back to article Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Tortilla de patatas

As regular readers know, the Special Projects Bureau's headquarters is a mountaintop redoubt in a sleepy corner of rural Spain, so it was inevitable that we'd eventually turn our wobbly dining attention to the legendary "tortilla de patatas" (potato omelette). This no-frills classic – comprising just eggs, spuds and onion – is …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Onions? So Wrong! What's next? Pineapple on pizza?

    1. toxicdragon

      Whats wrong with onions? They are just about the only food I can taste these days, can't have too many

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "They are just about the only food I can taste these days, [...]"

        Surprised they don't use garlic to add taste to what looks like an otherwise bland dish. Cooked onions tend to lose most of their taste.

        1. toxicdragon

          Exactly. I didn't say I cooked them.

          Garlic works too, in a slightly back of the throat way if you follolw me.

        2. Alpha Tony

          It absolutely doesn't need garlic. I lived for a while in Spain and I I got addicted to these things. I tried experimenting with adding other things - garlic, chopped bacon, various herbs, but really it is gilding the lily. A well cooked tortilla doesn't need any other ingredients.

          They're not the best thing to try to cook while a bit drunk though, as you end up with olive oil all over your kitchen!

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Well if you prefer you can replace the onions and potatoes with artichokes and lemon juice instead. Not that I'm partial to it myself but it's apparently an option.

    3. Mephistro

      When the revolution comes...

      ... you anti-onionist will be FIRST AGAINST THE WALL!!!

    4. Captain DaFt

      As a famous Cajun chef once said,"If it ain't got on-ye-on, it better be dessert!"

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Food can be divided into 2 groups - stuff that should have garlic in it and stuff that should have chocolate on it.

  2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    I think I'd find myself wanting some chopped pork product in there somewhere too (or just serve it with a few slices of decent bacon), or is that perhaps sailing too close to a pastry-less quiche?

    But certainly looks delicious to me, might just have to knock one up in the next few days to fill me up.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yum!

      Seconded... Everything tastes better with bacon !

      1. horsham_sparky
        Thumb Up

        Re: Yum!

        third-ed.. I was going to suggest adding the bacon goodness.. smoked streaky preferably :-)

    2. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Yum!

      Mate, you'll be knocking up a bloody quiche next ;-)

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Yum!

        Well I did say it may be sailing too close to one ;)

        In a similar style you also have French dish of Tartiflette, except it's with Reblochon cheese rather than egg to hold everything together, and that one does include bacon (well lardons anyway). Always goes down a treat with a pint or few when I'm down in Grenoble (it's a Savoie regional dish).

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re: Yum!

          If the lardons are not smoked then you could add some 'Tomme de Savior' to the mix to add a nice little kick. The stronger the Tomme the better.

      2. Captain DaFt

        Re: Yum!

        "Mate, you'll be knocking up a bloody quiche next"

        Ah, but us smart ones caught on to that ruse. The meterosexuals knew that if they called it 'bacon pie' as it rightfully should be, us real men would take it away from them!

    3. Vincent Ballard

      Re: Yum!

      Tortilla is a classic tapa, so if you want to add pork products then the culturally appropriate way to do it would be with a pork-based tapa, perhaps some slices of fuet on the side.

      1. x 7

        Re: Yum!

        "slices of fuet "

        Victorian spelling there - I've never seen a long "s" used in online text before - but you got it wrong, you never ever start a word with a long s/f

        1. Jan 0

          Re: Yum!

          Well actually "x 7", Re: "Victorian spelling"

          There's nothing Victorian about the long 's'.

          I learned to write them when I copied from Arrighi's 1524 "La Operina" ("da imparare di scriuere littera cancellarescha") in the V & A as a schoolboy. Wikipedia suggests that they originate with the Romans.

          Mind you, it seems that Vincent Ballard used an 'f' with a full crossbar rather than an "ſ" (HTML not working for me in preview). (If used, the crossbar should not protrude on the right hand side of the riser.)

          1. x 7

            Re: Yum!

            Jan 0

            I was using poetic licence and writing in a hurry. I knew it went back a fair way, but didn't realise there was a Roman use.

            Regarding the crossbar, that seems to have been very much a changing style - I've seen print with a full bar, half bar, no bar. Some with an uncurled bottom, like an f, some curled like an s. But of course what was printed didn't necessarily reflect how people wrote - otherwise we would still have those missing letters eth, thorn, yogh and ash

          2. Vincent Ballard

            Re: Yum!

            Just to be clear, it was an F. As in

  3. Fergus Gallagher


    For my mind, the eggs should not be fully set in the middle.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Overcooked?

      Edwina Curry does not approve this message.

      1. Mephistro

        Re: Overcooked?

        "Edwina Curry does not approve this message."

        May her yolk rest in peace!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Overcooked?

        Agreed. My wife makes them so "tender" that I'm sure a couple of hours in an incubator would result in chicks. Unfortunately for any potential chicken jalfrezi fodder they are so damn good they generally don't last that long, not even the huge two inch thick ones..

  4. xj25vm

    Potatoe variety

    You could extend your research by trying out different varieties of potatoes. I find it amazing what a taste difference can there be between some spuds varieties. The best Spanish omelette I have ever had must have been the one in some village close to Santiago de Compostela. Apparently the Galician version takes some beating!

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Potatoe variety

      I beg to differ. Real canarian spud grown in volcanic ash (not fake imports).

      The best Tortilla I have had was in a small hamlet in the middle of nowhere on La Palma. Actually, once upon a time you could have a decent one even on Lansarote. Not now of course - papas do not grow well in a concrete parking lot.

  5. x 7

    chilli powder

    it needs chilli powder

    and shrimps...........

    and fry in butter not oil - no need to strain then as the butter will solidify when you take the heat away giving you even more nice fatty nutrition to line the gut and ease the beer away

    1. keithpeter Silver badge


      I was thinking of a couple of green chillies (de-seeded and cut fine) chucked in with the onion myself. Probably not authentic. Call it the Ladypool Road crossover version (Brummies will recognise the reference)

  6. David Nash


    As described in the article. No added contaminants necessary.

    This is one of my favourite foods, including the onions of course. And no runny egg please! Bonus, if you're that way inclined, is that it's one of the only dishes that the Spanish have that doesn't include meat.

    1. dogged

      Re: Fantastic

      I agree except that, er... I bake mine, Mexican style.

      Ingredients are identical, get a nice round sponge tin, layer of potatoes, layer of onions, sprinkle with salt, drizzle with olive oil, repeat until you reach the top, add beaten eggs to soak around everything, bake for about half an hour at 200C.

      No skill involved in flipping because no flipping - just a perfect tortilla.

  7. Little Mouse Silver badge

    I fancy trying step three with Lard

    Just for the bragging rights, mind.

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I didn't know.... had a name but I've had this quite a bit lately.. except I used shredded potatoes.... with bacon on the side. Indeed, it's yummy.

  9. Carl W
    Thumb Up


    And tasty good it was too. But do you think there might be a way without frying the onions and potatoes in a load of olive oil? If not it will have to remain a rare treat rather than staple post-pub diet.

    1. Little Mouse Silver badge

      Re: Success!

      Lard is cheaper.

      Mmmmm. Laaaaard.

    2. Mephistro

      Re: Success! (@Carl W)

      You can use sunflower oil instead, but it decomposes very fast with heat and oxidises when exposed to air, so you can only use it once or risk getting some nasty flavours.

      On the other hand, olive oil can be re-used many times, as long as you follow some simple steps. Don't overheat it ,filter impurities before storing the used oil, keep it in a closed container with as little air as possible and you'll be able to make many tortillas with a single bottle of olive oil.

      Olive oil that has been used to fry spuds and onion can be reused to fry more spuds and onions, and also to fry meat.

      1. Tapeador

        Re: Success! (@Carl W)

        I thought frying with olive oil created carcinogens full stop?

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Success! (@Carl W)

          Meh... everything from grilling a steak to coffee has been claimed to be a carcinogen. I think it all depends on how hot you get the oil. If it's smoking, it's too hot (same for any oil).

          Here's a couple of links that say it's "ok".... there's others.

        2. Rol

          Re: Success! (@Carl W)

          Life without a little risk, is no life at all.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Success!

      @CarlW, you could do what I have been doing for years - using the leftover mashed potato.

      Because the potatoes I get from our local market come in many different sizes it is very difficult to work out the exact quantity to use for mashed potato so I generally have some left over - rather than dumping it to waste it is stored in the fridge for a few days (in fact I generally cook more potatoes than I need just to have some on hand). They are then used with lightly fried chopped onions and lardons to make my version of this dish.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Success!

      I used just enough oil... strained the excess back into the pan for step 2. Turned out just fine.

      1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Re: Re: Success!

        You can recycle excess strained oil - stick it in a jar for future deployment. Good news on your success, gentlemen.

  10. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    My wife make the low fat/cal/oil version of this...

    ...and it's actually quite nice. The spuds are sliced or chopped then par boiled while the onions are fried in FryLite (butter flavoured version.) Once the spuds are done, drain and spread out to dry then add to the onions to sort of fry them a bit to add flavour. The rest of recipe is as per the article although she often adds herbs, or a bit of piri piri or other sauce, or even a little cheese.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My wife make the low fat/cal/oil version of this...

      Not much use as a post-pub neckfiller without the fat though? Not unless your idea of a session is a small glass of cava, anyway.

  11. C. P. Cosgrove

    Tasty, with optioinal addition

    Very simple delicious dish.

