7 Must Eat Foods in Spain

Morcilla, or blood sausage, at Mesón Cinco Jotas in Madrid.
Morcilla, or blood sausage, at Mesón Cinco Jotas in Madrid.

One of the most compelling aspects of traveling is trying new or unique food.  Whether it’s good or bad, what you eat while traveling definitely adds a component to any trip.  As someone who’s obsessed with food, I picked two countries notorious for their excellent cuisine for my first trip to Europe, and they did not disappoint.  So much of what we ate was memorable, but here is what you can’t miss eating.

7 Must Eat Foods in Spain

Anchovies in olive oil next to a plate of jamón ibérico in Barcelona.
Anchovies in olive oil next to a plate of jamón ibérico at Fidalgo in Barcelona.

1. Ham :: Jamón Ibérico

Spain is famous for their ham.  And not just any ham, cured Iberian ham made from black Iberian pigs that spend their lives eating acorns and olives, which is actually reflected in the pork’s flavor.  The ham is dried for two weeks, rinsed, dried for another 4-6 weeks, then cured for a year.  The melt-in-your-mouth, slightly salty, juicy slices of pork are often served with cheese and other charcuterie and can be found all over Spain.

Iberico ham on display at Los Bellota in Barcelona.
Iberico ham is freshly sliced. Here the pork is on display at Los Bellota in Barcelona.

2. Tomato Bread :: Pa Amb Tomàquet

I anticipated eating jamón ibérico before heading to Spain but had never heard of Pa amb tomàquet before.  The dish is simple but deliciously satisfying.  Bread, sometimes toasted, is rubbed with garlic, then tomatoes until they are crushed, then topped with olive oil and salt.  It often accompanies charcuterie plates or served as an appetizer; found mostly in the Catalonia and Majorca regions.  (Here’s my travel companion’s recipe for tomato bread.)

Patatas bravas at Cafe y Tapas in Madrid.
The best patatas bravas we had in Spain were at Cafe y Tapas in Madrid.

3. Spicy Potatoes :: Patatas Bravas

Another staple in Spanish cuisine, patatas bravas are fried white potatoes topped with a spicy tomato or aioli sauce.  Originally from Madrid, the potatoes can be found in many of Spain’s regions and the sauce varies depending on local customs.  (In Valencia, they are topped with a red pepper and paprika sauce.)

Amazing paella at Bosque Palermo in Barcelona.
Amazing paella at Bosque Palermo in Barcelona.

4. Paella

Paella is another well-known Spanish dish that originates from the Moorish residents of Spain in the 15th Century.  Since then, the dish has spread throughout the country with each region putting a local spin on the dish.  Ingredients vary widely, but the main component is rice and vegetables flavored with saffron and paprika, cooked over an open flame and served in the cooking pan.  Seafood, duck, chicken or rabbit is usually added.

Morcilla, or blood sausage, at Mesón Cinco Jotas in Madrid.
Morcilla, or blood sausage, at Mesón Cinco Jotas in Madrid.

5. Blood Sausage :: Morcilla

I didn’t know blood sausage was a thing in Spain and having promised myself I’d never touch the stuff, I unknowingly ordered morcilla in Madrid.  Instantly overwhelmed with how delicious whatever it was I was eating, I later learned I’d just fallen for blood sausage.  Which is exactly what it sounds like: cooked pork blood added to rice, onions, fat and salt and stuffed into a casing.  It tasted like a rich sausage with a hint of sweetness.  Like most dishes, different regions change the additions to the blood, adding potatoes, breadcrumbs or nuts instead of rice.

A fried egg on top of potatoes and sliced iberico ham at Hotel Preciadod in Madrid.
A fried egg on top of potatoes and sliced iberico ham at Hotel Preciadod in Madrid.

6. Huevos Estrallados

Fried eggs topped a multitude of dishes in Madrid.  Turns out, huevos estrallados, fried eggs over fried potatoes, is a classic Madrid dish.  It’s often served with sliced meat or sausage (like chorizo).  What seems like a breakfast dish to Americans makes a great dinner dish in Spain.

Razor clams at Ferran in Barcelona.
Razor clams at Ferran in Barcelona.

7.  Anything with Seafood

Spain consumes the highest amount of seafood in all of Europe.  Before I visited, I didn’t equate seafood with Spanish cuisine, but every restaurant we went to had a plethora of ocean-dwelling creatures on the menu.  Octopus, squid, shrimp, anchovies, clams and other seafood dishes were a main part of our Spanish diets and all of it was amazingly, deliciously fresh.  So wherever you are in Spain, order a seafood dish; you won’t be disappointed.

Anguilla (baby eels) and shrimp on bread at Cafe y Tapas in Madrid.
Anguilla (baby eels) and shrimp on bread at Cafe y Tapas in Madrid.

Other dishes not to miss: gazpacho (from the Andalucia region), churros with chocolate (from Madrid), Anguilla or baby eels (another Madrid favorite), burrata in Toledo, and croquetas, fried balls of dough stuffed with everything from vegetables to pork (found throughout Spain).

Related :: Four days in Barcelona and a 17-course dinner, four days in Madrid and the oldest restaurant in the world.

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