7 Foods You Must Try on Your Next Trip to Spain
Spain is basically a heaven on earth for food lovers.
Mealtimes are especially important in Spain. Fast food is rarely an option and meals are nearly always eaten sitting down at a table enjoying good conversation with friends and family. Breakfast, el desayuno, is a very light meal in Spain—our American breakfasts of bacon, eggs, and pancakes are unheard of. Some people just have a cup of café con leche (a shot of espresso with hot milk) but lots of people will have a croissant, or a piece of toast with olive oil or Nutella as well. Lunch, el almuerzo or la comida, is the most important and largest meal of the day and is usually eaten between 2 and 4pm. This is followed by dinner, la cena, anywhere between 9pm and midnight. Dinner is typically much lighter than lunch and a dinner out will often consists of a selection of tapas—small plates of a restaurant or bar’s specialties.
Once you’ve acquainted yourself with Spain’s mealtime schedule and customs, head out to a restaurant and make sure to try these delicious foods:
1. Gazpacho: Gazpacho is a tomato soup that is served cold. It’s a very popular appetizer or tapa in the summertime. I know it sounds a little weird, but it’s really good and no trip to the south of Spain is complete without trying it.
2. Tortilla de Patatas or Tortilla Española: One of my personal favorites this dish is an omelet consisting of fried potatoes and eggs, often with pepper, onion, or ham added in as well. It’s a popular tapa or dinner item all over Spain.
3. Patatas Bravas: You can’t go to Spain with out trying these. They’re a tapa of fried potatoes topped with a spicy tomato sauce.
4. Paella: The quintessential Spanish dish. It’s rice and other spices cooked in a special shallow pan and it comes in a variety of types, most commonly paella de verduras (vegetarian paella), paella de mariscos (seafood paella), and paella mixta (generally a mix of veggies, seafood, and meat). If you’re looking for really good paella head to Valencia its city of origin. Good paella can be found in most cities however, but it’s better fresh from a local restaurant, not a chain, and at least a few blocks away from any tourist destination.
5. Seafood: Or mariscos in Spanish. Seafood is an important part of the Spanish diet and definitely worth a try if you’re near the coast. Shrimp, fish, muscles, clams, and octopus are all extremely popular. Seafood is often served battered and fried from street vendors and it makes an excellent snack.
6. Churros con chocolate: Hot chocolate and churros. The hot chocolate is extremely thick, almost like pudding, and makes a fantastic dipping sauce for the churros. This can be breakfast, a daytime snack, or the perfect end to a long night enjoying the Spanish party scene.
Photo credit: Emily Freebery
7. Jamón: Spanish ham. Arguably the most important part of Spanish cuisine. It comes in all sorts of varieties based on the type of pig, what part of the pig the cut of meat comes from, and the way the meat is cured (you’ll hear the names jamón serrano, jamón iberico). Seriously do not leave Spain without trying some.
¡Buen provecho! Enjoy your meal!