30 Traditional Spanish Foods In Spain: A Look Into Spanish Cuisine

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Like many countries with long histories, Spanish foods are a culmination of different cultures merged into unique dishes from native Spanish cuisine.

Like many other Mediterranean cultures, fresh fruit, olive oil, and seafood lie at the heart of most foods found in this country. But meat lovers will still find a new favorite dish amongst the fantastic choices of traditional Spanish foods!

What Makes Spanish Foods So Special?

Spanish foods and cuisine have had many points of influence over the centuries. What you find as a result is a phenomenal heritage of food, desserts, and snacks in Spain that represent the rich history of this country.

From Roman and Moor influence to the many religions that inhabit this country, Spanish cuisine is a melting pot of various traditional flavors, tastes, and forms. Regardless of desserts, mains, or appetizers, if you’re looking for a rich and delicious culinary culture to dive into, the Spanish menu is the best place to start!

Let’s explore the world of traditional Spanish food with the very best and most popular choices!

Best Vegetarian Spanish Foods

Pan Con Tomate (Tomato And Garlic Bread)


Pan con tomate may seem simple, but once you’ve tried these lovely toasted tomato bread slices, you’ll understand why they’re so integral to Spanish cuisine.

Particularly prevalent in Barcelona, Pan con tomate can be found all across the country as a street food snack, appetizer, and even as a quick meal in the evenings. These are also an incredibly popular choice of breakfasts in Spain.

Empanada (Spanish Flatbread / Spanish Pastry)


Empanadas are one of the most popular and long-lasting Spanish foods you can find. Historically, Spanish Empanadas have been filled with a spicy blend of ground beef, but in modern times, they can be filled with a variety of fillings, such as chicken, pork, cheese, vegetables, and even fish. 

Sauce and dips often accompany the empanada. The dough is made up of only five ingredients, consisting of flour, butter, salt, eggs, and water. It is one of the most popular foods in Spanish cuisine, and you eat them at any time of the day for almost any meal. 

However, they are usually served as a snack or at lunch. The origin of empanada is believed to have originated in Galicia, Spain, and Portugal, and it was first introduced to Iberia in the middle of the 16th century. As far as Spanish dishes go, you can’t find a more popular choice.

In all honesty, stuffed puff pastry is prevalent in many cultures even if they come in different names and variations. One of the earliest mentions of empanadas dates back to 1520, among recipes of Spanish, Italian, French, and Arabian cuisine.

Tortilla Española (Traditional Spanish Omelette)


One of the most popular Spanish foods is the Tortilla Española. It’s a traditional Spanish omelet made with eggs and potatoes, and topped with olive oil. It can also be served as a Spanish tapas or a side dish. 

Some people add onions to their omelets, but there is some debate about whether or not onions should be added to the omelet. Not a big deal if you ask us because both versions taste superb!

The origin of the tortilla is believed to have come from Persia and spread to different parts of Europe. As it spread, different cultures adapted it to their own needs, creating their unique versions. And Spanish cuisine has made an art out of these delicious omelets.

Patatas Bravas (Spanish Deep-Fried Potatoes)


Patatas Bravas is the perfect Spanish tapas or snack to go with a refreshing pint of beer. 

It is made by deep-frying white potatoes in olive oil. The potatoes are cut into small cubes or chunks and are then served with a spicy salsa sauce and a thin layer of mayonnaise or aioli. As one of the most popular Spanish foods, it’s certainly a must-try.

The name “patatas” comes from the Spanish verb “bastas”, which means “to dip”. And the word “patas” means “to fry” in Spanish.

Although Patatas Bravas originated in Madrid, Spain, it has become a popular Spanish tapas dish in bars across the world. And it is said to have been invented at the Las Bravas bar in Madrid and is integral to Spanish cuisine.

Calcots (Spanish Scallion Side Dish)


Calcots are a type of scallion that is widely consumed in Spanish cuisine. These are similar to leeks in that they are larger and have a milder taste than green onions. 

