Wondering what to eat in Spain? When visiting Spain for the first time, deciding on which Spanish dishes to eat can be a bit overwhelming, since the choice of Spanish food is really large. Most people will know Paella, Sangria and Tapas as Spanish main dishes or drinks, but you will be surprised about how many Spanish foods there are in Spain.
Choosing which food to eat in Spain can be tough when you only have a limited amount of time. In this food guide I have listed the most popular Spanish foods as well as regional Spanish dishes you can eat in Spain, as recommended by fellow food and travel bloggers.
Parrillada de Verduras
Recommended by The Nomadic Vegan
Parrillada de verduras is a deceptively simple dish that quickly became one of my favorites when traveling in Spain. A parrillada is a barbecue, or really any kind of food that’s cooked on a grill. And verduras are vegetables, so a parrillada de verduras is a plate of grilled vegetables. In Spain, these usually include common Mediterranean vegetables like eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers, which are grilled and tossed in olive oil.
The quality of the locally grown produce in Spain is generally excellent, and every time I’ve ordered this dish it has been bursting with flavor. It’s a great option for anyone looking for vegetarian Spanish food or vegan food in Spain, but most tourists don’t seem to know about it. I’ve heard many people complain about the lack of vegetables in jamón-loving Spain, but in reality, a parrillada de verduras is never far away. Even if you don’t see it on the menu, many restaurants will be able to whip it up on request.
Tortilla de Patata or Spanish Omelette
Recommended by The Travelling Chilli
In Spain the Tortilla de Patatas is often eaten as a little snack and served as a Spanish tapa on a slice of bread. It can also be eaten as a light meal during dinner. I personally like to prepare it to take on a picnic or as a starter during a meal with friends. I cut it into little squares for which it is served perfectly as finger food. The advantage is that the Spanish Omelette can be served hot as well as cold. And remember when preparing the tortilla to only use good quality Spanish olive oil to get the best flavour and make it finger-licking good.
What is also good to know is that the recipe is not set in stone. This means I like to add a few extra items of my own. Such ingredients include bell pepper, chorizo and tomato.
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The origin of the dish is not clear however, they got trendy in the 1960s thanks to the special salsa invented in one of the local bars in Madrid. Currently, you can find delicious patatas bravas in throughout Spain, and some cities are famous for their unique salsa recipes. Our favourite choice is patatas bravas from Barcelona. They are served in the Catalan style with garlic aioli dip or with spicy salsa or mayonnaise. You can also buy them frozen together with the salsa or make them at home.
Churros con chocolate
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Iberian Ham – Jamón Iberico
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Just like you wouldn’t visit Italy without eating pasta, you can’t leave Spain without trying the Iberian Ham. It is not hard to find as you will spot the Iberian Ham at stands throughout Barcelona.
Iberian Ham is a cured ham that is produced in Spain. It is similar to prosciutto but much tastier. It has a slightly smokey taste and a creamy texture that melts in your mouth like butter. I will warn you now, it is highly addictive and is known as the best and most expensive cured ham in the world.
The ham comes from free-range pigs that eat only acorns. The acorns give the ham a nutty flavor that makes it addictive. You can order it at almost any restaurant in Spain. Eat as much as you can as we when we tried to bring it home with us we were told that it is not possible to bring cured meat into Canada.
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The amazing thing about tapas is that there is definitely something for every taste as there are vegetarian options as well as meat, seafood or fish.
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Horchata with Fartons from Valencia
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The fartons, on the other hand, are elongated sugar-coated pastries and their sole purpose is to be dunk in horchata, similar to the way you’d dunk churros in chocolate. In Valencia, locals have a slight obsession with this drink, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s the perfect pick me up after a day’s work or a morning of sightseeing. So next time you’re in Valencia don’t forget to add horchata with fartons to your list of Spanish food, next to the paella.
Catalan Food: Catalan cuisine you need to try
Crema Catalana from Catalonia
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Fideua from Girona
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Calcots and Romesco sauce from Catalonia
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Botifarra sausage with white beans from Catalonia
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The Spanish people love their pork and they seem to find tons of ways to prepare meats from the pig. There are loads of different types of sausages and charcuterie, which vary across the country. Spain has a regional cuisine, where the dishes change based on the local environment and culture. This is particularly true in Catalonia, the semi-autonomous region of Northeastern Spain. This is where botifarra, a type of pork sausage, is quite popular.
