34 Traditional Spanish Foods That Will Whet Your Appetite

Spain is a vibrant country full of exciting experiences and colorful festivals. The same can be said of its food! If you’re wondering what to eat in Spain, here are 34 traditional Spanish foods that will surely make you hungry! 

Traditional Spanish appetizers

1. Gazpacho

Red soup gazpacho on a wood table with herbs around, top view

When it comes to traditional Spanish food, gazpacho is easily one of the most popular dishes. 

This refreshing cold soup is made primarily of fresh, raw tomatoes, stale bread, and other vegetables. A must-have during summer, gazpacho boasts a vibrant, blood-red color and promises a burst of flavor with every spoonful! 

Fun fact: Even though the Roman (supposedly) brought gazpacho to Spain many centuries ago, it wasn’t until the 19th century, when the Spanish started adding tomatoes to the recipe, that this traditional Spanish appetizer took on the color it is most famously known for today! 

2. Salmorejo

Salmorejo is another traditional Spanish appetizer that uses juicy tomatoes as its main ingredient. 

Originating from the southern city of Cordoba, salmorejo features the same striking color as gazpacho and even uses similar ingredients. However, unlike gazpacho, salmorejo features a slightly thicker and creamier texture, almost like a puree. 

What’s more, different versions of this cold soup often come with different toppings, with ham and boiled egg being the most common. Like gazpacho, it’s the perfect way to stave off the summer heat! 

3. Pisto

Vegetable dish pisto manchego made of tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, onions and eggplant served in frying pan with egg.

Hailing from the historical region of La Mancha, pisto is best described as the Spanish version of ratatouille. 

Just like the appetizing dish we saw in the animated film, pisto is mainly made from a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, and courgettes. Unlike ratatouille though, pisto is usually topped with eggs, either fried, or baked together with the vegetables in olive oil. 

In addition, pisto is also sometimes served as a hearty stew that also features potatoes and ham! 

4. Escalivada

high angle view of a bowl with some escalivada, made with eggplant, onion and red pepper typical of catalonia, spain

Catalonia is arguably my favorite region in Spain, mostly because of its vibrant culture which is also reflected in escalivada, one of its most famous traditional Spanish dishes. 

This warm starter is a labor of love when it comes to preparation. First, vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, onions, and eggplants are grilled to a char before being peeled and seasoned. They are then served along with a variety of grilled meat dishes. 

The combination of flavors and textures is simply incredible and words cannot describe how amazing they blend on your palette. I can guarantee that it will certainly whet your appetite!

5. Migas

Migas is a traditional Spanish appetizer that epitomizes the phrase “nothing gets thrown away”. 

The word migas means crumbs, and that is exactly what’s as the main ingredient: Breadcrumbs. The bread is usually soaked in water and then fried to a crisp in olive oil, and seasoned with garlic and a dash of smoky paprika. 

Other common ingredients that are added include bacon, chorizo (we’ll get to that), and vegetables like spinach or bell peppers. 

Traditional Spanish dishes

6. Paella

Paellha Espoñola

Paella is surely the most famous traditional Spanish food of all! This colorful, flavorful dish first originated in the city of Valencia but has since become the national dish of Spain, and for good reason! 

Traditional Spanish paella is prepared in a large, shallow pan, a technique that is still primarily used today. The dish consists of rice cooked in an olive oil base over an open fire and seasoned with various herbs and spices including saffron, the most important spice of all. 

There are many different versions of paella these days, each using different ingredients commonly found in the region. Seafood paella is the most common variety, but there are also versions of the recipe that use chicken, duck, and even rabbit. 

My favorite is for sure the seafood paella. It’s mainstream, yes, but in terms of flavor and texture, it is truly delicioso! You simply have to try it when you’re in Spain! 

7. Arros a banda

Arros a banda

Arros a banda is like the lesser-known cousin of paella. Often found in the coastal areas of Alicante, this creamy rice dish was originally eaten by the fishing community of the area but has since spread in popularity and can now even be found as far up north as Barcelona!

The story goes that fishermen in Alicante used to sell their best catch but keep leftover fish to make stock. They then used the stock, along with some leftover fish and cheap vegetables, to cook their rice. Thus, arros a banda was born! 

Usually served with alioli (garlic sauce), each bite of arros a banda is packed full of flavor. If you love seafood, you’ll definitely enjoy this traditional Spanish dish! 

8. Fideua

Traditional Fideua from Spain, a typical noodle paella

Another traditional Spanish dish that is cooked in a similar fashion to paella is fideua, a Valencian dish that was created by fishermen eager to feed their families. 

