Planning a trip to España and wondering what to eat in Spain? You’ve come to the right place! Trying new foods is our favorite part of traveling and Spain is one of our favorite food destinations in the world.
The tapa culture, incredibly affordable menú del día, fantastic Spanish wine, and unique regional cuisines consistently blow us away.
My husband and I have traveled to Spain several times over the last ten years. Our most recent trip was in the summer of 2023 where we spent 2 months traveling the country.
I also spent a portion of my life living and teaching English in a small Spanish village. Which has allowed me to try dozens of traditional Spanish dishes over the years.
While I could write a novel about the different regional Spanish foods to try, this blog focuses on what to eat in Spain as a first-time or second-time visitor. These 20 Spanish dishes go beyond the tourist-heavy paella and sangria and showcase the wonderfully diverse flavors of this country.
If you’re wondering what to eat in Spain for an upcoming trip, don’t miss these 20 delicious Spanish foods.
What to eat in Spain
1. Tortilla de Patatas (Tortilla Española)
Paella is considered Spain’s national dish, but tortilla de patatas is by far the most common dish in the country. Most Spanish dishes have a local or regional connotation, meaning the food originates from a specific area of Spain.
But tortilla de patatas is one of the few dishes with no known regional origins. It is equally loved and eaten across the country.
Also called Tortilla Española, this potatoe omelet is made by slowly cooking onions, thinly sliced potatoes, and eggs in olive oil. Slightly gooey on the inside and firm on the outside, tortilla de patatas is the perfect treat no matter the time of day.
We ate tortilla de patatas the most out of any other Spanish dish on our two month trip. If you want to see a master at cooking tortilla de patatas, check out the video above.
2. Patatas Bravas
Patas Bravas is another super popular Spanish dish you have to try when visiting Spain. Imagine perfectly fried potatoes smothered in a slightly spicy sauce drizzled with a mayonnaise aioli. It’s perfection.
Every restaurant makes its bravas sauce a bit differently, but patatas bravas are a non-negotiable food to try in Spain.
Croquetas are one of my favorite Spanish tapas and one of the most typical tapas to eat. You’ll find them on every menu at bars and restaurants in small villages across the country.
Croquetas are made from bechamel that is breaded and then fried. Most croquetas will have chopped pieces of jamón (cured ham) inside, which are called croquetas de jamón. Although, you can also find croquetas de bacalao or salted cod and vegetarian versions, too.
Spaniards love all meat but pork is King in this country 🐷👑. It’s estimated that Spain produces 40 million hams every year.
Most of the traditional Spanish dishes will involve some type of pork, but none is more beloved or famous than jamón.
Jamón is cured ham that is air-dried for several months with salt. As you walk around the city or visit famous markets in Barcelona or Madrid, you’ll see dozens of jamón legs hanging from butcher shops.
There are two main types of jamón to try in Spain. The cheapest and most abundant is jamón serrano. This ham is made from white Spanish pigs like the Duroc, Pietrain or Landrace varieties that are fed grains for its main feed.
The more expensive, and in my opinion, more delicious jamón, is jamón ibérico. Jamón ibérico is made from the black pig which has a black foot called the pata negra. These pigs are fed only a natural diet of acorns which gives the pig a much nuttier taste with more fat.
These pigs are free-roaming and cared for with the utmost attention in just four designated areas of the country. Jamón ibérico is very expensive. A leg can cost $2,500 or more and a small plate of jamón ibérico can be 20€ to 30€ or more.
If you can try jamón ibérico next to jamón serrano, I highly recommend it. This is the best way to see the difference in the quality and tasting notes of the meat.
5. Manchego Cheese
If you’re doing a jamón taste test, or simply indulging in Spain’s most beloved meat add some manchego cheese to your order. Manchego cheese originates in the region La Mancha, which is southeast of Madrid.
The cheese is made from sheep milk and has a lovely nutty flavor to it with a hint of sweetness. It’s a semi-hard cheese that isn’t too pungent, making it the perfect match for a lovely quince paste or wine pairing.
Most people associate Gazpacho, a cold soup that originates from Andalucia in the south of Spain, with Spanish cuisine. This dish is extremely popular in the summer months as a way of cooling down in the brutal heat (especially since most Spanish homes don’t have air conditioning).
