Spain is a beautiful European country that’s rich in history and culture. If you’ve ever been to Spain or have Spanish friends, you know just how important their culture is to them, especially their food!
The food in Spain ranges from delicious small plates, better known as tapas, to appetizers, larger dishes, and some divine desserts. Whether it’s churros or chorizo, Spanish food is famous worldwide for its delicious flavors and unique spices.
Whether you’re traveling to Spain or there’s a great new Spanish restaurant in your town, these are some of the best Spanish foods you need to try.
Even if you’ve never tried Spanish food before, you’ve probably heard of their most famous dish, paella.
While you can eat paella throughout Spain and in many parts of the world, its origins are in the Valencia region.
While most people think paella is strictly a dish with seafood, traditional paella has two forms: one with rabbit and chicken and the other with seafood.
This delicious dish features those protein sources, Spanish rice, peppers, onions, and a great blend of seasonings.
This vibrant meal gets its color from saffron! If it’s served traditionally, it’ll come to your table in a scorching, black skillet, a socarrat, to keep the bottom crisp as you eat.
Whenever you go out to eat at a tapas bar or really any Spanish restaurant, tapas are usually a staple.
Croquetas are one of the tastiest tapas menu items you can order. They’re perfect for sharing or eating on your own.
The inside of the croquetas is usually bechamel sauce, but you can find several places that make ham croquetas or include other protein fillings.
Besides ham, another popular filling is cod. Whatever the filling, they deep-fry the tiny tubes after coating them in breadcrumbs.
Each restaurant or bar has its own variety of croquetas, but you won’t be disappointed in them. I love them with a nice glass of wine or cold beer.
3. Patatas Bravas
Patatas bravas is a can’t-miss tapas dish for the potato lovers out there.
Patatas bravas translates to “brave potatoes,” but it’s the name for the delicious sauce that comes on top of your diced potatoes.
The sauce is a little spicy, so only the brave can tolerate the heat. It’s rare to see a dish with a spicy sauce since the Spanish usually don’t have spicy sauces or other elements in their food.
Chefs cut the potatoes into small cubes before frying them.
The sauce will vary depending on where you get the dish from. Some people use spicy ketchup as the base, and others use garlic mayonnaise with plenty of paprika.
Either way, this classic Spanish dish is delicious, and even though it’s a tapa, it’s quite filling.
Most people love soup on a cold day, but what about on a hot day? Gazpacho is a famous soup in Spain that comes to you cold.
Yes, the soup is chilled and perfect on a hot day! This dish is a lifesaver, especially during the scorching summer months in southern Spain.
Gazpacho is an Andalusian soup that has a tomato base. Besides the fresh tomatoes used, it typically has peppers, onions, garlic, and olive oil.
Most restaurants and people will serve the dish with bread that you can dip into the soup.
Each person makes their gazpacho differently, but the above ingredients are what most people always use. I sometimes blend cucumbers into it to add even more refreshing qualities.
5. Leche Frita
Leche frita might be one of the oddest dishes to come from Spain, but you can’t knock it until you try it.
The dish is fried milk. It may sound weird, but it’s a popular dessert throughout the country, mostly in northern Spain.
Adults love this dish, but the kids are the ones who always request it. The Leche frita is milk pudding that chefs will encase in a crunchy batter.
Once they fry the milk, they set it aside to cool briefly and then top it with cinnamon and sugar.
You can eat it with only sugar and cinnamon or add ice cream, whipped cream, or whatever other toppings you prefer. Leche frita is one of the best Spanish foods out there!
Another dish that almost everyone worldwide has at least heard of is churros.
This dessert is a popular option at Spanish restaurants, as well as Mexican, and other Hispanic restaurants in the United States and other areas around the world.
You can eat them as dessert after dinner or as a snack when craving something sweet.
Churros are fried pastry dough that people will cut into long strips or bite-sized pieces, depending on where you are. They are similar to donuts in ingredients and texture, but offer something different.
Once the dough is golden brown, people top them with a lot of sugar. You can eat them just like that, or many restaurants and vendors offer dipping sauces like chocolate.