Calcots in Spain are harvested from November to April and are best eaten during the calcotada season (February to March). They are usually cooked over an open fire, and wrapped in newspaper to preserve the tenderness of the scallions. When it comes to Spanish foods, Calcots represent both simplicity and deliciousness.

Padron Peppers (Traditional Spanish Peppers)


Padron peppers, a species of Spanish pepper native to Galicia, are a protected food under EU law. What makes them so special is that a portion of them are naturally hot, while most are simply mild. If you’re looking for Spanish foods that are integral to this country, this dish is not to be missed.

Padron peppers are traditionally fried in olive oil, allowing the skin to blister and the pepper to soften and shrink. They are often Sprinkled with coarse salt and served with bread. These delicacies are a common option within traditional Spanish tapas, as well as one of the most popular vegetarian dishes in Granada.

Padron peppers are typically sold fresh in the summer months, but can also be jarred or canned throughout the year.

Popular Meat-Based Spanish Foods

Jamon Iberico De Bellota (Native Cured Pork Ham)


The name “jamon iberico” means “dry-cured Spanish ham”. It is made from Iberico or black Iberian pigs and is one of the world’s most famous cured hams. And thus, one of the most popular Spanish foods. It has a smooth texture and a rich, savory-sweet flavor.

The Iberico pig has been around for thousands of years, dating back to the cavemen who adorned the Spanish caves with their art. They are the original Spanish pig breed, domesticated over the centuries. Adding a rich flavor to any meal, pork is a much favored ingredient choice within Spanish foods as well.

Jamón is considered one of the most special traditional Spanish dishes and is served on special occasions or during holidays.

Chorizo (Spanish Smoked Sausage)


Chorizo is a type of smoked sausage that is commonly found in Spanish cuisine and is characterized by its fermentation and curing process. It is traditionally made from pork that has been coarsely chopped and pork fat that has been seasoned with garlic and pimento and salt.

Chorizo can be short, long, hard, soft, or sweet. There are hundreds of different types of chorizo in Spain, but they are usually classified as spicy or sweet, depending on which pimento is used. You can eat chorizo as a Spanish tapas dish or add it to other dishes such as Spanish soups or stews.

Chorizo traces its roots back to 1519 to 1525 when Spain conquered the Aztec Empire. By this time, chorizo had become one of the famous Spanish foods. You will find that it is as prevalent in many Latin American cuisine.

Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs)


The term “albondigas” is used to describe a type of Spanish meatball. It is thought to have originated in Berber or Arabic cuisine, which was brought to Spain during the time of the Muslim conquest. The Arabic word “abunduq” translates to “hazelnut” or “small round object”.

If you’re looking for a Spanish tapas dish that is meat-based and flavorful, this is a great option. Albondigas can be made with pork or beef and are typically served with sofrito, a special tomato sauce. 

In Spain, they’re regularly seasoned with smoked paprika or cumin, and can even be served as a main course.

Croqueta (Spanish Croquette)


Croquetas is Spanish for “breaded and fried” and is a popular Spanish tapas dish. It is usually served in a thick sauce of bechamel and lies at the heart of Spanish cuisine.

Croquetas come in all shapes and sizes and can be filled with anything from jamon to chicken to bacalao. But if you’re looking for something a bit different, you can find them stuffed with mushrooms or cuttlefish as well. Whatever the method of preparation, these little bites of joy are one of the most popular Spanish foods you can find.

It is largely said that Croquetas were invented in 1898 in France by a French chef named Auguste Escoffier. However, some believe that they have actually been around for a while before that. Regardless, their delicious taste is not to be denied!

La Bomba (Deep-Fried Potato And Meat Balls)


La bomba is a Spanish food consisting of mashed potatoes and minced meat. It is commonly found all around Spain but is primarily associated with the city of Barcelona, where it originated.

La bomba, meaning “the bomb” in Spanish, is a dish featuring beef, pork, and aioli filled with a spicy or extremely spicy sauce. It was developed in the mid-1950s by the restaurant La Cova Fumada and is now one of the most famous Spanish dishes.

