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Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Photo: Federico Galarraga/Flickr

Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas

The Local · 4 Oct 2016, 13:32

Published: 04 Oct 2016 13:32 GMT+02:00

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The tortilla de patatas is Spain's unofficial national dish. The simple yet hugely satisfying potato omelette is the staple of practically every Spanish menu, from the hole in the wall bars to the fanciest of restaurants. 

But it is also a dish that divides opinion like no other - onions or no onions? and runny or dry? being the two most debated questions when it comes to the popular dish.

 The Local asked American expat chef Carla Bigio, who lives in Barcelona, to share her recipe with us. 

Bigio lives and works in Barcelona, where in 2004 she opened her own restaurant. These days, she teaches people to cook mouth-watering Spanish recipes both from home and from a cooking school in the city. 

Tortilla de patatas (serves four) 


Six eggs

Two potatoes, peeled, cut in half, and sliced horizontally

One large onion, sliced


One litre of olive oil (trust me on this)

The process 

In a large stockpot over medium high heat, add 3/4 litres of olive oil. When it is hot but not smoking, add the potatoes and onions. Lower heat to medium. Cook, poaching the potatoes and onions until the potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, crack your eggs and beat. Add salt. At this time, get all the things you are going to need for the tortilla. A large plate, two frying pans, one medium, one smaller (optional). IMPORTANT NOTE:  THEY MUST BE NON-STICK FRYING PANS. If not, your tortilla will stick and the whole process is ruined.

When your potatoes and onions are done, strain them, reserving two tbsp of oil. Let them cool for at least 10 minutes. When your potatoes are cool enough to touch, then mix them in with your scrambled eggs.

In a medium frying pan, add one tbsp of your reserved oil. Heat over medium heat until almost smoking.

Now add your egg and potato mixture, and as soon as it hits the pan, start stirring the eggs so that they coagulate and the uncooked part goes to the bottom, and you get some cooked egg on top……like this:

Simultaneously, as you are stirring the centre, with your wooden spoon, drag it along the edges to make sure that it is drying up.

This enables you to make sure that the tortilla is not sticking on the edges, so it will flip loosely onto your large plate. Keep doing these movements until you see little runniness in the middle, and it seems like it is drying up.

When you feel that there won’t be enough egg mix lost when you do “The Flip”, then place your large plate (it must be larger than the circumference of your frying pan) on top of the pan,

Story continues below…

And with a flick of your wrist, flip the tortilla onto the plate, and then slide back into the frying pan.

At this point, you can choose if you want to place it into a smaller frying pan. I learned this tip from a proper Catalan, who said always move your tortilla into a smaller frying pan to get that nice rounded shape.

If you do switch to a smaller frying pan, then add the remaining one tbsp of olive oil, and heat over a low flame. Either way, if you do or you don’t, you have to start to tuck in the edges of the tortilla, to give it a nice round shape on the edges. And, now the key is if you want it a bit runny, or “JUICY” as they would say here, you either cook it for two more minutes, or seven more minutes. Since I like mine in between, I cook it for five more minutes.

Slide it back on a clean plate, let rest for at least five minutes, and serve warm with nice crusty tomato bread.

From my kitchen to yours,


Carla can be found blogging at Expatchef where she shares her favourite recipes from Spain.


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