Spain is a country with a rich and diverse culinary heritage, influenced by its geography, history, and culture. From the mountains to the sea, from the north to the south, each region has its own specialties and flavors that reflect its identity and traditions.
One type of food you’ll encounter over and over again in Spain is tapas. Tapas are small plates of one type of food, and the idea is that you order several plates to share with the table. Ordering a variety of tapas to share is SO fun, and you can find great tapas in dedicated tapas bars and in many regular restaurants throughout Spain.
Here are some of the most delicious foods to eat in Spain.
Delicious Foods to Eat in Spain
Tapas and Meals
Paella is a well-known and traditional dish from the region of Valencia. It is a rice dish that is usually cooked in a large shallow pan over an open fire, and can include different ingredients such as chicken, rabbit, seafood, vegetables, and saffron. Paella is a festive and social dish, often shared among family and friends on special occasions.
Paella is often served in the pan it is cooked in, and makes for a hearty, comforting, and savory meal.
Tortilla de Patatas
Tortilla de patatas, also known as Spanish omelette, is a simple but satisfying dish made with eggs, potatoes, onion, and salt. It is cooked in a skillet over low heat and flipped over to create a thick and golden cake. The texture is smooth and light, and was a surprising favorite thing I ate in Spain.
Tortilla de patatas can be eaten hot or cold, and as a main course or a tapas – although I most often saw it as a tapas option.
Cola de Toro
Cola de toro, or bull tail stew, is a traditional dish from Andalusia, especially from Cordoba.
It is a slow-cooked stew made with bull tail, onion, garlic, red wine, paprika, and other spices. The meat becomes tender and flavorful, and the sauce is thick and rich.
It is usually served with bread or potatoes, and is a hearty and warming dish for cold days. Cola de toro dates back to Roman times, and was originally made with the tails of the bulls killed in the bullfights.
While eating the tail of a bull might sound a little bizarre, the meat was actually really tender and the stew was flavorful – so don’t shy away from this dish!
Migas is a dish of stale bread and other ingredients in Spanish and Portuguese cuisines. It can be made with leftover bread or tortillas.
Migas is a humble and tasty dish that originated as a way to use up old bread and avoid waste, but today is a beloved dish throughout Spain, and has different variations across the Iberian Peninsula and Mexico.
In Spain, migas is typically made with bread, garlic, olive oil, paprika, and chorizo, and served with grapes, melon, or fried eggs.
Jamon Iberico, or Iberian ham, is one of the most beloved and prestigious delicacies in Spain. It is a cured ham made from the black Iberian pig, which is native to the Iberian peninsula. The pigs are free-range and feed on acorns and other natural foods, which give the ham its distinctive flavor and texture.
Jamon Iberico is sliced thinly and served on its own, with bread, cheese, or wine. It has a distinctive nutty, sweet, and smoky taste, and a soft and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Jamon Iberico is a true gastronomic treasure, and a must-try food in Spain. You can find it on many restaurant menus, but you can often find deli shops throughout the cities selling cones of chopped Iberico ham, or Iberico sandwiches.
(And for a fun and unique experience, you can actually take a day trip from Seville out to the region where Iberico pigs are raised and learn about the process of creating this iconic ham.)
Gambas Al Pil-Pil
Gambas al pil-pil, or garlic and chili prawns, is a quick and easy traditional tapas recipe made with fresh prawns cooked in olive oil, garlic, and chili, and served sizzling. It is a spicy and aromatic dish perfect for sharing with friends and family, along with some crusty bread and a glass of wine.
Patatas bravas, or spicy potatoes, are one of the most popular and addictive Spanish tapas. They are chunks of potato that are fried until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and then tossed with a spicy tomato sauce.
Some places also serve them with aioli, a garlic mayonnaise, to balance the heat. Patatas bravas are a must-have in any tapas bar, and a crowd-pleaser for any occasion.
Croquettes are small balls of a thick mixture mixed with different ingredients, such as ham, cheese, chicken, or spinach, and then coated with bread crumbs and fried until golden and crunchy.
Croquettes are creamy and delicious – crunchy on the outside and smooth and savory on inside.
While croquettes originated in France, they are an extremely popular tapas dish, and can be found on the tapas menu of many restaurants.
Berenjenas con Miel de Caña
Berenjenas con miel de caña, or eggplant with cane honey, is a delicious dish that can be served as a tapas or a dessert.
It consists of pieces of eggplant that are battered and fried, and then drizzled with a dark and thick syrup made from sugar cane or honey. The contrast between the savory and sweet, and the soft and crunchy, makes this dish unique and delicious!
Berenjenas con miel de caña is a simple but delightful dish that has its origins in Moorish cuisine, and should certainly be on your list of foods to try in Spain.
Gazpacho is a cold soup made with raw vegetables (and other ingredients) that are then blended until smooth, creating a refreshing dish perfect for those hot summer months. It originated first in the south of Spain, where it was influenced by Roman cuisine, and is a must-try whether you stay in Seville, Malaga, or Granada.