The biggest difference between fideua and paella (and also arros a banda) is that it uses thin noodles instead of rice. The noodles are usually cooked in an aromatic broth along with fresh seafood caught off the coast for the perfect rustic indulgence. 

9. Cochinillo

fried pig

Having been to Spain a couple of times, I can safely tell you this: The Spanish love their pork! 

Out of all the traditional Spanish dishes that feature pork as the main ingredient, perhaps none are as aesthetically striking as cochinillo, the famous roast suckling pig which originated in the historic city of Segovia. 

The meat is first seasoned with a myriad of herbs and spices, basted with butter and olive oil, then, slow-baked in clay roasters for up to three hours. Once fully cooked, the cochinillo is then served whole and often paired with fine Spanish wines. 

10. Fabadas

Fabadas is one of those traditional Spanish dishes that perfectly captures the essence of comfort food. 

This simple delicacy, usually found in the region of Asturias, features white beans that are cooked with olive oil, garlic, and paprika, along with various cuts of ham, sausages, and chorizo. 

Rich, creamy, oh, so satisfying, fabadas is often served during winter as the largest meal of the day. Speaking of, if you’re on a diet, you may want to skip this one because fabadas is muy alto en calorías!

11. Calamares a la Andaluza

Deep-fried squid seafood big tapas plate

The Andalusian region in the South of Spain is most famous for having the freshest seafood in the country. It’s no surprise then, that this region is where Calamares a la Andaluza originated from. 

This traditional Spanish snack is super simple. It is basically fresh calamari rings that are battered and deep-fried to golden perfection. Traditionally, Calamares a la Andaluza were eaten simply with a squeeze of lemon juice to preserve the squid’s natural flavor. 

However, thanks to its popularity among tourists (I can personally confirm this), this crunchy snack is now often served with mayonnaise or tartar sauce too.  

12. Pulpo a la Gallega

Pulpo a la gallega octopus spanish recipe

I vividly remember my first experience of Pulpo a la Gallega. I knew it was octopus when I ordered it but I expected something that was fried in crunchy batter. 

Instead, when this traditional Spanish delicacy arrived at my table, what I saw were bite-sized pieces of boiled octopus that were generously seasoned with salt, paprika, and olive oil. I’ll be honest, it didn’t look extremely appetizing at first glance. 

But once I took a bit of this Galician dish, it was a totally different story. The tenderness of the octopus, combined with the aroma of the paprika and olive oil, was simply incredible!

13. Rabo de Toro

I would say that oxtail soup is quite a common delicacy throughout the world. However, this traditional Spanish stew from Andalusia takes it up a notch. 

Rabo de Toro actually translates to bull tail. However, this hearty stew is usually made with oxtail which is more accessible. The oxtail is cut up into bite-sized pieces and slow-cooked until tender and rich in flavor. 

I recommend giving this a try, especially during the cold winter months! 

14. Puchero

Spanish Puchero

Sticking with hearty Andalusian stews in winter, puchero is a traditional Spanish dish that is mainly made with chickpeas.

Once known as a soup enjoyed by peasants, puchero has now grown to a popular delicacy, albeit lesser-known among tourists. The stew has a creamy consistency and is loaded with plenty of meat (usually beef or veal) and vegetables like celery, potatoes, and turnips. 

While I’ve not tried puchero personally, my friends in Spain tell me that a bowl of this stew when it’s snowing outside really hits the spot!  

Traditional Tapas

Tapas are easily the most famous aspect of Spain’s culinary culture and identity. For the uninitiated, tapas are a variety of pint-sized snacks and appetizers that are lumped together.

When in Spain, dining at a tapas bar is one of the best ways to experience a traditional Spanish meal! Here are some of the most popular dishes that are staples at every tapas bar. 

15. Jamon Iberico

Christmas Jamon in Madrid, Spain

Made from pigs found on the Iberian Peninsula, Jamon Iberico boasts incredibly delicate flavors that make it one of the most delicious cured hams in the world. 

Apart from its burst of flavor, Jamon Iberico is also famous for its deep pink color and its eye-catching presentation. As you walk into a tapas bar, you’ll likely notice a full leg of ham displayed prominently where everyone can see it. That, my friend, is Jamon Iberico. 

Your server will then carve thin, melt-in-your-mouth slices straight from the leg of ham you just saw when you walked in and serve it to you. All that’s left to do then, is simply take a bite and instantly fall in love!  

16. Patatas Bravas

Patatas bravas

I’m not gonna lie: Patatas Bravas almost made me give up fries for life because of how good they tasted! 