If you like something hearty and filling, this is one delish option to try for sure. You will get to try it on many of the interesting tapas tours in Barcelona.

Pinchos Morunos (Spanish Kebabs)


Pinchos Morunos are meat skewers that are similar to kebabs. They are traditional Spanish dishes originating from Moorish cuisine and are usually prepared with pork or chicken. Since its introduction to Spanish cuisine, it has only increased in popularity.

These skewers are prepared with small cubes of pork or chicken in olive oil with a spice mixture called ras el hanout. The recipes vary but you can use up to 40 spices such as turmeric, oregano, paprika, and thyme.

This traditional Spanish food dates back to ancient times when it was served with lamb. Nowadays, it is a widespread dish in Spain, especially in the southern part of Andalusia.

Paella (Traditional Spanish Rice Dish)


Paella has to be one of the most internationally acclaimed Spanish foods. It’s a rice dish that’s available all over Spain and is widely considered to be a national Spanish food. You are almost sure to find this in any Spanish restaurants in other countries.

Paella is a Spanish rice dish that’s traditionally cooked over an open fire. It’s named after the wide, shallow pan with two handles that are used to cook it. It’s made from round grain rice with saffron and olive oil, and it’s usually topped with meat and seafood, plus beans and green veggies.

It is also one of the most popular Spanish food dishes outside Spain. Although it may have its origins in ancient times, its current form can be traced back to the middle of the 19th century in the vicinity of the city of Valencia.

Fabada Asturiana (Traditional Bean Stew)


Fabada Asturiana translates to “bean stew”, and this dish is made with Fabes de la Granja, a type of white Spanish bean. It originated in the province of Asturias, but is now available all over the country, from restaurants to cafes and supermarkets. Fabada is considered to play an important role in the world of Spanish foods.

This hearty and filling Spanish dish is most popular during the winter months. Fabada can be eaten as a main course or a side dish and it’s made with a wide variety of meats, such as chorizo, bacon, dried ham, morcilla, and more.

The origin of Fabada is uncertain, but it’s believed that beans were cultivated and consumed in the Asturias province during the 16th century. It’s safe to say though, this dish has been a part of Spanish cuisine for a long time.

Cap I Pota (Slow-Cooked Beef Stew)


Cap I Pota is a traditional Catalan dish and much-loved Spanish food consisting of a beef head and leg cooked slowly. The name “Cap” means “head” and “Pota” means “leg”.

This dish was created during the post-war period in Spain, when the availability of chicken and steak was limited, prompting Spanish cuisine to experiment with the use of less desirable animal components, such as head and offal.

While this type of food in Spain is considered an older generational cuisine, the fine dining scene today still presents wonderful variations of this cultural Spanish food.

Rabo De Toro (Spanish Braised Oxtail)


The term “rabo de toro” is derived from the region of Andalusia, where it was traditionally served after bullfighting. It has since become a popular Spanish food, particularly in Madrid, where bullfighting is still popular.

The traditional preparation of rabo de toro involves braising oxtail, which was initially made with a bull tail but is now more commonly done with either cow tail or oxtail. Oxtail is tough meat, so it must be cooked slowly over a low flame for several hours.

Once it has been softened, it will become fatty and soft and dissolve in the mouth. Roasted vegetables and cornbread are two of the most popular accompaniments to this dish, and can be found in many Spanish tapas bars.

Botifarra Amb Mongetes (Spanish Sausage And Beans)


The Botifarra Amb Mongetes is a traditional sausage and bean stew originating in Catalonia. This famous Spanish food features white beans and a traditional Catalan sausage. The sausage usually composes of pork thighs and shoulders, bacon, and a range of spices.

In contrast to Fabada Asturiano, where the beans are cooked, the beans in this traditional Spanish food are fried and accompanied by garlic and herbs. This dish originated in 19th-century taverns throughout Catalonia, particularly in Barcelona, and can now be found in most traditional restaurants.

