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Cooking in Salamanca: Paella and Tortilla Española

by Caitlyn McDowell
Cooking in Salamanca, Spain: Paella and Tortilla Española | AIFS Study Abroad | AIFS in Salamanca, Spain | Recipe

Last Updated on March 23, 2020 by Caitlyn McDowell

During my last days in Salamanca, I have been thinking about everything I will miss about this beautiful place — the people, the lively streets, using and practicing my Spanish, and lastly the food.

Although very different from the United States, the food in Spain is something I have grown to love and enjoy. Luckily, our program was able to take a cooking class where we learned to cook a traditional Spanish dinner. Not only was it a fun experience with my peers for one of our final nights, but it was an awesome opportunity to learn two traditional recipes that I can actually make at home.

In Spain, the most typical meals consists of four courses: sangria, bread, tortilla española, and paella.

Let’s start with tortilla española.

In America, when we think of tortillas, we think of a Mexican dough made into a circle which we use for burritos and quesadillas. But here, it is actually more along the lines of an omelet.


  • 4 or 5 eggs
  • 1 small onion
  • 6-10 potatoes — approximately 4 cups
  • Olive oil
  • Salt


  1. Wash and peel the potatoes, and also peel the onion.
  2. Dice the onion and cut the potatoes into slices, trying to make them about the same size.
  3. Fry the potatoes in hot oil and add the oil.
  4. To make sure everything cooks evenly, use a slotted spoon to stir. When it is done, remove the potatoes and onions and put them on a paper towel to drain.
  5. Next, beat the eggs in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Once the potatoes and onions have cooled a bit, add them into the bowl and mix.
  6. Heat the frying pan and add a bit of olive oil. Next, add the mix of potatoes, eggs, and onions.
  7. When the first side is done, use a cover or plate to flip it over to continue cooking the other side.
  8. It will look omelet like when finished. Remove from pan, and cool before eating!

Next, the paella.

Paella originated in Valencia but is now eaten all across Spain and in other countries as well. There are many variations of this dish, but in this case, we will be making Paella Valenciana.


  • 1 onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 cup of chopped calamari
  • 12-15 mussels
  • 1 ½ cups of uncooked shrimp
  • 1 liter of fish stock
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Saffron
  • 2 cups of Bomba rice


  1. The first step is to cook the mussels. Wash them well and cook in a pot with water, salt, and a bay leaf. They are finished when they begin to open up. Remove from the pot and store until later.
  2. Cook the chicken in a bit of oil until golden. When finished remove from heat and put aside until later.
  3. Now it is time to stir-fry. Cook the onions and peppers with butter in a pan on medium heat.
  4. When the vegetables are done, add the chopped tomato and continue sautéing.
  5. Add the chopped calamari and stir with a bit of salt.
  6. When the calamari is cooked, add the cooked chicken and the rice and stir well.
  7. Lastly, add the fish stock with saffron. Cook for 20-25 minutes before using the cooked shrimp, mussels, and lemon slices to decorate the top. Let stand covered for 10 minutes before serving.

Traditionally, the tortilla española is eaten first and the paella is eaten second — occasionally scooped up with sliced bread. Expect to be full after this meal, but I promise you, every bite is worth it. Muy sabroso!

This post was contributed by Caitlyn McDowell, who is spending her summer studying abroad with AIFS in Salamanca, Spain.

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