Spanish cuisine is known for its rich flavors, diverse regional dishes, and vibrant culinary traditions. Spaniards take pride in their food, which is deeply rooted in history and influenced by various cultures.
Whether it’s the world-famous paella, the tantalizing tapas, the succulent Jamón Ibérico, or the indulgent churros, the food in Spain is a celebration of flavors.
Each region of Spain boasts its own specialties, showcasing local ingredients and culinary techniques. Whether you’re savoring seafood on the coast, indulging in hearty stews in the countryside, or exploring the bustling food markets in cities, the food in Spain is a true reflection of the country’s vibrant culture and passion for gastronomy.
On our 5 weeks trip to Spain, we tried a lot of local cuisine. What’s the point of travel if you don’t embark on a culinary journey of the land, and instead eat what you do all the time?
Here we tried so many flavors for the first time. Some we absolutely loved like their world famous Jamón Ibérico, and regional dishes like Cochinillo Asado (roasted sucking pig ) and Rabo de Toro (Spanish Bull Tail Stew). And some we weren’t fans of, like their tripe and octopus dishes.
But still, the whole concept of trying local food is that you must try it to know if you like it or not in the first place. And then you discover new flavors, and you wonder… where were you all my life?
Go through our 5 week culinary journey, and remember to try some of them the next time you travel to Spain.
Tapas is a tradition and style of eating in Spain that involves “small plates”, or appetizers, that can be shared among a group of people. The word “tapa” in Spanish means “cover” or “lid”, and the practice is said to have originated in Andalusian taverns where a small plate or a slice of bread was placed over a glass of wine to protect it from fruit flies.
Over time, these covers started to have small morsels of food on them, and thus the tradition of tapas was born. Today, tapas have evolved into a sophisticated cuisine that can be enjoyed at all times of the day, often with a glass of Spanish wine or beer.
Tapas can be hot or cold, simple or sophisticated. They can range from a bowl of olives or a plate of cheese to elaborate dishes.
We had our share of tapas during our time in Spain. Here are some notable ones:
1. Gambas al Ajillo or Gambas Pil Pil: This is one of our favorites, and we tried it multiple times. We’ve had our own recipe for Gambas al Ajillo on GypsyPlate for quite some time, and have made it many times in the past.
These garlic shrimp come sizzling in hot cazuelas, sometimes in olive oil, sometimes in butter. The sizzling sound it makes is what gives it the nickname Gambas Pil Pil. It’s a MUST tapas to try with some crusty bread, commonly called “pan”.
2. Albondigas: We love our Spanish Albondigas, or meatballs. So obviously had to try them a few times, and I must say our version is cracking good.
3. Jamón Ibérico: In Spain, the shining star on every tapas menu is jamón ibérico! It sure ain’t your supermarket deli counter ham. Spanish ham is considered by many the best in the world, and for very good reason.
And the crown jewel of their cured pork is jamón ibérico. It is dry cured, and has a very different texture, and even look, from what we think of as ham in America.
Spaniards are passionate about it. On every tapas menu, the most expensive item is a plate of jamón ibérico, simply served on a platter. Put it on piece of bread, drizzle plenty of olive oil and enjoy it with your favorite wine.
4. Spanish Tortilla: Despite its name, it’s quite different from the tortillas used in Mexican cuisine. A Spanish tortilla is a thick, hearty omelette, typically made with eggs, potatoes, and sometimes onions, although there are many variations.
It can be served hot or cold, and it’s commonly eaten as a tapa (appetizer) or as a light meal. You see this Spanish Omelette almost everywhere, and it is not limited to breakfast, but eaten any time of the day.
5. Ham Croquettes (Croquetas De Jamón Serrano): Croquetas de Jamón Serrano, or Serrano Ham Croquettes, are a classic Spanish tapa or appetizer in bars and restaurants throughout Spain.
These bite-sized delights are creamy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and packed with the distinct flavor of Serrano ham.
6. Empanadas: You see these fried hand held treats every where, and we love munching on them every now and then. Just a perfect snack after walking for a few hours.
