Wondering what to eat in Spain? When visiting Spain for the first time, deciding on which Spanish dishes to eat can be a bit overwhelming since the choice of Spanish food is really big. Most people will know Paella, Sangria and Tapas as Spanish main dishes or drinks, but you’ll be surprised about how many other Spanish foods there are in Spain.

Spanish paella in a paella pan with sausage, chicken, vegetables and rice as Spanish food

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission on qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you. For further info, please see our Disclosure

Spanish food culture is very important to the country. And this food culture in Spain extends to the local regions who each have their own traditional dishes of which they are very proud.

Choosing which food to eat in Spain can be tough when you only have a limited amount of time. In this food guide I have listed the most popular Spanish foods as well as regional Spanish dishes you can eat in Spain or anywhere in the world Spanish food is served. And if you want to try to make Spanish cuisine at home, have a look at our recipes page.

Tortilla de patatas -Spanish omelette

tortilla de patatas or Spanish omelette on a grey plate

The Spanish omelette, locally known as ‘tortilla Española’ or ‘tortilla de patatas’ is a traditional Spanish dish widely enjoyed across Spain. Typically made with eggs, potatoes, and olive oil, it is often enhanced with the addition of onions for a touch of sweetness. Despite its seemingly simple ingredients, cooking the perfect Spanish omelette requires practice to achieve the ideal texture and height.

In Spain, tortilla de patatas is usually eaten as a snack and served as a Spanish tapa on a slice of bread. It also makes for a light dinner option. Personally, I enjoy preparing it for picnics or as a starter for meals with friends. I cut it into little squares for which it is served perfectly as finger food. The Spanish omelette or tortilla is a versatile dish as it can be served both hot and cold. And remember, when preparing the tortilla to only use good quality Spanish olive oil to get the best flavour, making it finger-licking good.

It is worth noting however that this recipe is not set in stone and is completely customisable. You can incorporate additional ingredients such as bell peppers, chorizo, tomatoes and other ingredients at will to give the ‘tortilla Española’ your own twist.

Go to the Spanish tortilla recipe

Spanish Gazpacho

glass with spanish gazpacho soup with onions, cucumber and tomato toppings

Gazpacho is a cold vegetable soup that hails from the region of Andalucia, hence the name ‘gazpacho Andaluz’. Nowadays, it’s a very popular dish widely served and eaten all over Spain, especially during the warmer summer months as an appetizer or light meal or to drink as a healthy and filling refreshment.

Gazpacho has its roots in pre-Roman times where a cold soup was made by blending stale bread, garlic, vinegar, oil and water. Only in later times were other vegetables added to the gazpacho we know today. Although each region and even each household tends to have their own recipe to make gazpacho, the key ingredients of a traditional Andalusian gazpacho are tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, garlic, bread and olive oil. The ingredients are blended raw into a soup then seasoned and chilled before serving.

A must try dish when visiting Spain, especially in summer, or why not try to make your own Spanish gazpacho at home?

Go to the Spanish gazpacho recipe.

Pimientos de Padrón

grilled pimientos de padron with 3 slices of baguette

Pimientos de Padrón or Padrón peppers are a small pepper originating from the Spanish municipality of Padrón in the autonomous community of Galicia in northwestern Spain. These bright green peppers are small in length (2-4 inches or 5-10 cm) and canonically shaped.

Even though Padrón peppers originate from the north they are served all over Spain, mainly as a tapas dish by itself or added as an extra ingredient on a pintxo or small tapa. They are usually served grilled in olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt.

What makes them so special is that they are one of the mildest peppers you can eat. They have a sweet, mild and slightly grassy taste. However, every so often, one of these peppers is a bit hot and spicy, and you won’t know in advance as they all look similar.

In Spain, they have a saying, ‘unos pican y otros no’, some are hot and some are not. It’s fun to share pimientos de Padrón as a tapas dish with friends as you don’t know who’ll get the spicy one. They can be eaten either grilled or stuffed with cheese.

