Spanish: Tortilla de Patatas

Courtesy of Beatriz Pariente-Beltrán

In the Spanish department we engage students in the language and culture of Spain and Latinoamerica in many different ways. One big component of learning a language is learning about its culture through cooking. 

Tortilla de patatas is one of the most well-known tapas of the Spanish cuisine. It is ingrained in the culture and can be eaten at any time of the day, especially as a midday snack or evening dinner. It is important to note the difference in meaning between ‘tortilla’ in Spanish, which means omelet, and ‘tortilla’ in Mexican Spanish, which refers to a flour or corn pancake. 


  • 5-6 big golden potatoes
  • 1 big yellow onion (optional, but highly recommended) 
  • 5-6 eggs
  • Olive oil, preferably (canola, vegetable also possible) 
  • Salt to taste 

1. Heat a deep frying pan with oil. Since you are frying the potatoes, you will need at least 1 to 2 cups of oil. Consider that step 2 might take you 5-10 minutes. Start the heat on low while you prepare the potatoes and onion. 

2. While the oil is getting warmed, peel the potatoes, rinse them and slice them thin. The shape does not matter, but it is important they all have a similar thickness. Then, if you choose to add onion, peel it and dice it.

3. Put the oil on high and wait, if necessary, for the oil to get hotter (but not smoking). Add the mixture of potatoes and onions and mix well with the oil with two wooden spoons. Add salt to taste (approximately 1⁄2-1 teaspoon). Keep turning the potatoes and onions well every 3 minutes to make sure they don’t get burned. Fry them for about 8-10 minutes or until they are soft and golden. 

4. While potatoes and onions are frying, whisk the eggs in a big bowl and add a little bit of salt. 

5. When the potatoes and onion are ready, drain all the excess oil and add them to the bowl with whisked eggs. At this point, mix the potatoes and onion very well with the egg using a fork, but making sure you do not mash them. The number of eggs is never exact. The mixture should have enough eggs ‘to swim’ comfortably. You can always add an extra beaten egg if the mixture looks dry. This is one of the most important steps in order to get a juicy tortilla. 

6. Use a shallow frying pan and heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium. You can use the same leftover oil you used for frying. Once the oil is warm, add the mixture of potatoes, onion and eggs and spread it evenly around the pan. After 2 minutes (or when the egg is cooked around the edges), flip the tortilla with the help of a plate or lid without edges. This step can be tricky, make sure you do not burn yourself or drop the tortilla in the process. It takes practice to perfection this step. Then, cook it for another 2 or 3 minutes. The thicker the tortilla, the longer it will need to cook on the pan. However, it is recommended not to overcook it, especially if you want it to be juicy and a little bit runny. 

7. Serve warm with a side salad and some bread. There are many variations to this recipe. You can also add chorizo sausage, peppers, … Make sure to refrigerate leftovers. It can also be served cold with mayonnaise.