Get one taste of Spanish cuisine and you’ll be hooked on the fresh flavours and combinations you can enjoy throughout Spain. One of the best parts of travelling abroad is getting to taste the food that you’d never be able to get back home, so as you travel through the country visiting the hotspots on your checklist, be sure to sit down and savour the meals too. Nowhere in the world do the fresh flavours and unique combinations of ingredients create such a feverish following as they do in Spain. Here are 10 traditional Spanish dishes to try when you are travelling through the country.
Unlike the kind of tortillas you are used to seeing in grocery stores, Spanish tortillas are essentially an egg omelette with sliced potatoes and whatever else you may be craving like fresh veggies or any kind of meat. It’s easy to customize and is a great meal to enjoy any time during the day.
A Spanish staple, paella is a favourite of everyone who tries it. Saffron-infused rice is stir-fried with fresh seafood (like clams, prawns, oysters), chicken, and vegetables in many variations of the recipe. Paella’s popularity guarantees that it is on almost every menu in Spain, although not all dishes are created equal. Ask a local or a business-owner for their favourite version of paella in the area. They will often mention a new restaurant or establishment that guidebooks and phone apps have missed. Not only will you get the treat of finding a new place to eat without hordes of tourists around you, but you’ll likely try some of the most amazingly fresh and flavourful paella available in town.
If you will be travelling through the Andalucia region of Spain, you absolutely must try a cup or bowl of gazpacho as it is where this dish originated. Gazpacho is a tomato-based soup with flavour complemented by additions of cucumber, green pepper, garlic, olive oil and salt. It’s the perfect dish for summertime as the soup is always served cold and is decidedly refreshing on a hot day.
Meat in Spain is incredible—tender, thick and full of flavour, and if you purchase your meat at a local carniceria or market, you won’t be disappointed. Chorizo is served in many restaurants as an appetizer (or “tapa”) for lunch and dinner in Spain. Each restaurant is different of course, but if you are offered the choice of how to cook the chorizo based on your preference, try it grilled or pan-seared. You’ll be shocked at the flavour and quality of the meat.
Croquetas are small, lightly breaded fritters that have a wide variety of fillings. Sometimes they’re filled with cheese, other times stuffed with some sort of meat filling like ham. Croquetas are usually served with some variety of mayonnaise dipping sauce for added flavour. These crispy morsels make good appetizers, though they can serve as a meal if there are enough of them.
If you are a vegetarian and are looking for a safe dish to try while in Spain, head directly for pisto. It’s a Spanish version of ratatouille full of tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, zucchini, salt and pepper and olive oil. Many restaurants and locals will also add a chopped up poached egg to the mix to add protein and flavour after it is cooked. Recipes can differ depending on vegetables that are in season at the time and general preferences by the chef, but overall, pisto is a superb choice for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
Patatas Bravas are one of the most popular tapas dishes in all of Spain and that’s true for a reason. They are made out of boiled-then-fried potatoes that are then doused in a spicy but tangy sauce. The sauce varies city by city, and each variation tastes a little different—it’s the perfect excuse to try them everywhere you go.
This food item is on the list because it is only made in Spain, so if you are ever going to try it (and you should!), it would be while you are in the country. It looks like bacon, and Spaniards add it to sandwiches, pasta, soup, appetizers and sometimes just by itself or paired with olive oil and cheese. It’s a welcome addition to any dish.
If you are looking for a sweet treat at any time of day, then try churros con chocolate. They are long, sugary and fried sticks of dough that are served with a cup of Spanish hot chocolate. Spanish hot chocolate is closer to hot fudge and its dark and delicious flavour is complemented by the sweet flavour of the churros. Expert tip: try dunking the churros into the chocolate and enjoy as breakfast, a snack or dessert!
Flan is a sweetly flavoured custard with strong hints of vanilla and caramel and it is a perpetual favourite in Spain and beyond. When you order, request “con nata” or “with whipped cream” for a little additional sweetness as you enjoy this traditional dish.
One of the best places in all of Spain to try some of these amazing delicacies is La Boqueria. La Boqueria has been rated the World's Best Market and it is no surprise why. This massive marketplace is the ultimate way to indulge in authentic Spanish cuisine.
Feeling hungry yet? Finalize your plans, pack your bags and your “must-try” food list from above and you’ll almost be ready to head out the door to Spain. First though, be sure you consider travel insurance cover from Cover-More as a travel insurance policy will protect more than your holiday; it will protect your health and your investments.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Yvonne Esperanza; cropped from original.