Spanish Foods You Must Try

Mia

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Food & Drink

Jun 1, 2020

Spanish Food: Top 10 Most Popular Dishes That You Must Try

Who doesn’t love Spanish food? There are delicious hams and cheeses, not to mention the endless amounts of wine. Making a list of the best Spanish foods is NOT easy, as everyone has their own tastes & opinions! Well, for those of you not yet versed in Spain’s endless amounts of deliciousness, below are ten dishes that stand out as some of the best in the country.

1. Paella

Paella Valenciana
Paella Valenciana

This dish needs no introduction as it is known globally as Spain’s national dish & is easily one of the country’s most popular foods. It is originally from the region of Valencia but has been adopted everywhere.

Many different styles have evolved, but authentic Paella Valenciana is made with round grain rice, lima beans, rabbit, and chicken. It’s seasoned with olive oil, saffron, and rosemary sprig. Sometimes it’s also made with duck, snails, or artichoke, depending on what’s available.

Another type of paella is paella de marisco, which replaces meat with seafood and omits the beans. And there’s paella mixta, which includes chicken and pork, seafood, beans, and vegetables. 

But be careful, Valencianos will be quick to argue that anything but the original isn’t really paella! They’ll also tell you that paella is never to be eaten for dinner, only lunch. And to truly experience paella, you must eat it with a fork straight out of the pan with friends and family.

2. Fabada Asturiana

Spanish Food - Fabada
Fabada Asturiana

In Asturias, there’s a popular Spanish dish that’s so good you won’t be able to get it out of your mind. It’s called fabada, and it’s made with a specific white bean called fabes de la granja.  

It also has pork shoulder, pancetta or bacon, morcilla or blood sausage, chorizo, olive oil, garlic, and paprika. Like paella, since it’s quite heavy, it’s usually eaten for lunch instead of dinner.

It goes well with a full-bodied red wine, and being a stew, it’s more prevalent in the winter. Fabada has since found its way to different restaurants all over Spain, such as El Paraguas in Madrid—probably the best place to find it in the capital.  

3. Pulpo a la Gallega

Pulpo de la gallega
Pulpo de la gallega

This Spanish dish features soft, juicy octopus tentacles boiled to perfection and served on a bed of potatoes with a dash of olive oil, salt, and paprika.

Pulpo a la Gallega is from Galicia and is one of Spain’s signature dishes. It sounds deceptively simple, but it takes an expert to get the texture and taste just right, otherwise, it can be tough and rubbery.

Many order this classic Spanish dish as an appetizer and enjoy it with a cold glass of white wine.

4. Cocido Madrileño

Traditional Spanish Stew
Cocido Madrileño

Madrid may be a melting pot of all things Spanish, including Spanish food, but it also has its own signature winter dish.  Cocido Madrileño is a massive stew of chickpeas, noodles, pork belly, chorizo, and blood sausage.

It also includes cured ham, beef shank, chicken, meatballs, potato, cabbage, carrots, and turnips! As you can imagine, this meal can keep you full for days and is perfect in cold weather.

Hungry foodies eat the stew in stages—first the broth, chickpeas and noodles, then the vegetables, and then the meat. Everything’s so rich, filling, and flavorful that you’ll want to hibernate like a bear afterward!

Try it at Taberna de la Daniela Medinaceli; it’s their specialty. 

5. Cochinillo de Segovia

cochinillo traditional spanish food

Meat lovers, particularly those who like pork, will love this dish. Cochinillo is a roasted suckling pig so soft and tender that the meat practically melts in your mouth. The skin of the pig is crispy, and it only has a very thin layer of fat.  

Cochinillo is a specialty of Segovia, a province in Castilla y León where they carefully pay attention to the livestock’s food and weight to ensure the best quality. Practically every restaurant in the area offers it—but beware when ordering because a whole cochinillo can feed 4-5 people.

So if you’re traveling solo or with a partner, opt for a menu del dia where they give you a hefty portion with an appetizer, dessert, and a glass of wine. 

6. Chuletón de Ávila

While visiting Avila, a city famous for its fortress style walls, it’s a must to try its signature chuleton.. a juicy, hefty steak done al punto or medium-well to medium-rare. It is unique because of the meat’s quality: super soft with intense flavor. You don’t need to do much else to prepare it except add a little salt.

One order is usually no less than 800 grams, so you can share it among 3-4 people with some side dishes like judias (beans) and still come out stuffed. You can experience this dish at an old Inn called Meson del Rastro, right in the heart of Avila.

7. Bacalao al pil pil

Traditional Spanish Food Bacalao al Pil Pil
Bacalao al pil pil

A traditional Spanish dish from the Basque Country, bacalao al pil pil is salt cod prepared in olive oil, garlic, and chili peppers.

The constant stirring motion made while cooking it over low heat makes the cod emulsify into the oil. This produces the thickened pil pil sauce. It’s quite simple with only 4 ingredients but is also so surprisingly tasty.

While bacalao al pil pil is definitely a very popular Spanish dish, you will find bacalao dishes all over Spain. Since the dried salt cod is easy to store and keeps forever, it’s a versatile and inexpensive ingredient. You may find

8. Tortilla de patatas

Tortilla de Patatas
Tortilla de patatas

You can’t go through an article about Spanish food without this dish showing up. Tortilla de patatas is essentially a potato frittata that can be mixed with onion or other ingredients like zucchini, chorizo, or eggplant . It’s fried until golden brown in olive oil and is served at any time of the day. Tortilla can be pretty heavy as it’s very dense. So, you’ll often find it cut into smaller pieces and served on cocktail sticks as an appetizer or in a sandwich.

There is also a version called tortilla de betanzos that originated in the Galicia region. This version has a runny center and is therefore slightly lighter. Also, this is a tortilla for purists, as it only contains eggs, potatoes, oil, and salt.

You can find either tortilla anywhere you go in Spain, and any good Spaniard knows how to make one.  Many people even have a special pan they only use to make tortillas!

9. Gazpacho and Salmorejo

Spanish Food - Gaspacho
Cold gazpacho

The summers in Spain are scorching, to the point where you can barely stand taking hot meals! The solution? Cold soup!  

Gazpacho is from the region of Andalucía and is made by blending fresh, ripe tomatoes with cucumber, green bell pepper, red onion, garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar (vinagre de Jerez), cumin, salt and pepper, and a little leftover white bread.  

Salmorejo, also from the south, is similar but thicker and creamier, and it skips the cucumber and other veggies. Both are served chilled, sometimes topped with a little cream or bits of ham and hard-boiled egg. Refreshingly delicious!

10. Fideuá 

Fideua traditional Catalan dish
Fideuá with alioli

Rounding up our list of most popular Spanish foods is Fideuá, a vermicelli dish popular in Catalonia & Valencia. Unlike traditional paella, which never has seafood, fideuá always contains a variety of mariscos. Made with shrimp, calamari, cuttlefish, clams, or mussels, this pasta dish is hearty and delicious. You’ll find it goes best with side a dollop of alioli, a silky garlic and oil sauce that gives the dish an extra creamy texture. If you want a real authentic experience, or your wine in a porrón, a traditional pitcher. Its unique shape makes drinking wine with a glass unnecessary. The trick is to not let the pitcher touch your lips if you plan to share with your friends!

More Spanish Food

Hungry for more? Then check out our essential primer of Spanish foods, desserts, and drinks.

Hope you enjoy!

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