When it comes to recognizing the world’s superpowers of cuisine, Spain was definitely late to the party.
Spain has been patiently waiting in the background while Italy and France have enjoyed years of prominence.
However, in recent years, the cuisine’s remarkable tastes and variety of vegetables have begun to be celebrated.
Celebrity chefs like Ferran Adria, who created the now-defunct El Bulli, and the Roca brothers, who opened El Celler de Can Roca, are largely responsible for the widespread accolades bestowed upon Spain’s Alta cocina.
But the heart of Spanish food is still its simple, homey style, which comes from a time when poor Spaniards had to work the land for everything it could give them.
Top 10 Spanish dishes to try in Spain
The 10 popular Spanish foods listed here, ranging from seafood and pork to rice and sweets, should not be missed on a trip to Spain.
- Patatas Bravas
- Jamón Ibérico
- Pulpo a la Gallega
Chorizo, a key component in many authentic Spanish cuisines and one of Spain’s most popular dishes, may be purchased in just about every country. The origin of the sausage, however, may be traced back to 16th-century Spain. Over the subsequent 500 years, it underwent a series of taste transformations, evolving into the spicy, sweet, smoked, dry-cured, and even vegan varieties of chorizo that are available today.
However, traditional Spanish chorizo is a pork sausage that has been fermented, cured, and smoked. After being coarsely diced, it is seasoned with Spanish paprika, salt, garlic, and olive oil to taste.
Chorizos are often classified as either Picante (hot) or Dulce (sweet), depending on where in Spain you find yourself. The pimenton (Spanish paprika) kind used in the world-famous meal will be indicated here. The pimenton gives every chorizo its signature dark red hue.
The exquisite curing procedure is largely responsible for the delicious flavor of Spanish chorizo. Even if it hasn’t been smoked, you may find it on a Bocadillo or in paella, among other dishes. It’s great sliced and served cold as a tapas appetizer or grilled and served with a traditional tomato sauce and a glass of red wine.
Paella is the most famous dish in all of Spain. Many Spaniards consider this dish to be the country’s signature dish. Paella has been around for quite some time; it was first created in Valencia before its fame caused it to go across Spain and, finally, the globe.
Those who have traveled before and are familiar with Spanish food will be familiar with paella. Like many well-known dishes, though, the original, home-cooked version is best.
Visit Valencia to sample the authentic version of this dish made with rice, Spanish saffron, and rosemary and topped with a variety of meats. Snails, chicken, rabbit, and sausage are all examples of this.
But as paella’s fame has spread, so have variations on traditional Spanish fare. You may choose between vegan Paella and seafood Paella. The latter is the dish’s most well-known variation.
The fresh seafood from the Mediterranean has helped this dish, which is essentially paella, gain in popularity. Muscles, shrimp, fish, and maybe even some chorizos, cut into thin slices, will all be served beside the rice.
If you’re trying to recreate this at home, you’ll need a large, shallow pan and an open fire. However, any standard stove will do the trick. To achieve that signature golden color, start with a foundation of olive oil.
3. Patatas Bravas
As much as the typical zesty tastes that have made Spanish cuisine famous across the world, simplicity is a common motif in Spanish cooking. Patatas Bravas, another classic tapas found in pubs around Spain, should be included in your next party’s buffet as it is one of Spain’s most popular dishes.
Starvation forced European countries to start eating potatoes, which at the time did not have the lofty reputation they have now. The 16th century saw the introduction of potatoes into Spanish cooking, marking the beginning of a culinary tradition that continues to this day. Over the ages, cooks refined those recipes into the dishes we know and love today.
Cubed potatoes are cooked in hot olive oil to create this basic snack. These are served on individual plates with a spicy sauce, salsa brava, or aioli drizzle, and sundried tomatoes on top. You can find patatas bravas just about anywhere, but the greatest ones are in Madrid.
Breadcrumb balls stuffed with leftovers, a variety of meats or veggies, and a delectable bechamel sauce are another well-known tapa and one of Spain’s most famous dishes. Croquetas were first played at a royal feast in Spain in the early 19th century, however, its origins are in France.
The Spanish adaptation has become a popular tapas dish in its own right. The dish’s crispy surface and tender, comforting inside will have your taste senses dancing with joy. Cooking at home can be just as much of an adventure, thanks to the breadcrumb coating, as it is in a restaurant kitchen. Bacalao, or Spanish cod, is a staple, as are potatoes, ham, Spanish blue cheese, morcilla (Spanish blood sausage), and morcilla.
If you feel like getting inventive, try incorporating bacalao into your croquetas. Bacalao, or salted fish, is typically the star of a tomato-based soup or stew. But put it off till later and have a delightful seafood snack by stuffing the codfish into the crumbed ball.
Breakfast eaters love to dip these fried dough pastry twists and strips into a wide variety of sweet sauces and spreads. Churros, a popular Spanish food, and pastry, are irresistible because they are sweet and crunchy all at once.