The Best Of Spanish Foods: Seafood And Fish

Pintxos De Txampis (Mushroom And Shrimp Snack Stack)

Pintxos (from the Spanish “pintxo” meaning snack or appetizer) refers to a kind of pintxo that consists of cremini mushroom caps filled with shrimp, often skewered together to form little towers. When it comes to popular Spanish foods, pintxo is widely loved across the country.

Pintxos were designed to be served in small portions, and the Basque habit of going to the local bar to eat a few before lunch or dinner is very common.

Dripping with garlic and butter, Pintxos are beyond scrumptious and one of the most popular Spanish tapas. The tradition of eating Pintxos dates back to the 1940s when it spread to different Spanish cities and is now popular all over the country.

Anchoas / Boquerones (Traditional Spanish Anchovy Appetizer)


The two most popular Spanish foods, Anchoas and Boquerones, are both characterized by their use of anchovies in tapas dishes.

Anchoas is a traditional Spanish tapas dish made with salt-cured anchovies, while Boquerones is a traditional Spanish appetizer made with either uncured or fresh anchovies. Boquerones are deep-fried versions of Anchoas and are also known as Boquerones Fritos.

The Boquerones de Vinagre (Boquerones in Vinegar) is a starter dish that originated in the southern region of Andalusia, Spain, and is believed to have been around for over 3000 years. White anchovies are phenomenal when served on crackers, making them an ideal appetizer in Spanish cuisine.

Gambas Al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp)


Gambas al Ajillo or “garlic shrimp” is a well-known and widely consumed dish in Spain. It is characterized by its use of minced prawns, seasoned with a generous amount of garlic and accompanied by olive oil.

Gambas al Ajillo is typically served with a crusty loaf of bread in Spanish cuisine, which can be used to soak up the tangy olive oil. This Spanish delicacy is almost always enjoyed as a shared meal, whether it be a main course or a small portion.

The origin of this dish is believed to have come from either the southern or central regions of Spain and holds a special spot even in the world of mouthwatering Spanish foods.

Mejillones (Traditional Spanish Mussel Dish)


Mejillones is the name for mussels, and they’re a go-to Spanish tapas. You can marinate them, steam them, or stuff them in a variety of ways, making them an ideal choice for seafood lovers when it comes to Spanish foods!

Originating in Galicia around the 19th century, it is traditionally made with a blend of local mussels, olive oil, bell peppers, onion, and red wine.

The mussels are cooked until they are tender, then drained and chilled. Mejillones may be served hot or cold and they are often served as tapas in Spanish cuisine, with rustic bread slices on the side to soak up the sauce.

Navajas (Spanish Clam Dish)


Navajas, Spanish for “razor clams,” are a type of clam commonly found in Spanish cuisine. They are cooked in olive oil, minced garlic, and sprinkled with fresh parsley. The delicious zest from the lemon served with Navajas makes for an out-of-this-world meal!

Navajas were first introduced into Spanish cuisine in the 16th century. The name “navajas” means “razor” in Latin. The shape of a Navajas is similar to that of a straight razor, with the long thin blade folding away into the handle of the shell.

Although Navajas are expensive, they are a favorite among many locals and a treat that is heartily enjoyed.

Bacalhau (Spanish Salted Cod)


Bacalhau is one of the most popular Portuguese and Spanish foods. It refers to a type of cod that is salted and cooked in a variety of ways.

Some of the most common ways to prepare bacalhau are by cooking it in stews, baking it and examining it, or adding garlic or olive oil to it.

Bacalhau can be found in Spanish tapas bars and is often served in the form of fritters or a topping for slices of bread.

The history of bacalhau dates back to the 14th century, to the time of the Portuguese explorers during the explorations of the Americas. During these voyages, fresh cod could be stored for a long time, and thus, has always been favored by locals in Spanish cuisine, in the past and the present.