However, a food to try in Spain that is more popular than gazpacho among Spanish locals is Salmorejo.
Salmorejo is like Gazpacho’s big brother. It uses much of the same ingredients, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and onion or pepper but adds in bread. This gives it a hearty and creamier texture and makes it a bit more filling.
We had Salmorejo soup multiple times a week during our last trip to Spain both in restaurants in with friends and family in small villages.
7. Gambas al ajillo
If you love garlic as much as I do, a food to try in Spain is gambas al ajillo.
Translating to ‘shrimp with garlic’, gambas al ajillo is shrimp and a ton of thinly sliced garlic pieces cooked in olive oil. The dish is cooked briefly in a clay pot at high heat. The oil comes out bubbling and the shrimp soaks up all the garlic goodness.
The shrimp isn’t necessarily the star of this traditional Spanish tapa, but the oil and garlic are. Make sure to sop up all of the sauce at the end with some pan, bread.
Avoid eating this dish if you notice they aren’t cooking it in the clay dish. This really does make a difference in the quality and ensures the temperature gets to the right heat without overcooking.
Chorizo is a spiced pork sausage that can be cured and served thinly sliced like Italian salami or Spanish jamón. Or it can be cut and cooked as a picadillo (ground sausage) or in chunks, like Chorizo a la Sidra.
Chorizo is one of my favorite Spanish meats and has a perfect spice profile to it. No matter how you are enjoying it, this is a must-try dish in Spain.
9. Pan con Tomate
Pan con tomate is a traditional breakfast dish in Spain. It’s also a very popular dish that is served with tapas and main meals in the Catalonia region of northeastern Spain.
This dish was created during the Spanish Civil War when food rations were in place. Bread was one of the few things they had, but they didn’t have fresh bread available daily. They made the bread last but it would harden quickly. So, they found a way to make it tasty while bringing it back to life.
Pan con tomate is very basic. It’s just bread rubbed with fresh garlic then topped with grated tomato, and a sprinkle of olive oil and salt. It’s super delicious and a light but tasty way to start your day.
10. Huevos Rotos
Huevos Rotos is another popular Spanish tapa to try. It translates to broken eggs and is a perfect descriptor for the meal. It’s a plate of french fries topped with a few fried eggs that when broken create a delicious sauce from the yolk. You toss the potatoes in the huevos and sauce with a bit of salt and have a delicious easy meal.
This dish is very common for dinner as it’s a lighter meal to whip together in the evening.
Morcilla isn’t a typical Spanish dish most tourists try on their first time visiting. Translating to blood sausage, the idea of morcilla is a bit off-putting if you come from a culture (like the United States or Canada) that isn’t accustomed to eating all parts of an animal.
In Spain, you’ll find four types of blood sausage. However, the most popular is Morcilla de Burgos which adds blood to rice with spices in a casing (pictured above). Or morcilla de cebolla which adds onion, spices, and sausage into a casing. Morcilla de cebolla has a much creamier texture than the first and is almost like a paté.
Both are absolutely delicious and in my opinion one of the most authentic things to eat in Spain. If you’re wondering, ‘What do people eat in Spain?’ Morcilla is it.
Most people think of Sangria when they think of Spain. But Sangria isn’t as popular of a drink as tourists think. Vermouth is Spain’s national drink, not Sangria.
Vermouth is an aromatized fortified wine. It can be served sweet or dry and has hints of botanicals in it making it a perfect aperitif (before meal drink). Most bars and tapas restaurants will have a vermouth on tap which is usually served with a slice of orange and olive.
If you do have a hankering for Spanish red wine, vino tinto, order it in one of two ways:
- Vino tinto (normal glass of red wine)
- Tinto de verano (translates to ‘summer wine’ and is a mixture of red wine and lemon soda or red wine with lemon juice and sparkling water). This is what the locals drink, not Sangria.
13. Ensalada Rusa
Ensalada Rusa is Spain’s take on a Russian Potato salad. The ingredients change for this Spanish dish depending on who is making it. However, the main ingredients are potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, tuna or another type of canned fish, onion, olives, and mayonnaise.
It’s creamy, and decadent and is easy to make in the evenings as a tapa or quick dinner dish. This is a very traditional dish to find in Spanish homes.
