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Spanish Tortilla

Origin: Basque Country

Tortilla de patatas

Spanish tortilla is one of the most notorious Spanish dishes, widely consumed in Spain as much as abroad. It's made of egg and potatoes. Whether it should also have onion is a common debate and Spaniards may argue about it for hours, however there are many other variations.

Perhaps Spanish tortilla is the most versatile example of Spanish food, since other ingredients such as chorizos, red peppers and a number of other elements can be added, it can be served as a "ración", "tapa" or "bocadillo" (sandwich) or "pincho".

It may be found in any Spanish restaurant and bars, it's a typical sandwich mothers send as a meal for school and most Spanish know how to make it or have their own versions, they are served at parties as appetizers.

Tortilla's name comes from its shape, in the Spanish language it means "small cake", however it's origin is a little hazy and there are several versions of how it was created

There were already earlier versions of egg tortilla in the 16th century as much in Europe as in Latin America, where the Aztecs already made a similar cake shaped dish with eggs scrambled with a number of elements. However Spanish tortilla wasn't created until the Spaniards learned about potatoes from the Incas.

The earliest record of Spanish tortilla dates back to 1817, where a document explains the poor conditions of peasants in contrast with people who lived in Pamplona and other areas of Navarra, however apart from potatoes and egg they would add other ingredients too.

Tortilla de patatas

However legend says that it was the Basque general Tomás de Zumalacárregui who invented Spanish tortilla during the siege of Bilbao as a simple, quick to make and nutritious dish to feed the carlist armies who were not having an easy time.

Another version says that it was a house wife from Navarra who "created" the dish by chance. The unsuspecting housewife made an egg scramble with potatoes and onions when Zumalacárregui stopped at her home for the night. The story says that the general liked it so much that he would later popularized it among his peers and thus it spread. What both chronicles have in common is that Spanish tortilla became widely spread during the carlist wars

There's a new study that claims that Spanish tortilla was already present in Extremadura some 2 decades earlier, though this is yet to be proven

A different theory mentions the Aragonese cook Teodoro Bardají Mas as the creator of Spanish tortilla. Supposedly Bardají Mas published the original recipe in a weekly publication. In his version the potatoes are boiled instead of fried and he introduces the use of onion

As many versions as they are, it is likely we will never know Spanish tortilla's true origin. It doesn't matter, it's delicious and easy to make. Should you ever wish to visit Spain you can sample Spanish tortillas in as many place as you like, they will be similar, but it's likely they won't ever be the same

Its variations include tortillas bravas in Madrid, which are served with a spicy sauce similar to the one made for patatas bravas. There's tortilla paisana, made with chorizo, red pepper and peas. Another popular version is stuffed tortilla, which is either one tortilla filled with any number of ingredients or two very thin ones that sandwich the ingredients and many others that can be found in Spain

Tortilla de Patatas | Spanish Tortilla

Ingredients (3 portions):

* This recipe is for traditional Spanish tortilla, you can add as many ingredients as you like

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 kilo of potatoes
  • 1 medium sized onion (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
Tortilla de patatas


  • Peel and wash the potatoes. Slice them in thin sheets or in small cubes. Add salt to taste
  • Cut the onion in julienne strips
  • In a deep frying pan pour plenty of olive oil, add the potatoes and onion (and other ingredients)
  • Maintain on the fire at medium heat, so the onion and potatoes get cooked. Once they're soft and slightly brown remove from the fire and strain
  • In a bowl whisk the eggs until they are well blended and get a slight foam
  • Add the potatoes and onions to the bowl and let them soak for 10 minutes
  • Put two tbs of olive oil in a nonstick frying pan and pour the mix. Shake the pan so the oil spreads in the bottom of the pan. If it's a regular pan this also stops the tortilla from sticking
  • Heat until the mix begins to boil
  • Place a large dish or similar implement on top of the pan as a lid, with a quick movement turn the content of the pan into the plate
  • Now let the tortilla slide into the pan, the cooked side up
  • Let it cook for 2-4 minutes (this depends on how raw or cooked you like it), shake the pan

Remove from the fire and serve hot or let it cool, Spanish tortilla can be eaten hot or cold!