Top 12 Spanish Foods You Must Try in Spain – Popular Dishes & Recipes

There are plenty of reasons to visit Spain: colorful history, world-renowned art, vibrant culture, beautiful beaches… and perhaps most importantly, fantastic Spanish food.

When it comes to sampling Spanish cuisine, the sheer amount of choices can be overwhelming. But if you want a true taste of the culinary culture, there are a few Spanish foods you simply can’t miss. Whether you decide to go it alone or join one of Devour Tours food tours in Spain, make sure to check them all off your list!

best salmorejo recipe
Delicious salmorejo.

12 Must Try Spanish Foods

1. Tortilla de patatas

Many a tourist has been puzzled by the Spanish tortilla: a classic staple that bears no resemblance to the Latin American food of the same name. Tortilla de patatas (also called tortilla española) is a thick potato omelette, usually served by the slice. There are infinite variations, and everyone has an opinion on which reigns supreme. Take our advice and try some of the best tortilla in Madrid on the Ultimate Madrid Food Tour, or cook up your own with the help of a classic Spanish tortilla recipe.

A golden slice of tortilla española, one of Spain's most popular sandwich fillings.

 2. Paella

This is possibly the most iconic of all Spanish foods. But don’t be lured in by the tourist traps offering “authentic” paella on every corner; if you want it done right, you’ll need to look a little harder. Although it originated in Valencia, there are a select few establishments in other cities that offer the real thing—often with a local twist. Join our Barcelona food tour to try the city’s own take on this delicious dish.

3. Olives

It may sound simple, but trust me: you haven’t tried olives until you’ve tried them in Spain. This simple fruit is central to Spanish cuisine, whether in the form of that beloved all-purpose ingredient, olive oil, or in its original state. You’ll often be served a small bowl of olives before a meal or to accompany a drink—but if you want to sample the best of the best, you’ll find them in a local Spanish market.

Read more: 6 olive varieties everyone loves!

spanish olives

 4. Carrillada

Juicy, rich, and melt-in-your-mouth tender—that’s how carrillada can best be described. This dish consists of pork cheeks or beef cheeks braised to perfection, usually soaked in some kind of delicious sauce. It’s hard to go wrong with this classic, but do yourself a favor and try it a la Pedro Ximénez or with a sweet red wine sauce.

Get the recipe! Homemade Spanish carrillada recipe

winter food in Spain

5. Cochinillo

This slow-roasted suckling pig is yet another delectable pork dish that deserves a place on your list. You’ll find the most traditional cochinillo in the city of Segovia, but if you’re lacking the time (or appetite) to devour an entire pig, you can sample it in pintxo form on our San Sebastian food tour.

Botin restaurant Madrid tour
(Yup, it’s really the whole pig.)

6. Fried fish

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the miles and miles of Spanish coastline is the incredibly fresh seafood you’ll find throughout the peninsula. In the southern region of Andalusia, it’s usually deep fried—but if you’re picturing soggy, tasteless fish sticks, think again. On our Seville tapas tour, you’ll be treated to crispy, flavorful fish that’s guaranteed to make your mouth water.

Read more: 8 fried foods you must try in Spain!

best food tour in Seville

7. Rabo de toro

If you know anything about Spanish stereotypes, you’re probably familiar with the controversial tradition of bullfighting. Nowadays, however, you’re more likely to see the legendary Spanish bulls on your plate than in a ring; rabo de toro (stewed bull’s tail) is one of the country’s most traditional dishes. You’ll either love it or hate it, but don’t knock it till you try it—preferably in a quintessential setting like the one you’ll visit on our Madrid food tours.

Recipe: Try making your own with this rabo de toro recipe

Rabo de Toro, stewed bull tail, is one of my favorite dishes to eat during the winter in Spain!

 8. Anchovies

These little fish get a bad rap in some other parts of the world, but suspend your judgment long enough to give them a chance. Spanish anchovies come fresh, pickled, or fried, and they’re nothing like the strong and stinky morsels you might have tasted elsewhere. If you’re still a bit wary, try the deep-fried variety for an easy introduction, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

Malaga food guide

9. Pan tumaca

Possibly the simplest Spanish dish of all, pan tumaca (or pan con tomate) is nothing but bread, olive oil, salt, and fresh tomato spread. This is the perfect breakfast or merienda (afternoon snack), and can be found all over Spain—but it’s especially famous in Catalonia. Sample it on a Barcelona food tour, or make it yourself at home with this recipe. One bite and you’ll never look back.

10. Salmorejo

You might not be used to eating your soup cold, but salmorejo will make you wonder why. This close cousin of gazpacho is a thick, tomato-based soup made with olive oil, bread crumbs, and plenty of garlic. It originated in the southern city of Córdoba, but you can sample authentic salmorejo throughout Andalusia.

Make it yourself: Delicious salmorejo recipe 

Making salmorejo at our Seville cooking class.

 

11. Bacalao

Bacalao is salted cod that can be found in many forms: grilled, fried, stuffing crispy croquettes…. It’s especially ubiquitous in the Basque Country in northern Spain, an area with a culinary tradition all its own. On our San Sebastian tour, we’ll take you to one of the country’s best pintxo bars to try this classic fish with a modern twist.best tapas bar in Cadiz

12. Jamón Ibérico

No tapas experience is complete without the most ubiquitous Spanish snack: cured Iberian ham. It’s hard to miss the giant dried pork legs hanging from the ceilings of shops and bars everywhere you look. Watch as it’s expertly carved off in tantalizingly thin strips, and try it by itself or accompanied by one of Spain’s many varieties of locally made cheese. Don’t miss the chance to learn about this delicacy—along with another important tradition—on our Seville tapas & flamenco tour.

where to eat in Granada

Have you sampled all these Spanish foods already? Don’t worry; there’s plenty more to explore. Check out the city guides on our Spain food blog for more recommendations and inside tips, or try making them yourself with the help of our Spanish recipe blog. ¡Buen provecho!

Comments

  1. Boy! What I wouldn’t give for a plate of carrillada, preferably pork. Have tried in vain to find a butcher here in Jacksonville, FL that caries them but to no avail. I’ve even tried Hispanic and Brazilian markets but the cut is illusive.

  2. Hi Melissa!

    I love this post, I think it includes some of the best foods that Spain has to offer. If I had to make my own version of this list, I would totally include “chocolate con churros” from San Ginés and “napolitanas” from La Mallorquina. The churros are a thick fried dough that you dip in a very rich and hot dark chocolate. It is best at Christmas time but you can have it year round. The napolitanas are a pastry with either egg custard or nutella in the inside, covered in sugar powder. Both of these originated in Madrid, but they are well-known throughout Spain! I’m sure you have had them. but they are great for breakfast or “merienda” time in the afternoons. Anyway, loved your post and looking forward to reading more in your blog!

    Sarah

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