Bocadillo is the Spanish word for sandwich (at least in Spain). Bocadillos are normally made for quick and easy meals when you’re on the go. For example, taking a train ride, for a quick dinner, or heading to a partido de fútbol (soccer match).
You can add anything you want to a bocadillo, but some of the most common fillings are:
- tortilla de patatas
- calamares (fried squid sandwich which comes from Madrid)
- lomo (pork loin)
15. Pimientos de Padrón
One of the last top tapas to try on your trip to Spain is Pimientos de Padrón. These small green peppers come from the town of Padrón in Galicia, a Spanish region near Portugal on the northwestern coast.
The peppers are seared in a super hot pan with olive oil and a splash of salt and are super tasty.
They have a saying in Spanish about Pimientos de Padrón “unos pican, y otros no,” because roughly one in every 100 padrón peppers are spicy.
Regional Spanish dishes
The traditional Spanish dishes described above can be found in almost every area of the country. The Spanish foods to try below can be commonly found throughout Spain too. However, they are more regional and best enjoyed when visiting the area the dish originates from.
Paella is Spain’s national dish and is by far the most popular dish to try in the country. Unfortunately, most tourists who order Paella are not getting an authentic experience. Paella originates from Valencia, a province on the southeastern coast of Spain.
Valencia is extremely proud of Paella and has very strict standards as to what can be called Paella. Traditional Paella is short-grain rice cooked with chicken, rabbit, green beans, and tomatoes along with a few other seasonings. If it’s not cooked traditionally, it is called “rice with things”.
If you are not eating traditional paella made the Valencian way don’t post about it on social media unless you are ready for a slew of scathing comments. Don’t say I didn’t warn you 🥘 😜.
Paella is a lunchtime dish. It is not usually served for dinner. If you see a restaurant boasting this on their dinner menu, enter cautiously. This is likely a tourist trap and not fresh, authentic, or even good paella. If you really want to try paella there are a few places outside of Valencia to try it, but Valencia is where you will have the best paella experience.
Fabada is an Asturian dish, a region in the north of Spain. Asturias is home to dozens of famous Spanish dishes, and a very popular cuisine to enjoy throughout the country.
This stew is a mix of beans, chorizo, blood sausage, and bacon slowly cooked in water. The fats from the pork meld perfectly with the beans and create a hearty warming soup perfect for lunch or dinner on a cold evening.
Fabada is so loved by Spain, that you can find it in cans at the grocery store. Think of it as an elevated beanie-weenies.
Cocido is a pork-based stew that originates from Madrid. This dish is eaten in most homes across the country on Sundays during the colder months of the year. It is made by slowly cooking different parts of pork and chicken in a pot with carrots, potatoes, and garbanzo beans. The result is a fatty rich pork broth served with small fideuà noodles as the first course.
The second course is a massive plate of meat, garbanzos, and vegetables that are tender and juicy. This meal is a belly buster and will send you to a siesta without question. I highly encourage you to seek this out in Madrid if you are visiting. But you can find this in most other parts of the country, too.
Cachopo is another Asturian dish made from (you guessed it, pork). First, they take thinly pounded veal and stuff it with cheese and jamón. After they bread it and fry it to perfection.
We had cochopo several times on our most recent trip and I loved it every time. This is a dish best ordered at lunch thanks to its generous portion size.
Cochanillo is a slowly roasted suckling pig. This dish originates from Segovia a province about an hour outside of Madrid. These suckling pigs are cooked in a clay oven and are absolutely delicious. They are so tender you can cut the pork with a plate, yet the skin remains crispy and crunchy.
The last regional Spanish dish to try when visiting Spain is fideuá. Mostly commonly found along the eastern coast of Spain (think Barcelona south to Valencia) fideuá is a short grain noodle that is cooked similarly to paella.
The ingredients don’t follow the same strict rules as paella does and is often served with a garlic aioli and seafood on top. Well-cooked fideuá should have a nice crispness to the bottom of the pan from carmelizing.
Things to know about Spanish cuisine
Spanish meal times
Spaniards eat meals more frequently and at somewhat unusual times compared to other countries. If you’re not accustomed to the meal times in Spain it can be a weird schedule to get used to.