7. Pisto: This Spanish Ratatouille is a creamy vegetable concoction that comes topped with fried eggs. Great, hearty vegetarian tapa with olive oil drenched bread.
We loved Pisto so much that we actually ended up cooking it for GypsyPlate when we were in Mijas.
8. Salmorejo (Spanish Cold Tomato Soup): Salmorejo is a traditional soup from the Andalusia region of southern Spain, particularly the city of Cordoba. It’s a chilled tomato soup, similar to gazpacho, but with a smoother, creamier texture, and typically served with toppings.
9. Artichokes with Jamón: We absolutely loved these artichokes topped with Jamón.
10. Berenjenas con Miel (Fried Eggplant with Honey): “Berenjenas con Miel”, or Eggplant with Honey, is a delicious and popular dish in Spain, especially in the region of Andalusia. This dish is often served as a tapa and is a great example of the Moorish influence on Andalusian cuisine.
“Berenjenas con Miel” consists of thin slices or strips of eggplant that are lightly breaded and fried until crispy, then drizzled with honey or, traditionally, with a sugar cane syrup known as “miel de caña”. The result is a delightful contrast of the crispy, slightly salty fried eggplant with the sweetness of the honey or syrup.
11. Espinacas con Garbanzos: Translated to Spinach with Chickpeas, it is a classic dish from the Andalusia region of Southern Spain, particularly Sevilla. It’s a simple and hearty dish often served as a tapa, but can also be a satisfying main meal.
We have our own version of Espinacas con Garbanzos on GypsyPlate.
12. Patatas Brava: One of the most beloved tapa all over the country. The name translates to “fierce potatoes”, a nod to the spicy sauce that is drizzled over the fried potatoes.
13. Carrilladas De Cerdo (Spanish Braised Pork Cheeks): Now this is something we tried for the first time, and BIG thumbs up!! We were surprised to find that pork cheeks, when braised slow and low, is one of the best tasting melt in your mouth meats.
14. Ajo Blanco (Chilled Almond Soup): Ajo Blanco, also known as “white gazpacho”, is a popular cold soup originating from the Andalusian region in southern Spain. It’s an ancient recipe that predates the arrival of Romans and Visigoths in Spain.
The dish is a delightful blend of blanched almonds, garlic, bread, olive oil, and vinegar, all ground into a creamy soup and chilled before serving.
15. Habitas con Jamón y Huevos Fritos: “Habitas con jamón y huevos fritos” is a Spanish dish that translates to “broad beans with ham and fried eggs”.
It’s a delicious, hearty meal that showcases the simplicity and flavor of Spanish cuisine. Again this one is not limited to the breakfast menu, and finds its place on all day dining.
16. Spanish Padrón Peppers: Spanish Padrón peppers are small, bright green peppers that come from the Padrón region in northwest Spain, specifically in Galicia. Padrón peppers make an excellent tapa or appetizer and they are all over the menus, all over the country.
One of the most common ways to prepare Padrón peppers is by quickly frying them in a hot pan with a generous amount of olive oil until their skins blister and brown. They are then sprinkled with coarse sea salt and served hot.
17. Pan con Tomate (Spanish-Style Grilled Bread With Tomato): Pan con Tomate is a simple yet flavorful dish that highlights the beauty of fresh tomatoes and crusty bread. The dish consists of just a few key ingredients: ripe tomatoes, crusty bread (such as a baguette or rustic country bread), garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and salt.
Variations of Pan con Tomate exist across Spain, with some regions adding additional ingredients such as Jamón, cheese, or anchovies.
18. Manchego Cheese: This is their beloved cheese. Manchego cheese is a popular Spanish cheese that originates from the La Mancha region of central Spain. Manchego cheese is versatile and can be enjoyed in various ways.
It can be eaten on its own, sliced or cubed as a snack, or used as an ingredient in sandwiches, salads, and other dishes. Its robust flavor pairs well with fruits, honey, quince paste, and cured meats like ham.
19. Pulpo a la gallega: Pulpo a la gallega, also known as Galician-style octopus, is a traditional Spanish dish hailing from the region of Galicia in northwest Spain. It is a beloved delicacy and a staple of Galician cuisine, known for its simplicity and delicious flavors.
