I·ATE Food Term of the Week: Spanish Tortilla


Spanish Tortilla is a traditional dish from Spain. It is celebrated as national dish and is an essential part of the Spanish cuisine. It is commonly known as Tortilla de patatasTortilla de papas or Spanish omelette.

But what is a Spanish tortilla?

It is a thick omelette made with (lots of) eggs and potatoes, optionally including onions – a controversial ingredient even among Spaniards!
It is served at room temperature as a tapa, but can also be eaten as a complete meal, in a (usually big) sandwich.

First thing first:

Don’t confuse Tortilla española with Mexican flour or corn tortillas. Although the word may be the same, the concept could not be more different!

The truth is that Spanish Tortilla has nothing to do with Mexican tortillas. In fact, it actually resembles more the Italian frittata than anything from Latin America.

The name Tortilla is the diminutive of the Spanish torta, which means “cake.”

However, in contrast to the concept of cakes, Tortilla de patatas was born as a healthy, cheap and easy way of feeding the masses.

When and where?

Multiple documents date the birth of Tortilla back to 1798 in Villanueva de la Serena, in the Extremadura region. The city takes credit for popularizing the version of Spanish omelette we know and love today.

In fact, Villanueva de la Serena decided to immortalize its delicious claim to fame with a giant sculpture of a slice of Tortilla, from which a metal fork extends some 15 feet into the air.

How to make a Spanish omelette?

It is very likely that you already have in your kitchen all the ingredients for a classic Tortilla recipe. All you need are potatoes, eggs, olive oil, salt, and (if you like) onions.

The first step consists in frying the potatoes.

Rule number 1: Always use a good quality olive oil. This is arguably the most important ingredient in a Spanish omelette, and it can really make or break the final result. Then, beat the eggs, mix, and fry them with the potatoes in a small diametered  pan.

And now, the only hard part:  flipping the partly formed Tortilla without destroying it! With the frying pan held in one hand and a very large plate (the larger the better) in the other, you give just a flick of the wrist and plop

Tortilla meets plate (and occasionally floor, if you’re unlucky).

If you liked this article, we recommend you to read also the one of pizza.


Cooking.nytimes.com. 2021. Spanish Tortilla. [ONLINE] Available at: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/8849-spanish-tortilla. [Accessed 8 November 2021].

Devour Madrid. 2021. What is a Spanish Omelet? All About Tortilla de Patatas – Devour Madrid. [ONLINE] Available at: https://madridfoodtour.com/tortilla-de-patatas/. [Accessed 12 November 2021].

Ayuntamiento de Villanueva de la Serena. 2021. Se inaugura el monumento a la tortilla de patatas – Ayuntamiento de Villanueva de la Serena. [ONLINE] Available at: https://villanuevadelaserena.es/2021/06/11/se-inaugura-el-monumento-a-la-tortilla-de-patatas/. [Accessed 12 November 2021].

written by Giulia Battisti

Giulia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Languages for translating and interpretation and a Master’s Degree in Digital Marketing and Global Markets. She is now combining the two careers as a Communication Trainee in the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament.