This tortilla de cebolla recipe makes the best Spanish potato omelette with onions which can be served for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or even for dinner with a selection of other tapas dishes for a Spanish feast – or, rather, a Catalan feast seeing we’re in Barcelona.
Choosing a Barcelona breakfast dish to make in our apartment kitchen during our two-week stay for my Weekend Eggs series of breakfast eggs dishes from around the world hasn’t been easy. The fact is that most people don’t eat eggs out for breakfast here, and there is no particular egg dish or ‘signature’ Barcelona breakfast eggs as there is in other cities.
But what people do eat here, from breakfast till dinner – even breakfast for dinner! – and typically for brunch, is tortilla. Just to clear up any confusion, tortilla in Spain is different to tortilla in Mexico. In Spain, a tortilla is a thick cooked potato omelette of eggs and potatoes, whereas a tortilla in Mexico and South America is a flat soft bread made of corn or flour. One whiff of corn tortillas is all it takes to transport me back to Mexico City, but that’s a topic for another post! One dish that this is similar to is the Italian frittata, which is equally delicious.
To avoid confusion in restaurants in Spain and Mexico, a tortilla will often be labelled as a ‘Spanish tortilla’ or ‘tortilla de patatas’ (tortilla with potatoes) and a tortilla de cebolla is a Spanish potato omelette with onions, and that’s what this recipe makes – the best Spanish potato omelette with onions that you’ll ever try.
While here in Barcelona locals will sometimes have a slice of tortilla for a late breakfast or brunch, this edition of our Weekend Eggs is more than that… in fact, you’re getting two meals for the price of one this week. You see, Spanish tortilla is also a tapas staple, so whatever you don’t eat for breakfast you can eat in the evening with a few extra dishes to create a tapas feast, and wash it down with a nice vino tinto.
Below is my tried and often tested tortilla de cebolla recipe.
Tortilla de Cebolla Recipe – How to Make the Best Spanish Potato Omelette with Onions
A few Barcelona locals have said to me that it’s too time consuming to make a tortilla and other tapas dishes at home, which is apparently why most Catalans and Spaniards prefer to eat tapas out, but that’s not true at all. While the tortilla takes some watching, the other dishes we normally make for tapas are dead simple.
So if you’re making the tortilla de cebolla as one dish of a handful for a feast of tapas, then my recommendation is to make your Spanish omelette with onions in the morning for breakfast, brunch or lunch – or even the night before, so you can sip some wine while the dish comes together.
Then shortly before dinner, you can make some chorizo al vino (chorizo sausage in red wine) and gambas ajillo (prawns/shrimps with garlic). Buy some boquerones en vinagre (fresh anchovy fillets in vinegar) and some pimientos del piquillo asados (grilled ‘piquillo’ red peppers) to serve with them and you have an easy tapas feast. All of this should be mopped up with some crusty bread of course.
If you’ve made the tortilla de cebolla in the morning or the night before, you can slap your tapas feast together (with care, of course!) in around 15 minutes, including cooking time for the chorizo and prawns dish.
There are a gazillion recipes for tortilla de cebolla and Lara used to be the one to make the tortilla in our house before she (conveniently) forgot how to cook. With her tortilla she used to par-boil her potatoes and cook the eggs with the potatoes, only flipping the tortilla after browning the top under the grill.
It was delicious, but it cheats in a couple of ways I didn’t want to for this dish because I’m trying to keep it ‘real’. For an interesting take on the dish, though, check out this one from Barcelona’s favourite son and superstar chef, Ferran Adrià. It’s a wonder he wasn’t run out of town for using potato crisps!
Over and over again, I’ve been told that authentic recipes require the potato slices to be cooked in olive oil like they’re being par-boiled. While they mustn’t brown, they must still be cooked just enough so the slices can be handled carefully but shouldn’t fall apart.
The first time I used this method, my potatoes cooked a little too brown, and it really affects the way the tortilla looks in the final product. Same goes for the onions, which I’m using in this recipe – they look best translucent; no colour.
Slow cooking the egg, potato and onion is best for achieving a golden colour to the exterior of the tortilla. I also flipped it using a plate to cover the pan. If your tortilla is cooked enough, this is no big challenge, but if it’s not, you’ll have slices of potato slipping out. Don’t ask me how I know, just don’t perform this step in front of others in the house. Just in case.
As I said above, the version of Spanish potato omelette that I make is with onions, and it’s called tortilla de cebolla (tortilla with onions), but some people replace the onions with chorizo, peppers or anything leftover in the kitchen or they add those to the onion or do a mix of the lot.
Some people add garlic to this version (cook it with the onions), but I want to keep this pretty ‘clean’, as there’s plenty of garlic in my prawn dish, and we’re also having chorizo and peppers as our other dishes.
If you’re having this as brunch, lunch or an evening snack, break out some cava, the Catalan sparkling that is Spain’s ‘champagne’, which goes well with Spanish tortilla whether you’re serving it on its own or with an array of tapas. In fact, cava goes well with any meal, but more on that in another post, too!
The tapas of prawns or shrimps are the last dish you should cook before serving your spread of tapas; you can keep the chorizo dish warm while that lovely garlicky aroma fills the room. Once it’s done, serve it immediately.
Tortilla de Cebolla Recipe
- 1 cup olive oil
- four large potatoes peeled and cut into slices about 2mm thick and dried on kitchen towels
- one large white onion diced
- four large eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pour the olive oil into a large skillet, heat to medium, and place the potato slices in the pan, but do not let them overlap as they’ll stick together and not cook evenly. You’ll probably need to do these in two batches.
- The potatoes are ready when they start to break apart a little when handled. Take them out of the pan and put them onto absorbent kitchen paper.
- You can cook the onions now in the same oil after cooking the potatoes. Cook the slices over a low heat until translucent. Add some salt at the end of the cooking process – it really brings out the flavour.
- Break the eggs into a large bowl and beat lightly, then place the potatoes and onion into the mix, covering them with the egg mixture. Leave for 15 minutes.
- Place the mix in a 23cm (9-inch) skillet over low heat, making sure all the pieces of onion and potato are covered as much as possible.
- After 15-20 minutes check the bottom of the tortilla for doneness. If it’s done, it should be a golden colour and the top of the tortilla should be reasonably firm but still ‘wobble’ a little.
- Place a plate that fits the skillet over the top of the skillet and invert. The tortilla can now be carefully slid back into the skillet to cook the other side for around 5 minutes.
- You’re done! Rest it a little as tortilla is usually served warm, not hot.
Do let us know if you make our tortilla de cebolla recipe in the Comments below. We’d love to know how it turns out for you.