After living in Spain for most of the last year, I found that although most of the food is wonderful there is a list of foods to skip in Spain. In other posts, I laid out the “10 Foods You Must Eat in Spain” and the more advanced “10 Next Level Foods You Must Eat in Spain“. In this blog post, I am going to tell you what foods to skip in Spain and what to eat instead.
- Crème Catalan – Have you had crème brulee? Same thing. Instead, head to a local pasteleria (pastry shop) and order everything that looks good (like the below). But, don’t order things you are familiar with like brownies, cupcakes, and red velvet cake as you will just be disappointed. (See why at 22 Culture Shocks Living Abroad in Spain.)
- Gazpacho – This cold, tomato-based soup is going to be on many people’s “foods you must eat in Spain” lists. It’s on my “foods to skip in Spain” list as I crave tortilla chips for dipping every time I eat it. (Maybe I’ve just had too much chips and salsa in my life.) If you are looking for something light and refreshing, you know Spain is the home of Sangria, right?
- Churros – This opinion may get me shot but churros (sweet deep fried chewy dough) are just too heavy and oily for me to enjoy. (For reference, donuts are awesome!) The Spanish, however, seem to love them, particularly in Madrid and around festival days. Maybe this is because much of their food is already oilier than most cultures are accustomed. Instead, head back to that local pasteleria and try something else that is fabulous and new, like the merengue below.
- Pimientos de padron – These are padron peppers (kinda like mild banana peppers) that have been deep fried. Not battered and fried or stuffed and fried, just thrown straight in the oil. I just … I just don’t understand. They are super oily and have little flavor. Instead, order patatas bravas or sepia a la plancha or almost any other tapas from the “10 Foods You Must Eat in Spain“.
- Empanadas – Don’t get me wrong, I love empanadas but apparently I love Latin American empanadas. Latin American empanadas have a crumbly crust and are bursting with flavor while Spanish empanadas are a bit doughier (almost like a calzone) and have milder, earthier flavors like mushroom or tomato and jamon. Instead, go for a bocadillo or torta for a quick bite on the go (see more at “10 Next Level Foods You Must Eat in Spain“).
- Albondigas – These are just meatballs in a mild tomato sauce. (Or “balls of meat” as I have seen it translated on some menus. Just does not sound appetizing at all that way.) Are the albondigas good? Of course they are. When are meatballs ever really bad? However, I would leave it to the Italians and the Swedes for truly great and flavorful meatballs. Instead, order just about anything else off the tapas menu, especially something like the orejas de cerdo below. (See more at “10 Next Level Foods You Must Eat in Spain“).
- Turron – I know people who love the stuff but mild, super sweet flavors just don’t do it for me. However, if your favorite part of a Snickers is the nougat, it may be right up your alley. If not, head to Valor instead for some absolutely fabulous Spanish chocolates.
- Atún – I love fresh tuna on salads, seared, in a wrap, raw in poké, etc. Unfortunately, if you see atún (tuna) on a menu in Spain, they most likely mean canned tuna. Even if it is a tuna and tomato salad that the waiter raved about, canned tuna. (Still bitter.) Hell, the Spanish seem to use canned tuna as a spice/flavor: canned tuna and tomato empanadas and canned tuna pizzas. It’s just not for me. There is, however, one exception: croquetas. I was traveling in the Canary Islands and came across these gems by accident. I guess if you mix anything with potatoes and deep fry it, it’s going to be delicious.
- Giant Red Shrimp in Alicante/Denia – Are they delicious? Yes, yes they are. Are they worth $8 a shrimp? No, no they’re not. They are ordered by weight so you can order just one to try if you like (pictured below right). However, if you are already in Alicante, I recommend the sepia a la plancha at La Taber de Gourmet (pictured below middle but mostly gone…it was amazing).
- Aquarius Soda – I love to try new foods when traveling, especially sodas and chips. In fact, I always make a bee -line for the grocery store to get an idea of what the locals actually eat. Unfortunately, Aquarias soda is just nasty. It’s like a super minerally carbonated water with sugar added. That’s right. It’s not even healthy for you! Instead have a beer, glass of wine, or cafe con leche as they are all about the same price in Spain. (See more culture shocks at 22 Culture Shocks Living Abroad in Spain.) If you have your heart set on soda, elect for a Lemon Fanta. So delicious, refreshing, and yummy plus I haven’t seen it anywhere in the US.
I hope this list of foods to skip in Spain helps you make your time in Spain the true culinary experience it should be!