Popular Regional Foods in Spain

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April 14, 2021

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Spain is known for having one of the most vibrant culinary scenes in the world. There are 17 regions in Spain, each with unique Spanish regional foods that you must try! The local flavors and ingredients give you an authentic taste of the region with each bite.

Check out some of the most famous Spanish regional foods across the country.

Popular Spanish Dishes from Catalonia

Catalonia is a region of Spain located on the Mediterranean coast. The proximity to the sea inspires many of the regional dishes.

One of Spain’s national dishes originates from the Catalonia region, the pa amp tomàquet. The dish consists of sliced bread and topped with tomato, seasoned with olive oil and salt, and sometimes prepared with garlic.

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You’ll be able to taste some of the freshest bacallà throughout Catalonia; a special salt-cured cod served in a variety of dishes. For the best traditional dish, try the Esqueixada, a salad dish made from the bacallà mixed with lots of other toppings. Locals enjoy it as a summertime favorite.

Catalonia is where you’ll find the calçot, a regional-grown onion, and highly celebrated in the region. The city of Valls hosts an annual festival for the harvest of the vegetable during the winter to enjoy the fresh produce grilled over an open flame and dipped in salvitxada sauce before eating. It’s often a featured menu item from January to March.
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The most famous dessert in Catalonia is the crema catalana. The dish is a yellow cream that uses a milk base, made with egg yolk and sugar. The versatile dessert can be enjoyed alone or as a filling for pastries.

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Popular Spanish Dishes from Madrid

Madrid is the capital of Spain and represents the central region of the country. After designation as the capital, Spaniards would frequently bring their regional dishes to impress the King. Many of the dishes remain as staples in Madrid and reflect the various parts of Spain.

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Cocido madrileño is a famous dish typical in Madrid. It’s a stew made from beef and vegetables – many restaurants serve the meal divided across three courses to give you time to savor each ingredient. The first course is usually the broth soup, followed by beans and vegetables, and lastly the meat.

If you find yourself in Madrid, it won’t be long before you notice signs of restaurants serving the bocadillo de calamares. The meal is a fried squid sandwich popularized in the capital by dedicated calamari sandwich bars. The meal is served simply with only toasted bread and fried squid rings, or with additional topics like tomato, mayonnaise, and paprika puree.

Many of the street vendors in Madrid sell the famous barquillo snack. You might recognize the snack from other parts of the world like Latin America and Asia, but it originated in Spain. The treat is a crispy rolled wafer snack – it’s made with cookie ingredients, flattened, then rolled before baking.

Popular Spanish Dishes from Andalusia

Spain’s region of Andalusia comprises the southern area of the country. It’s a unique region that borders two major bodies of water, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. With such an extensive coastline, seafood is one of the main ingredients and, along with olive oil, prominently produced in cities like Seville and Córdoba.

Shellfish is widely consumed across Andalusia – the most popular is prawns. Prawns are prepared in a variety of ways and used in many dishes, most notably in the regional gambas pil pil. The recipe adds a significant spicy flavor to the taste, using spicy, sweet seasoning and cooked in garlic chili oil. Many people eat it with a side of bread to dim the spicy taste.

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Many restaurants around the region get some of the best meats from high up in the Andalucian mountains. One of the favorite meats is jamon serrano, a type of air-cured ham. The ham originates from the mountain region and served as thinly sliced pieces with a sweet, natural taste.

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Spain’s culture comes to life while eating pringá, a social snack consumed with a table of friends. It’s made with a variety of meats such as roast beef or chorizo and cooked in pork fat until very tender. Restaurants serve the dish with a side of bread to peel off a mouthful to enjoy.

Popular Spanish Dishes from Valencia

Valencia is a prominent Spanish region along the Eastern coast. It borders Catalonia, with many of the regional cuisines influencing each other. You’ll find that many of the dishes developed from ingredients found in the region.

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Rice production is widespread around Valencia, creating one of Spain’s signature meals, paella. Paella is a rice-based dish served with a variety of topics, from meat to seafood. The meal can be enjoyed as an individual portion, or most restaurants provide a large bowl to share amongst the group. 

The popularity of paella spread across the country, and every region makes its unique type of the dish.

As an alternative to paella, you could also try fideuà. While paella consists of a rice base, fideuà used noodles. The meal consists of tender noodles served with seafood, some of the most common being shrimp and squid. The dish is prevalent along the coast to get the freshest seafood taste.
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To taste the authentic flavors of Valencia, order a bowl of All I Pebre. The stew meal is a local gem prepared only with ingredients found in the region. It includes eel and potato chunks served in a broth seasoned with garlic and peppers.

Popular Spanish Dishes from Galicia

The most characteristic gastronomy scenes in northern Spain comes from Galicia. It’s the northwestern-most region of Spain with vastly different dishes than the south of the country.

When potatoes were first introduced to Spain, Galicia was the first region that started to grow them. Many of the local dishes will include them, such as the Galician caldó. The broth dish is a favorite from the region consisting of pork, chorizo, beans, and, of course, potatoes. It’s served hot – perfect for the colder season.
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Another regional favorite for Galician cuisine is octopus. Galicia is home to some of the best octopus chefs in the world. The local gastronomy features lots of dishes served or stuff with octopus cooked in a variety of ways.

One of the most popular is the pulp a la gallega (or poblo á feira). It’s a dish made from boiling octopus tentacles and served in bite-sized chunks. The tentacles are topped with olive oil and other spices for flavor. It goes against tradition to drink water while eating the dish, so it’s typically served with local wine.
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Galicia makes a signature style of empanadas called empanadas gallegas. It’s the perfect grab-and-go snack or as a main meal. Like other empanadas, it’s a flakey breaded crust stuffed with regional favorites like octopus, chorizo, onions, and garlic.

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Although many of these popular Spanish regional foods are international, there’s nothing like tasting the authentic versions. Next time you’re in Spain, order one of the dishes.

Let us know in the comments which food you’re excited to try next!

About the author 

Bryan Shelmon is a travel writer, living the digital nomad lifestyle as of the past few years to immerse himself into the travel industry. Bryan has traveled to regions including the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe, and Southeast Asia. While traveling, he enjoys attending local cultural events and working on creative projects. Bryan continues to grow as a writer, achieving a #1 Best Selling travel culture guide on Amazon and exploring new regions of the world.

  • Thanks for sharing these succulent dishes from various regions of Spain. I will share this with my students as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

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