Cultural Cuisine: Spain's Tortilla Española

Updated: May 6

Tortilla Española (Spanish tortilla), tortilla de patatas or tortilla de papas(both translate to tortilla of potatoes) is one of Spain's essential dishes and while it slightly varies by region, the heart of it remains the same: simple and naturally flavorful. Uncomplicated and with a large crowd appeal, I like to think of it as the cousin to the Italian frittata. One of my favorite things about Spanish cuisine is simple, easy to find ingredients. Living in Tbilisi, a lot of things are impossible to find but Spanish dishes are an easy go-to because they are always made with fresh, no-fuss ingredients!

Spanish legend has it that the dish was born during a series of civil wars in Spain known as the Carlist Wars. There are two origin stories, one says that famous Basque General Tomás de Zumalacárregui invented the Spanish tortilla during the siege of Bilbao. Like most times of war, men are hungry and food is sparse which meant the General had to come up with something simple and nutritious to satiate a worn and starving army. Thus, tortilla Española was born.

Another story says that a housewife invented it when Zumalacárregui stopped by and asked for something to eat. The woman didn't have a lot of money, as was common in those times. Her pantry held only a few eggs, potatoes, and onions. She whipped up what's now known as the Spanish tortilla and the General loved it so much that he spread it throughout the rest of Spain.

Like most traditional Spanish dishes, tortilla Española is made with simple and nutritious ingredients, this dish requires only egg, potato, onion, olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Once you get the "flip" down, it's a dish that can be whipped up in 30 minutes or less and served many different ways. You can have it as the main entree, a side or serve it as a tapa.

It's also not uncommon to see it turned into a bocadillo (sandwich) by placing the omelet between a split baguette. Side note: The last place we lived in Spain, Las Gabias, has a spot called Cafe Bar La Familia that serves the absolute best! Danny, our friend who ran the cafe bar, always had his mom make me a fresh bocadillo de tortilla to go with my beer. It's also typical to enjoy a hearty slice around mid-morning with a steaming cup of cafe con leche.

Regardless of how you decide to serve it, this uncomplicated dish is an easy way to bring a bit of Spanish flair into your kitchen and indulge in one of Europe's most simple, yet flavorful cuisines!

Feel free to mix up the dish to your liking! What I am sharing with you is considered to be the most traditional and authentic version; hence, the excessive use of olive oil! ;) This dish varies slightly by region, in the Sierra Nevada you'll find that they tend to add Serrano ham and in Galicia, they go wild with seafood mixes. In Catalonia, they mainly stick with the traditional version while down south they tend to add some fresh veggies. I prefer mine traditional, with some fresh tomato, cilantro, and peppers along with some bravas if I had time to whip it up.

Let's start with the ingredients: Arou