    However I incline to the addition of some smoked lardons, fried in the oil for a bit before you add the onion.

    I'll go find a stake to attach myself to.

    Chris Cosgrove

  12. wx666z

    I only come here for the comments

    And the great articles. Are huevos rancheros on the list? My lovely wife , She made them regularly for years

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: I only come here for the comments

      Sir, we are way ahead of you:

  13. Stuart Moore

    just checking

    You are frying both the potatoes and the onions, before adding the egg?

    Might have to try this.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: just checking

      Not frying, really, just sort of boiling in oil.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: just checking

        Sounds delicious, though seems a bit wasteful of oil to cook them in loads of oil, then straining them.

        Bavarian Germany came up with a nice potato pancake, where the potato is just grated into the egg mix with chopped onion (and sometimes a little flour). Though I found you have to cook it all quickly. If left overnight in the fridge the mixture turns black!

        1. x 7

          Re: just checking

          "If left overnight in the fridge the mixture turns black!"

          adding lemon juice should prevent that. You don't need a lot, just make sure its mixed in. Citric acid is a good antioxidant

        2. Mephistro

          Re: just checking

          "seems a bit wasteful of oil to cook them in loads of oil, then straining them"

          As I pointed out in a recent comment, olive oil can be reused several times as long as you don't overheat it, filter it immediately and keep it in a closed container after use. The only problem is that some flavours will remain in the oil, but you can reuse the oil from a tortilla española for making another tortilla, or for frying meat, to which it gives a nice taste.

        3. John Sanders

          Re: just checking

          Olive oil does not de-naturalize when you fry things on it, it can be reused many times without ill effects on your health, that is why Olive oil is the staple of Spanish and Portuguese food.

          As stated by the author all you need to do is to filter it after use and store it in a clean glass container, placed away from sunlight.

          Frying in olive oil is more akin to boiling things in oil rather than frying.

          Only a bit of warning: never fry fish in Olive oil and then use that oil to fry anything else than fish, you're in for a surprise otherwise.

  14. Duffy Moon

    Carb overload!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm a heathen...

    Been cooking for years what I thought was a Spanish Omelette, turns out (at least, going by the wiki link) a Frittata...

    Either way, you forgot one crucial ingredient - lashings of ketchup!!

  16. Doctor_Wibble

    Diced not sliced

    Spuds should be diced not sliced mainly because it's easier to stir and/or break up the lump that forms when you haven't been paying attention and the end result is sort of passable as a heap of scrambled egg fried potato bits that you might be able to pretend was deliberate even if you did it really wrong.

    Remembering also that 'diced' is a posh for for 'chopped chips'.

    edit: Wait, hang on, strain? Whisk? Who's doing all this extra washing up that's being created? You can do this with one plate, one knife, one frying pan and one spatula, anything else presumes that the staff are available to clear up afterwards.

  17. Angol

    Yesterday I was served tortlla sliced in half and put back together with slices of ham and cheese in the middle. Delicious.

    Sliced not diced.

    Writing from Asturias, northern Spain

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Tried it - couldn't get it to stick together enough to flip.

      Ended up with basically scrambled egg on chips.

      Still ate it though - delicous.

  18. Rol

    Mmm, nice. Inspired to share mine.

    1. Put rice on to cook

    2. Trawl the salad drawer for spring onions, watercress, rocket, peppers, whatever, chop up and scatter on large plate. Finely diced small / half onion if no spring.

    3. Three or more large dollops of mayonnaise in a mug / bowl / the almost empty mayo jar. Add finely chopped / puréed ginger and garlic. Finally a lethal dose of chilli sauce. The aim is to make a very very strongly flavoured sauce, so don't be too timid with the ingredients.

    4. Flash cook a tuna steak / use tin opener and plonk in the middle of the plate of salady stuff.

    5. Surround the tuna in rice.

    6. Drizzle / dollop the sauce over the rice. Crack some black pepper, if you like, on there.

    7. The art is not in the preparation, but the eating, balancing the blandness of the rice, the subtle flavour of the tuna and just the right amount of psycho sauce on a fork takes considerable skill.

    This is quick and generally all the ingredients in some form or other will be around. I have paid little attention to quantities as it's all personal preference, but as a guide, if you taste the sauce as you make it and find it bearable, you're not quite in the zone.

    1. x 7

      Re: Mmm, nice. Inspired to share mine.

      I can think of many things to describe tuna, but subtle is not one of them

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Mmm, nice. Inspired to share mine.

      Sounds interesting (good) but I don't think it'll work for post pub nosh... no bacon or large amounts of grease/oil other than mayo.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You had me at omelette. (Or omelet. Let's not bicker and argue about the spelling of something so good.)

    Omelette is the ultimate form of cooked egg.

    Also good: poached, fried, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, scrambled.

    Thank you nature.

  20. Martin Budden

    Salt is essential for omelette.

