Tortilla Espanola is the ultimate party food. It keeps well, everyone seems to be impressed by it, and the ingredients (potatoes, eggs and onions) are always available and super cheap.
I started my long and fruitful relationship with Tortilla Espanola in San Sebastian, Spain. What an amazing town! The perfect combo of beach and surf, eating and culture. Tortillas were a staple of pintxos bars everywhere, but a café down the block from my Spanish school was famous for them – 3” tall, fluffy, with olive oil that made you swoon.
My version is not quite so tall, and depending on the cooking method, may or may not be so fluffy. But the lesson here is that you can make this dish on the fly, for two people or twenty, if you know a few alternative cooking methods.
Yield: Makes one 10” / 25 cm pan
Prep Time: 25 min Cook Time: 25 min Total Time: 50 min
2-3 medium-size peeled potatoes, chopped into 3/4”/2 cm cubes or sliced into 1/8”/0.3cm slices
1-2 onions, chopped (about ¼ the volume of the chopped potato)
8-9 eggs, beaten lightly (enough to completely cover the potato and egg)
About 1/3 cup / 70 mL olive oil (use olive oil – don’t substitute)
Salt and pepper
Heat skillet with olive oil over medium heat, then add onions and cook for about 2 minutes. Add potatoes, reduce heat and cook until tender but not brown. Cook time depends on the size of the chunks – a 3/4”/2 cm cube will take about 10 minutes. Beat the eggs lightly in a big bowl and season with salt and pepper. Pour the warm potato mixture into the egg and let sit for at least 10 minutes. The residual heat somewhat sets the eggs, thickening them so the potato chunks stay suspended. Then reheat the skillet to medium and pour in the mixture.
Now here’s where we decide – stovetop or stove/oven method? The stove/oven method is easier to pull off, and in my opinion yields a better-looking tortilla with a fluffier texture. I’d recommend this if there's an oven, or if you’re expanding the recipe to a pan larger than 10”/25 cm. But sometimes we don’t have an oven – in this case, stovetop works just fine and I believe is the more traditional method.
For stovetop method, cook the tortilla til it’s mostly set around the edges (8 minutes or so) and just the top is runny. Then slide it onto a plate (cooked side down) and flip the tortilla back into the skillet, cooked side up. The top will finish cooking in about 3 minutes. Depending on which side looks prettiest, flip or slide tortilla onto a plate.
For the oven method, just pop the whole skillet into a 400F / 210C oven after about 5 minutes on the stovetop and cook til top looks set, about 10 minutes more. Flip the skillet to serve with the browned side up.
Let the tortilla cool completely before slicing. It can be made the night before if necessary, just take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temp before serving. In Spain, I don’t think tortillas ever see the inside of a refrigerator but since we’re dealing with eggs, I’d rather be safe than sorry. Maybe sprinkle with some flaky salt – other than that it should be perfect as-is.
A note on potatoes: How you prep the potatoes depends on your preference and your knife skills. I typically cube the potatoes because they cook more quickly and evenly in any kind of pan, and they’re easier to chop into consistent sizes. Some classic recipes call for slices, but often the finished tortilla looks more like a fancy terrine than a rustic snack and the texture is denser.
A note on size: You can make the tortilla in any size skillet, just adjust the quantities accordingly. You can always throw in another egg if the mixture is too dry. Err on the side of more egg – the potatoes need to be completely immersed. If you are making a very tall tortilla or using a pan larger than 10” / 25 cm, I highly advise that you use the stovestop/oven method. Otherwise you’ll run the risk of an overly cooked exterior and a runny interior. Plus the flip gets harder as the skillet gets bigger. I don’t have many plates that are large enough to cover a 12” / 30cm skillet.