Top 10 foods to try in Spain

Whether you're on a city break in Barcelona or Madrid, or you've plumped for a countryside or coastal retreat, Spanish food is full of flavour and character.

Granada palace panorama

From tasty tapas to superb seafood and traditional roasts, food in Spain is all about making the most of the best local produce. We asked travel writer Annie Bennett to pick 10 of the best dishes to try on your travels. 

Discover even more fabulous foodie travel experiences and our top eats across the globe in our travel hub.

Don't leave Spain without trying... 

1. Gazpacho

Tomato soup in bowl with toppings
The reddest, ripest tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, bread, peppers and cucumber are blended until silky smooth, then chilled and poured into bowls or glasses. So delicious, so refreshing. In Andalucía in southern Spain, people have it every day in summer and there is always a jug on the counter in tapas bars. Also try salmorejo from Córdoba, a thicker version that is often served with pieces of Ibérico ham on the top. 

Try making your own... gazpacho or salmorejo


2. Paella

Paella with seafood and spoon in bowl
In the Valencia region, they claim you can eat a different rice dish every day of the year, but let’s stick with the most traditional version for now. Ingredients for paella Valenciana include chicken or rabbit, saffron, runner beans and butter beans. But the all-important element is the rice, ideally the bomba or Calasparra varieties grown on Spain’s east coast, which are particularly good for absorbing all the flavours.

Try making our next level paella recipe and check out our top 10 tips for perfect paella


3. Tortilla Española

Spanish tortilla on board with tapas
Eggs, potatoes, onions… that’s it – and some purists even consider that adding onion is a gastronomic crime of the highest order. The Spanish omelette is so much more than the sum of its parts. The potatoes and onions are slow fried in olive oil then mixed with the beaten eggs for the flavours to mix before cooking. Add chorizo, ham, spinach, courgettes or whatever you have to hand to make a tasty meal out of next to nothing.

Try making your own... Tortilla Española


4. Gambas al ajillo

Prawns in bowl
You walk into a tapas bar, the barman is handing a customer an earthenware dish of sizzling prawns, the tantalising aroma hits your nostrils and you just have to order some too. To recreate it at home, just fry some sliced garlic and green chilli in olive oil, throw in the prawns for a couple of minutes and add some parsley. Couldn’t be simpler, couldn’t be tastier. 

Try making your own... garlic prawns


5. Tostas de tomate y jamón

Black pigs roam among the holm oak trees in western Spain in search of the acorns that give marbled magenta Ibérico ham its distinctive nutty flavour. Rub thick pieces of toast with garlic and tomato, pour on some olive oil and top with slices of jamón for a quick, delicious lunch.
 

6. Patatas bravas

Patatas braves with chorizo on plate with fork
Perhaps the most ubiquitous of tapas, patatas bravas vary quite a bit around the country, but all versions involve chunks of fried potato. In Madrid, bravas sauce is made with sweet and spicy pimentón (Spanish paprika), olive oil, flour and stock – but never tomatoes. Some people add garlic, some a dash of fino sherry, while others selfishly insist on keeping their secret ingredients to themselves. 

Try making your own... patatas bravas


7. Pollo al ajillo 

Any Spaniard will tell you that the best garlic chicken ever is the one their grandmother makes. And of course they are right. Unpeeled cloves of garlic are fried in olive oil to flavour it, then taken out before adding pieces of chicken. When that's cooked, the garlic goes back in with some rosemary, thyme and some dry sherry or white wine. But there is no definitive recipe for this much-loved dish.


8. Cochinillo asado

People might claim they are going to Segovia to see its astounding Roman aqueduct, fairytale castle or elegant cathedral, but really all that is just to build up an appetite for lunch. And in Segovia that means either roast suckling pig or lamb. The meat is cooked in huge wood-fired ovens and is so tender it is cut with the side of an earthenware plate.


