The tortilla de patatas or Spanish omelette is a typical
Spanish dish consisting of an egg omelette with fried potatoes. Frequently it
also includes onion, depending on region or taste.
Left: Tortilla de
patatas cut in half.
Apart from the aforementioned names, this dish is sometimes
also referred to as tortilla española or tortilla a la española (English:
Spanish omelette) to distinguish it from the plain - or "French" - omelette,
with no potato filling, known as tortilla francesa. In The Americas,
Andalusia and the Canary Islands, it is popularly known as tortilla de papas
(papa being another word for potato in these places).
Other than its shared name in Spanish, which means "small torte", it has nothing
else in common with the flatbread staple food from Latin American cuisine known
as a tortilla.
The potatoes and onions are sliced and fried in abundant oil
(preferably olive oil) so they get fried but also boiled in the oil. Once
drained from the oil, they are mixed with raw beaten eggs before being slowly
fried again in a pan. The tortilla is fried first on one side and then flipped
over to fry on its other side. This is done with the help of a plate or a
"vuelve-tortillas" (a ceramic lid-like utensil made for this particular
purpose), or by tossing it in the air and catching it again in the pan if it is
not too big. Other vegetables can also be added, most commonly: red and green
peppers or mushrooms. Prawns can also be added.
Care must be taken when frying/boiling the potato pieces in oil. They should
ideally be cooked over a medium heat, and watched closely so they do not become
It is one of the most common tapas throughout Spain and a favourite at Spanish
picnics, as it can also be enjoyed cold. A tapas portion of tortilla is
sometimes called pincho de tortilla as it is usually cut up into small cubes and
each piece pierced with a cocktail stick.
There are many variants for this dish, and almost every
Spanish home has its own favourite way of preparing tortilla. Some of the many
additions to the base ingredients include: green peppers, chorizo, courgettes,
aubergines, mushrooms, or diced ham. The texture
and width of the tortilla varies according to regions and taste. Tortilla almost
always accompanied by bread and frequently by pickles such as olives and
gherkins. In many bars and canteens, it is served in a bocadillo (a sandwich
made with crusty bread).