Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes

Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes

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Food is as integral to Spain as its rich history, with each of Spain's regions home to a range of unique cuisines and flavours. Here's a selection of the top 10 foods to try in Spain.

Each regional speciality is worth trying, and restaurants from different regions bring their local delights to most main cities. Besides the usual tapas, for example olives, Manchego cheese or a plate of Spanish bravas (fried potato with spicy tomato sauce), here are a few foods you shouldn't leave without trying.

1. Croquettes

You can find Spanish a plate of croquetas in almost any restaurant or bar, each made to the establishment's own recipe. It makes food comparison throughout Spain a delight, and not at all a bad idea for judging up a restaurant's quality (hint: the traditional, scrubbed-down bars serve the best). While the creamy cheese (queso) croquettes pack a smooth flavour, try croquettes filled with a mixture of béchamel and Spanish cured ham (jamon), or the local sweet-spiced black sausage (morcilla) for something stronger.

Top ten foods in Spain: Spanish croquettes

  Make your own:

2. Tortilla Espaniola

A great starter or meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner, no doubt you'll come across a Spanish potato omelette during your time in Spain. Like croquetas, you can find them in almost any bar Top ten foods in Spain: Spanish omlette with potatoand to varying degrees of quality and flavour. The best ones are from slow-cooked potato in olive oil, which make a soft centre once egg is added to create an omelette cake; even tastier when onions are added to the slow-frying process for a sweet underlying flavour. You'll also find wedges of Spanish omelette squeezed between a bocadilla for a tasty sandwich snack.

Make your own:

Gazpacho or salmorejo

This cold tomato soup has claimed space in many supermarkets around the world, but carton gazpacho compares little to the Spanish tangy, refreshing variety. Usually eaten as an appetizer – and sometimes straight from a bowl or glass – its thickness is derived from blending a whole heap of fresh tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, garlic, onions, vinegar, and herbs. Salmorejo is a similar Andalucian version combining pureed bread, tomatoes, garlic, and vinegar – also served cold – and sometimes varied with a bit of ham or egg.

Make your own:

4. Pisto – Spanish ratatouille

This vegetarian option is enjoyed by all, as a tapa, starter, a side dish to meats, or even with a fried egg on top. It's a Spanish ratatouille of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, garlic, and of course, olive oil. The palatable competition of intense roasted flavours makes this a tasty recipe.

Top 10 foods in Spain: Pisto - Spanish ratatouille

Make your own:

5. Cured meats – jamon, chorizo, salchichón

Jamon is ubiquitous in Spain, carved thinly off cured legs of Top 10 foods in Spain: jamon, chorizo, salchichonpork that you will see hanging in most bars and restaurants. Jamon is a serious business and an art in Spain, with many varietals that determine quality, such as what the pigs are fed and the curing process. Jamón ibérico de bellota is the top category, where the pigs are free-range and acorn-fed. Chorizo is identified by its red smoked-pepper colouring, and is a dried sausage with sweet and spicy hints. You'll also see the softer-flavoured salchichón served on mixed charcuterie platters.

Make (it) your own:

  • Learn the different varieties of Spanish cured meats with this slideshow guide.
  • Find out how to identify the different types of jamon.

6. Pulpo a la gallega

This octopus dish is macerated with paprika (pimenton), crusty rock salt and a drizzle of olive oil. It's a signature Galician dish, and you'll find it on the menu in many Galician restaurants around Spain. It's usually served with a potato or two, on top of a wooden platter.

Top 10 Spanish foods: Pulpo a la gallega - octopus

Make your own:

7. Bean stew

Spain is home to a wide variety of interesting beans and legumes, and certain regions are famous for particular types, for example the dried large white beans of the region La Granja, an hour from Madrid. Top 10 Spanish foods: Bean stew - fabadaThe Basque town of Tolosa even holds a week-long festival in November in honour of the local renown bean, alubias de Tolosa. Around the country you can find different regional bean stews known as fabada, that involve cooking the beans slowly with a mixture of meats – such as chorizo pancetta, black sausage and so on – depending on the region. The hearty Asturian version, fabada asturiana, is widely available in restaurants across Spain and commonly eaten in winter; Madrid's cocido adds vegetables and cabbage to a tasty mix of sausages and chic peas.

Make your own:

8. Paella

This rice-based Valencian dish is well known internationally, and comes in many variations that equally vie for attention. The traditional version is a mixture of chicken or rabbit (or both), white and green beans and other vegetables, but mixed seafood is also common, where you will find an array of seafood suprises among the flavoursome rice – calamari, mussels, clams, prawns, scampi or fish, for example. For the adventurous, a black rice stained by octopus ink is a must try. Fiduea is also tasty, and uses a small curly pasta instead of rice.

