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Spanish Tortilla

What can I say? Slimming it ain’t. Yet Spaniards enjoy a morsel while managing to stay in second place for life-expectancy and are set to top Japan by 2040. Cast aside your guilts and worries and enjoy a small piece of tortilla

To Onion, Or Not To Onion?

A great debate has raged in Spain for decades, possibly centuries: does the classic tortilla contain onions or not? As long-time winner of the national tortilla contest, the Galician municipality of Betanzos holds the honour of being the nation’s standard-bearer. So when, in 2018, after decades of onionist rule, Betanzos was again crowned the winner, they sided explicitly with the non-onionist underdog by declaring the tortilla an onion-free institution

Not until 2021 was the issue finally settled, when the right-leaning national newspaper El Mundo published the results of a national survey, showing that 72% of those surveyed preferred their tortillas with onions!

And not just that: in a rare show of national unity this concensus held across the entire political spectrum

Onions aside, (most) Spaniards also agree that a tortilla should be thin and briefly cooked with a very juicy centre, something therefore requiring only the freshest eggs

spanish tortilla or frittata
Tortilla De Patatas: Spanish Omelette
Following centuries of arguing about using onions - or not - the Spanish finally agreed in favour of onions in 2021. As an onionist (cebollista), I've always used onions. Here's my recipe, made two ways: the first deep-frying potatoes and onions in the traditional way in plentiful olive oil. If you're concerned about such extravagant use of oil you'll find a low-fat version of pre-cooking the spuds at the end
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Cuisine Mediterranean, spanish
  • 4-5 large potatoes
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a pinch of mace optional
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 6 eggs
  • light olive oil for frying
  • use only the freshest organic free-range eggs. That way you can keep the centre of the tortilla quite moist without worrying about getting sick
  • peel the potatoes and onions, cut each of them in half or into four pieces, depending on size, then cut each piece into 1/2cm slices. Keep the onion and potato slices separate
  • sprinkle a little salt on the potatoes and let stand while you heat up the oil. You want enough oil to cover the potatoes. The oil is ready when a slice of potato just sizzles. Turn up the heat and add the rest of the potatoes a handful at a time, waiting for them to sizzle before adding the next batch
  • when all the potatoes are in the pan turn down the heat to medium and cook without browning for 3-4 minutes. Now add the onions. Continue cooking until the potatoes are soft and the onions translucent.
  • lightly beat the eggs and add the finely chopped garlic,salt, pepper and mace. Add the cooked potatoes and onions, adjust the seasoning and mix well. 
  • heat a heavy based frying pan for half a minute or so then put in some of the still hot frying oil. Add a small drop of egg. If nothing happens the pan is too cold and the tortilla will stick. If the egg explodes and spits it's too hot and the tortilla will burn.
  • add the tortilla mixture to the pan. After a minute or so ease the base of the tortilla free with a flexible spatula. Shake the pan form side to side until your tortilla slides freely. Cook for just a couple of minutes, shaking occasionally until the egg has set to about half to two-thirds of the way
  • to turn your tortilla place a plate on top, flip it and slide the tortilla back into the pan - after adding a touch more oil
  • cook the tortilla for a further couple of minutes.


As an alternative to frying the potatoes and onions in plentiful oil you can try this
  1. cut the potatoes into thick slices (about 3/4 of an inch)
  2. add and heat just enough oil to cover a large frying pan
  3. add the onions and saute till soft and translucent
  4. add the garlic and soften them for a minute
  5. add the potatoes, stir and turn them to cover with onion/oil
  6. add a couple of tablespoons of water and put on a tight-fitting lid
  7. cook till tender but firm, taking care they don't over-brown. Add a little more water as needed. 
  8. proceed to step 5 of the main recipe to make your tortilla

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