A Guide to the Ultimate Spanish Tortilla

In Spain, the combination of eggs and fried potatoes can move people to a passion that verges on poetic. Tortillas have their place any time of day in the Spanish kitchen.

| Monika Linton


In Spain, the combination of eggs and fried potatoes can move people to a passion that verges on poetic. Tortillas have their place any time of day in the Spanish kitchen, but more often than not they are cut into slices or squares and served with drinks as tapa
My friend Ambro makes a famous tortilla with 12 large eggs, which he proudly calls his buenona, an expression all of his own that conjures up something beautiful, warm and friendly. 


The problem is that there are too many experts all over Spain for us to know if there really is a definitive way to make a tortilla. Despite the fact that the classic recipe uses only four very basic and accessible ingredients - eggs, potatoes, onions and oil - a good tortilla is so much greater than the sum of its parts. So everyone has something to say about it. The ratio of the eggs to potato, the kind of potato used, the oil, whether to lightly fry the potatoes and onions so that they retain the texture of a boiled potato; or whether to colour them so that they are slightly golden or darker. 



Use the very best eggs you can find and cook the onions in the traditional Spanish long, slow way so that they become very, very soft and sweet. 
The onions and potatoes need to be drained very well after sautéing and before adding to the eggs, so that you don't make the mixture too oily. I learned a good tip from one of our former head chefs, Esperanza Añonuevo Heys, who always uses a fine sieve, rather than a slotted spoon. He uses it to scoop the onions and potatoes from the oil, then balances this over a bowl to let the oil drain away well. 


A very big frying pan or around 28cm diameter and 3-4cm deep is fundamental. Another vital thing is to make sure that there is a good film of oil all around the sides of the pan, not just the base, to prevent sticking - but at the same time, be careful not to have too much oil, or the tortilla itself will become greasy, unless you are using a non-stick pan. 


You need a very large flat plate or wooden tortilla turner for flipping over the tortilla. You can buy a tortilla turner in good kitchen shops or online. It is shaped like the lid of a pan and has a knob which you hold while you place it over the top of your frying pan. Turn the two over so that the tortilla sits on the turner then slide it back into the pan to cook the underside. Of course, you can do the same thing using a plate, but having the knob of the turner to hold on to just makes the movement easier and protects you a bit more against the heat of the pan and the tortilla. 


This recipe is one that you can use as a base for any tortilla. Add peppers, chorizo or anything that you think should be paired with potatoes and onions!

Hearty tortilla recipe


  1. Peel the potatoes and slice about 3/4cm thick.

  2. Heat 3 tblsp of the olive oil in a large frying pan, then add the onion and cook very gently for 30 minutes. They should be soft, light golden and very sweet. The longer you cook them, the sweeter they will be. You can even leave them for up to an hour if you have the time and a heat diffuser to place under the pan. 

  3. Lift the onions out of the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil for cooking the potatoes. Drain the onions over a bowl, as you want them to be as free of excess as possible. 

  4. Add the rest of the oil to the pan (it needs to be about 2cm deep). Put in the potatoes, season and cook very slowly in the oil for about 20 minutes. Take care to move them around to not let them burn. 

  5. When the potatoes are lightly golden and tender remove the pan from the heat. Lift the potatoes out, again with a slotted spoon or sieve and place over a bowl to drain the oil. 

  6. Measure around 4 tablespoons of olive oil from the pan and pour it into a non-stick pan around 3-4cm deep. 

  7. Once the potatoes are drained, transfer them to a clean bowl. 

  8. Beat the eggs, salt, pepper and add them to the potato bowl along with the onions. 

  9. Heat the oil in the pan and pour in the eggs and potato mixture. Cook gently over a medium heat. Keep moving the mixture from the centre to the outside to help cook it evenly for around 1 minute.

  10. Leave it to cook slowly for 10 minutes until the base is sealed and light golden. 

  11. Hold the pan over the sink (in case of leakage!) and place a large plate or a tortilla turner over the top. Flip it over so that the cooked side is upwards on the plate. 

  12. Make sure you still have a good film of oil in the pan (add a little more if necessary) and slide the tortilla, uncooked side downwards into the pan and cook gently for another 5 minutes.

  13. When it is ready, the tortilla should be firm but creamy on the inside. To check, press the surface near the centre to make sure that no un-cooked egg seeps out. 

  14. Serve on a big flat serving plate with a generous dollop of alioli, a glass of white wine or some delicious olives and a green salad!

 See and buy the ingredients for this recipe here: Monika's Hearty Tortilla Recipe

Other recipes to try

Chorizo and pepper tortilla

Chorizo and Pepper Tortilla with Alioli

A fresh spin on the traditional, this recipe by Sophie from the Corner Plot is packed with flavour from Brindisa chorizo.

Try the recipe here.


Buy Monika's cookbook 'Brinidsa: The True Food of Spain

Brindisa the true food of Spain book

For all of Monika's recipes, cooking techniques and spell-binding stories that she has picked up over the decades, order a copy of The True Food of Spain.


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