Patatas Bravas

plate with patatas bravas with bravas sauce and ailioli sauce

Patatas Bravas is one of the most common tapas dishes found on every menu in Spain. Originating from Madrid, they were first served in the 60’s from the previous century where potatoes were cut into irregular cubes and fried in olive oil. The potatoes were served with a sauce made from broth, spicy paprika and flour to thicken the sauce. Nowadays the ‘salsa brava’ is made with tomato paste as a base which is then cooked with oil and various spices. It shouldn’t be very hot, but the sauce should still have a bit of a kick.

Often patatas bravas are served as a tapas dish with both salsa brava and ailioli, a garlic based mayonaise.

Paella

Spanish paella in a paellera made with seafood, peas, mussels and chorizo

Paella is by far one of the most iconic and famous dishes of Spanish cuisine and is often considered to be the national dish of Spain.

It is a flavourful and colourful rice dish which gets its name from the wide shallow pan, known as a ‘paellera’ in which the dish is prepared.

Paella is cooked with a wide variety of ingredients and is usually infused with saffron, giving the rice its vibrant yellow colour. For many people, the key to a good paella is making it with a ‘socarrat’, a light crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the pan.

The roots of paella is traced back to the region of Valencia where it is believed the original recipe was created. Due to the subsequent widespread adoption of the dish, paella is now made in so many different ways, with ever so many different ingredients. The ingredients of an authentic ‘paella Valenciana’ consists of chicken, rabbit, green and white beans, mostly also snails, tomatoes and paella rice infused with Spanish saffron, smoked paprika and rosemary.

As already said, Spain is so much more than paella, but when in Spain, do order a good and traditional paella, either the original from Valencia or any other from the region you are visiting.

Cooking tip: The key to cooking a good paella is to prepare it in a typical Spanish paella pan. If you don’t have one at home, order your paella pan now.

Jamón or Spanish ham

7 legs of spanish ham or jamon iberico

‘Jamón Iberico’ or Iberian ham is a dry-cured ham produced in Spain. It is one of the most recognisable ingredients or products in Spanish cuisine. The dry curing of the ham is a tradition that dates back over 2000 years and has been perfected ever since.

What most people might not know is that there is a difference between Jamón Serrano and Jamón Iberico. Even though they might look similar, there is a big difference in quality, flavour, texture, colour and of course price.

‘Jamón Serrano’ or Serrano ham is made from the so-called white pigs (like Duroc) while Jamón Iberico or Iberian ham is made from the leg of the black pigs or the black Iberian pig. The black pigs roam free and mainly feed on acorns (called ‘bellotas’ in Spanish).

The fresh hams are first salted and then hung to dry in a cool and dry place. The time of maturing and curing the ham will depend largely on the climate and the type of ham (and pig).

When in Spain, do try both types of ham. You will notice the difference in taste. Jamón Serrano is often served with a dish, on a bocadillo (sandwich), on a tortilla or with some other savoury dishes. Jamón Iberica is a really delicious melt in your mouth ham and is usually served by itself on a platter.

Fideuà

Fideuà is a Spanish noodles dish originating from the town of Gandia, close to Valencia. Being a close relative of the iconic paella dish its main ingredient features a specific type of small wheat flour noodle instead of rice. In fact, the name of the dish comes from the Valencian word ‘fideuà, meaning large amount of noodles.

The small and thin noodles are first toasted in olive oil, after which they are cooked in a fish stock along with a variety of seafood. So unlike paella, fideuà is only made with seafood and not with meat like paella. The end result is a dish of moist, fragrant and crispy on top pasta which is served directly out of the pan it is cooked in. 

Chorizo

Chorizo a la sidra in a bowl as a tapas dish

Chorizo is a type of cured and fermented sausage made with pork meat and seasoned with smoked paprika or pimentón to obtain its distinctive smoky taste and characteristic red colour. Depending on the type of pimentón used, the chorizo can be classified as spicy (picante) or mild (dulce) in taste.

As the cured chorizo sausage has been dried for several weeks, it can be eaten immediately without cooking. Around Spain it is usually served thinly sliced or diced as a tapa or appetizer or eaten as cold meat in a ‘bocadillo’ or sandwich.

