Something happens to me come cold weather. I go from craving fruit juice, cold soups and white wines to polishing off stews, cakes, and pies and asking for seconds. My body seems to switch into some sort of hibernation mode– I must stock up on calories to make it through the winter!
Anyone else feel the same?
Luckily, traditional winter food in Spain is decadent and rich, warming my body from top to bottom. These Spanish dishes are a welcome respite from the chilly winter weather, so take advantage before the thermometer starts creeping back up!
1. A mug of thick and creamy hot chocolate
There is nothing like Spanish hot chocolate. Almost pudding-like in consistency, it’s rich and decadent and usually eaten with a spoon. Some say the spoon should stand up in the chocolate, but I definitely don’t agree (those versions tend to use corn starch). First timers sometimes cringe after the first bite as they struggle to finish the heavy mug, but trust me– it just takes a little practice. I guarantee that a hot mug of chocolate en taza will brighten up even the coldest of days.
My favorite chocolate in Madrid: El Riojano
2. A slice of gooey tortilla de patatas
Bright yellow and oozing, a slice of good tortilla española can be hard to come by in an age of egg substitutes and cost cutting. Despite what some restaurants tell you about real eggs being banned by the health department, there are plenty of bars that still offer the real deal. Everyone has an opinion about how they like their Spanish omelet and I’m no different. My perfect tortilla? Cooked through on the outside and the slightest bit runny on the inside, with onions, and preferably ones that are slightly caramelized (but no sugar added!). When done right and served straight from the frying pan, this is the ultimate warm you up winter food in Spain.
My favorite tortillas in Madrid: Bar Cerveriz, Casa Dani, Skylar, Bodega de la Ardosa, Txirimiri
Get my tortilla de patatas recipe!
3. A classic cup of old fashioned caldo
Every classic bar and pastry shop in Madrid adds a warm addition to their menu come December. In addition to hot coffee, tea and hot chocolate, you can also order a piping hot cup of broth, called caldo. It may be a pork or chicken broth (or a mix of the two), but it will undoubtedly be rich with flavor and warm you right up!
4. Crispy churros straight from the fryer
There’s no other way to eat churros (despite the traditions in some Spanish cities). For me, they need to come freshly made, straight from the deep fryer. When done correctly, you get a hot and crispy wand of fried dough goodness, perfect for combating the cold and even better with that rich cup of hot chocolate you were thinking about.
Try best churros in Cadiz at Café Bar La Marina
Get my homemade Spanish churros recipe!
5. Steaming hot Caldo Gallego
Not to confuse with plain caldo, the Caldo Gallego is a Galician soup that much of northern Spain eats to fight off the winter chill. Consisting of white beans, Galician potatoes, kale or cabbage, and Galician chorizo, it is one of those hearty winter soups that you can’t help but burn your tongue eating. Waiting to take a bite would be too torturous!
6. Soul warming Fabada Asturiana
Another classic Spanish winter stew is the delicious Fabada Asturiana. If you’ve never tried Asturian fabes (butter beans) before, you’re in for a real treat. These delicious legumes combine with Asturian chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), and pork belly for one of the heartiest winter stews in Spain.
7. Traditional Cocido Madrileño
Madrid’s signature stew isn’t really what I’d call a stew at all, but it is an excellent choice for warming up this winter. It’s best when enjoyed in a traditional restaurant with a bottle of wine, good company and no rush. Definitely one of the most typical Spanish holiday foods in Madrid, many families make cocido once a week at home, or eat it out many times each winter. Consisting of pork, beef, chicken, pork fat, chorizo, potato, cabbage and garbanzos, it is traditionally served in three separate courses. First you get a big bowl of the stew’s broth with short noodles called fideos. Next, you’ll receive all the vegetables– potatoes, carrots, cabbage and garbanzos. Finally, the meats come out. Needless to say, it’s a never ending meal! I prefer a shorter version where things come in only two courses.
My favorite places for cocido in Madrid: Taberna La Bola and La Sanabresa (Tuesdays only)
8. Catalan as can be canalones
Most people equate pasta and cannelloni with Italy– wrong! Catalan cuisine is full of traditional pasta dishes, and canalones are the Catalan dish served on the 26th of December, El Día de San Esteban. They’re usually handmade over the course of hours, and traditionally stuffed with the leftovers from the Christmas holiday (beef, chicken and pork).
9. Northern style cod and cauliflower
Another northern Spanish dish for the holidays is bacalao con coliflor, which seems to have its origins in Galicia or País Vasco. Consisting of salt cod and cauliflower, it is traditionally served steaming hot as one of the many plates that grace the dinner table on Christmas Eve. It is a great example of the simple, seasonal Spanish recipes that are still passed down today!
10. Southern style sopa de pescado
At my in-laws’ home we always eat a rich and delicious sopa de pescado at the holidays. My mother-in-law’s fish soup is a flavorful broth, garnished with chunks of white fish, prawns and clams. It’s definitely one of those dishes that makes you crave the holidays year after year!
11. A heaping plate of huevos rotos
I don’t think that there is any Spaniard who would disagree that the ultimate winter comfort food in Spain is huevos rotos. When I used to teach English I had to ask a group of kids to draw their favorite dish and without comparing among themselves more than half the class drew huevos rotos! Done right, this dish comes with a heaping plate of homemade french fries, topped with perfectly fried eggs and (ideally) thin slices of the best Iberian ham. There are plenty of other versions, but I’ll stick to the classic one please! The dish’s name translates to “broken eggs” because the waiter should break up the fried egg right before you dig in, unleashing the runny yolk.
12. Melt in your mouth braised beef cheek
The Irish make beef stew and the Spanish make braised beef cheek. A simple dish of beef cheek covered in wine, broth and herbs until falling apart tender, braised beef cheek has long been one of my favorite winter foods in Spain. My perfect beef cheek comes served over creamy mashed potatoes and with plenty of sauce.
Try my Spanish pork cheek recipe!
13. Soupy arroz con bogavante
It’s the typical splurge holiday meal in Spain– rice with lobster. And while it sounds pretty average to someone coming from Massachusetts or Maine, when you see the price of lobster in Spain you’ll know to treasure every bite. I especially love this warming dish because the rice is usually served caldoso (soupy) and the rich lobster broth is unforgettable.