There are several varieties including ones made from egg or even a sweet version made with sugar. But the two most popular versions are botifarra that is grilled and botifarra perol, which is made “in the pot.” Botifarra with Santa Pau white beans is a traditional Catalan dish using this famous Catalan sausage. The sausage is either boiled in the pot or grilled and served alongside white beans from Santa Pau, a town in the Catalan Pyrenees. But this dish can be found from the mountains to the Catalan seaside of the Costa Brava.
Basque Cuisine – Basque food you need to try
Pintxos from the Basque Country
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Pintxos bars have their own secret ingredients but there are key dishes found across town: sliced jamón in mini baguettes, anchovies lounging across sliced bread and small green peppers salted and fried. And, of course, La Gilda.
Created during Franco’s era when certain films were censored, it gets its name from Rita Hayworth’s character and her saucy, spicy, salty reputation. It’s made by spearing olives, anchovies and mini peppers on the same toothpick. Find it among the scarlet smoky interior of A Fuegro Negro or at the candy and seashell table tops of La Cepa. And then go looking for a favourite of your own.
Bacalao a la Vizcaina from the Basque Country
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Andalucian Cuisine – Andalucian food you need to try
Camarones from Andalucia
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The Costa Tropical is one of the less developed areas of the Spanish coast. Salobreña in the Granada province is where the Nasrid kings took their summer vacations from the Alhambra. On the beach, they have these old fishing boats that have been turned into BBQ’s and the cook the absolute freshest octopus, prawns and fish over these screamingly hot coals.
Tender, juicy and just touched with salt fresh from the ocean the camarones are a treat you must try when visiting Andalucia.
Pringá from Seville
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Pringá often goes in a sandwich called montadito de pringá or in a hearty chickpea stew. Recipes are often different – as you’ll see every grandmother has their own special take on this dish. A little pringá goes a long way!
Gambas Pil Pil from Malaga
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It’s nearly impossible to go anywhere in Spain and not find seafood. With water on almost all sides, the Spanish have perfectly incorporated seafood into their cuisine. One of the best tapas in Malaga is a typical seafood dish found everywhere in Spain, but perfected in Malaga. It is common to find prawns cooked in garlic and olive oil around the country. But in Malaga, Gambas Pil Pil takes simple ingredients and transforms them into pure heaven. Perhaps the original one pot dish, fresh prawns are added to a clay pot containing Spanish olive oil, garlic, a touch of chili and in some versions, sweet paprika.
It’s the addition of the chili and paprika that make this an Andalusian dish and gives the dish its reddish hue. A quick frying and serve with bread to soak up the garlic and chili infused olive oil. So simple yet so good. Other versions substitute langoustine for the prawns. Finding Gambas Pil Pil when traveling in Andalusia shouldn’t be too difficult. A tapas size order of Gambas Pil Pil cost around €5.
Salmorejo from Andalucia
Recommended by The Worlds Was Here First
Like many Spanish meals, there are very few ingredients in Salmorejo and the best only consists of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and old bread. The ingredients are blended together until smooth and it is often topped with some chopped jamón and a hard boiled egg. The bread may seem like a curious addition, however, when blended, it gives the dish a thicker and creamier consistency that is just delicious.
Though it is best enjoyed to take the edge off of a hot summer’s day, Salmorejo is available year-round in Spain and you can even find it sold in the drinks section of Spanish supermarkets. So if you’re heading to Spain and want to try one of the best dishes in the country, make sure to order a bowl of Salmorejo — you will not be sorry!
Grilled Fish from Costa Tropical
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Usually, a chiringuito will have an old boat which serves as the grill. The cooks fill it with stones topped with olive wood which is set on fire. The traditional way of grilling the fish is by impaling it on a skewer in a specific way and put it on top of the burning wood at an angle. The most popular grilled fish are the sardines, which are called espeto. Usually a skewer of 8-10 espetos costs around 5 euros. They are perfect as a snack whilst having a beer, on a hot summer day. Espetos are practically tradition in Andalucia and they are loved both by locals and by tourists.