The dish consists of tender octopus that is typically boiled until it becomes tender and then sliced into small pieces. It is then seasoned with coarse sea salt, Spanish paprika (known as pimentón), and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. The final touch is a sprinkling of chopped parsley. It’s often accompanied by crusty bread and a glass of wine.
Bocadillos & Burgers
I was not much of a cold cut sandwich fan, until I discovered Jamón ibérico. A bocadillo is a type of sandwich that is popular in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. It is typically made with a crusty bread roll, such as a baguette or a similar type of bread.
Bocadillos can be found with a variety of fillings and are often enjoyed as a quick and satisfying meal or snack. You see them everywhere and they’re often enjoyed for lunch, a quick bite on the go, or as a light dinner.
We also found that burgers in Europe taste so much better than back home. We found the juiciest and tastiest fat burgers everywhere. It all goes to the quality of meat found all over Europe. We absolutely loved our burger time in Spain.
Paella is not just a dish, it’s a cultural symbol of Spanish cuisine and a source of pride for many. Paella is a famous Spanish dish that originated in the region of Valencia. It is a flavorful rice dish cooked in a wide, shallow pan called a paellera, giving the dish its name.
The traditional ingredients of paella vary depending on the region and personal preferences, but the most iconic version is paella Valenciana. The dish reflects the culinary traditions of the Valencian countryside, where it was traditionally prepared with ingredients that were readily available locally like chicken, rabbit, broad green beans, and snails.
While the traditional paella Valenciana is the most well-known version, there are also other variations such as seafood paella (paella de mariscos), mixed paella (paella mixta), and vegetarian paella, each offering a unique and delicious take on this iconic Spanish dish.
Now you get Paella in literally thousands of restaurants all over the country, and the chances of encountering mediocre paella any given day is pretty high, especially in restaurants targeting foreign tourists.
We tested a lot of paella, and can say we really liked it only a couple of times. We recommend doing a little homework online, or asking locals before choosing the restaurant.
Spain has some of the best seafood in the world, surrounded by water all the sides. Fresh wild shrimp, clams, mussels, squid, octopus and great fish… you name it.
We loved crunchy calamari, grilled jumbo shrimp, grilled whole fish, some great seafood soups and all the medley of seafood in our seafood paellas, of course.
Madrilene Stew (Cocido Madrile)
Madrilenian stew, or “Cocido Madrileño” in Spanish, is a traditional dish from the city of Madrid. It is a hearty and flavorful stew that is typically enjoyed during the colder months, although it can be found year-round in local eateries
Madrilenian stew is known for its rich and comforting combination of meats, vegetables, and legumes. The dish is traditionally cooked in multiple stages, allowing each ingredient to infuse the stew with its distinct flavors. It is traditionally served in multiple courses.
Callos de Garbanzos
Callos con garbanzos, which translates to “tripe with chickpeas”, is a traditional Spanish dish that originated in Madrid and has become a popular part of its culinary culture.
Callos con garbanzos is a stew made with beef tripe, chickpeas, and a variety of seasonings. The dish is known for its robust flavors and tender texture.
We are not too much into eating organs, but it seems like its one of the popular items on menus.
Carcamusa is a traditional dish from the city of Toledo in Spain. It is a flavorful stew made with pork and a medley of vegetables. The name “carcamusa” is said to derive from the word “cáscara,” which means “shell” or “peel,” referring to the use of various leftover ingredients in the dish.
Carcamusa is typically simmered slowly to allow the flavors to meld together. It is often served as a main course accompanied by crusty bread, or as a filling for empanadas or sandwiches.
It was one of our favorites, and we plan to cook it for GypsyPlate one day.
Now this is the great dish we tried on our lunch in Segovia.
Cochinillo asado, also known as “roast suckling pig,” is a famous traditional dish in Spanish cuisine, particularly associated with the region of Castilla y León, specifically Segovia. It is a delicacy that is highly regarded for its tender and succulent meat with crispy skin.
