Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes

Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes

Comments17 comments

It would be impossible to list all the tasty foods from Spain's rich food culture – but here are at least 10 top Spanish foods you have to try.

Spanish food is often recognised as one of the top cuisines in the world, and some traditional Spanish dishes and recipes date hundreds of years. Food has become as integral to Spain as its rich and tumultuous history, with each region of Spain – once a collection of numerous, distinct kingdoms – boasting their own unique cuisines and flavours.

Each regional speciality in Spain is worth trying, and many of the top Spanish restaurants are known by the different regions they come from. In the main Spanish cities you can find Basque, Galician, Asturian and Valencian (paella) restaurants, to name but a few of the renowned regions for local food specialities.

In bars you'll quickly find the usual top Spanish tapas all around the country, for example olives, Manchego cheese, tostadas con tomate (grated or scratched tomato on Spanish bread), pinxtos (Basque-style, mini sandwiches) or a plate of Spanish bravas (fried potato with spicy tomato sauce). While Spain's tapas are a gourment exploration in itself, here are some more top Spanish foods you have to try.

1. Croquettes

You can find Spanish a plate of croquetas in almost any restaurant or bar, each made to the establishment's own  – sometimes secret – recipe, combining ingredients such as jamon (cured ham) or bacalao (Atlantic cod fish) with béchamel sauce, which is then breaded and fried. The creamy cheese (queso) croquettes pack a smooth flavour, or try the croquettes of local sweet-spiced black sausage (morcilla) or Spanish blue cheese (queso de Cabrales) for unique Spanish flavours.

It's also a good yardstick for comparing food in Spain: the quality of a bar-restaurant can often be judged by their ability to handle the Spanish tapa staples of croquettes or bravas (Spanish potato chips). The traditional, scrubbed-down bars usually serve the best.

Make your own:


Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes: Croquetas

2. Tortilla Espanola
 
The Spanish omlette is another beloved top Spanish food – and everyone has an opinion on how to cook it. It's a great starter (or meal) for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and no doubt you'll come across many Spanish potato omelettes during your time in Spain. Like croquetas, you can find them in almost any bar and to varying degrees of quality and flavour. The best ones come from slow-cooking caramalised onion and potato in olive oil, which later creates a soft-sweet centre once egg is added and it is cooked into a thick omelette, almost like a cake. A tasty Spanish snack you'll see around is a wedge of omelette squeezed between bread to make a bocadillo (sandwich).

Make your own:


Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes: Tortila espanola

3. Gazpacho or salmorejo

This zesty, chilled tomato soup has claimed space in supermarkets and on menus around the world, but few compare to refreshing Spanish gazpacho made with full-flavoured Spanish tomatoes. Usually eaten as an appetizer – and sometimes drunken straight from a bowl or glass – this thick soup is made from blending a whole heap of fresh tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, garlic, onions, vinegar and herbs. It's the perfect Spanish food for summer, as well as a low calorie and healthy dish. 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 slices on top.

Make your own:


Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes: Gazpacho

4. Pisto – Spanish ratatouille

This vegetarian top Spanish dish is for all ages, eaten in Spain as a tapa, appetiser, a side dish to meats, or even as a meal with a fried egg on top or chorizo. 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 to try at home. You can find it in restaurants around Spain, and especially in the towns across the plains of La Mancha, south of Madrid.

Make your own:


Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes: Pisto

5. Cured meats – jamon, chorizo, salchichón

Jamon is ubiquitous in Spain, carved thinly off cured legs of pork that you will see hanging in most bars and restaurants. Jamon is a serious business and an art in Spain, with many factors in place to determine quality, such as what the pigs are fed, the type of pig and the curing process. Jamón ibérico de bellota is the top category, where Spanish pigs (Ibérico) are free-range and acorn-fed (bellota); other types include Ibérico (corn-fed) or Serrano ham, which are typically cheaper.

Another Spanish favourite is chorizo, a cured sausage with sweet and spicy flavours, identified by its red smoked-pepper colouring. 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.


Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes: Jamon

6. Pulpo a la gallega

This boiled octopus dish gets its unique flavours from maceration in three simple ingredients: 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, and especially in the many polbeiras (octopus restaurants) dotting the Galician region. This top Spanish dish is usually served with a potato or two, on top of a wooden platter.

It was traditionally cooked at fairs in copper cauldrons, which supposedly gave the octopus a unique taste that couldn't be achieved with other ways of cooking. You can still see this fair-style cooking in some places, such as in Lugo where the dish is the celebratory food for the fair of its patron saint (San Froilán).

Make your own:


Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes: Pulpo a la gallega

7. Spain's famous bean stews – and salads

Spain is home to a wide variety of unique beans and legumes, and certain regions are famous for particular types and dishes, for example the large white kidney beans from the Asturias region (Faba Asturiana), where these tender, creamy beans are key in the local bean stew Fabada Asturiana. The Basque town of Tolosa even holds a week-long festival in November in honour of the local renown black bean, alubias de Tolosa.

