Spanish cuisine is often considered among the best in the world, and it’s not hard to see why. A culturally diverse population, a long culinary history, and easy access to a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, and seafood are all factors that contribute to Spain’s delectable Mediterranean gastronomy. Fortunately, Spain is still a relatively cheap country to visit, so you can leave with a happy stomach and a happy wallet!
From north to south, from ciudad to pueblo, these are the top Spanish dishes you need to try:
1. Patatas bravas
One thing the Spanish do incredibly well is pack simple dishes with a ton of flavour. Patatas bravas are a prime example. These chunks of deep fried potato are nothing special on their own. It’s the sauce that makes or breaks the dish. Salsa brava is essentially a spicy tomato sauce drizzled on top of the potatoes. In fact, it’s one of few actually spicy Spanish foods. (Spaniards, unlike their Latino relatives, tend to steer clear of anything remotely hot.) In some areas of the country, patatas bravas may be served with paprika and chili powder on top and an aioli on the side.
2. Jamón iberico
“I don’t eat meat. Except ham, but that doesn’t count.” – Actual quote from a Spanish person
Ah, jamón: the pride and joy of Spain. Indeed, ham is ubiquitous in Spain. You’ll find it in places you never expected, like on salads and nachos. You’ll see it hanging from deli windows in the most posh parts of town. Jamón is inescapable, and jamón ibérico is the best of the best.
Made from black Iberian pigs, the ham is salted and left to dry for weeks. Afterwards, it is cured for up to 48 months, at which point it is sliced and served on its own or usually as part of a charcuterie board.
Iberian ham is so important to Spanish culture that it has become synonymous with high quality. To express the excellence of a food – any food – Spaniards might say, “es de pata negra,” a reference to the “black leg” of the Iberian pig.
Paella is perhaps the best-known Spanish dish worldwide, but it’s consumed primarily in Valencia, where it originated. In fact, outside of Valencia, it’s mostly tourists that eat paella. Nevertheless, it is an iconic dish deserving of its place on every Spanish food bucket list.
The original Valencian recipe includes white rice, green and white beans, snails, and chicken or rabbit meat. It’s seasoned with saffron and rosemary. Today, you can find several different types of paella: paella valenciana (the original paella) paella de verduras (vegetable), paella mixta (seafood, meat, and veggies), and paella de marisco (seafood).
Normally, paella must be ordered for at least two people. In most cases, you’ll want at least three people to share because this dish is huge. It’s always wise to ask how big the portion is before ordering.
4. Pulpo a la gallega/polbo á feira
Many of Spain’s best seafood dishes hail from Galicia, the autonomous community in the northwest of the country, above Portugal. Pulpo a la gallega is a Galician-style octopus dish which involves removing the head of the octopus, boiling the tentacles, then dressing them with salt and paprika. The octopus is usually served with a side of boiled potatoes and a glass of red wine.
5. Chocolate con churros
After a night of partying until sunrise, Spaniards don’t go home. They go for churros.
Spanish churros differ from Mexican ones in that they skip the sugar and cinnamon and go straight for the chocolate. These deep-fried cylinders of dough are tasty enough on their own, but dipping them into a cup of thick hot chocolate really takes the flavour to another level. (Calories? Who’s counting!) If you’ve polished off your plate of churros but have chocolate to spare, it’s bottoms up! It’s a crime to let chocolate go to waste.
This dish comprised mainly of semolina is about as simple as it gets, but don’t be fooled – it packs a ton of flavour! Native to the Alpujarra region of southern Spain, migas, meaning “crumbs”, is essentially semolina cooked in olive oil and garlic. It’s usually served with fried green pepper and chunks of sausage, but variations can include fried egg and even honeydew melon! The best place to try it is without a doubt in the pueblos blancos (“white villages”) of Andalucía.
Croquetas tend to be served as a tapa in Spain. These small, fried breadcrumb rolls are filled with a variety of ingredients including ham, minced meat, spinach, cheese, and cod. Some restaurants will offer a selection of croquetas, perfect for those who can’t make up their minds!
8. Gambas al ajillo
A seafood dish common to the south of Spain, gambas al ajillo is eaten either as a tapa or as a main course. Everything you need to know about gambas al ajillo can be found in the name: shrimp with garlic. Quite simply, the dish consists of shrimp cooked in lots and lots of garlic. As a tapa, it might be served on its own or with bread for dipping in the excess garlic sauce. Other variations include gambas al ajillo with clams (“almejas”) or a side of rice.
9. Salmorejo and Gazpacho
You might already be familiar with gazpacho, a cold tomato soup. Salmorejo is very similar but differs in a few key points. Firstly, salmorejo is thicker due to the addition of breadcrumbs. Its ingredient list is also shorter. While gazpacho might contain peppers and other vegetables, salmorejo contains only tomato. A bowl of salmorejo might be topped off with pieces of boiled egg or ham. Gazpacho is something you can drink, whereas salmorejo is a heartier meal that you’ll need a spoon for. Both are equally delicious.
10. Tortilla de patatas
If you want to start a heated debate between a group of Spanish people, ask them whether they prefer their tortilla de patatas with or without onions. Seriously, this is what Spaniards argue about 90% of the time.
Controversy aside, the Spanish omelette is probably the dish that most Spaniards would agree to be the Spanish food. It is eaten in all parts of Spain and is often the only vegetarian thing you’ll find on a menu. It is a recipe everyone knows how to make but very few know how to execute well. The original recipe – potato and egg fried in olive oil – has remained virtually untouched. Trendier places might stuff the tortilla with ham, cheese, or veggies, but the basic tortilla (with or without onions) is perfect just the way it is.
Spain, thanks to its long history, diverse culture, and enviable climate, has produced some of the best food in Europe. With so many region-specific dishes, it’s hard to pick just a few to feature. One thing’s for sure, though: the best way to experience Spain is to eat your way through it.10 Foods You Have to Try in Spain #spain #europe #food #foodie #spanishfood #eurotrip #feedme Click To Tweet
This article was written by Ivana, the travel blogger behind Canadian Girl Meets World. Ivana is an expat in Spain who enjoys language learning, reading, leading a vegetarian lifestyle, and of course TRAVELING! You can find her on Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.