What’s traditional Spanish food?

Tortilla de patatas
Tortilla de patatas

As I mentioned in my post about regions in Spain, the country is divided in 17 Comunidades Autónomas. And each has it’s own dishes, recipes and ways of doing things. This is somewhat obvious, because the availability of some ingredients, like fish for instance, will be less in the middle of the country, like in Toledo.

Yet, there are still traditional Spanish dishes that you can find all across the country, like tortilla, jamón, and ensaladilla rusa.

For the sake of space, I will list each Comunidad with one or two of it’s main regional foods, so that you can identify them quickly when you visit those places.

Please bear in mind that I haven’t tried all of them and I can’t tell you exactly what all of them are, but I will do my best.

Regional Spanish dishes


  • Gazpacho – this is a cold tomatoe soup, which is very refreshing in the summer. 
  • Salmorejo – similar to gazpacho
  • Pescaíto frito – deep fried fish. Don’t be put off by the calories and do try them. They’re lovely!


  • Migas – dish with some meat, vegetables and bread crumbs
  • Ternasco asado – roasted lamb


  • Fabada asturiana – Stew of white beans, chorizo, morcilla (black pudding) and other meats. Hearty, filling and perfect for cold days.
  • Cachopo – breaded and fried veal steak, with ham and cheese in the middle. Think of an extra large Schnitzel.
  • Sidra asturiana – cider. It’s a show to watch them pour it into the glass.


  • Ensaimada – sweet pastry
  • Sobrasada – cold meat that can be spread and has a smoked paprika taste.

I love it.

I can tell you a story, when I made myself a sandwich of sobrasada but first I soaked the bread in good olive oil… it saved me from a good hangover the following day. 


  • Papas arrugadas – cooked potatoes in very salty water, you can eat them with skin
  • Mojo picón – sauce for barbecues made of paprika (pimentón)


  • Cocido montañés – meat stew
  • Sobao pasiego – small sponge cake
  • Anchoas de Santoña – Anchovies from the region of Santoña

Castilla y León

  • Lechazo asado – roasted baby lamb.

It is tasty, tender and it’s perfect lunch after a winery tour in the region. 

  • Cochinillo asado – roasted baby pork, very, very tender
  • Ribera del Duero wines – the best red wines in Spain, according to me and the husband.

Castilla-La Mancha

  • Pisto manchego – dish made of peppers, zucchini, onions, tomatoes and sometimes aubergines. It is sometimes served with a fried egg on top. I love this dish. It’s the Spanish version of ratatouille.
  • Queso manchego – regional cheese


  • Crema catalana – pastry cream-like dessert, but it’s set, not runny. And it’s caramelised on the top.

I am known amongst our friends to be the one who once ate like 10 cremas catalanas in one sitting. Don’t judge me: I was breastfeeding, so I was starving the whole time. 

  • Escalivada – roasted paprika, aubergine, garlic, tomatoe and onions, dressed with olive oil
  • Fideuá – paella-like dish, but instead of rice it’s made with pasta.

Comunidad Valenciana

  • Paella valenciana – yes, it comes from Valencia and this dish doesn’t need any introduction or explanation.

There is a “black” version (which is my favourite), made with squid ink and, of course, squid and other sea creatures. Lovely with ali-oli (garlic type mayonnaise) and cold white wine. 

  • Oranges – this is not a dish per se, but Valencia is home to most of the oranges that are consumed in the European Union. 


  • Migas extremeñas – migas Extremadura style
  • Caldereta de cordero – lamb stew with veggies
  • Torta del casar – Local cheese, it’s strong in taste and perfect for spreading.


  • Pulpo a la gallega – Galician-style octopus, served with potatoes and paprika
  • Empanada gallega – fillo pastry filled with tuna or bonito normally, but can also be filled with chicken or beef
  • Lacón con grelos – a ham-style meat but made of lamb, served with potatoes and grelos, a green, leafy veggie.
  • Tarta de Santiago – sponge cake made out of almond flour, typical from the Santiago region.
  • Albariño – white wine from the Southern part of Galicia. It’s dry and crisp and it’s lovely in the summer.

I’m a fan of Galician food, so I’m only going to say good things about it and that part of the country.

La Rioja

  • Patatas a la riojana – Stew made out of potatoes with chorizo from the region
  • Caparrones – red beans soup
  • Rioja wines – the most famous Spanish wines worldwide


  • Cocido madrileño – this is easier to explain with a photo, but basically it consists of two courses: the broth with pasta as a starter. This broth is made from boiling the meats that you will eat in the second course. Then, once the meats are cooked and taken out of the broth, you cook carrots, onions and chickpeas there and serve them with the meats as the second course.
  • Callos a la madrileña – stew with cow belly
  • Bocadillo de calamares – perfect to walk around the city when you’re hungry: roll bread filled with fried calamary.
  • Huevos rotos – my favourite dish in Spain: a bed of chips (or fries) under two fried eggs and some jamón ibérico. You can share it… or not.
Cocido madrileño


  • Zarangollo – scrambled eggs with onions, zucchini and potatoes
  • Paparajotes – regional dessert with lemon leaves
  • Michirones – dish with broad beans and chorizo


  • Chistorra – local chorizo-like cold meat, very thin and juicy. It is typically served in many restaurants as an appetizer.
  • Espárragos de Navarra – Regional asparragus, usually served shallow-fried with just a sprinkle of salt.

País Vasco

  • Pintxos – pronounced “pinchos”, because the “tx” has the “ch” sound in Spanish – this is just a piece of good bread with a topping. The toppings are varied and amazing. A photo is best here to describe what a pintxo is.
  • Marmitako – Fish stew with potatoes, onion, peppers and garlic. The point here is that the fish is added at the end, once the veggies are cooked. Usually cod, it is cut in small pieces and cooked with the residual heat of the stew, so that it doesn’t go all hard and dry.
  • Bacalao al pil pil – Cod cooked in very hot olive oil sprinkled with lots of garlic and sometimes some chilli, for added flavour.
  • Txuletón – Chuletón is nothing else than a big, juicy steak. I believe the cut in English is Rib Roast. 

If you’re a meat lover, this is your dish.

Different pintxos


  • Pastela – this is a Moroccan dish, made of filo-pastry filled with meat and it’s both sweet and salty.
  • Cuscús con carne – cous-cous with meat
  • Pinchos morunos – Spiced meat skewers, grilled. You also find them in Andalucía a lot.

Being one of the overseas cities, it’s no wonder that the food has Moroccan ingredients, with a Spanish twist, of course.


  • Chuletillas al ajillo – roasted lamb with garlic.
  • Tortilla de camarones – shrimp fritters. Careful with these, because they’re so good you’ll eat 10 in a sitting. 


I am. Then again, I’m almost always hungry.

In the next post I will talk about how to navigate food intolerances (I´m celiac, so I know what I´m talking about) and allergies.

Also, if you want to have a fuller view of dishes and food in Spain, you can read this article.

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