9. Pisto

Ratatouille with eggs in serving dish with spoon
The Spanish version of ratatouille turns up all over the country in different guises, but is most typical in the towns and villages across the plains of La Mancha, south of Madrid. Onions, garlic, courgettes, peppers and tomatoes are slow fried in olive oil – this is not a dish that likes to be rushed. It's usually served as a starter, sometimes with fried eggs or chorizo, but is great as a side dish too.  

Try making our pisto con huevos – serve this traditional Spanish recipe with rustic bread and a fruity red wine. 


10. Turrón

Spaniards devour massive amounts of turrón, or almond nougat, at Christmas, although it's available all year round. Most of it is made in the small town of Jijona in the province of Alicante, using locally-grown almonds mixed with honey and egg white. There are two basic types – a soft, smooth version, called Jijona, and hard Alicante turrón, which contains pieces of almond.   

Are you a fan of Spanish cuisine? Do you agree with our selection or have we missed your favourite? Share your must-try dishes below...

 

 

 

Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.
RozzieK
16th Sep, 2018
I love Fideuá, similar to paella but made with short pasta with aioli on the side. Makes a nice change to rice.
jrmraga
10th Sep, 2018
A list of 10 top foods is not enough for the so many delicious dishes of the Spanish cuisine. I would say that the list should also have: 1. Cocido madrileño. Chickpea-based stew from Madrid that has meat and vegetables. First you eat some noodles with the cocido’s broth, then you eat the rest. It is a lot of food in one serving. Usually served for lunch (so you may take a siesta afterwards?). 2. Caldo gallego. Traditional soup dish from the community of Galicia. It has white beans, potatoes, greens and maybe pork, chorizo, ham or bacon. 3. Fabada asturiana. A bean stew from the community of Asturias. It is made with white Fava beans, pork or bacon, blood sausage, and chorizo. 4. Paella marinera. Of the so many different types of paellas from the community of Valencia, this one has seafood. It may have any combination of shrimp, squid, mussels, lobster, clams, etc. with the rice. 5. Boquerones en vinagre. Usually served as a tapa (appetizer), it is made of fresh anchovies (boquerones) marinated in vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and parsley. 6. Calamares a la romana. Fried calamari (squid). Also served as a tapa. 7. Mejillones a la vinagreta. Another tapa made of mussels marinated in vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, red and green peppers, and onion. 8. Pa amb tomàquet (Catalan) or Pan con tomate (Spanish). This is one of the best! It is grilled bread (preferably payés bread), ripe tomato rubbed onto the bread, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and maybe garlic. This is a staple in the community of Catalonia. Usually eaten for breakfast or as a tapa. …and the list goes on!
Glenda Yuan's picture
Glenda Yuan
9th Sep, 2018
they all look so nice but its seems like have a lot of calories
nerea.va
9th Sep, 2018
Gambas al ajillo do not contain green chilli. They contain “guindillas” which are dried red chilies resembling cayenne pepper.
mola
29th May, 2016
If you're going to the Balear ic Islands look out for sobrasada...a pork sausage with pimenton dulce or picante eaten spread on toast with a drizzle of honey...delicious! Also local ensaimada pastries which are torn and shared for breakfast often filled with pumpkin jam.
tempramarea
20th May, 2016
You haven't been in real Spain until you've had churros for breakfast. Think of them as string doughnuts and dip them in sugar or thick, dark, melted chocolate. Calories? Don't ask!
elcocinero
20th May, 2016
The salmorejo recipe is wrong as well; you don't put peppers in salmorejo - just tomatoes, garlic, dry bread (re-hydrated), white wine vinegar, and salt.
ocsine
19th Mar, 2015
Someone had better tell Moro that their recipe for Patatas Bravas is all wrong. But their use of tomatoes in the sauce leads to fantastic results.
Be the first to ask a question about this recipe...Unsure about the cooking time or want to swap an ingredient? Ask us your questions and we’ll try and help you as soon as possible. Or if you want to offer a solution to another user’s question, feel free to get involved...
Be the first to suggest a tip for this recipe...Got your own twist on this recipe? Or do you have suggestions for possible swaps and additions? We’d love to hear your ideas.