The history of the tortilla de patata (Potato Omelet) is a topic of much debate and speculation, with many different theories about how this iconic Spanish dish came to be.
The most popular theory is that the tortilla de patata was created in the Basque country during the Carlist Wars in the mid-19th century. According to this theory, a Basque general named Tomás de Zumalacárregui requested a dish that could be easily prepared by his troops in the field. A local woman came up with the idea of combining potatoes, eggs, and onions to create a hearty and nutritious meal that could be cooked over an open flame. This dish became known as tortilla de patata, and it quickly became a favorite of soldiers on both sides of the conflict.
Another theory suggests that the tortilla de patata was first made by Spanish peasants in the early 19th century. Potatoes were a staple food for the poor at this time, but they were often difficult to cook and not very palatable. To make them more appealing, peasants began to fry them in olive oil and mix them with eggs and onions. This simple and inexpensive dish soon became a popular meal throughout Spain.
I must say that me being a Basque I go for the first version.
Regardless of its origins, the tortilla de patata has become an integral part of our cuisine. It is the perfect mid-morning snack, or a great afternoon tapa. Something that blows my mind about tortilla, is that it goes well with a cup of coffee or with a glass of wine. It is just perfect!
In the last 15 years we have gone crazy with the tortilla. Now you can find your basic one with or without onion, but then you also can find them stuffed with the most random fillings: tuna salad, crab salad, ham and cheese, you name it…
Here are my favorite tortilla de patata bars in Madrid:
- Casa Dani: Located in the Mercado de la Paz (C/ Ayala, 28), Casa Dani is known for its traditional tortilla de patata, which is made with high-quality ingredients and cooked to perfection.
- Juana La Loca: This popular tapas bar in La Latina neighborhood (Plaza Puerta de Moros, 4) is famous for its inventive take on the tortilla de patata, which features caramelized onions and truffle oil. It’s a delicious and indulgent twist on a classic dish.
- Jururcha: This cozy bar in the Serrano neighborhood (C/ Ayala 19) serves a super basic yet perfect tortilla that comes with a spalsh of mayonaise on top.
- La Ardosa: This historic tavern in Malasaña (C/ Colon 13) is known for its excellent selection of beer and its delicious tortilla de patata, which is made with organic eggs and potatoes.
Now my favorite ones in Barcelona:
- Bar Tomás: This local institution in the neighborhood of Sarrià ( C/ Major de Sarria, 49) is known for its mouth-watering tortilla de patata, which is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I must say that their Patatas Bravas are a must.
- Quimet & Quimet: This tiny bar in the neighborhood of Poble Sec ( C/ Poeta Cabanyes 25) is famous for its creative pintxos and tapas, and its tortilla de patata is no exception. It’s made with potatoes, caramelized onions, and a touch of goat cheese.
- Les Truites: This bar is worth the walk, it is not in the touristic area of Barcelona, but OMG their tortillas are exceptional (C/ d’Arimón, 22) They prepare the most bizarre ones in Spain. Be ready to be shocked.
- Los Tortillez: Just five minutes away from Casa Batlló (C/ Consell de Cent 299) you will find this incredible little bar. They will cook your tortilla just how you like it, either runny or more cooked….
I said at the beguining of this post that the Tortilla is Basque, so here are my favorite ones in Bilbao:
- LAR: This iconic Basque restaurant ( C/ Amistad, 3) is known for its grilled monk fish and its perfectly cooked tortilla de patata. It’s a simple and classic version served with a thread of hot red pepper on top.
- La Viña del Ensanche: This historic bar in the city center ( C/ Diputación, 10) is known for its wide selection of pintxos and its delicious tortilla de patata.
- Cafe Iruña: This historic cafe in the city center ( C/ Colón de Larreategui, 13) is known for its beautiful Art Nouveau decor and its delicious tortilla de patata.
- La taberna de Zarate: At this small tabern ( C/ Licenciado Poza, 65) you will only find locals, they keep it as a secret. Periko´s omelete is beyond good.
If I have to tell you the truth, this tortilla selection has not been easy to make, there are thousands of amazing tortillas in Spain, you can find the perfect one in the smallest, most humble tabern in a village anywhere in Spain. Please if you know of a good one share it with us, I would like to continue my personal search for the perfect TORTILLA DE PATATAS.
Here you have a link to my YouTube chanel where you will find how we cook the Tortilla de Patatas at home.