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Tortilla de Patatas

Kelsey Dietrich from United States

15 minutes
Cooks in
30-45 minutes
Country of origin

When I decided to study abroad in Madrid, Spain, my expectation was that I would practice my Spanish, travel around Europe, and be immersed in history. What I didn’t expect was my instant love affair with Spanish food. I had to try it all – thinly shaved ham that melted the instant it touched my tongue, huge croquetas so heavenly I didn’t even notice my burnt mouth, thick hot chocolate so rich I wanted to weep with pleasure. From busy chains to the oldest operating restaurant in the world, the food was all so pure and delicious, its quality unlike anything I had eaten before. What got me was the simplicity of it all – no fancy sauces or presentations – just time-honored ingredients treated with care and respect for centuries of tradition. I think the dish that best embodies this philosophy is the humble tortilla de patatas. There’s one at every bar, restaurant, and café in Spain. Its ingredients are basic pantry staples, but the love that goes into turning them into a thick golden potato omelette is quintessentially Spanish. I wish I had a great story about the first time I tried tortilla de patatas. But the truth is, I can’t remember my first tortilla. It was just always there in all its potatoey goodness, glistening with Spanish olive oil. Tortilla doesn’t remind me of just one pivotal moment, because each day was made of tiny revelations. Tortilla takes me back to plotting adventures with friends between classes, to finding a cafe in my neighborhood and happily discovering that a sandwich of a slab of potatoes and a baguette was typical Spanish fare. It takes me back to a picnic with new Spanish friends in El Parque del Retiro, laughing and enjoying the sunny afternoon. Now, years after returning to the United States, I still miss Madrid terribly. But armed with the recipe for the tortilla de patatas my friend Veronica brought to that picnic, I am perfecting my technique. I think I’ve just about nailed it, but I might have to return to Spain just to double check.


  • 5 potatoes, peeled and diced (the smaller the better)
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt
  • Olive oil


  • 1. Mix potatoes and onion in large bowl and add salt to season.
  • 2. Heat some olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) in a medium-sized saute pan on medium-low heat
  • 3. Add the potato and onion mixture and cook for approximately 25 minutes. As it cooks, stir and gradually add a bit of olive oil. The key to good tortilla is to cook it low and slow so don’t rush this step!
  • 4. Remove the potato and onion from the pan, making sure to leave behind the excess oil.
  • 5. Beat the eggs and add a bit of salt. Mix with the potato and onion.
  • 6. Pour a little oil to the pan and add the potato-egg mixture. Cook until it thickens and the bottom begins to turn golden.
  • 7. Place a plate (or special tortilla flipper!) over the pan and invert the entire tortilla onto the plate. Slide the tortilla back into the pan so the other side can cook. Cook until golden and flip again if needed.
  • 8. Enjoy! You can eat tortilla warm or at room temperature, by itself or with bread or even as a sandwich!


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