This traditional Spanish snack is so simple, yet packs a flavorful punch in every bite. To prepare it, potatoes are cut up into small cubes and fried to crispy, golden perfection. A hot and spicy sauce is then drizzled over the potatoes to create the perfect combination of flavor and texture. 

I can’t describe patatas bravas any better than that because that’s all there is to describe. However, my tastebuds certainly still remember what they taste like! 

17. Pimientos de PadrĂłn

On the subject of hot and spicy, Pimientos de Padron (originating in the region of Padron in Galicia), is another popular Spanish tapas that I would recommend trying. 

It is made using peppers from Padron, distinguishable by their uniquely small and uneven shape. These are deep-fried and then drizzled with olive oil before serving. 

However, what makes this Spanish tapa so special is the inconsistency in taste. You see, most Padron peppers are mild. However, a small portion of them can be immensely spicy. The catch? You don’t know which one is which until it’s on your palette! 

18. Chorizo

Spanish chorizo

This traditional Spanish pork sausage, first made during the time of the Romans, is famous for being one of the most delicious sausages in the world! 

It is made with both pork meat (chopped, not minced) and port fat, which gives it an extra rich texture. The meat mixture is then seasoned with smoked paprika, garlic, and pepper to give it its distinct aroma and color, and then cured over several weeks.  

The end result is an aromatic sausage that melts in your mouth. As a tapa, it is usually served as a cold cut, as an accompaniment to a different tapa, or grilled to perfection. 

19. Ensaladilla Rusa

While purveying the menu at a tapas bar, the Ensaladilla Rusa will probably make you do a double-take. That’s because its English name is “Russian Salad”. How a salad that originated in Moscow became a Spanish tapas classic is, unfortunately, beyond me at this point. 

However, this Spanish classic, made with tinned tuna, boiled potatoes, eggs, and mayonnaise, is a surprisingly delicious snack. It is usually served with min-breadsticks called picos de pan.  

20. Gambas al Ajillo

Prawns in garlic sauce

Those of you who love shrimp will adore Gambas al Ajillo, a traditional Spanish snack that is a staple at every tapas meal. 

Basically, fresh shrimp is coated in garlic, olive oil, and paprika and then cooked in a shallow pan until tender and juicy. Sometimes, sherry is added to give the shrimps an added kick. The best way to savor this crowd-pleaser is simply to eat it on its own or over toasted bread.

21. Boquerones en vinagre

Another staple when it comes to traditional Spanish tapas is boquerones en vinagre, or simply, anchovies in vinegar. 

As the name suggests, this dish consists of fresh anchovies that are marinated in vinegar, olive oil, and garlic. It is usually served raw and paired with toasted bread, olives, or on skewers.

It may be a little intimidating for those who dislike fish (especially raw fish), but for those who enjoy the taste of the ocean, this is one tapa you can’t afford to miss! 

22. Mojama

Spanish appetizer before the main course: fried fresh almonds, mojama - pressed salted tuna, salted and pressed fish caviar.

Personally, I’ve never tried mojama, but if given the chance, I certainly will. Usually served with almonds and toast, mojama is known as the “ham of the sea” and is made by salting fresh tuna and then drying it under the sun for several hours. 

Traditionally, mojama is served in thin slices, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned to taste. My friends tell me that it has a lingering salty taste (almost like umami) and a firm texture. 

23. Carrillada de Cerdo

Made from tender pork cheeks that are first fried in garlic-infused oil, Carrillada de Cerdo is an Andalusian delicacy that achieves its rich flavor by allowing the meat to simmer in a mixture of wine and broth. Once the sauce thickens, honey and fresh chives are added to further elevate the flavor. 

Carrillada de Cerdo is usually eaten on its own but sometimes, you will find it served atop a bed of fluffy mashed potatoes for added texture. 

24. Croquetas

Vermut and croquetas in Sitges, Barcelona

Nothing beats the satisfaction of biting into a crunchy ball of meat. Thankfully, that is exactly what a croqueta is! 

Found in tapas bars throughout Spain, this traditional Spanish snack is simply a fried ball of dough that is stuffed with meat (usually ham) and cheese. Sometimes, other ingredients like onions or spices are added for an extra kick. 

Traditional Spanish breakfast

25. Huevos Rotos

huevos rotos

Think of huevos rotos as a deconstructed Full English but with Spanish ingredients. This hearty breakfast from Madrid consists of cured ham and fried potatoes topped with a fried egg complete with a runny yolk. 