Rising international demand for Spain's tasty beans has seen them become available online and in large supermarkets around the world. Spain reportedly has more than 20 bean varities, with some even having protected geographic status. Some renowned types include judion de La Granja (in Segovia, an hour from Madrid), Barco de Ávila beans (from Ávila and Salamanca, Castile-León), alubias de La Bañeza-León (La Bañeza beans, Castile-León), Lourenzá beans (from Lugo, Galicia) and Rubia de la Amuña (one of the best Spanish lentils, from La Amuña).

Around Spain you can find many regional bean stews known as fabada, which 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 stew, Fabada Asturiana, is one of the most widely available in restaurants across Spain and commonly eaten in winter.

A twist on this is Madrid's cocido, which adds vegetables and cabbage to a tasty mix of sausages and chic peas (garbanzos). For chickpeas, some of the best include the Blanco Lechoso (from Andalusia and Extremadura), the Castellano, a fleshy yellowish chickpea grown in southern Spain and on the Castilian plains, and the smaller Pedrosillano. The buttery fine-skinned chickpeas from Fuentesaúco (Zamora, Castile-Leon) have received protected geographic status (PGI).

Spain's beans also make flavoursome bean salads; just drizzle on olive oil, lemon, vinegar and salt to taste, alongside a hearty helping of diced garlic, tomato, onion and green and red peppers.

Make your own:


Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes: Fabada asturiana

8. Paella

This rice-based dish is well known internationally, although in Valencia you will find many authentic variations that equally vie for attention. Some consider this a national dish of Spain, but many consider it a Valencia dish, from where it originated and you can typically find the best paella. The most traditional Valencian paella is a mixture of chicken or rabbit (or both), white and green beans and other vegetables, but seafood is also common, where you can find an array of seafood suprises among the flavoursome rice, such as calamari, mussels, clams, prawns, scampi or fish, depending on the type you order. For the adventurous, a black rice stained by octopus ink is a must try (arroz negro), and if you find paella with less common ingredients such as eel (anguila) or duck (pato), don't miss the rare chance. Fiduea is tasty twist on the rice-based paella, as it uses a small curly pasta instead.

Make your own:


Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes: Paella

9. Fried milk

You might not find ‘leche frita' on every menu, but it is a classic Spanish dessert to try for something unique. Its firm, cool, milk-pudding centre contrasts with a warm, crunchy encasing of flour and egg, dusted with sugar and cinnamon. A similar popular Spanish dessert is torrijas, a mix between french toast and bread pudding, where large slices of bread are soaked in milk and sugar, and then lightly fried in a pan and topped with sugar and cinnamon or honey; their pudding-like consistency make them an impressive but easy dessert to make at home. If that's not on the menu, it's hard not to like the Catalan version of crème brûlée, Crema Catalana, that can be found with variations of orange or lemon zest or cinnamon in many Spanish restaurants. You'll also see many churrerías, stalls or cafes serving up thick Spanish hot chocolate and churros, a thin long donut-type pastry that you can dip in your hot drink; the thicker, less-sweet version, porras, go great with coffe. If you visit at Christmas time, the must-eat sweet is turrón, a Spanish-style almond nougat.

Make your own:


Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes: Leche frita

10. Prawns in fried garlic

As in many top Spanish foods, simplicity and drawing out natural flavours of fresh ingredients are key, and this is easily seen in this tantalising yet simple dish gambas al ajillo. Small Spanish prawns are typically lightly cooked in a small clay dish of hot olive oil, roasted garlic and usually a small chilli that gives this dish a little kick. It's hard not to want this sizzling dish when the fried garlic smell hits your nostrils.

Make your own:


Top 10 Spanish foods – with recipes: Gambas al ajillo

Top Spanish drinks

Top foods to try in Spain: Sangria, rebujito and tinto de veranoThere's less taboo about drinking in Spain at every meal, whether it's coffee and brandy in the morning or after lunch (carajillo), or taking a beer, wine or cava (Spanish sparkling wine) with a morning tapa, lunch or dinner. There's also a revered gin and tonic culture in Spain, where they are specially prepared.

Two Spanish favourites 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).

You'll, of course, see red sangria in most restaurants and sold by the litre in supermarkets, although it's not as popular in Spain as some foreigners think.

Make your own:


Read more on local and traditional foods in Europe

 

Expatica

Updated 2016.

Photo credit: PincasPhoto (croquettes), Tamorlan (tortilla), cyclonebill (gazpacho), The Aimless Cook (thumbnail), Hotel Gastronomico Casa Rosalia (pisto), Kai Schreiber (jamon), Javier Lastras (pulpo, leche frita, gambas), Juan J. Martinez (fabada), Evan Swigart (sangria).

Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.

If you believe any of the information on this page is incorrect or out-of-date, please let us know. Expatica makes every effort to ensure its articles are as comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date as possible, but we're also grateful for any help! (If you want to contact Expatica for any other reason, please follow the instructions on this website's contact page.)


Captcha Note: Characters are case sensitive
The details you provide on this page will not be used to send any unsolicited e-mail, and will not be sold to a third party. Privacy policy .
 
 


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

    yumh
  • 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

    YUMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 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 punctuation.love 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