My Favorite Spanish Foods

A lot of people, mainly foreigners, try to make lists of Spain’s “best” foods. These lists are inevitably commented on by Spaniards who just have to tell them how wrong they are. I’m not into that. Why? I don’t think there’s any way to say certain foods are better than others, unless we’re comparing jamón serrano and jamón ibérico. Then’s there’s no contest.

Over my years in Spain, I’ve tried a lot of Spanish dishes, typical and atypical, homemade and in restaurants, in four different weddings … and I’ve come to realize that I’m very loyal to my favorites. Given the choice, there are certain foods I would eat day in and day out, every day for the rest of my life. If I could, you know, and money weren’t an option. What are these foods, you ask? Of course you want to know, because my favorite foods should be everyone’s! (Just kidding. The less people like them, the more for me!)

In no particular order, they are:

lentejas
[Source: Recetas de Rechupete]

1. Lentejas. You could translate this as lentil stew, but lentejas literally means “lentils.” It’s a stew of sorts, made with lentils, but not just any lentils—Spanish pardina lentils. My mother-in-law makes lentejas. Her recipe includes chorizo, leeks, carrot, bay leaf, and garlic.

Jamon Iberico[Source: Wikipedia]

2. Jamón. Oh of course, another guiri likes ham, how original. But guys, it’s just that good, especially if we’re talking jamón ibérico de bellota, Iberian ham, here. Which of course we are. What is Iberlian ham? Also called pata negra (black hoof), this ham is cured, and not what you think of when you think about a traditional Christmas ham. No, this ham is beyond. It is made only from black Iberian pigs, which mainly live in the south and southwest parts of Spain. The pigs are free range, and they roam around eating mainly acorns during a certain period of their lives. This results in one of the tastiest things I’ve ever eaten.Salchichon[Source: Wikipedia]

3. Salchichón. Salchichón is a thick, dry cured sausage made of pork. I’ve gotta admit something. I’m a salchichón snob. My in-laws make homemade salchichón and chorizo, and once you’ve eaten theirs, there’s no going back to the storebought stuff. It’s that good. I’ve been converted to the religion of salchichón casero, and I’m nothing if not devout.

Salchichón, similarly to other cured meats (jamón, chorizo, etc.) was a way to preserve meat after slaughter, la matanza, before refrigerators. It was a handy (and tasty!) way to eat pork.

Tortilla

[Source: Wikipedia]

4. Tortilla de patata. This tortilla has nothing to do with the Mexican one. This is a potato and egg omelette. Oh yeah, and onion. Some people make tortilla without onion, but for me it isn’t the same! Most of the time, you can just refer to it as a tortilla, but if you want to clarify, it’s tortilla de patata, to distinguish it from a typical omelette, called a tortilla francesa, or French omelette. It’s a dish that you can find in most any bar, anywhere you go in Spain.

The great thing about this dish is that it’s easy and you likely already have all the ingredients: potatoes, eggs, onions, salt, and olive oil. It’s also cheap, but satisfying.

Pan con Tomate
[Source: Toast]

5. Pa amb tomàquet. Meaning “bread with tomato,” this dish is a breakfast staple in much of Spain, but especially in Cataluña and Andalucía. In my mind, there’s no better breakfast. Some like to add a bit of jamón, but I’m a purist.

This dish isn’t one you prepare, exactly, but here’s how you make it: rub a clove of garlic on toasted (or untoasted, but toasted is easier) bread, followed by a ripe, raw tomato. Season to taste with salt and good olive oil. In some places, the tomato and garlic mixture is premade, and you just have to spoon it on.

Salmorejo
[Source: Spanish Sabores]

6. Salmorejo. I do love tomatoes, why do you ask? Salmorejo is another dish typical of Andalucía, originating from Córdoba. Its ingredients include tomatoes, bread, garlic, oil, and vinegar, with eggs and ham for garnish (and for taste, of course). Lauren from Spanish Sabores also loves salmorejo, and you can read her mother-in-law’s recipe here.

