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The Exciting World of Spanish Omelettes

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

For anyone who has visited Spain, you know there are 2 dishes the country is known for:

· Spanish cured ham, jamon

· Spanish Omelettes, tortilla de patatas (or tortilla Española outside of Spain)

Today you’ll get to learn about the second of these! First some backstory-


There are a few different theories for when/where the Spanish Omelette was invented. From The Culture Trip, the first reference to the dish is believed to be in 1817 in a letter referencing the poor conditions of the populations around Pamplona and the Ribeira, stating that many make do with only a few eggs cooked as a tortilla with potato, breadcrumbs and other simple ingredients to feed five or six people. Another theory is the dish was invented as a cheap and easy way for an army general, Tomás de Zumalacárregui to feed his troops during the siege of Bilbao in in the late 1800’s. Yet another version of the story was that a poor farmwife invented the dish, one day when the general visited their farm and requested to be fed.


For making the tortilla, there are as many ways to make it as theories of its invention! While this is a pretty good guide from the New York Times for how to make it, the variations come primarily in how the potatoes are prepared before mixing with the eggs and onions. While I lived in Madrid, one of my goals was to eat EVERYTHING. Consequently, I had a lot of tortillas. The variations on the potatoes that I discovered were as follows, with some details on the end result flavour:

· Mashed potatoes

  • By far, the most popular version that I tried in Spain. Probably because it is the most efficient to make. Just blend everything and cook and you’re done.

  • Creates a unified texture to the omelette and ends up tasting almost like the Jewish dish of potato kugel.

· Sliced potatoes

  • Brings out a lot more potato flavour because you essentially have big chunks of potato in every bite. You also have to be more cautious about the potatoes, to make sure they are tender enough before adding the egg mixture in or the end result will be uneven.

· Fried potatoes

  • This is my favourite version BY FAR, which I discovered at La Meson de la Tortilla in Madrid. Of course the place is so good that it doesn’t even need a website. - The best evidence of them online that I could find was on Trip Advisor!

  • To make this version, you basically make homefries (pan-fried potatoes) and then add them into the egg/onion mixture.

  • The end result is crispy and insanely flavourful. I highly, highly recommend!

Eating Out

Obviously, I highly recommend La Meson de la Tortilla for the best Spanish omelette experience. If you go elsewhere, my biggest recommendation is that you ensure what you are eating is fresh. Here’s why-

You will definitely see some places that put their tortillas in food display cases:

Display case

Some places make these tortillas fresh, put them in the display case and serve them very shortly thereafter so they are pretty good. Others make them in the morning and leave them in the display case all day until someone orders one. And then, they just microwave the tortilla and serve it. This is what happened to me at Lateral in Madrid. It was the worst tortilla I ever ate. Imagine, the exterior warm and cooked through, the interior, ice cold and mushy. It was horrible. So make sure you eat fresh tortillas for the optimal tortilla experience! (or just make it at home using my guidelines above). 😁

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