Our insiders selection of traditional Catalan food for you
Catalan cooking is quite different from the rest of Spain: instead of paella we go for black rice, and we prefer butifarras to chorizos. And we usually choose healthier and lighter ingredients most of the time, as well. Geographically we could consider our cuisine as Mediterranean cuisine where the influence of mountain products has and important role, what leads to unique combinations of meats and seafood. Catalan dishes are basically based in fresh vegetables, wheat products, legumes, pork, lamb, poultry, veal, seafood and mushrooms (that locals usually forage in the mountains in autumn). If you want to learn what dishes are the flagship recipes of Catalan food that you should try during your trip, don’t miss today’s post!
Discover the Catalan cooking with the following recipes:
Butifarra amb seques (pork sausage with white beans). A very representative dish of our cuisine, really easy to cook and super popular. It won’t be missing in any Catalan barbecue or Calçotada, and there are even specific butifarra bbqs called butifarrada. Beans (best if from Santa Pau or Del Ganxet) are the side dish that goes with this pork sausage, and they come dressed with olive oil, garlic and parsley. Allioli garlic mayonnaise often comes with this dish as well. You can taste it in most Bars in La Boqueria, but if you want to try a gourmet option, head to Cal Pep to try their foie gras butifarra (their beans come in a delicious sherry reduction).
Fricandó (veal with mushrooms). Probably the best of the traditional Catalan dishes made of veal: it’s a veal stew with sauce and mushrooms – mostly moixernons (Saint George’s mushrooms – Calocybe gambosa), but it can be done with other fungi as well. We usually cook it for special celebrations, Christmas and other important dates. It doesn’t take too long to make, but it tastes best when prepared the day before you eat it. If you aren’t scared of going off the beaten paths into the sometimes uneasy streets of El Raval district, head to L’Havana to try an authentic fricandó made like at home.
Bacallà a la llauna (tinned codfish). Cod is a really popular fish in our area and there are hundreds of Catalan dishes that incorporate it. Bacallà a la llauna is probably one of the most popular recipes, already served in local hostels in the 1700’s, and the name of this recipe comes from the metal oven tray similar to a tin where it is baked. To make it, you fry the cod first before putting it in the oven for a while. In the meantime, you add some garlic, red pepper and white wine, and that makes the delicious sauce that you’ll pour over the cod when it finishes baking. Easy, but delicious. Again, the bars of the Boqueria Market are a great place to taste it (and there are even a couple of stalls where you can buy it ready to eat, too). But if you prefer a seat down restaurant, our chef of reference is definitely Mr. Isidre from Ca l’Isidre: you’ll often see him walking around the Boqueria market early in the morning to select the best produce, fish and meats for his restaurant 10 minutes walk from it.
Arròs negre (black rice). In the Costa Brava area they call it Arròs de sipia (squid rice). It’s a rice dish very similar to paella but the addition of squid ink added once the rice is nearly cooked turns it black. There are some areas, though, where the black color isn’t achieved with black ink: instead they stir-fry the onions and tomato for a really long time at low heat just until it’s almost about to get burned – a quite tricky point. Both versions are good, but the second one is almost impossible to find in Barcelona. To try the ink one and get black teeth for a while after finishing your meal, head to Can Solé in La Barceloneta.
Cigrons a la catalana (Catalan-style chickpeas). Most dishes “a la catalana” incorporate spinach, pine nuts and optionally some raisins. Chickpeas are so easy to make this way: just sauté for a while the pine nuts, the raisins and some garlic, add the spinach and the chickpeas, cook for a little while more and…done! They are sometimes served as part of their day specials at Agut, between La Rambla and Barri Gòtic. Or if you don’t mind taking away, at the bottom of La Boqueria Market, next to the famous Petràs mushroom store, you’ll find an always busy Catalan Food Take Away called Ramon: they have chickpeas with spinach ready to go, as well as chickpeas the Spanish way: made with chorizo instead.
AND BONUS! This is what locals consider the most typical Catalan food:
Pa amb tomàquet. It’s par excellence the easiest and most popular side dish for any local meal and it’s a true Catalan staple. Just a slice of bread or toast, rubbed with ripe tomato and seasoned with olive oil and salt. Some people like to rub some garlic before rubbing the tomato, for a spicy touch. While you can use any ripe tomato that is juicy enough, the best are those called tomacons: little tomatoes that can be kept for a long time hanging in a storeroom. Eat your pa amb tomàquet alone, or topped with cold meats, cheese, omelet, anchovies or barbecued sausages. You’ll often be offered pa amb tomàquet in most Catalan cooking restaurants and also in tapas bars. But if they bring you a basket of tomatoes and garlic, don’t assume it’s a weird way to bring you salad: it’s to make your own tomato bread! Ask for a demonstration to the waiter if you are unsure of how to proceed.
So what about you? Head to the comments below and tells us: Have you tried any of these traditional Catalan dishes and did you like it?