Delicious examples are Dulce de leche, caramel, and hot chocolate. Churros probably made their way to Spain from Portugal. The Portuguese brought these delicious Chinese sweets back with them.
There is a wide variety of churro sizes available. For some, nothing beats a short, straight one. Others want their churros to be twisted and spiraled. The creation of churros is a fascinating process to observe. You may get freshly made churros from a variety of street sellers anytime.
6. Jamón Ibérico
Did you know Spain ranks high in both ham production and consumption? If you’ve ever had Jamon Iberico, a meal made with cured ham, the sheer amount probably doesn’t surprise you. A staple of Spanish cuisine, the traditional meal may be found all across the nation, while some of the best examples can be found in Madrid.
In the 1400s, Jamon Iberico was introduced to Spanish cuisine. Delicious Spanish food was popular since it was easy to prepare. Iberian black pigs, native to the peninsula, are used to produce the ham. Before being served, it is salted and air-dried for up to 36 months.
Jamon Iberico, like Paella, is one of those incredible Spanish meals that you just must have if you ever find yourself in Spain. You may taste the ham on its own, or you can try it in a new and interesting way by making Tostas de Tomate y Jamon.
Gazpacho, like Salmorejo, is a chilled soup and one of Spain’s most popular dishes. It’s just one more way in which Spanish food deviates from the norm. Gazpacho is a traditional Spanish meal that features fresh and indigenous vegetables rather than cooked ones.
It’s not going to keep you warm in the winter, but on a hot day, it’s just as refreshing as a cold drink. The refreshing flavor will keep you full and ready to take on the summer heat without draining your strength.
You would expect Gazpacho to taste creamy and tomatoey. However, that was only a new twist on the old formula. Even while Gazpacho has been around since Roman times, it wasn’t until the 1800s that tomatoes were used in the recipe.
If you’re in Spain and you’re short on time, do what the natives do and get a Bocadillo. Sandwiches like this are eaten as a noon meal all around the country. This traditional Spanish dish is a baguette-style loaf of bread stuffed with the meats, veggies, and cheeses of your choosing.
For ages, the cheapest people in Spain have relied on the bocadillo as their go-to meal. It quickly spread across the country because of the variety of fillings available, making Bocadillos suitable for every day of the week.
Like many other types of sandwiches, the mainstay of a Bocadillo is cold cuts of meat. Meats like ham, salami, and thinly sliced beef are all good options. Put some of that excellent Spanish cheese on there, along with some olives and tomatoes that have been finely sliced.
Tomato soups are a popular option for remaining warm and healthy in the dead of winter when colds and flu are making the rounds. To combat the sweltering heat of the Spanish summer, when the old cobblestone walkways radiate heat as effectively as the sun, the Spanish have developed a cool tomato soup.
The quaint city of Cordoba in southern Spain is where this soup, known as salmorejo, first appeared. Even though tomatoes were already a staple in Spanish cooking, this novel approach resulted in one of Spain’s most popular dishes.
Salmorejo is comparable to the well-known Gazpacho, although it is really its own dish. Tomatoes that have been peeled are combined with olive oil and garlic to make the soup. The thickness of the soup is then adjusted by adding bread. The resulting taste is very smooth and creamy.
Ham (Iberian, if you’re feeling sophisticated), tuna, and hard-boiled eggs are common additions to Salmorejo. It’s a popular dish in Spain and can be found in several restaurants around the country.
10. Pulpo a la Gallega
Octopus has been a staple of the local diet for centuries, and now it’s considered a gourmet item. If you’re a seafood fan, you’ll be happy to hear that the Spanish are among the best cooks in the world regarding octopuses. Pulpo a la Gallega, a local Spanish dish made from octopus, is one of Spain’s most popular dishes.
The Galician dish Polbo a Feira, more often known as Pulpo a la Gallega, is a staple in the cuisine of the region. While the meal may be made at home, nothing beats ordering it from the experts in northern Spain.
Prolonged boiling causes the octopus to become tough and rubbery, making it unpleasant to eat. When done, it gets a heavy dose of paprika, some salt, and a little olive oil. It’s served with bread and red wine of your choosing on a wooden board.
Popular across Spain, Pulpo a la Gallega has inspired the creation of eateries in Galicia devoted solely to serving this dish.
Weirdest Spanish dishes to try on your trip to the country
Enough with popular and delicious Spanish dishes. Let’s talk about Spain’s weirdest dishes that will blow your brains out!
There are foods from every culture that others may find inedible. Or the thought of eating them just makes you gag. You’ve probably never heard of some of the most daring Spanish meals. Would you be so bold as to taste them before finding out what they are? Possibly, if you have the guts for it.
If you’d rather not take any chances, read on to learn about the strange edible things in Spain so you can decide if you want to experience them before you get here. If the Spaniards eat them, then you may too. Are you up for a wild ride? Let’s try some of Spain’s most unusual cuisine!
You may be familiar with some of the more well-known Spanish cuisine like paella, seafood platters, and patatas bravas (fried potato squares with a spicy tomato sauce), but the country also boasts a wide variety of more out-of-the-ordinary fare.
