Before moving to Spain, I had at least heard of or already savored the basic “10 Foods You Must Eat in Spain“. After living there for several months, I soon learned that there was a whole ‘nother level of foods you must eat in Spain.
- Fideuà – Fideuà is paella’s noodle based cousin. Exact same concept just with noodles instead of rice. And yum, since who doesn’t like noodles better than rice? (For more on paella see 10 Foods You Must Eat in Spain.)
- Calabaza Asada – Fire roasted pumpkin. They literally just slice off the bottom of a pumpkin and roast the hell out it. Somehow this roasting process caramelizes the sugars in the pumpkin taking it into the dessert realm with no added fat or sugar. So yea, healthy dessert! I add peanut butter to mine to make it even more decadent. However, when I mentioned this to my Spanish friends, they were completely scandalized. So if you try this, keep it to yourself. (I got the idea to mix in peanut butter from Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin book series. They are an awesome read.)
- Arroz al Horno – Initially, I refused to order it on a menu as “rice of the oven” just does not sound appetizing. However, after a few friends were waxing poetic about the arroz al horno their mother makes, I decided to take the plunge. Arroz al horno is much like paella in that it can come in any variant you want (or what’s in the fridge) but the primary additions include chickpeas (garbanzos), saffron, and tomatoes. Originating in Valencia, you may have to look for it on a menu but you will find it.
- Pan con Tomate – Literally just toast with grated tomato and maybe olive oil. However, the bread is not simple toasted sliced white bread like we are used to. It’s delicious, crusty bread that was made at the local panaderia (bakery) that morning. Advanced versions rub raw garlic on the bread or add a sprinkle of sea salt. The first time I tried it I was like it’s good but I’ll stick to butter and jam. Slowly, I began to crave it until it was a staple in my diet like almost every other Spaniard.
- Pincho Bars – I think I love pincho (or pintxo) bars more than I love tapas and that’s saying something. Pincho bar are basically just restaurants with a long line of help yourself appetizers. You go and get what you want and when you are ready for the bill they just count the number of toothpicks on your plate. I love it. You get to see what you are going to eat before you select it and you get a variety. I tried all sorts of new items that way because at around 2€ each who cares if you don’t like it. My favorite pincho bar is a small local chain called Orio Gastronomia that is located in Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia.
- Percebes – Translates to “goose barnacles” but I much prefer precebes (although I call them dragon toes in my head). You will find these delicacies in the northwestern part of Spain. They are expensive but you do not need a ton to give them a try. Much like oysters or cockleshells they taste bright and of the ocean.
- Cazon en Adobo – Not spicy like chiles in adobo but instead chunks of fish that has been marinated in vinegar and spices then deep fried. I often order things with no idea what they are. Cazon en adobo was one of these times. I took a bite and was like “What? Vinegar?” then a demolished the rest of the order. The tart vinegar is a wonderful contrast to the fried fish.
- Orejas de cerdo – Before you translate that, just give it a chance. I know “pig ears” will make many people shy away but they’re great. Try them with a beer or a glass of wine if you must but try it when you see it on the menu. The best one I’ve tried are at the Michelin starred Central Bar located inside Mercado Central in Valencia. (Tip: Get there early as this place is popular, especially with locals, but the food is amazing.)
- Bocadillos – Wow, just wow. The number of bocadillos (sandwiches) that are eaten in Spain is staggering. The difference between bocadillos and sandwiches is that bocadillos are on a tough bread (think chewy loaves of Italian bread) and rarely include vegetables (lettuce, tomato, etc.) or a spread (mayo, mustard, etc.). The most common bocadillos I have seen are jamon, tortilla Española, and plain cheese. (For more on jamon and tortilla Española, see 10 Foods You Must Eat in Spain.) If you prefer a more traditional sandwich on softer bread, you are looking for a torta.
- Bebidas – Bebidas (drinks) like sodas (refrescos), beer (cerveza), or glasses of wine (copas de vino) are common in Spain. However, if you want something a little more local, try one of the below.
- Fanta – Yes, we have Fanta in the US but Spaniards drink it way more than we do and have flavors we don’t like Lemon Fanta (love that stuff).
- Cervaza con limon – Beer with lemon soda (Lemon Fanta!) or pre-mixed in a bottle.
- Cava – Like Champagne (France) or Prosecco (Italy), Cava is the sparkling wine of Spain. It’s delish and, as it’s not imported, cheap. For a couple of euros, get a glass at a bar or even the whole bottle at the grocery store! (See more at 22 Culture Shocks Living Abroad in Spain).
- Sangrias – The typical red and fruity sangria is on the original “10 Foods You Must Eat in Spain” but there are tons of variations.
- Sangria Blanco – White wine with lighter fruits like citrus or peaches.
- Sangria de Cava – Same as Sangria Blanco but with sparkling wine.
- Agua de Valencia – Sparkling wine, orange juice, plus vodka and/or gin. It can be mixed at a restaurant or purchased already made in a bottle.
- Carbonated Sangria – Yep, carbonated like soda and even found in the grocery store in 2-liter bottles next to the soda. Avoid the lemon one as it tastes a bit like lemon Pledge.
I hope these “10 Next Level Foods You Must Eat in Spain” help you expand your palette on your next trip to Spain!