In my opinion, Spain is one of the best countries in the world to eat. It is home to an influential cuisine that has spawned globally appealing dishes such as paella, tapas, and churros.
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Having grown up in the Philippines, Spanish food is very familiar to us. Many Filipino dishes were introduced from Spain or adapted from Spanish cuisine, such as arroz caldo, pochero, afritada, and ensaymadas.
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On our most recent trip to Europe, we spent more than half of our time in Spain so that we could really sink our teeth into Spanish cuisine and try as many traditional Spanish dishes as we could.
We visited standout Spanish food cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, and San Sebastián, along with lesser-known but equally delicious destinations like Logroño and Oviedo, to come up with this guide to Spanish food with 45 dishes to try in Spain. .
If you are planning a trip to the Iberian Peninsula and looking for the best food in Spain, this guide in Spanish will give you a lot to look forward to.
If you are planning a trip to Spain and really want to learn about cooking, you might be interested in taking a food tour or cooking class.
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Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world. It favors a lot in Spanish cooking and is used as a base in many stir-fries or vegetable sauces.
Garlic is a universal ingredient in Spanish cooking, while some of the most essential herbs and spices include saffron, allspice, oregano, rosemary, and parsley. Chicken and pork are the most common, although different types of poultry, meat and seafood are regularly consumed in Spain.
More than the Spanish food itself, what fascinated me the most were the eating habits of the people. The Spanish eat dinner late, around 9-10 pm, because they have long meals that last between 2-3 hours.
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Lunches in Spain usually start around 2:00 p.m., so it is common for businesses to close several hours during the day. Meals only last an hour, but Spaniards like to participate in after-meals. This refers to the practice of staying at the table and socializing after a large meal.
From after-dinner meals to pintxos from bar to bar at aperitif time, this social component is what largely defines Spanish gastronomic culture. It is a trait that many former Spanish colonies understand very well.
To help organize this guide to Spanish food, I have divided the 45 dishes by category. Click on a link to jump to any section.
Tapas refer to a family of appetizers or sandwiches popular in Spanish cuisine. They are one of the best-known Spanish foods, which is why more than half of this guide is made up of these small dishes that you can enjoy all over Spain.
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Pintxos refers to a type of tapas popular in the northern regions of Spain such as the Basque Country, La Rioja, Cantabria, Asturias, and Navarra. They are usually stuck into a piece of white bread with a toothpick to hold the ingredients in place.
As described, Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world, so it only follows that olives, or olives, are one of the most common tapas. They are usually served marinated and can be filled with anchovies or red peppers.
The Spanish tortilla or tortilla de patatas is one of the best known Spanish foods. It refers to a traditional Spanish omelette made with eggs, potatoes, and olive oil.
Española is often served as tapas or as a side dish. It can be made with onions, although the addition of onions is often controversial. Sincebollistas (without onions) believe that onions have no place in an authentic Spanish tortilla.
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Patatas bravas or papas bravas are a popular Spanish tapa or side dish made with white potatoes cut into cubes or irregular pieces. They are fried in olive oil and served with brava sauce and mayonnaise or alioli. Salsa brava refers to a slightly spicy Spanish tomato sauce made with paprika.
The patatas bravas originated in Madrid, although it has become one of the most popular tapas in all of Spain.
A calcot is a variety of spring onion popular in Catalan Spanish cuisine. They are similar to leeks and are larger and milder in flavor than a typical green onion.
In Spain, calcotes are harvested between November and April and are best eaten during calcotadas season, which occurs around February and March. We visited Barcelona at the end of April and were lucky enough to see the end of the season, which is often extended due to its popularity.
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Calcots are usually grilled over an open fire and wrapped in newspaper to keep them tender. They are served on hot terracotta tiles and eaten with a salvitxada made from almonds, tomato, garlic, pepper, vinegar and olive oil.
The calcots I had next were deep fried, presumably after being grilled, and served with a slightly spicy brava sauce.
Padrón peppers are a type of Spanish pepper that grows in the municipality of Padrón in Galicia. Protected by EU legislation, they are a food product with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) under the name Herbón Pepper.
Padrón seeds are small, about 5 cm (2 in) long, and typically bright green to yellow in color, but can also be red. What makes them interesting is that about 10-25% of master peppers are naturally hot, while the rest are mild.
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Whether a padrón pepper matures to be hot or mild is related to the amount of water and sun it receives while growing. Until you eat it, there’s no way to know if a particular pepper will be sweet or hot.
Padrón peppers are usually fried in olive oil until the skin is removed and the pepper collapses. They are sprinkled with coarse salt and are usually eaten with bread as tapas.
There are many types of delicious pintxos in San Sebastián, but txampis pintxos or mushroom pintxos are one of our favourites. It refers to a type of pintxo made with a stack of two or three cremini mushroom caps stuffed with prawns.
You can find txampis pintxos in some bars in San Sebastián, but the best ones are made in Logroño. A couple of Spanish locals told us that Logroño has really mastered this dish and they weren’t kidding. Drizzling with garlic and butter, they are absolutely delicious and one of the best tapas or pintxos we had in Spain.
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Logroño is the capital of the province of La Rioja and is located about two hours south of San Sebastián. If you’re comfortable renting a car, I highly recommend spending an afternoon here. You can consult our guide to Pintxos de Logroño for suggestions on what and where to eat.
Cabrales Cheese is a type of Spanish blue cheese made by rural farmers in Asturias. It can be made with pure, unpasteurized cow’s milk, or mixed with goat’s and/or sheep’s milk to give the cheese a stronger, more spicy flavor.
In addition to its flavor, what makes Cabrales Cheese interesting is the production method. It is made exclusively with milk from herds raised in the Picos de Europa mountain range.
After being allowed to cure and harden in cylindrical molds for around two weeks, the cheese is aged for a further two to five months in natural limestone caves.
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High humidity (90%) and cool temperatures (7-13°C / 45-55°F) promote the growth of penicillium mold which causes blue-green veins to form throughout the cheese. This is what gives cheese its characteristic flavor.
Like Roquefort and Gorgonzola, Cabrales Cheese is a famous European blue cheese that enjoys Protected Designation of Origin status.
Anchovies and boquerones are popular Spanish foods that you can enjoy all over Spain. Both refer to Spanish tapas dishes made with anchovies.
If I understood correctly, anchovies refers to salted anchovies, while anchovies refers to fresh or untreated anchovies. The darker fillets below are the anchovies, while the lighter ones are the anchovies, or more specifically, the anchovies in vinegar. The fried version of the anchovies is called anchovies fritos.
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Gambas al ajillo is one of the most popular Spanish foods. It is also well known outside of Spain and refers to a popular Spanish dish of prawns sautéed with lots of garlic and olive oil. The term
Gambas al ajillo is often served with a loaf of crusty Spanish bread that you can use to mop up the garlicky olive oil.
Fried baby squid may not be as well known as garlic prawns, but they are just as delicious. It refers to a Spanish tapas dish of fried and fried calamari or small cuttlefish. They are served with a slice of lemon and are especially popular in the southern regions of Spain.
Mejillones is the Spanish word for mussels. It is a popular ingredient for tapas and can be prepared in many ways, such as mussels en escabeche (pickled), mussels al vapour (steamed), mussels a la marinera (seafood sauce),
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