Images of some of the best tapas food of Spain

This post contains affiliate or sponsored links. We might be paid for posting them or if you click on them or buy through them. 
If the affiliate link would increase your costs, we wouldn’t use it. Your trust is more important than any commission. More about our links policy here.

Plates of food | Spain

What is the best food in Spain I should try?


Explore the savory delights of Spanish cuisine with us, from its most famous tapas to delectable desserts and of course the iconic Jamón Ibérico. A journey through all the dishes you must try during your next trip to Spain, with tips about when to order it, where to find it and even equally satisfying alternatives. You won’t find a guide to the food in Spain more useful than this one: it’s designed to help you planning your trip so you can try as many traditional Spanish specialties as possible as you go!

You’ll find here options for meat eaters, fish lovers and vegetarians, and you’ll be happy to know that many of them are also kid-friendly! Plus stick around till the end for a special bonus: a dish from each of Spain’s Autonomous Communities. Don’t limit your choices to just the classics: eat like a real local and try things probably your friends and family have never heard about before!

Put this Spanish food in your must-try list:


Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico, a popular food | Spain food culture

Maybe the most famous food from Spain, but one that is hard to find outside of this country, because what's exported the most is the cheaper "Serrano ham" variety (that locals use for their kids sandwiches, but not as an adult treat). The main difference is the bread of the pigs that is used to make one or the other. Iberico pigs give the best quality meat. A meant that melts in your mouth rather than getting chewy. A meat of a gorgeous intense dark red color, rather than the sketchy color of serrano with tints of orange.

And here goes my first important tip: when you buy Spanish food, educate yourself on the quality labels for each product so you aren’t for a ride. In the case of jamon, don’t just look out for the pig breed, but also what it’s eaten (“Bellota” means it’s been free-ranged eating wild eggcorns from the forest, whether “Cebo” or “Recebo” pigs ate cereals at the farm), its area of production (Jabugo being the most famous village for it), and even the number of years of aging (the difference between 3 and 5 years can easily be 100€/kilo).

WHEN TO EAT IT: Anytime.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy it at Charcuteria shops and supermarkets (sliced at the moment, or vacuum packed). Order it in tapas bars and restaurants.
HOW TO EAT IT: As a tapa (with toast or tomato bread, or as a platter), or as a starter to share. Sometimes it’s used in flakes or cubes to round up a dish.
ALTERNATIVES: If you don’t eat pork, try “cecina”, similar to ham but made with veal, or “mojama”, made with tuna fish.


Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish omelette)

Tortilla española, also known as Tortilla de Patatas, is a staple in any Spanish household, and it's not unusual to eat it at least once a week. Similar to the Italian frittata, it's a dish made with eggs and potatoes but rather than being baked, it's made on a deep pan and flipped over so both sides are evenly cooked. It's great eaten when it's been freshly made, but it preserves well until the next day as well, so eating it room-temperature is not a red flag at all.

When home-made, some people prefer to add caramelized onion to the mix, whereas other hate it. But when ordered at a restaurant the menus rarely mention if it’s got onion on it or not. Occasionally you’ll see it with added green peppers or chorizo bits.

WHEN TO EAT IT: Anytime, except maybe breakfast because eggs aren’t usually a breakfast food in Spain (unless the goal is to make it a decadent breakfast).
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy it vacuum packed at supermarkets (not always great). Order it in tapas bars.
HOW TO EAT IT: As a tapa (with toast or tomato bread or by itself). At home, as a main course or a starter, sometimes with a salad or other light side dish.
ALTERNATIVES: Omelets galore! If you see them, don’t miss them: garlic & parsley omelet, “paisana” omelet with potatoes, peas and carrot, green onion omelet, eggplant omelet, zucchini omelet…



Paella is a lunch food in Spain

Need one more iconic dish from Spain? Of course Paella is the thing! HOWEVER, it's not a specialty that you find all over the country (at least not the best ones!), but mostly a thing from the Mediterranean Coast. The reason is that it's original from the region of Valencia, and that the water used to cook in other areas of Spain doesn't have the same degree of lime that allows for the rice to be cooked the same way. Paella takes hours to cook from scratch (family gatherings around a paella pan last until really late afternoon), and even at a restaurant it'll take at least 20 minutes to be served because that's how long the grain needs to be cooked. If it takes less than that, red flag! It's likely frozen stuff. 