The semi-cured chorizo or fresh sausage needs to be cooked and is perfect for grilling and cooking. You’ll find it added as an ingredient in stews, in paella or soups. It is also delicious cooked in red wine or cider where you’ll find it on the menu as a tapas dish in the whole of Spain.

Chorizo is highly recommended Spanish food to try when visiting Spain or to make at home with these recipes for chorizo in red wine and chorizo a la sidra.

Pulpo a la Gallega

‘Pulpo a la Gallega’ or ‘Pulpo Gallego’ is a traditional Galician dish originating from the northwestern part of Spain which is renowned for its coastal cuisine. This Galician specialty is served all over Spain and features octopus as the main ingredient.

The tentacles of the octopus are first boiled in a copper cauldron, then sliced into smaller parts and served over boiled potatoes on a traditional wooden plate. The final touch is a sprinkle of smoked paprika or pimentón. The key to this dish is to get the timing for boiling the octopus just right. Either under or overcooked makes the octopus rubbery and therefore not nice to eat.

To enjoy an authentic Pulpo Gallego, try it at a local Spanish restaurant to ensure you get the best experience with this dish.

Salmorejo Cordobes

bowl of salmorejo or cold tomato soup from Andalucia with slices of ham and boiled egg

One of the most quintessential Spanish dishes you must try is salmorejo. This cold tomato soup originates from the Andalusian city of Córdoba, hence its name (salmorejo Cordobes), but you can find it in almost every city in Andalusia, including Seville and Granada, as well as in the rest of the country.

Like many Spanish meals, salmorejo has very few ingredients, where the best version consists of just tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and stale bread. These ingredients are blended together until smooth, and the dish is then often topped with chopped jamón (cured ham) and a hard-boiled egg. The addition of bread might seem curious, but when blended in it gives the dish a thicker and creamier consistency that is simply delicious.

While salmorejo is best enjoyed to take the edge off a hot summer’s day, it is available year-round in Spain. You can even find it sold in the deli or chilled section of Spanish supermarkets. So, if you’re heading to Spain and want to savour one of the best dishes in the country, make sure to order a bowl of salmorejo—you won’t be disappointed! Or try make it at home with this salmorejo recipe.

TIP: The key to making a good salmorejo is using a good and powerful blender and a good quality olive oil.

Gambas al Ajillo

It’s nearly impossible to go anywhere in Spain and not find seafood, even in Madrid which is right on the middle of the country. With water on almost all sides, the Spanish have perfectly incorporated seafood into their cuisine. One of the most common tapas is ‘gambas al ajillo’ or garlic shrimps, a typical seafood dish found everywhere in Spain.

It is a flavourful and aromatic dish made mainly with shrimps (gambas) and garlic (ajillo) sautéed in olive oil and sometimes topped with chilli pepper or sweet paprika powder. This dish is typically served in a small clay bowl.

Boquerones

Boquerones are fresh anchovies, typically served all over Spain as tapas or as part of a seafood platter. They are commonly consumed either lightly battered and fried as boquerones fritos or marinated in vinegar, olive oil, garlic and parsley as boquerones en vinagre.

Depending on the restaurant or tapas bar, you’ll find at least one or the other or both and no matter which type of preparation, boquerones are a tasty appetizer that you should really try when visiting Spain.

Espetos – sardine skewers

espetos or grilled sardines on a skewer over hot coals in a boat

Espetos, or grilled sardines, represent one of Malaga’s quintessential dishes, often enjoyed on the beach. Fresh sardines are threaded onto canes of olive wood after which they are slowly grilled over a pit of coals. The slow cooking process is essential to prevent charring on the outside.

The infusion of olive wood, salt from the marinade and the coastal breeze contributes to a uniquely flavoured fish. Grilled sardines offer a delightful combination of saltiness and tenderness with the soft-cooked fish easily sliding off the skewer. Typically served as finger food, this salty treat is perfect for a hot summer day, complemented by a refreshing cold drink both of which are readily available at numerous beach cafes or ‘chiringuitos’.

While grilled sardines are a popular beach snack across Spain, they hold an iconic status in Malaga and are a must-try when visiting the beaches of the Costa del Sol. This culinary tradition of grilling sardines has deep roots, dating back thousands of years to the times of the Phoenicians and Romans.