It is a classic Spanish dish that can be served as a starter, a main course, or a drink, and can be garnished with chopped vegetables, croutons, or boiled eggs.
Gazpacho has many variations, depending on the region and even just the restaurant you happen to be at. Some of the most common ingredients are tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic, bread, olive oil, vinegar, and salt, but a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and spices can be used.
Salmorejo is another cold soup from Cordoba, a city in Andalusia, a region in Southern Spain. Similar to gazpacho but thicker and creamier, it is made with tomatoes, bread, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar, and is blended until smooth and velvety.
Salmorejo is usually served with chopped hard-boiled eggs and jamon serrano on top and is a filling and satisfying dish. Personally, I liked the salmorejo more than the gazpacho, just because it was just a little smoother.
Sopa de Ajo
Sopa de ajo, or garlic soup, is a rustic and comforting dish made with garlic, bread, paprika, and water. It is a very old Spanish soup, originating from Castilla y Leon, and the four key ingredients signify its peasant origins.
It was also an essential source of nourishment for many people after the Spanish Civil War when rations were scarce and stale bread was the only thing available. Sopa de ajo can be enriched with ham, chorizo, or eggs, and is a delicious way to warm up on a cold day.
Torrijas are a traditional dessert that is eaten during Lent and Easter in Spain. They are slices of stale bread that are soaked in milk, eggs, and sugar, and then fried in oil. They are sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, or soaked in honey or wine.
Torrijas are similar to French toast, but sweeter and richer. Torrijas are a decadent and indulgent dessert, and it was actually one of my favorite treats that I ate in Spain.
Hot chocolate in Spain – also known as chocolate caliente, chocolate a la taza, or simply chocolate – is not like the watery and mild drink you may be used to. The hot chocolate has a distinct texture that sets it apart from other hot chocolates, being thicker and creamier because it is made with cornstarch of all things.
It can be flavored with different spices, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, or vanilla, according to personal preference. Hot chocolate in Spain can also be paired with other pastries, but easily the most common pairing is hot chocolate and churros. Dipping your churro into the hot chocolate at breakfast is seriously the best way to start your day in Spain.
Churros are made by piping lines of choux pastry dough into frying oil. Usually a star tip is used to pipe the dough in, creating the signature shape and ridges.
Churro is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and is usually sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. It is a traditional breakfast or snack, and is often served with hot chocolate, dulce de leche, or other sauces.
Churros are much lighter in Spain than what you’ll find in the United States, and they are absolutely delicious!
Florones are sweet pastries that are shaped like flowers or other figures and fried until crispy and golden. They are a traditional dessert from Castile and León areas of Spain.
Florones are made with flour, eggs, butter, sugar, and anise, and are sprinkled with powdered sugar or honey. They are light, crunchy, and fragrant, and are perfect for a sweet treat or a breakfast.
Florones are an especially popular dish during Easter and Holy Week. Holy Week in Spain is an extremely big deal, with large-scale celebrations and processionals throughout the cities leading up to Easter Sunday. It’s no wonder that there are several traditional treats to go with the big celebrations happening throughout the country.
Tips on Eating in Spain
- Be flexible and adventurous with your food choices. Spain has a diverse and delicious cuisine, influenced by its regions, cultures, and history. I like to go into eating in a new country with the attitude, “I’ll try anything once.”
- Adjust your eating schedule and habits. Spaniards have different eating times and patterns than most other countries. They usually have a light breakfast, a late and large lunch, a small snack in the afternoon, and a late and light dinner. Restaurants are often busy up until 11pm or later!
They also often take a siesta, a two-hour break in the middle of the day, when most shops and restaurants are closed (although this practice is becoming more rare – we were talking to a shop owner about whether they closed for siesta and he just laughed and said, “Oh no, we don’t close – capitalism.”
However, this does not mean that you have to follow their rhythm and plan your meals accordingly. You can find places that cater to tourists and have more flexible hours, especially in big cities and popular destinations.
A Few Other Practicalities about Eating in Spain
- Bread is almost always brought to your table when you first sit down, but it is not free (it’s usually 1-2 euro per person). Water is also not free, and if you ask for it, you’ll be brought bottled water.
- Drinks come with ice cubes, but interestingly, it’s usually one very large ice cube
- Wait staff in Spain do not hurry you along, and you are free to take all the time you need. So, you’ll need to get the waiter’s attention to be brought the check, and sometimes to order.
- Tipping is not required, as a 10% tip is included in the bill.
- Many restaurants are closed 1-2 days of the week, so if there is one you really want to visit, check their schedule.
Final Thoughts on Foods to Eat in Spain
Spain is a paradise for food lovers, with a cuisine that is rich, diverse, and delicious. Whether you are looking for a main dish, a snack, a soup, or a dessert, you will find something to delight your palate in Spain.
You will also discover the culture, history, and traditions of this beautiful country through its food. Eating in Spain is not just a way to fill your stomach, but also a way to enjoy life and connect with others. So, don’t miss the opportunity to try some of the best food in the world, and have a memorable and tasty trip to Spain. Buen provecho!
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