WHEN TO EAT IT: Lunch, please. It’s too heavy to have for dinner…
WHERE TO TRY IT: Ideally the region of Valencia in most restaurants. Otherwise restaurants along the Mediterranean coast usually do a good job (just not the ones with pictures of it by the door). If not visiting the coast, ask your hotel concierge if there’s any place at your destination that makes a decent one… or just skip it.
HOW TO EAT IT: As a main course, after a salad or a few light tapas shared with your table mates.
ALTERNATIVES: Fideua is sort of similar to paella but made with noodles instead, and it’s easily found along the Valencia and Catalunya coast. Or find out what other rice dishes are typical in the region you are visiting! You’ll be surprised to see that there’s more than paella to Spain!


Patatas Bravas

Probably the favorite Spanish tapa, it's fries topped with aioli garlic sauce and a red spicy sauce, hence it's "brave potatoes" because they are hot. Well, probably not Mexican or Indian hot really, if you are used to this kind of spiciness you'll probably find Patatas Bravas are just mildly spicy... TIP: If you are traveling with kids and aren't sure they'll like the spiciness, just order the sauce aside - it's totally OK to do that (even for adult picky-eaters!).

WHEN TO EAT IT: Anytime between noon and dinner.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Tapas bars, sometimes restaurants serve it as a starter.
HOW TO EAT IT: Share a platter with your travel mates.
ALTERNATIVES: Bravas with eggs? yes, please! That’s called huevos cabreados. Sometimes “huevos rotos” or “huevos estrellados”, but they don’t always come with the spicy sauce on top.



Olives are a popular food in Spain

Did you know that Spain is the largest producer of olives in the entire world? And the largest producer of olive oil, as well? (hear that, Italy!). So don't come with the excuse that you don't like olives: there's not just one olive flavor! It entirely depends on the way it's been marinated! Maybe you hate black olives, but you'll love the redish "gazpachas" marinated with paprika. Or you hate green olives, but you'll love the bitter tiny "arbequinas" that you'll eat non-stop like sunflower seeds. And since we are talking about olives... Do yourself another favor and forget about bread and butter for just this trip. Bread and olive oil all the way!

WHEN TO EAT IT: On salads, or as a tapa or appetizer before lunch or dinner.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy them canned in supermarkets (acceptable taste and variety) or loose at farmers markets. Order it at most restaurants, bars and cafes.
HOW TO EAT IT: Share a platter with your travel mates.
ALTERNATIVES: That’s a tricky one… what about pickles and pickled baby onions and capers?



Now this is something that unfortunately it's not available all year around, because it's a cold soup that is only eaten in Spain in the Summer months. Made with crushed tomatoes, red pepper, onion and cucumber, sometimes it's served with vegetable dices that can also include green pepper or even olives. As soon as the heat starts, it becomes a staple in every household (especially now that you can buy it ready-made at the supermarket, so you don't have to spend ages straining it on the colander.

WHEN TO EAT IT: In the Summer, anytime between noon and dinner.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy it refrigerated in supermarkets, or order it in most restaurants during the Summer months.
HOW TO EAT IT: Drunk if you are having it as a snack, with a spoon as a starter (soup) if you order it at a restaurant.
ALTERNATIVES: Salmorejo is a spread served as a tapa in Andalusia that uses similar ingredients. 


Manchego cheese

Manchego cheese, the best food of Spain?

Manchego cheese is the most famous cheese from Spain. It's a pressed sheep cheese made with milk from "manchega" sheep, in the region of La Mancha, and it's protected by a DOP label (Protected Denomination of Origin) since 1996. The outside rind is stamped with particular patterns that help releasing the whey during the curing process, which lasts 30 to 60 days. Even the Spanish writer Cervantes mentions it in his famous Quijote book.

WHEN TO EAT IT: Anytime.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy it in farmer markets, supermarkets, and delis. Order it in tapas bars and some restaurants.
HOW TO EAT IT: But itself as a snack or from a platter to share. On top of tomato bread or toast. Even as filling in sandwich!
ALTERNATIVES: Spain is a land of cheeses! In Galicia try Tetilla Gallega, in the Balearic Islands try Mahon, in  Asturias try Cabrales, in Extremadura try Torta del Casar, in the Basque Country and Navarra order Idiazabal, in Catalonia don’t miss Mató served with honey for dessert.



Chorizo is a Spanish sausage made with pork meat, garlic and pimenton (the Spanish paprika). Some versions are spicier than other. Depending on the variety it is eaten cured or cooked. if you eat it cured, make sure to buy "chorizo ibérico": just like in ham, you'll get the best quality meat - and the difference between a regular chorizo and an iberico one is huge. Leave the regular chorizo for your kids sandwiches.