Pulpo A La Gallega (Salted Octopus)


Pulpo a la gallega is a traditional Spanish food consisting of boiled octopus, seasoned with coarse salt and a generous dose of paprika. Served on a wooden plate, accompanied by bread and red wine, it is a popular dish in Spain enjoyed across the country by many locals and visitors.

The octopus is cooked until it is tender but not overcooked, (an art perfected by the locals), then cut into small pieces and seasoned with coarse salt, olive oil, and of course, paprika. When it comes to seafood and Spanish cuisine, you can’t forget pulpo a la gallega.

Percebes (Gooseneck Barnacles)


Percebes (also called Gooseneck Barnacles) is a type of sea urchin known as “Lucifer’s Fingers” due to its devilish appearance. These gems are known to be difficult to harvest and since they can’t be farmed, they are considered a special treat when it comes to Spanish foods.

The Percebes are cooked by boiling them in seawater, then the flesh is removed by squeezing the barnacles at the bottom.

Popular Spanish Foods: Desserts And Sweet Treats

Churros Con Chocolate (Sweet Spanish Pastry)


Churros are a type of pastry commonly enjoyed in Spain and definitely fall under the must-try list if you have never had one before. They are widely consumed in Spain and Portugal, as well as throughout other cultures around the world.

Churros were introduced to the world by famous Spanish explorers during the 1600s and quickly became popular around the globe.

These traditional pastries are characterized by their star-shaped shape, which is fried until it is crunchy and has a ridged top. They are typical snacks or breakfasts in Spain, enjoyed with a hot beverage on the go.

Basque Burnt Cheesecake


This Spanish cheesecake originated from the Basque province. It features a distinctive burnt topping and is characterized by its lack of crust. The Basque Burnt Cheesecake was created in San Sebastian, Spain, and it is an integral part of Spanish cuisine and desserts.

Basque burnt is different from the usual cheesecake, which is firm from outside to inside. It is soft on the outside, and even softer on the inside with a more fluid middle. If you’re looking for a delicious choice of Spanish desserts, you’ve found your hero in this sweet treat!

Crema Catalana (Spanish Creme Brulee)


The essence of Crema Catalana is derived from the Spanish version of Creme Brulee. While Creme Brulee is composed of cream and vanilla, the ingredients used in the preparation of crema Catalana are milk and cinnamon, and lemon juice. As its name indicates, it is a Spanish dessert widely consumed in Catalonia and Spanish cuisine as a whole.

The recipe first appeared in a 1745 Spanish cookbook and was called Crema Catalana by a friar of Spain, where it attributes the origin to Catalonia.

Mel I Mato (Mato Cheese And Honey)

Mel I Mato is a widely loved Spanish dessert that is particularly popular in the Catalonia food scene. It is a slightly sweet fresh cheese that is made from goat, sheep, or cow’s milk that is topped with a generous drizzle of honey.  

Mato can also be served with nuts and jam and dried or fresh fruits. This is a dessert that originated in the Middle Ages when mato cheese was only made from goats’ milk because cow’s milk was too expensive, and it’s still popular in Spanish cuisine.

Carbayon (Spanish Puff Pastry)

Carbayon is an almond puff pastry made in Oviedo, Spain. It is filled with an egg, ground almond, cognac, and sugar, and then topped with a crust made with lemon juice syrup and cinnamon. It’s a delicious example of Spanish desserts that have been around for a long time.

The almond pastry is one of the most popular treats in Oviedo, so much so that it is considered a cultural icon of the city. It dates back to the early 1900s and has since remained at the heart of Spanish cuisine.


The Wonders Of Variety In Spanish Foods And Cuisine

It’s no wonder Spanish cuisine is a point of pride for the residents of this fascinating country. Community and sharing are at the core of Spanish foods, and the wide variety leaves no one out when it comes to finding a favorite dish or dessert.

Spain is famous for many things, and food is one of them. If you’re looking to venture into the wonders of famous Spanish food, you can be sure that you’re in a treat!



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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


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