It is visually stunning dish with golden, crackling skin and tender, flavorful meat. Cochinillo asado is typically served with traditional accompaniments such as roasted potatoes, vegetables, or a simple salad. It is often enjoyed as a centerpiece dish for festive occasions and special celebrations.
Judias de la Granja
These beans are famous throughout the Segovia region, hailing from a small town outside of the provincial capital, La Granja. They are large, white and are often served throughout Segovia.
The beans are cooked with tomatoes and other vegetables, along with chorizo or hueso de jamon, which is the bone from a leg of cured Spanish ham.
The flavors combine with the beans to create a perfect, autumnal dish that will keep you warm during the colder months.
Yemas de Santa Teresa
Yemas de Santa Teresa is a traditional Spanish sweet treat that originated in the town of Ávila, specifically at the Convent of Santa Teresa.
It is a delicacy made primarily from egg yolks and sugar, resulting in a rich, sweet, and smooth confection. These sweet treats are often enjoyed during special occasions, festivals, or as a souvenir from Ávila.
Rabo de Toro (Spanish Bull Tail Stew )
This was one of my favorite dishes out of Spain, and I must have ordered it at least three times during our visit.
Rabo de toro, also known as “oxtail stew”, is a traditional Spanish dish that originated in the Andalusian region, particularly in the cities of Cordoba and Seville. The dish is characterized by its rich and flavorful stew made from the tail of a bull, hence the name “rabo de toro” (toro meaning bull).
Andalusian Fried Flamenquines Cordobeses
Fried Flamenquines Cordobeses are a traditional dish from the city of Cordoba in Spain. Flamenquines are essentially rolled and breaded pork or veal cutlets stuffed with ham and cheese, then deep-fried until golden and crispy.
The combination of tender meat, savory ham and cheese filling, and crispy breadcrumb coating creates a delightful contrast of flavors and textures.
Arroz a Banda
This Spanish Seafood Rice, known as Arroz a Banda, is one of the most popular seafood rice dishes that hail from Alicante near Valencia, and we tried it in one of the restaurants there by waterfront.
Whenever you think of Spanish rice dish, paella comes to mind. Banda is close variation to seafood paella. Arroz a Banda is cooked just like a Paella, except the rice is added to the pan before the broth.
In any country, if you are travelling for a few weeks, you start looking for some other eating options, after trying local food day in and day out. Our first cuisine we veered towards was a favorite from a neighboring country to Spain…
But one night we went all out ordering the biggest Moroccan platters with all their fabulous dips and appetizers, along with the most delicious melt in your lamb. Super Delish.
Over a period of time, we tried a lot of Asian food, from dumplings to Thai to Chinese to Indian.
Some Sweet Treats
Cool treats are needed on hot days after walking a few hours. We found some great ones like gelatos and yummy fancy popsicles, along with donuts, cupcakes and yummy, luscious croissants.
But the top pick goes to local favorite Churros. Churros are a popular Spanish treat. They are fried dough pastries with a distinctive long, thin shape, often resembling ridged sticks or tubes. Churros are typically made from a simple dough which is piped through a star-shaped nozzle and fried until golden and crispy.
Traditionally, churros are served hot and dusted with powdered sugar. They are often enjoyed alongside a cup of thick hot chocolate for dipping.
They can also be found in many street food stalls, cafés, and churrerías (churro shops). We had one right under our Barcelona apartment. And guess what was my favorite late afternoon treat along with my iced coffee?
And now finally my beautiful drinks. All great trips have these sprinkled all over.
Mojito: My favorite go to drink in Spain was my beloved Mojito. Spaniards precisely know how to make a cracking Mojito every single time. I had countless ones on this trip.
Sangria: We tried lot of Sangrias all over Spain. Red or white, both of them are equally refreshing and tasty any time of the day. We loved to sip on them during lunch time to beat the heat.
Spanish Wine: Now I am really spoiled by the Spanish wine. My Vino Tinto!! They have the best tasting red wines I have ever had. And they are very very cheap to buy, too. Every single bottle was great.
I hope you liked reading all about these amazing food as much as we loved eating them. 🙂 Go through our Things to Do In Spain and upcoming Spain Travel Tips. They will definitely help you plan your own future travels in Spain.
Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.
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