Spanish cuisine is loved throughout the world for its mouthwatering flavors and the use of fresh, local ingredients. The country’s fascinating heritage and geographical position have helped it develop complex and varied gastronomy over the centuries.
If you’re planning a trip to this beautiful country, you’ll be spoiled for choice with its many restaurants, cafes, and markets serving up all sorts of sizzling and seasonal delights.
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Spanish Cuisine – Local Eating and Drinking Etiquette
Locals tend to treat lunch as their main meal. It’s not uncommon to consume three courses of food in the middle of the day and then follow this up with a lazy afternoon (or even a siesta).
Breakfast is typically coffee and a pastry or some tostadas (toasted bread), while dinner is a lighter meal eaten typically between 8 pm and midnight.
Tapas are extremely popular and vary depending on the region you’re vacationing in. Typical dishes include Patatas Bravas and Tortilla Espanola, as well as delicious jumbo prawns seared in garlic, crispy fried squid rings and various meats like cured ham and spicy chorizo.
Regional Cuisine in Spain
With hundreds of miles of coastline, a scattering of islands and various mountainous locales, it’s no surprise that Spain’s cuisine is as diverse as its terrain. Here’s what to expect.
Valencian and Murcian Cuisine
Valencia and neighboring Murcia are nicknamed ‘the gardens of Spain’ thanks to their long farming heritage. Valencia is particularly well-known for its oranges, which you’ll be able to sample in zesty desserts or in marmalade. In Murcia, flavors are bold and the ingredients fresh; must-try delicacies include Pisto Murciano (a ratatouille-style dish) and moreish almond-flavored cookies, Almendrados.
Basque and Catalonian Cuisine
If San Sebastian is on your Spain bucket list, you’ll be in for a real treat. The city is renowned for its gastronomy and you’ll find at least three restaurants with three Michelin stars.
For a mix of traditional Spanish and eclectic global tastes, Catalonia is the region to visit. Expect menus to feature plenty of seafood, as well as rich game meat from the nearby Pyrenees mountains.
Due to the region’s position on the balmy Mediterranean coast fish and seafood are also highly popular, especially fried fish (Pescaito Frito) that’s been lightly sauteed in olive oil.
Ten must-try dishes from Spain
- Patatas Bravas: This is perhaps Spain’s most well-known tapas dish – typically pieces of fried potato served with smoked paprika Bravas sauce.
- Paella: Traditionally from Valencia, you’ll be able to savor this delicious rice-based dish in every corner of Spain. The most authentic Paella features saffron, chicken or rabbit and beans.
- Tortilla de Patatas: More commonly known as a Spanish omelet, this go-to dish is made up of eggs, onions, and potatoes. Sometimes chorizo is added for extra flavor.
- Jamon Iberica: Meat lovers won’t want to miss sampling some authentic Jamon Iberico – cured ham from Iberico pigs. It’s usually produced in inland regions like Extremadura and Salamanca.
- Gazpacho: Especially refreshing in the hot summer months, Gazpacho is a cold soup from Andalusia that’s made from tomatoes, garlic, cucumber, olive oil, and seasonings.
- Croquetas: These deep-fried morsels with creamy melt-in-the-mouth centers are eaten across Spain. The filling is a thick Bechamel sauce, which often features tiny pieces of Jamon.
- Turron: If you’re visiting Spain during the festive season, expect to see lots of Turron. An almond nougat, that can either be soft and smooth or crunchy.
- Bocadillos: Similar to sandwiches, a Bocadillo is a baguette-style roll stuffed with cold cuts of meat, fish, cheese or pieces of an omelet.
- Manchego cheese: Hailing from La Mancha region of Spain, this delicious sheep’s milk cheese is smooth and creamy when young and crumbly after its been aged.
- Churros: Fried tube-shaped pastries – these are universally popular as a snack or dessert. In Spain, they’re usually coated in sugar or dipped in a rich chocolate sauce.
Drinking in Spain
Spain is one of the major European wine regions and you’ll spot dozens of vineyards, especially in the La Rioja Region. Additionally, most cities and towns boast numerous vinotecas (wine bars) where you’ll be able to sample local varieties.
Food festivals in Spain
You’ll discover dozens of incredible food festivals in Spain throughout the year.
Festa de la Calçotada
Celebrated in Catalonia every January, this festival focuses on the calçot – a root vegetable similar to a spring onion. The largest gathering is in Valls where calçots are barbecued and drenched in a rich tomato sauce.
Batalla del Vino
Wine festivals occur throughout the country, but few are as fun as the Batalla del Vino, held on June 29th. It’s hosted in Haro in the La Rioja Region and revelers not only drink wine but also throw it over each other!
Another food festival which can get a little messy is La Tomatina, held in the Valencian town of Buñol every August. Dozens of trucks of tomatoes are used in a mass food fight in the streets
Sample the rich flavors, tastes and textures of the cuisine in Spain for yourself when you book an exciting tour with our experts at Enchanting Travels.
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