To eat the espeto you have to squeeze just a bit of lemon on top and then use your hands. The fish is quite small, so you don’t have to pick the bones out.
Espetos or Grilled Sardines from Malaga
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Galician Food – Galician cuisine you need to try
Pulpo Gallego from Galicia
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Pulpo ala Gallega from Galicia
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Pulpo a la Gallega or Polbo á feira (its local name) which means “fair-style octopus” is one of the symbolic dishes and a must try for tourists visiting Galicia, a region in Northern Spain. We spent a lot of time in the area walking the Camino de Santiago and the pulpo became one of our favorite dishes to eat as a snack with beer or wine.
The dish is served all over the region but Melide, a small town near Santiago de Compostela is the pulpo capital of Spain. Octopus is the main ingredient of the dish, usually only tentacles are served. First octopus is boiled in a big copper pot for an hour or so, then it’s left in the pot for another 20 minutes – it must be ready but not overcooked otherwise it gets tough and chewy. After boiling it’s cut into small square pieces (2×2 cm), seasoned with salt, herbs and paprika and sprinkled with olive oil. The dish is served with white bread and local red wine (usually young wines). Special places that serve mainly pulpo are called pulperias but many restaurants serve this dish as well as an entree.
Other regional Spanish food
Papas arrugadas with Mojo Verde and Mojo Rojo from the Canary Islands
Recommended by Greedy Gourmet
First, you have to try papas arrugadas. The literal Spanish translation of papas arrugadas means “wrinkled potatoes”. It is a typical Canarian dish found across the islands almost in every restaurant. As interesting as the name sounds, it doesn’t suggest that the potatoes have been left in the cupboard for ages. Actually, the potatoes take on such an appearance because they are boiled heavily in salted water. In fact, the salt sometimes sticks on the potatoes giving them a great texture.
The most common and traditional way to serve papas arrugadas is with two sauces called mojo verde “green sauce“ and mojo rojo “red sauce”. Mojo verde is a mild sauce made mostly with coriander, cumin, garlic and red wine vinegar. On the other hand, mojo rojo calls for Palmera peppers and hot pepper, so this is the sauce you want if you want a bit of heat. I’ve absolutely enjoyed discovering these Canarian delicacies. Since then, I’ve paired them with many tapas. To learn more about these three classic Canarian dishes, visit greedygourmet.com. The recipes for these three dishes are really easy to master!
Suckling Pig from Segovia
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One of my favorite dishes in Spain is suckling pig. It comes originally from Segovia, but you also get it in many restaurants in Madrid. Indeed, both cities share the title of having the best suckling pig in Spain.
So what makes suckling pig so special? Well, first there are very strict rules when it comes to nutrition. The baby pigs are milk-fed only and they cannot be older than 2-3 weeks. I know that the idea of eating a baby pig may sound cruel to some of you, but it is one of the most traditional dishes in central Spain.
Then, the suckling pig is cooked slowly during many hours in a special oven. As a result, the meat is so soft that it literally falls of the bones. Traditionally the suckling pig is cut with plates in order to show how tender the meat is. Afterwards, the plates are dramatically crashed on the floor. Well, most restaurants don’t crash plates anymore.
Preparing the best suckling pig is a tradition in Spain and there any annual competitions in Segovia in order to determine the best chef. Suckling pig is thus one of the most traditional foods to try in Madrid.
Cocido Madrileño from Madrid
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This dish is somewhat similar to stewed vegetables with meat. Its main ingredients are chickpeas, vegetables, and meat, and the Madrid people call them “Jack, Queen, and King”. The medieval recipe of cooking cocido was passed down from generation to generation, and over time became so popular that today almost every restaurant in Madrid has cocido on the menu.
The peculiarity of the dish is not only its original recipe but also the way how it is served. In Madrid, cocido comes on the table as three separate bowls. First one is noodles broth, the second one has chickpeas and vegetables, and the third one has stewed meat.
The best restaurants to try Cocido madrileño are a family restaurant La Bola, located right in the center of Madrid, Taberna Daniela in Salamanca, classic tavern Malacatin in La Latina neighborhood, and Casa Carola between Salamanca and La Guindalera.
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