Spain is a diverse country, full of different regions all with their respective specialty cuisines and traditions. Because of this, an article about what to eat in Spain proved to be much more difficult than previously thought. So, take this list with a grain of salt because some absolutely fantastic dishes had to be “cut” from this list otherwise this article would never end! And now, without further ado, a short list of some do- not- miss dishes in Spain… hunger pains, be gone!
Tortilla de Patatas
Tortilla de Patatas is a dish that is about as simple as it gets. A combination of eggs, oil, salt, potatoes and sometimes onion, this “Spanish Omelette”, as it’s commonly called, is a dish for all hours. Tortilla de Patatas is eaten widely throughout Spain, and during a meal is typically served cold as an appetizer. The addition of onions, herbs, or peppers to the omelets is not traditional, but still done at many restaurants. When served fresh, the omelette should be fairly thick (at least compared to its American counterpart), and should be juicy in the middle. Fun fact: The largest Tortilla de Patatas (according to The Guinness World Records) was made in August 2012 in Portugal. The omelette took 55 people to make, and volunteers stirred the massive omelette for over 6 hours!
A dish made of rice, simmered slowly with a blend of meat, vegetables, spices, and saffron. Though there are other types of paella made, for example with chicken or seafood, Paella Valencia is the traditional and typical Spanish Paella. Don’t try and order Paella Valencia if you’re not in Valencia, we promise it won’t be as good as being in the city where it originated from. Paella Valencia is actually primarily made with Rabbit meat, and also contains a collection of onions, beans, garlic, and of course, the signature saffron color and flavor. Can’t make it to Valencia? Don’t worry, because there are many other types of paella adapted from the original Paella Valencia recipe. Notable variations include meat paella, seafood paella (paella marinara), and for the more adventurous, black paella (made black by squid ink)!
A type of cured ham made in Spain and Portugal, Jamon Iberico gets its name from the breed of Iberian pigs that the ham is made from. Like any other cut of meat, there are different grades of Jamon Iberico. The highest grade is called “Jamon Iberico de Bellota”, which means that this ham is from pigs that were raised completely free- range in an oak forest, and lived solely on a diet of acorns. This pure diet affects the quality and flavor of the ham greatly, and Jamon Iberico de Bellota is said to be one of the best types of ham in the world. Thought Jamon Iberico in general is good, if you have the opportunity to try Jamon Iberico de Bellota, do it. You won’t regret it!
Though you can find croquettes in various parts of Europe and the rest of the world, Spain specializes in making this delicious, fried treat. Specifically, the most popular types of croquettes served include those stuffed with ham (jamon), pulled chicken (puchero, or pollo), mushroom (boletus), cod (bacalao), or shrimp (gambas). Made of one of these ingredients, mixed with bechamel sauce or mashed potatoes, covered in breadcrumbs, and fried to golden perfection, croquettes in Spain are on a completely different culinary level. Don’t wait until you’re at a sit- down restaurant to enjoy these– croquettes are often served alongside other small dishes in tapas bars. Enjoy with a cold beer, and you’re just like one of the locals!
Often served alongside croquettes in tapas bars, patatas bravas are potatoes boiled in heavily salted water until tender, rubbed dry, then deep fried. Smothered or served with a spicy region- specific sauce (Burgos favors a tomato- based sauce, while Valencia and Catalonia favor an aoili), these “brave potatoes” are a staple of the tapas bar scene. Share with friends, family, or even the people next to you at the bar, patatas bravas are sure to bring people together.