7. Pimientos de Padron
Pimiento de Padron are essentially pimento peppers in Spanish.
The dish is straightforward and consists of, you guessed it, pimento peppers. Depending on where you’re eating, they’re usually served as an appetizer or tapa.
The peppers are tossed in olive oil and a variety of seasonings before the chef grills them. The best part about these peppers is that slight char on them when you see them at your table.
The char is just enough to add a unique flavor to the peppers without tasting completely burnt.
If you’ve never had pimento peppers, don’t worry. They’re not spicy like habanero or jalapeno peppers.
Bacalao is a Spanish dish that dates back centuries.
When Spanish anglers would work off the coast of Norway or Newfoundland, they would catch codfish and bring them back to Spain.
To ensure they stayed fresh throughout the journey home, they added salt to the fish.
Since fishermen cannot catch cod off the coast of Spain, this salted cod quickly became a highly desired meal. Bacalao is just salted cod, making it one of the most straightforward Spanish dishes.
The cod is left to soak in water for at least 24 hours before removing it. This helps remove all the salt except for a slight taste. You can eat it on its own or enjoy it with a garlic sauce or lemon juice.
Fabada is a classic dish in the northern Iberian peninsula of Spain.
While most of the country sees warmer winters, this area can get pretty cold. When the weather gets chilly, they love to eat fabada.
Fabada is a bean stew that will keep you warm in the winter. The stew is made with kidney beans, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
Most Spaniards love to throw in spicy meats like chorizo or season the stew to add some spice.
Others love to add morcilla, which is blood pudding. The recipe may vary depending on where in the Iberian peninsular you are. The original fabada comes from the Asturias region, though.
10. Pulpo a la gallega
If you know anything about Spanish cuisine, then you know that octopus is common on almost every menu.
Whether the Spanish eat it in a cold octopus salad or fry it for tapas, it’s on the menu, and it’s delicious.
One of Spain’s most famous octopus dishes is pulpo a la gallega. It’s pieces of octopus with rock salt, olive oil, and paprika to draw out the natural flavors of the octopus.
You’ll likely see it come out with potatoes if you order this at a restaurant.
The combination of octopus and potatoes makes for a delicious and filling meal. Even if octopus seems odd to you when in Spain, you have to give it a try.
11. Jamón Ibérico
If you’re going out for tapas with friends or family, this is one you won’t want to miss.
Jamon iberico is just Iberian cured ham. It’s delicious and the perfect tapas to enjoy with a cold beer, glass of wine, or anything else you like to drink.
The cured ham comes from the giant pork legs hanging from the ceiling in restaurants and bars throughout Spain. Chefs or butchers carve the leg into small strips before curing it.
Restaurants and bars often serve the Iberian cured ham with local cheeses and bread. Whether you eat the ham slices on your own or add some local cheese, you won’t be disappointed.
We’ve already brought up gazpacho, but there’s another fantastic cold soup that the Spanish love to eat on hot days.
Salmorejo is another cold soup that some call the cousin of gazpacho.
Salmorejo has origins in the southern Spanish city of Cordoba. While gazpacho is a tomato-based soup, this soup doesn’t use tomatoes.
The base for salmorejo is usually beets, which gives it a beautiful purple/pink color.
You’ll sometimes see people using strawberries as well for the soup. It’s still topped with breadcrumbs and usually served with bread, which is something I prefer.
13. Spanish Tortilla
Last but not least, we have the Spanish tortilla or tortilla Espanola.
This is my favorite traditional Spanish dish. Some people even call it a Spanish omelet. You’ll often see it on the tapas menu at restaurants, but you can enjoy this dish as a complete meal!
The tortilla consists of onions and potatoes. You’ll fry these up before adding eggs to the mixture. The onions will caramelize and give the dish a great flavor.
While potatoes and onions are the traditional way to serve the meal, there are variations.
Some chefs add spinach or other greens, and some add chorizo. Either way, the meal is tasty and filling. The best part is that many chefs serve the dish with a garlic aioli on the side that’s to die for.