Top 10 foods in Spain: Paella

Make your own:

9. Fried milk

Top 10 Spanish foods: Fried milk - leche fritaYou might not find ‘leche frita' on every menu, but it is a classic Spanish dessert to try if you want something unique. Its firm, cool, milk-pudding centre contrasts with a warm, crunchy encasing of flour and egg, dusted with sugar and cinnamon. If that's not on the menu, it's hard not to like the Spanish version of crème brûlée, crema catalan, that can be found with variations of orange or lemon zest, or cinnamon.

Make your own:

  • This recipe adds nutmeg.
  • Watch leche frita being made.

10. Red or white sangria and tinto de verano

Top foods to try in Spain: Sangria, rebujito and tinto de veranoEvery meal can have an alcoholic accompaniment – coffee and whisky in the morning or after meals, or any combination of beer, wine or cava for morning break, lunch or dinner. Two Spanish specialities are the refreshing tinto de verano (‘summer wine') and rebujito (white sangria), which involve little more than mixing wines with soft drinks but create a surprisingly tasty refresher. Tinto de verano is red wine with lemon soda, while rebujito is a white wine mixed with lemonade and topped off with fresh mint, and popular at the Sevillan Feria de Abril (April Fair).

Make your own:




Read more on local and traditional foods around Europe:

Photo credit: PincasPhoto (croquettes), The Aimless Cook (gazpacho), jlastras (pisto, octopus), derameanrama (cured meats), Barcex (paella), Juan J. Martinez (fabada), Tirithel (dulce frita), Evan Swigart (sangria).

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17 Comments To This Article

  • hillson posted:

    on 6th June 2016, 16:14:03 - Reply

    OMG that looks good right now I AM hungry

  • shanna posted:

    on 6th June 2016, 16:15:23 - Reply

    this look good
  • lola posted:

    on 22nd February 2016, 16:19:11 - Reply

    omg i tried making fried milk but everything in the kitchen was a mess. My sister made it and its yum
  • yomama posted:

    on 13th January 2016, 20:32:08 - Reply

    i spanish food yum
  • Collin posted:

    on 6th January 2016, 16:50:33 - Reply

    perfect dishes to make for my class project
  • antoniogracia posted:

    on 26th September 2015, 18:11:59 - Reply

    Very accurate report about the food in Spain
  • kid posted:

    on 18th September 2015, 18:00:20 - Reply

  • SarahLaker posted:

    on 20th July 2015, 08:56:31 - Reply

    Excellent dishes! I have always wanted to prepare Spanish food, but I don't have much knowledge about it. However, after seeing this post, i would love to prepare one tonight especially the paella. It would be a perfect addition for tonight's menu and i have bought a wine to go with it. I came across an article which suggests that white wine is best paired with red meat, but i personally think it would be perfect with paella as well. Thanks for sharing this post! I love it!

  • carla posted:

    on 28th May 2015, 21:21:49 - Reply

    Leche frita? I have lived all my life in Spain and I've never heard leche frita, may you are talking about Torrijas
  • raspaos posted:

    on 23rd March 2015, 14:48:03 - Reply

    really good dishes....I will give a try to bean stew I can make it deliciously.
  • Elizabeth posted:

    on 13th March 2015, 18:51:22 - Reply

    These foods are delicious
  • elizabeth posted:

    on 13th March 2015, 18:50:12 - Reply

  • alessia posted:

    on 6th March 2015, 14:36:18 - Reply

    i love these recipes they are very good
  • Aarna Sahai posted:

    on 27th June 2014, 14:53:45 - Reply

    Hi all, really very fantastic article about Spanish food. I am an explorer so I explore every city. It's history , food etc. so this was a great help what to actually taste like a speciality of the country..very good use of u guys..keep up the good work
  • Eric Haubert posted:

    on 13th June 2014, 09:13:22 - Reply

    It is a nice article. Thank you for posting it. Knowing any country won’t be complete until you tasted it’s traditional and best foods. Every time I visit a new country, I make sure I have the traditional food of that country. I remember when I visited Spain years back i tasted a dish I think called garlic prawns made by the event caterers at the event I attended. So spicy and delicious. I love prawns and other seafood. Whenever i get a chance to taste a variety of seafood, I will never miss it. I think I missed eating these dishes. May be next time will be the best time.

  • Lucian Romero posted:

    on 12th February 2014, 16:51:35 - Reply

    You got great ideas and I tried the fried milk oh yes it was awesome!
  • John Lee posted:

    on 22nd January 2014, 16:07:01 - Reply

    ayeeee cn