Huevos Rotos

[Source: Wikipedia]

7. Huevos rotos / huevos estrellados. Meaning “broken eggs,” this dish is great to have with a few drinks. It’s hearty and contains lots of protein and carbohydrates. Unlike Americans or Brits, Spaniards don’t generally eat eggs for breakfast, so this is a lunch- or dinnertime-type meal. There are variations on this dish: some people scramble the eggs while others fry them in olive oil, leaving the yolks runny. I prefer the latter preparation, especially with eggs from the pueblo, meaning a richer flavor and bright orangeish yolk. It can be accompanied by smoked ham, bacon, or chorizo, my favorite being ham. (Recipe)

8. Arroz con leche. What we call rice pudding, arroz con leche is Mario’s signature dessert, and one of the only things he thinks he’s better at than his mother. Every year on his birthday, he spends a good hour to hour and a half tediously stirring the pot on the stove so as not to burn the milk and ruin the whole thing. The main ingredients in our version of this rice pudding are milk, rice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and lemon.

IMG_3574

9. Chichas. (Also referred to as picadillo de chorizo, zorza, jijas.) After reading this post, you might think I’m a carnivore, but the truth is I rarely eat meat. Not for any moral reasons, though, it’s just that meat is rather expensive, and I don’t mind getting my protein elsewhere. Nonetheless, I cannot resist the allure of chichas. What are they? They’re made from chorizo meat, fried up in a skillet, and served with warm with bread and preferably some good red wine.

Queso Zamorano
[Source: Carnicería Ibañez]

10. Queso de oveja zamorano. Similar to queso manchego, this sheep’s milk cheese is prepared and cured in the province of Zamora, from the sheep milk produced by a specific breed particular to the province. It is the most delicious cheese I’ve ever had—buttery, creamy, nutty, pungent. It goes great with red wine. As the Spaniards say, “Vino y queso … ¡sabe  a beso!” (Wine and cheese taste like a kiss!)

What are your favorite Spanish foods?

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21 comments

    1. No tengo mucha experiencia con arroces! Sólo conozco arroz a la zamorana, y aunque me gusta, prefiero otras cosas. Cuando vaya a Valencia, probaré algunos arroces!

  1. How can you forget berenjenas con miel de caña, gazpacho, and pretty much anything al ajillo? In case it wasn’t clear, those are some of my favorite foods in Spain :)

    1. I’ve never eaten berenjenas con miel (gasp)! I like gazpacho, but I prefer salmorejo.

      And anything al ajillo is a-okay in my book. I loooooove garlic.

  2. Stop it this is making me so homesick for Spain right now!! I’m going to go on a hunt for some good jamón serrano or ibérico as a result, there are several Spanish restaurants/bars/stores here owned by Spaniards that often times have the real-deal!

    Picadillo is really common in PR too!

  3. Can I just say..yummmm! I love everything on your list. Thank goodness there is an amazing Spanish food store here in lower Manhattan that I stalk (hmmm I mean shop) whenever I get “homesick”.

  4. Salmorejo is my number one! forever in my heart, i swear. everyone in my family prepares it in a different way and i can eat them all and enjoy them all and still be hungry and ask for more! of course, with ham and boiled egg ;)

  5. I LOVE tostada with tomato and olive oil, but I prefer it with the jamón! Yummm, breakfast of champions right there. I’ve tried to make it at home but it’s not the same?! Also a huge fan of huevos rotos (also with jamón), salmorejo (I drink it), a nice oozy slice of tortilla, lentejas…and now I’m starving. Also love a nice plate of migas but only once in a while cuz it’s sooooo bad for you.

  6. Ha! I wrote that original article, and yes, I admit… Jamón ibérico is better. I was thinking that serrano is just a general term, maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, I could easily write another article with 10 or 20 or 30 more foods. I love it all!

    1. Oh, no, it’s all very specific when it has to do with ham, Daniel! It’s a very serious topic!

      It’s so hard to keep it to 10. Someone posted about some of the things that I missed, and I have to admit, I love them too!

  7. Yum, my mouth is watering after reading that. You’ve covered all of my favourites except cocido madrileño, the best of them all!
    I’ll have to try the queso de oveja zamorano. I’m sure I will adore it as it’s hard for me to find a cheese I don’t like.

  8. Coincido contigo en todos y cada uno de los platos o ingredientes!
    Gracias por lo del Roast Beef, lo había visto escrito de ambas formas (junto y separado) y no tenía claro cuál era la correcta.
    Feliz fin de semana!

  9. Yes! You included pan con tomate! Though you called it ‘pa amb tomàquet’. Is that French? (excuse my ignorance) Great list. The simple stuff is always the best :)

  10. Anything with garbanzos, ensaladilla rusa and all food from Mallorca. It will change your life.

    And YES, if the tortilla doesn’t have onion, it’s wasting deliciousness potential.

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