8 most unusual Spanish foods to try in Spain
Here are 8 odd Spanish dishes you must taste before leaving the country, from fried breadcrumbs to bull’s testicles!
- Criadillas (bull testicles)
- Rabo de toro
- Migas (fried breadcrumbs)
- Pig’s Ears (Orejas de Cerdo)
1. Criadillas (bull testicles)
How much of a daredevil are you when it comes to eating? Criadillas is probably the weirdest dish you’ll try in Spain.
Criadillas are the testicles of any animal killed in the butcher shop, but Spanishards typically eat bull testicles (it’s even better if you can get the testicles from a bull that was killed at the last bullfight, however, there are no more bullfights in Barcelona, so you’ll have to go to Madrid or Andalucia to get them).
You may boil them (as you would with other offal sections), slice them, and then fry or stew them for a quick and easy meal. Stones, mountain oysters, and rocky oysters are all names for the sexual organs consumed in certain English-speaking nations, so Spanishards are not the only weirdos that do this.
Do you recall ever seeing a boat full of these shellfish? Most likely, and you certainly wouldn’t eat them if you knew that! In fact, they are considered a rare and expensive treat in Spain. The ones people in Spain eat, however, are not harvested from the sea; rather, they gather them from their natural habitat, which is the rocky shores of chilly oceans like the Atlantic.
They may cost more than lobster because of the risk of getting them (you might be swept away by a wave if you attempt). This unusual seafood is one of Spain’s weirdest dishes you may try on your trip to the country.
And even though they seem like dragon’s fingers, the flavor is so light it makes you think of ocean water. You may boil them in salted water with a bay leaf, but the tastiest ones come from Galicia in northern Spain.
Morcilla, or black pudding as it is known in the United Kingdom, is a sort of sausage prepared with congealed pig’s blood. Sometimes rice is added to the sausage mixture to make it more substantial. Blood in the ingredients makes this dish one of Spain’s weirdest foods to try.
Morcilla is popular across Spain, but it was first created in Castilla y León. Morcilla de Burgos, which is seasoned with cumin and is native to the city of Burgos, is among the best varieties.
The typical ingredients for this thick black sausage include ground pork, blood, rice, and onion. But there are countless regional variations in the preparation methods. Poor households often relied on this dish, which was typically prepared after the killing of a pig. These days, you may get it at tapas bars or on sandwiches.
4. Rabo de toro
Do you remember how we told you that in Spain they eat everything on the animal? The tails are included, of course! Córdoba, the capital of Andalusia, is credited as the birthplace of a bull’s tail stew. It’s also available in other areas, often in eateries located near bullrings.
The bull’s tail is braised and then slow-cooked with a variety of seasonings and other ingredients. This is surely one of the most absurd Spanish dishes you’ll know.
5. Migas (fried breadcrumbs)
Although fried breadcrumbs or flour may sound like an unusual lunch, it is a popular choice in the southern region of Spain. Garlic, green bell pepper, and chorizo (spiced sausage) are sautéed in the pan with breadcrumbs or flour.
The fact that breadcrumbs are on the menu is proof that not all of Spain’s “weird” dishes are meant for meat eaters. Migas, when prepared with garlic, paprika, and olive oil, is a popular dish eaten all throughout the country. The meal may be customized by adding chorizo and served with different fruits like grapes or melon.
Last but not least on our list of the weirdest Spanish foods is Angulas. Angulas are juvenile eels, typically between two and three years old. The length is around three inches (eight centimeters), and their thickness is nearly twice that of a noodle.
Sautéed with oil and herbs, garlic, dried chili peppers, and white wine, they are often served on their own rather than as a side dish. They are quite pricey and are mostly consumed in the Basque Country, much like goose barnacles.
7. Pig’s Ears (Orejas de Cerdo)
Starting with testicles and ending with ears! Pig’s ears on the grill are another local specialty. They are fried until they reach a certain level of crispiness after being cooked in a pot with herbs like laurel leaves, pepper, and garlic.
The Spanish love to eat pig’s ears and use pig’s blood in their cooking. Two ingredients that make any dish unusual. This meal is surely one of Spain’s weirdest foods.
These pan-fried nibbles have a distinct flavor that takes some getting used to, but any adventurous eater should like them. Most people season them with salt and paprika to bring out their distinct pig flavor.
Many individuals have difficulty with chewing cartilage, the disgusting material from which your own ears are constructed. There are two layers of fat covering the cartilage, and the skin on top may still retain hair, so you’ll need to be feeling rather sure of yourself.
Calçots, the single vegetarian option on our list, may not seem that terrifying after all. Calçots, which are a hybrid of a spring onion and a sweet leek, are not uncommon in and of themselves, but the way they are consumed makes them one of Spain’s most unusual foods.
Instead of being chopped up and used as a seasoning, they are roasted over an open fire and eaten whole. Crushed almonds, red peppers, olive oil, and garlic make a delicious romesco sauce that pairs perfectly with calçots.