Understanding meal times in Spain will help you avoid eating at the tourist trap restaurants that are open during non-Spanish dining hours. Below are the five Spanish meals and typical dining hours for each.
|MEAL IN ENGLISH||MEAL NAME IN SPANISH||NORMAL MEAL TIMES||THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THIS MEAL|
|Breakfast||Desayuno||7:00 – 9:00 AM||Breakfast is a light meal, usually a croissant or pan con tomate (bread with grated tomato, garlic, salt, and olive oil drizzled on top). Almost always served with a small coffee.|
|Mid-morning snack||Almuerzo||10:00 – 11:30 AM||This can be anything from cheese, fruit, bread with jamón, or other small snack. It’s not eaten every day but is a common time to snack if you are hungry between meals.|
|Lunch||Comida||2:30 – 3:30 PM *3:00 – 3:30 is peak time for locals*||This is the largest meal of the day. It’s hard to find lunch after 4:00 PM and around 3:00 most restaurants will be packed. Expect a three-course meal for most lunches served with wine and finished with a coffee. This is a great opportunity to try menú del día during the week!|
|Afternoon snack||Merienda||5:00 – 7:00 PM||This is another small snack to hold you over if needed until dinner time. Typically it’s a sweet treat served with a café (coffee).|
|Dinner||Cena||9:00 – 11:00 PM|
*9:30 – 10:00 is peak time for locals*
|Dinner is a light meal. It can be a mixture of tapas (small plates) or it can be a single dish but the goal is not to fill up too much before bed. Some common dishes for dinner in Spain are huevos rotos, ensalada rusia, tortilla de patatas, or a tomato, tuna, and olive salad, along with others.|
Cost of Spanish food
Spanish food is extremely affordable. You can go out for an evening of tapas (moving from bar to bar getting one or two dishes and a drink at each) for around 20€ per person. In big cities like Madrid or Barcelona, a sit-down meal at a mid-scale restaurant should cost 20€ to 40€ per person, drinks included. Venture to a smaller village and prices for tapas and restaurants will be even more affordable.
🍺 🍷 A caña (small glass) of beer will cost around 2€ to 3€. A glass of red wine (vino tinto) or white wine (vino blanco) costs around 2€ in a village to 4.50€ in the city. A bottle of wine is normally around 10 to 12€, even in a restaurant. However, fancy cocktails are more expensive costing 10€ to 12€ or more.
💧Water which is exclusively served in bottles usually costs as much if not more than a glass of wine or beer. Expect to pay 2€ to 4€ for a bottle of agua. Also, if you dine on a restaurant’s terraza or patio expect an upcharge of 10% to 15% to be added to your bill.
Virtually all big cities in Spain will accept credit or debit cards. Some of the restaurants and bars in smaller villages will be cash-only, but it’s rare. Make sure to have a credit card that doesn’t charge international fees. Check out our favorite travel credit card we use when we’re out of the country click here.
Tipping in Spain
Tipping is not customary in Spain. Most restaurant workers make a livable wage without tips. So, you should not feel obliged to leave anything on top of the bill. Most Spaniards don’t leave a tip at all. However, there is a growing culture of leaving a few cents (rounding the bill up) as a tip.
The only places you will see things like tip jars are in the busy tourist centers. Some will even have bells they ring when they receive tips from tourists to encourage more tipping. Tipping is not required and is rarely done by Spanish locals.
You can leave a 5€ to 10€ tip if it’s a very nice meal and you would like to show your server their service was above and beyond.
This Spanish food guide is just the beginning of all of the amazing Spanish food there is to try in this wonderful country. Hopefully, it helps you understand what to eat in Spain on your upcoming trip and get an idea of what dishes you cannot miss. If you like this post please let me know in the comments below, and make sure to check out our other Spain travel guides below.
CHECK OUT MY OTHER SPAIN TRAVEL GUIDES
- 15 Best Places to Eat in Madrid (Right Now) – This Madrid food guide shares the best places to eat in Madrid today. From tapas spots to high-end dining experiences, these 15 Madrid restaurants are worth visiting (with a map)!
- 15 Best Places to Eat in Barcelona (Right Now) – This Barcelona food guide shares the top 15 restaurants to visit in the city. From casual tapas spots to coffee and fine dining, this post (with a map) has got you covered!