Spain Fish Dishes | ForeverBarcelona

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Spain Fish Dishes: monkfish

Traditional Spanish Fish Dishes To Try In Your Next Trip


Fish in Spain is as important as pork when it comes to cooking. It couldn’t be otherwise when the country is surrounded by water pretty much everywhere expect for the border with Portugal and the Pyrenees bordering with France. The Atlantic ocean provides amazing seafood to the Northern region of Galicia, the cold waters of the Bay of Biscay have always provided fresh fish to the Basque Country, and the Mediterranean sea has inspired the cuisines of the Southern and Western regions, all the way from Andalusia to Catalonia.

So trying a variety of local fish recipes should be a must for any foodie traveling to Spain. And we know how hard it is to choose from a foreign menu when you aren’t too familiar with the local cooking…. 

How can you tell what are authentic Spanish fish recipes, what’s international and can be found anywhere else, or what’s just a chef’s invention? So for all of you fish lovers, today we are sharing those Spanish best fish dishes that are most representative of our culinary culture. Enjoy!

This is our selection of traditional fish dishes in Spain:



While sardines are popular in many ways (fried, roasted, salted as anchovies, marinated in vinegar…) we love them in vinager with herbs(en escabeche). Sardines and other fish (as well as rabbit, pork or chicken) are first coated in flour and fried or poached, then we add some garlic, bay leaves and herbs such as thyme, oregano and black peppercorns, then white wine and paprika (or for a more authentically Spanish touch, pimentón de la Vera), and only after the wine alcohol has evaporated, some vinegar. 

The whole preparation needs to rest for at least one day, in order to absorb all the flavors, and it’s then served cold. You’ll find them often as a cold tapa, or as tinned food.


Merluza en salsa verde

This fish dish is original lfrom the Basque Country, and that’s why people also call it Merluza a la Vasca (Basque style) or Merluza Koskera. It’s basically hake cooked in a mix of sauté garlic and onions, fish stock, white wine, plus a handful of parsley leaves that will give it its characteristic greenish color (although it’s not as green as you’d think, though: it’s rather white with pick spots unless you use really lots of parsley). 

Clams are often added to the dish, to give it a more sophisticated touch. Other additional ingredients that go well with it are green peas, white asparagus or hard boiled egg cut in quarters – but they are not part of the basic recipe, just extras.


Dorada a la sal

Dorada (or orada in Catalan) is the Spanish name for gilt-head (sea) bream, a very appreciated fish in our coast, and although it can be cooked in many different ways, the most popular one is baked in a salt crust. The fish must be whole (don’t let your fishmonger clean it), so the fish juices aren’t lost while it’s baked – otherwise you’d obtain a quite dry fish instead of a succulent one. That’s the only trick to this recipe, that only requires to cover the fish in coarse salt (about one kilo per fish unit or 2.20 pounds), and bake it for a bit more than half an hour.

If you leave the eye of the bream free of salt, you’ll see that it’s ready when the eye becomes white. In a restaurant they’ll often bring you the plate with the fish still covered in salt, break the crust and serve it directly to your dish. It’s quite easy to remove the skin and the bones, but you can also ask the waiter to do it for you (most Spaniards prefer to do it themselves, as boning your own fish is a skill that you are learn from childhood).


Anchovies (anchoas or boquerones)

Anchovy is a little forage fish that it’s usually salted in brine first, then packed in oil. When they’ve been prepared like this, they are brown. However, in Spain we also like to pickle them in vinager, in which case they become white and we call them Boquerones. In both cases, they are great served them as a tapa or on a toast.


Rap a l’all cremat

Monkfish is a favorite in Catalonia, where it used to be considered a cheap fish during the post-war times, but now its texture similar to lobster has risen its price considerably. From all the many recipes we have for it, I’ve chosen this “burnt garlic style” because it really communicates very well the savoir-faire fo the fishermen and sailors of our coast. 

The garlic is not really burnt, but slowly stirred until it gets brown. Tomatoes add color to the sauce, and potatoes and a couple of slices of bread are added to make it earthier, and some restaurants will add shrimp or camps for an extra seafood touch.  The same fish dish recipe can also be done with turbot instead of monkfish.

AND BONUS! The fish that is the main ingredient of literally dozens of Spanish fish dishes:



Catalans and Basque absolutely LOVE codfish. There are so many recipes that include it that we couldn’t choose only one. A few Catalan favorites are bacallà a la llauna (with garlic and paprika), bacallà amb samfaina (with ratatouille) and esqueixada (cold salad with salted cod). Basque make bacalao al pilpil (with garlic and chili), a la vizcaína (with onion and red pepper), in an omelette… You’ll also find it as the main ingredient of croquettes or fritters.

Are you rather a soup person? Check out our post on local fish soups and stews.

What’s your favorite fish dish from Spain?


Author Marta Laurent Veciana


Marta is the founder of ForeverBarcelona. She is a passionate tour guide that loves Barcelona and loves writing too. She is the main author of our Blog, and is committed to sharing her knowledge about Barcelona and her best tips with our readers.

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