Food is at the heart of Spanish culture. From soups to dessert, taste your way through Spanish cuisine and discover Spanish culture in the most delicious way possible.
Spanish food has become one of the most popular and successful cuisines in the world. Its extraordinary and varied flavors set it apart, with heavy use of both olive oil and garlic as well as spices like oregano, thyme, parsley and rosemary.
Choosing from such a diverse cuisine is not an easy task, but here is a quick rundown of the 10 most delicious Spanish dishes!
1. Tortilla de patatas
Although Spanish cuisine varies greatly from region to region, tortilla de patatas is one dish that has broken down these borders. Made with just potatoes and egg, this dish has become a national staple and is found in any decent tapas bar. It is at its best when thick and moist, but be prepared for a national-scale debate on whether to include onion!
First found on the shores of a Valencian lake, this saffron-colored rice dish is a regional dish to Spaniards. However, it is probably the best-known Spanish dish in the world! The name itself refers to the shallow, large pan it is cooked in, and traditionally, this dish was made with water voles and snails! These days, you’re most likely to find either Paella Valenciana with chicken and/or rabbit, or seafood paella. Don’t forget to try the socarrat: the slightly burnt and crispy rice around the edges. Many say it’s the best bit! One of the best places to taste this quintessential Spanish dish is La Matandeta near Albufera, Valencia.
3. Patatas bravas
These “brave potatoes”, so named for the spicy relish that accompanies them, are part of the tapas culture which is synonymous with Spanish food. Originating in southern Spain, these cubes are one of the only examples of spicy Spanish food. Fried until the skin crisps up, the dish is best served with a garlic aioli and a fiery tomato relish. Try these in Barcelona at La Taverna del Clinic.
To those of you from colder climates, cold soup may seem senseless. However, imagine yourself in a hot Andalucian summer, and it all becomes clear. This tomato-based chilled soup also contains peppers, cucumbers, garlic, herbs and of course, olive oil. When served with some toasted bread on the side, it will blow your mind! Gazpacho can be found across Andalucia, but one of the best places to try it has to be Enrique Becerra in Seville.
Our second tapas item on this list, Spanish croquetas are deep-fried, breadcrumb covered balls stuffed with Béchamel sauce and their main filling. These fillings can range from traditional Iberian flavors like jamón iberico (cured ham), morcilla (blood sausage) or bacalao (fresh cod), to more modern combinations like blue cheese, broccoli or fusion flavors. It is easy to tell whether you’re eating a home-made croqueta or not, as these usually have wonky shapes and irregular sizes. Some of the best examples of this dish can be found in Madrid, at Casa Julio.
Traditionally a peasant dish, this comfort food has found its way onto some restaurant menus. It is made up of dried breadcrumbs, ripped up and fried in many different combinations, and is often served with either chorizo or bacon. For agricultural laborers who had to scrape together what they had, this became a staple food. For an authentic taste, head to Cáceres and visit Eustaquio Blanco.
7. Pimientos de Padrón
And we’re back to tapas again! This time, we have a dish from the town of Padrón, Galicia, in the lush but rainy northwest of the country. Green peppers are fried and served with a significant sprinkling of salt to make a very simple yet satisfying dish which can now be found in tapas bars across the country. There is a clear reason for its success: while most of the peppers are sweet and mild, you will occasionally come across a hot, fiery pepper, and there is no way of telling until you take that first bite! To try them near their home, go to Santiago de Compostela and visit Bierzo Enxebre.
8. Pulpo a la gallega
To give your tastebuds a shock and experience some real Spanish cuisine, there are many different octopus-based dishes across the peninsula. One of the more elaborate ones is pulpo a la gallega, prepared with paprika, rock salt and, you guessed it, olive oil, to draw out the strongest and most delicious flavours from the octopus. This dish is best served on a bed of sliced potatoes, and, as part of Galician seafood cuisine, is renowned all over the country. Head up to Galicia to try the most authentic samples!
9. Leche frita
Spain has some unique offerings to the world in the dessert category, and one of these is the delicacy of leche frita, or fried milk. But how can anyone possibly fry milk? First, you have to make milk pudding by whipping together milk, egg yolks and flour. This is then coated in a batter after it solidifies and fried to give a warm, crunchy coating. Try it warm and paired with ice cream! This dish is best tasted in Madrid, at Casa Alvarez.
No list of the 10 most delicious dishes in Spain would be completed without mentioning churros. These sausage shaped pieces of fried dough pastry are coated in sugar, and must be eaten dripping in melted chocolate for the ultimate churro experience. Again, head to the capital to sample these delicious treats, and visit San Ginés.
A list of 10 dishes could never hope to cover all the delights of Spanish gastronomy, but these examples should give you some tasty ideas for your culinary adventures in Spain. ¡Buen provecho!