How Vegetarians Can Pass on the Ham…
(and Still Eat Amazing Food in Spain)
Spain may be a pork lover’s paradise, but vegetarians traveling in Spain needn’t worry.
There are plenty of meatless options for vegetarians if you only know what to order. The following Spanish foods are some of my favorite vegetarian dishes and most are easily found in bars and restaurants throughout Spain. Vegetarian food in Spain is more common than people think– so read on!
Vegetarian Food in Spain: 11 Common Spanish Dishes
1. Zanahorias Aliñadas (Marinated Carrots)
This has to be one of my favorite vegetarian tapas in all of Spain. The trick is to parboil the carrots so that they are just tender, but not at all mushy. Then it’s just a high-quality extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, garlic, cumin, and other herbs and spices. A day or two in the fridge only adds to their flavor. Check out this delicious marinated carrots recipe.
2. Tortilla de Patata (Spanish Potato Omelette)
This potato omelette is one of the most representative dishes of all of Spain and it also happens to be vegetarian. Consisting of olive oil, eggs, potatoes, and (often debated) onions, this is a Spanish food that it seems everyone in Spain knows how to make and loves to eat. Whether for lunch, snack-time, or dinner (but not breakfast!), served hot, cold, between bread, or with ketchup and mayonnaise, a slice of tortilla is always a safe choice!
Get the best tortilla de patatas recipe here.
3. Calamares del Campo (Country Style Calamari/Fried Vegetables)
Don’t get scared by the word calamares in the title. The name is this dish is a clever joke. Consisting of onions and peppers cut into circles (like calamari rings) and then deep fried, calamares del campo are simply fried veggies and definitely vegetarian-friendly.
4. Espárragos con Huevos (Asparagus with Eggs)
This popular plate around Spain is a great combination of local asparagus and eggs prepared a variety of ways. I personally like it with a poached egg and some jamón… but for the vegetarians out there the poached egg alone will be delicious!
5. Gazpacho (Cold Tomato and Vegetable Puree)
Gazpacho is originally from Andalusia, although Spaniards throughout the country enjoy it year round (ask anyone and they’ll tell you it’s the BEST hangover cure on the market!). Whether eaten in a bowl as a cold soup or sipped from a glass like vegetable juice, gazpacho is a super healthy and refreshing vegetarian Spanish food. Take a look at my favorite gazpacho recipe.
6. Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and Chickpeas)
This wonderful combination is one of my favorite Spanish dishes. I don’t make it nearly enough but it is actually really easy and super healthy. Check out this amazing version that made my Spanish husband nearly cry tears of joy!
7. Croquetas (Croquettes)
A croquette is hard to define– it’s basically a small mish mash of food fried together in some sort of ball. Spain is famous for its Serrano ham croquettes, which are a wonderfully creamy mix of béchamel sauce and cured ham… but obviously not quite vegetarian! Luckily, you can usually find vegetarian croquettes in most restaurants. Among my meatless favorites:
- Croquetas de setas (wild mushroom croquettes)
- Croquetas de cabrales (made with a strong blue cheese)
- Croquetas de Roquefort y nuez (Roquefort cheese and walnut)
- Croquetas de espicacas y piñones (spinach and pine nuts)
8. Berenjenas Fritas (Fried Eggplant)
Just writing about this dish makes me hungry! Imagine an eggplant, cut super thin and fried until perfectly crispy. Then, it’s usually covered in a drizzle of local honey or served on top of salmorejo— a thick tomato soup. This recipe is fantastic– one of the best vegetarian tapas recipes hands down!
9. Pisto con Huevo (Ratatouille with Fried Egg)
Pisto is basically roasted vegetables (onion, pepper, eggplant, and tomato) that are then lightly pureed into a chunky sauce. Spaniards fry an egg to their liking and plop it on top. Visually stunning? No! But delicious, healthy, and vegetarian? Yes!
Try the recipe for pisto’s “cousin”, a delicious Mallorcan dish called Tumbet Mallorquin!
10. Ajo Blanco (Chilled Almond Soup)
Ajo blanco is another cold soup originating in Andalusia (go there in the summer and you’ll realize why they have so many cold soups!). It is a creamy and delicious blend of almonds, bread, EVOO, garlic, salt, and water. It’s usually served with grapes or melon cubes on top. It’s completely different than anything I can think of, but it’s really delicious and worth a try while you’re in Spain. And, if you’re wondering, the garlic flavor is not too strong!
11. Fruta Fresca (Fresh Fruit)
Ok, so this isn’t only Spanish and you’re probably asking yourself why I would include it. Well, here in Spain many restaurants have fresh fruit on their printed menu as a dessert option. Depending on the season I’ve seen mandarin oranges, watermelon, green melon, peach slices, strawberries and cream, and grapes. You might think you’d prefer a slice of cake until you try the fruit! I’m always shocked at how delicious seasonal fruit is here. It (almost) deserves to be called a dessert!
If these 11 vegetarian options aren’t enough for you here in Spain, don’t worry! There are plenty more vegetarian dishes like these that I’ve tried recently: revuelto de calabacín (scrambled eggs and zucchini), tostas con queso brie y mermelada de frambuesa (toasts with brie and raspberry jam), or torre de berenjenas con queso mozzarella (tower of grilled eggplant and mozzarella cheese).
UPDATE! See our list of Vegetarian Tapas in Madrid. If visiting Madrid, join a vegetarian Madrid Food Tour and in Barcelona check out the vegetarian food tour in Barcelona –in the lovely Gràcia neighborhood. In Seville, check out the Ultimate Vegetarian Guide to Seville, and in San Sebastián, the Ultimate Vegetarian Guide to San Sebastian!
And if looking for the best quality Spanish olive oils read my in-depth guide to Spanish olive oils)!
So despite being famous for its ham and chorizo, Spain has a lot to offer vegetarian diners. And if you happen to eat fish and shellfish– well don’t even worry as your options are endless!
What is your favorite vegetarian food in Spain? Do any of the vegetarians reading this find it difficult to find options here in Spain?