Cochinillo asado – suckling pig

Roasted suckling pig or ‘cochinillo asado’ is a dish that dates back to Roman times. However, it is not that common in the country as a whole, the most popular regions to eat cochinillo asado being mainly Madrid and Segovia.

To ensure the best quality there are strict rules when it comes to the nutrition of the baby pigs, meaning they should have been milk-fed only and not older than 21 days. The traditional recipe is to slow roast the suckling pig in a special clay oven in order to cook the meat tender until it falls off the bone.

Cochinillo asado is traditionally cooked and served whole, then portioned and cut with actual plates and no knifes. It is then served on individual plates.

Croquetas

One Spanish food dish that will nearly always be served in any restaurant or tapas bar are ‘croquetas’ or croquettes. They are probably one of the most popular tapas dish in Spain and considered a staple in Spanish cuisine.

The oval shaped bites have a bechamel as a base, which is a sauce made from flour, milk and butter. The bechamel is mixed with a filling of Spanish ham, chorizo, bacalao (white fish), cheese or seafood and then deep-fried until crispy and golden brown.

The most common croqueta you’ll find on the menu are ‘croquetas de jamón’ or croquettes with ham. They are delightful and tasty morsels, usually served as an appetizer or tapa.

Pan con tomate

pan con tomate or spanish tomato bread with slices of toast on a wooden board with garlic and grated tomato

Pan con tomate, a traditional dish from Catalunia, literally means bread with tomato. In Catalunia it is called pa amb tomàquet or pan tumaca and is considered a staple of the Catalunian diet.

The general recipe consists of lightly toasted bread rubbed with garlic and tomato which is then finished off with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. There are various ways of preparation where sometimes the tomato is halved and rubbed over the toasted bread giving a light flavour of tomato to the bread. Other times the tomato is grated and infused with olive oil and spooned on top of the bread.

It is usually served for breakfast or as a tapas dish, sometimes topped with a slice of Spanish ham.

Cocido Madrileño

Cocido madrileño is undoubtedly one of the most famous dishes in Madrid. It is traditionally a winter meal but a lot of people still cook it during other seasons too. In some ways, it is similar to European stews and then in other ways it reminds me of north African couscous.

However, the Spanish dish cocido madrileño has its own history, flavour and taste. Today, many locals love eating cocido, so it is possible to find it not only in the restaurants of Madrid but other parts of the country too.

This dish is somewhat similar to stewed vegetables with meat. Its main ingredients are chickpeas, vegetables, and meat. Madrid locals call them “Jack, Queen, and King”. The medieval recipe of cooking cocido was passed down from generation to generation, and over time became so popular that today almost every restaurant in Madrid has cocido on the menu.

The peculiarity of the dish is not only its original recipe but also the way it is served. In Madrid, cocido comes on the table as three separate bowls. First one is a stock (cocido) served with noodles, the second one holds chickpeas and vegetables, and the third one has stewed meat.

Pisto Manchego

pisto manchego or Spanish vegetable stew in a clay bowl

Pisto manchego or pisto is a vibrant vegetable stew and is the Spanish answer to French ratatouille and Italian caponata. Originating from the La Mancha region in central Spain, it was originally a humble peasants dish where a stew was prepared with vegetables from the land.

Pisto Manchego is made with various finely chopped seasonal vegetables like zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic and onions that are slowly stewed in olive oil. It is eaten all over Spain, either as an appetizer, light meal or vegetable side dish. Sometimes it’s served with a fried egg and bread.

Go to the Pisto Manchego recipe.

Bacalao a la Vizcaina

Bacalao a la Vizcaina or Basque-style cod is a traditional dish from the Basque Country in northern Spain. It features a wonderful mix of salted cod or bacalao, potatoes and olives in a slightly spicy tomato and red pepper sauce. Historically, salted cod was an important staple in Spain and Portugal as cod sourced from the Atlantic could be stored in the holds of ships during the long ocean voyages of the Age of Exploration from the 15th century onward.