Squeeze some lemon juice over the top, pop the yolk and dig in! I recommend eating huevos rotos while it’s warm and to mop up the yolk with a bread roll. Ah, what a way to start any day! 

26. Tortilla Espanola

Spanish spinach and potato omelette

When you order a tortilla in Spain, don’t expect your typical wrap with meat and veges. Instead, a tortilla in Spain is basically a traditional Spanish omelet. 

Often eaten at breakfast or as a tapa, Tortilla Espanola consists of sauteed potatoes, onions, and eggs. The key to a good Spanish tortilla is patience. Rather than scramble the eggs, you’re supposed to wait for each side to set before flipping it over. 

This gives the outer layer a nice crust while the inside remains nice and fluffy! It’s one of my favorite breakfast foods in Spain and once you try one, you’ll definitely understand why! 

27. Bocadillo

Spanish bocadillo

A bocadillo is the most common food in Spain, traditionally eaten at breakfast, lunch, and dinner thanks to how readily available and inexpensive it is. 

It is basically a sandwich made with a Spanish pan that looks like a French baguette. The bread is sliced in half and filled with a variety of fillings including cold cuts, seafood, and more. In fact, I once ordered a bocadillo that was filled with fried calamari rings! 

Unlike Subway though, you don’t drench your sandwich in sauces. That’s because the natural flavors of the fillings are already more than enough to satisfy your cravings. Trust me, it’s increible! 

28. Pan con tomate

bread with tomato, typical of Catalonia, Spain

Compared to a bocadillo, pan con tomate is a much simpler dish in terms of ingredients. 

As the name suggests, it is simply bread (toasted or otherwise) smeared with tomato puree, and seasoned with salt, olive oil, and (sometimes) garlic. It is a quick and simple dish to prepare and you can find plenty of cafes offering this traditional Spanish breakfast throughout the country. 

Traditional Spanish desserts

29. Churros

Spanish churros

When it comes to traditional Spanish desserts, none are as globally well-known as churros. These delicious twisty strips of fried dough are so good that they’re sometimes even eaten at breakfast!

Personally, I think churros are great on their own. However, most Spaniards dip their churros in either hot chocolate or dulce de leche, caramelized milk. My advice? Look for cafes that serve fresh churros because the crunch on a churro that just left the fryer really hits different. 

30. Leche Frita

Another popular Spanish dessert is leche frita, or simply, fried milk. 

You’ve probably already guessed it by its name, but basically, leche frita involves coating a milk-based pudding in flour and egg and then deep-frying until golden-brown. It is then dusted with cinnamon for that extra touch of sweetness. 

As you bite into one, you’ll be amazed by the unique combination of textures, not to mention the aroma of the milk pudding. Thankfully, you won’t have to search far and wide for leche frita because most bakeries and cafes in Spain sell them. 

31. Crema Catalana

Spanish crema catalana

What if I told you that the world-famous creme brulee, actually originated in Spain under a different name?

Crema catalana is a traditional Spanish dessert that is made with egg yolks, milk, sugar, and vanilla. Like creme brulee, this smooth, creamy custard features a crisp caramel crust. 

In more modern variations, some chefs substitute the vanilla with lemon zest or cinnamon to give the custard a more distinct flavor. However, personally, I much prefer the original recipe! 

Traditional Spanish drinks

32. Agua de Valencia

Agua de Valencia from fresh orange in glass on table

If you ever find yourself in the beautiful city of Valencia, you must remember to try Agua de Valencia. 

This traditional Spanish cocktail is made with champagne, orange juice, gin, and vodka. Often served in a large pitcher that’s made for sharing, this boozy Spanish drink is surprisingly light on the palette and features a sweet aftertaste thanks to the orange juice. 

33. Agua de Sevilla

Over in Sevilla, you have Agua de Sevilla! 

This cocktail uses pineapple juice, sparkling wine, whiskey, and sugar, among other mixers and ingredients. Unlike Agua de Valencia, this Spanish cocktail is usually served individually and topped with whipped cream. 

34. Sangria

a glass of sangria

Finally, it wouldn’t be a list of traditional Spanish cuisine without mentioning sangria, the most famous traditional Spanish drink! 

This wine-based drink is made with red wine, brandy, fresh-cut fruits, and sugar. Often served cold in a large pitcher, sangria has a distinctly light taste and a fruity aroma. It is particularly popular in the summer and during the year-end holiday season. 

And there you have it, 34 traditional Spanish food that will make you mucho hambre! Can’t get rid of the hunger pang? Check out these delicious Vietnamese snacks and refreshing Japanese drinks while you’re at it! 

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