients hang out: before we fry the tortilla in a pan, let the onions and potatoes hang out and rest in the beaten eggs first for a few mins.
- Pan temperature and time: getting a hang of this usually comes with time, like so many other things. The first few times, I recommend heating the pan at medium-high heat, then cooking the tortilla at low heat, to avoid burning or overcooking it. With practice, you can keep the heat at medium then gradually lower it.
It starts by roasting the potatoes and onions in the oven. Let cool and mix with the whisked eggs and salt.
Pour this into an 8-9 inch, oiled, non-stick skillet (easiest for flipping).
This is the tricky step, we don’t want the tortilla to undercook or overcook! Attention is key here. If your pan is slightly wider that’s OK too, the tortilla will be a little thinner and take less time to cook.
When the pan is hot, set the heat to low. Pour the mixture into it, this will only take a few mins. Use a flexible spatula to check if the sides are cooked. Similar to pancakes, we want to wait until the edges are cooked before flipping. The exact time will depend on the pan and stove.
Once you’re able to slide the spatula along the side of the tortilla, place a flat plate on top of the pan. Check that it doesn’t easily slide when you place it on top, otherwise flipping the pan might be a little more difficult (and messy!).
Flip the tortilla, then slide it into the pan and cook the other side.
Return the pan to the stove, carefully slide the half-cooked tortilla back into the pan. Let it fry for 1-2 mins (you can lower the heat too if you feel it’s too hot).
Turn off the heat, place a clean plate on top of the pan and flip the tortilla on it, like you did before.
Listo! You have a Spanish tortilla in your hands!
Enjoy this lovely Spanish Potato Tortilla brought to straight from Spain from Spanish blogger, Silvia from Silvia Cooks.
Other Spanish recipes you may like:
- Spanish Seafood Stew with Chorizo and Chickpeas
- Vegetable Paella
- Spanish White bean, Shrimp and Sausage Skillet
- Simple Romesco Sauce Recipe