When visiting the Basque Country and particularly the cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian, or even in other parts of Spain, be sure to add this dish to your list of must-try traditional Spanish dishes. Bacalao or salted cod must be soaked and rinsed multiple times before being used in a recipe so it takes some planning and is a bit more of a challenge to make at home.

Queso Cabrales

queso cabrales or a slice of cabrales cheese on a blue plate

Cabrales is a type of blue cheese originating from the region of Asturias in northern Spain. What makes this cheese so special is that the milk used to make Cabrales must originate from farms that are established in a specific smaller area at the foot of the Picos de Europa mountain range which are controlled by a Regulatory Council.

Raw cow’s milk is blended with goat’s and sheep’s milk, packed into cylindrical moulds and is then aged in natural limestone caves in the mountains of the Picos de Europa.

Cabrales has a smooth texture, with a complex and strong pungent aroma and is absolutely delicious. It can be enjoyed on its own with a slice of bread or added to certain dishes to add a scrumptious and robust cheese flavour. Some examples are croquetas con Cabrales, patatas con Cabrales or steak with Crabrales sauce.

Calçots with Romesco sauce

Calçots are a type of green onion, looking like a smaller version of a leek with a unique mild and sweet flavour profile. Native to Catalunya, they are a symbol of the Catalan culinary tradition.

Calçots are in season between November and April and are still cooked the authentic way, by means of a calçotada, following a long tradition. A calçotada is a festival where people gather to celebrate the calçots, which are cooked over an open flame on a winter BBQ.

The calcots are all tightly packed and grilled to perfection, until the outer layers are completely charred. These charred layers are then peeled off and the calcot is eaten after being dipped in a romesco sauce, which is a roasted tomato, red pepper and nut based sauce.

When visiting Barcelona or Catalunya during the winter months and early spring, calçots with romesco sauce is a Spanish food you just have to try.

Papas arrugadas with mojo

Papas arrugadas with mojo sauce is one of those dishes you really should try when visiting the Canary Islands. The literal Spanish translation of papas arrugadas means ‘wrinkled potatoes’. It is a typical Canarian dish found across the islands in almost every restaurant.

As interesting as the name sounds, it doesn’t suggest that the potatoes have been left in the cupboard for ages to rot. Actually, the potatoes take on such an appearance because they are boiled heavily in salted water.

The most common and traditional way to serve papas arrugadas is with two sauces, mojo verde or green sauce and mojo rojo or red sauce. Mojo verde is a mild sauce made mostly with coriander, cumin, garlic and red wine vinegar. Mojo rojo on the other hand calls for Palmera peppers and hot pepper, so this is the sauce you want if you’re after a bit of heat.

Albondigas

albondigas or spanish meatballs in a bowl with parsley

Albondigas or Spanish meatballs are a classic Spanish dish usually served as a tapa or appetizer. These savoury meatballs made with various types of minced meat like pork, beef or veal are served in a rich tomato based sauce.

The origins of albondigas have been traced back to the Middle East, brought to Spain by the Moors. Their taste and flavour has been adjusted over time making them a versatile and comforting dish enjoyed in various forms across Spain. They are a common part of home-cooked meals and restaurant menus.

Churros con chocolate

spanish churros in a paper bag

Eaten and loved around the world, churros are by far one of the most iconic and popular Spanish pastries. They are very recognisable with their distinctive long and thin shape with ridges, mostly served as street food in a bag.

Made with flour, water and salt, churros are dough pastries which are deep-fried until golden and crispy then dusted with icing sugar. They can be eaten like that or served with a cup of thick chocolate sauce in which the churro can be dipped.

Did you know that churros con chocolate is one of the most popular Spanish foods eaten early morning after a night out on the town? You can even make your own churros at home.

Flan

flan caramel in a glass bowl

Flan is a type of caramel custard, a creamy and smooth dessert made with eggs, sugar and milk as base ingredients.

Even though it’s eaten all over the world, it’s a very popular dessert served in many restaurants in Spain which was also the first country to top the flan dessert with a sweet caramel sauce. This suggests the original flan recipe has been modified on its journey around the world.

Sharing is caring :-)