Proper Spanish omelette Beth Hancock | Posted: 06 August 2014
Make proper Spanish omelette by following this recipe
For an authentic tortilla sandwich, rub the bread with tomato and garlic
Tortilla de patatas is a common tapas dish

What we in Britain call ‘Spanish omelette’, the people who invented it refer to more prosaically as ‘tortilla de patatas’ (potato omelette). What’s more, while English-language recipe books often add peas or peppers, the real thing features nothing more than potato and onion.

Cooking tortilla de patatas always takes me back to my very first week as a student in Oviedo, when my Spanish flatmates, flabbergasted that someone who called herself a Hispanophile didn’t know how to make it, saw it as their duty to set things straight.

As a rule, I never use salt when cooking, but this is the one exception; don’t be tempted to omit it yourself, as the result will be decidedly bland. Similarly, don’t hold back on the olive oil when frying the potatoes. Console yourself with the fact that you can reuse most of it again.

To emulate the tortilla sandwiches you might have been given in picnics, take some fresh baguette, slice it in half and rub a peeled garlic clove over it, then slice a tomato in two and rub it, seed-side down, vigorously over the bread too. Add a slice of tortilla, and ¡que aproveche!

The following quantities serve two as a light meal (serve with bread and a salad), or four to six as part of a tapas spread.


• 700g (approx. 6 small-to-medium) potatoes, peeled

• 1 large onion, finely chopped

• 3 medium eggs

• 1tsp salt

• Olive oil

• Frying pan (preferably non-stick) with the same, or slightly smaller, diameter as a dinner plate

Related Holidays

Classical Cities of Old Castile

Tortilla de patatas is a very common tapas dish. You can follow our suggested tapas trail through a traditional district of Madrid as part of our rail journey linking Segovia, Salamanca and the Spanish capital.

More about our rail journey in
central Spain >

A Trail of Three Cities

Similarly, you’ll find plenty of tapas bars in Seville, Córdoba and Granada on our rail journey in Andalucía. Following our self-guided walking tour notes, you can explore each city at your own pace, stopping at museums, places of interest and tapas bars as the mood takes you.

More about our rail journey in Andalucía >


1) Cut the potatoes into slices about 6mm thick, and, unless they are very small potatoes, cut each slice in half.

2) Put a very generous covering of olive oil in the frying pan and heat it up. Put one piece of potato in the pan. When it starts to sizzle, add the rest of the potato and turn the heat down.

3) After 5 minutes, add the onion and mix it in. The aim is to gently fry the potato and onion without letting them turn brown and crispy, so stir frequently. The potatoes are ready when you can easily put a knife through them. This will take at least 15 minutes, and sometimes considerably more, depending on the type of potatoes you are using, so be patient!

4) Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and break up the yolks with a fork. Stir in the salt.

5) When the potatoes are ready, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the mixing bowl. Mash them slightly (this is a key step, but the aim is to soften the edges, not to end up with mashed potato). Don’t delay – you don’t want the egg to start cooking in the bowl from the heat of the potatoes.

6) Drain the excess oil from the frying pan (you can decant it into a container to keep for next time), leaving just 2 tablespoons or so in the frying pan. Turn the heat back on, low.

7) Tip the potato and egg mix back into the frying pan, using a spatula to ensure that it is evenly spread out and level across the top.

8) After 1 minute, ‘pull’ the sides in with a spatula so that they are vertical (rather than moulded to the shape of the frying pan). Repeat a couple of times over the next 5 minutes, then put a plate face down over the top of the frying pan. With one palm firmly against the plate, and the other on the pan handle, tip the frying pan upside down so that the tortilla lands on the plate.

9) Add a little more olive oil if necessary, then slide the tortilla, cooked side up, into the frying pan. Pull the edges in straight away.

10) After 3-4 minutes, test the tortilla by sticking a fork in the middle. If it comes out clean, it is done. (If the first side didn’t have any colour when you flipped it, you could turn it over again and fry for a little longer, if desired.)

11) Leave to cool before serving. It can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days, but get it out in good time before eating so that it can return to room temperature.

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