    Potato omelette even more so.

  21. imanidiot Silver badge

    Not really a well known type of dish over here

    And I should definitely try making some!

  22. Code Monkey

    I side with the purists here or at least the (possibly slightly pongy) pro-onion camp. Tortilla de patatas is a supremely tasty example of less is more.

  23. Harvey Trowell

    Pah! Look at you with your fancy pants list of three ingredients. Real men eat rostis.

    1. Grate spud.

    2. Add salt & pepper according to taste.

    3. Fry it.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      We've had rosti on the post-pub menu list for months, but isn't it just a hash brown with cowbells and private banks?

  24. Katy_B


    You cannot cook the onions with the spuds! They each take a different time to cook. Manuela, who took me in hand in the kitchen and taught me much about Andalucian passion when I was younger, always insisted that each was cooked until just so SEPARATELY. Also, the eggs should be still moist inside too.

    The rest is OK and this is the best tortilla by a mile - none of that poncy bell pepper rubbish for me.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: NO NO NO COÑO!

      "Manuela, who took me in hand in the kitchen and taught me much about Andalucian passion when I was younger..."

      Interested in a series of picture articles about that educational experience?

  25. Great Grey Shrike

    One of the finest delights in life

    In Spain, you can never please everyone when it comes to including onion in tortilla de patatas.

    So in bars they make them according to their customer's tastes, usually having both. You can find them in supermarkets, precooked, frozen, in jars just ready to mix with eggs...always in both styles.

    No discussion possible about olive oil - it's a must. The better the olive oil you fry the potatoes in, the better flavor. Just ask the people who have lived here how chips fried in olive oil by traditional ways taste - it's just completely different.

    Besides that, tortilla de patatas should be consumed warm (no need to burn your mouth), and there is also a big controversy about whether to leave it juicy (not completely cooking the egg inside), or well done. The best compromise is making it about two inches thick a bit juicy in the middle, but not everyone likes eggs that way. Like paella, once you have tried a really really good one (everyone boasts they can reach perfection, but not so many are the chosen ones), you will always remember THAT taste.

    I prefer the onion variety, a 5:1 potato / onion ratio makes a good balance; between 2-3 inches thick, golden - dark brown outside, rare inside. Thin layers of potatoes fried in extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of salt, and ready to mix with the eggs just before they start to get golden. I particularly whip in an extra yolk for every five eggs.

    And just for the fun, there are varieties in the north, especially for the winter, where they include bits of green & red peppers, courgettes and even eggplant/aurbergine that have been previously fried a bit. Fantastic with bread & Rioja or any kind of red wine. And another famous variety is the one with chorizo (red sausage) - which gives it a stronger flavor than bacon, and an overall a red colour. It really drives the winter away. Bacon is nice in tortilla, but it doesn't have that "extra" punch.

    And last, a usual tortilla de patatas with a couple of pinches of real saffron makes another delight.

    It should be World Heritage.

  26. mnb20

    Surely that is a Spanish omelette?

    I'm trying to "not confuse this with what the Brits call a Spanish omelette", but first I'll have to work out what the difference is. It looks identical to a Spanish omelette to me (and not at all like a normal, non-Spanish omelette).

    1. x 7

      Re: Surely that is a Spanish omelette?

      doesn't a Spanish omelette require Spanish onions?

  27. HungryMan

    spanish omelet.

    I worked as a line cook in a fancy restaurant while I was putting my self through collage. we used to

    make a version of this on Sunday morning after a very long night of drinking.

    I cooked the onions and potatoes is duck fat instead of olive oil, using just enough to fry them, not boil it in oil. and no need to strain them. duck fat is the only thing I know better then lard. the duck fat is absorbed in to the eggs. I used to throw in a little bit of chopped spicy hot Italian capicolla. seasoned with salt and fine ground white pepper.

    I might have to fire up the old way-back machine tonight, have a few beers and a Spanish Omelet.

  28. Achuara

    My way of making potato tortilla (tortilla de papas, in Argentina) is frying potato slices until crispy. Then submerging in the bowl where the beaten eggs are and leave the fried potatoes to soak and become soft. I add generous amount of grated Parmesano or Sardo cheese. We use in Argentina a double frying pan with teflon (about 20 cm diameter, they have a hinge in the front and folds one on top the other.) That makes easy the flipping over of the tortilla: no danger of spilling egg all over the floor of sending the tortilla to oblivion.

    The pans are covered with melted butter and I make the tortillas rather thin, about half the thickness of the ones seen in the photos. I cook it about 2 minutes on one side but make sure there are lots of liquid egg left before turning the frying pans. I turn the tortilla over and give another minute or two over a moderate the fire, that way the torilla comes out "juicy", with uncooked egg flowing from the tortilla. Spicing is salt, pepper and absolutely no onions!

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