WHEN TO EAT IT: Anytime.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy it in farmer markets, supermarkets, and delis. Order it in tapas bars and meat restaurants.
HOW TO EAT IT: Cured is eaten by itself, on toast (tomato bread doesn’t go too well with it) or as a sandwich. Cooked it’s often fried or cooked in wine, added as slices to stews or diced or grinded over migas (a breakfast dish based in bread crumbles), fries or eggs.
ALTERNATIVES: There’s so many other cold cuts worth trying! Look for salsichon, fuet, morcilla, lomo, sobrasada, longaniza…



Tapas food in Spain: anchovies

Anchovies are a fish from the same family of herring, that are cured in salt until its meat turns from white to brown. And I know, just like with olives, this is a Spanish food that has a lot of haters. But... that's maybe because you've only tried the super salty canned ones? And that's not the best version of anchovies! If you are willing to give them another try, then find anchovies from L'Escala (Catalonia) or Santoña (Cantabria). They are the very best.

WHEN TO EAT IT: Anytime.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy it in farmer markets, supermarkets, and delis. Order it in tapas bars.
HOW TO EAT IT: By themselves, as a topping on salad or escalivada (roasted red pepper, eggplant and onion) or on bread (toast, bread with olive oil or tomato bread).
ALTERNATIVES: Boquerones, the same fish but marinated in vinegar.


Calamares a la romana

Calamari rings, battered and deep fried, are to Spanish people what onion rings are to Americans. A staple in the house, apparently they are called "Roman style" calamari because in the 1500s Portuguese Jesuit monks brought fish tempura back from Asia and made it a popular thing to eat during Lent, during which meats were to be avoided. "Tempora ad quadragesimae" means during Lent Time in Latin, and somehow the word "Tempora" evolved into "Romana" (I know, weird).

WHEN TO EAT IT: Lunch or dinner.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy it frozen from supermarkets, then deep fry them at home and eat is a starter or main course. Order it as a tapa, starter or main in restaurants and tapas bars. 
HOW TO EAT IT: Warm, and optionally sprinkle some lemon juice on top. In Madrid, try it on sandwich (“bocata de calamares”). Sounds weird? Spanish people thing meatball sandwiches are weird, too, LOL.
ALTERNATIVES: Rabas (deep fried calamari stripes), chipirones (fried battered baby squid).



What to eat in Spain? Make sure to try croquettes!

Another staple in the house, grandmas used to spend hours making a dense white sauce where they'd incorporate a variety of ingredients for flavor (often, just stew leftovers), before leaving it overnight to thicken, and then coating spoonfuls of that in bread crumbles and deep-frying them. I must confess that every time I've tried to make them from scratch they've melted as soon as I've put them on the pan... So thanks God for frozen ones!​

The most common flavors are cocido (stew meat), chicken, ham, codfish, spinach and mushrooms. But you can also find them with shrimp, sobrasada, brie or blue cheese, eggplant, leek, gorgonzola, calamari ink… and in specialty bars you may even find sweet ones for dessert!

WHEN TO EAT IT: Lunch or dinner.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy it frozen from supermarkets, then deep fry them at home and eat is a starter or main course. Order it as a tapa or starter in tapas bars. Ask your concierge to find out if there’s any bar specializing in them if you want to try as many varieties as possible!
HOW TO EAT IT: Warm or room temperature.
ALTERNATIVES: Bomba, a Barcelona tapa similar to croquettes but made with mashed potatoes and spicy grinded meat.


Pulpo a la gallega

Octopus is an iconic tapa from the region of Galicia. They are boiled on a copper pot, sliced and served on a platter, sometimes over a bed of sliced boiled potatoes, and sprinkled with paprika. You'll also see it called "Pulpo a Feira", its Galician name, because it was commonly served during local festivals (Feira = Fiesta). Octopus meat can be really hard, so in order to tenderize it it needs to be frozen, or like in the old times, be smashed against a hard surface before cooking it.

WHEN TO EAT IT: Lunch or dinner.
WHERE TO TRY IT: In tapas bars and fish restaurants.
HOW TO EAT IT: From a platter to share.
ALTERNATIVES: “pulpitos” (deep-fried baby octopusses), calamar en su tinta (canned calamari with ink), grilled squid (sepia).



Offals are a common food in Spain

Where you looking for something more "exotic" and adventurous? No worries, we get you covered! In Spain offal food is quite common (although it takes too long to cook at home and now it's mostly grandmas and restaurants cooking them). And the most famous offal food in Spain is callos, cow tripe. They are served as a stew with other veal parts and pork meats such as chorizo and morcilla (blood sausage) slices and ham dices, Paprika gives it its characteristic reddish color.

WHEN TO EAT IT: They make a hearty breakfast ordered in bars, or a filling main for lunch. It’s usually considered too heavy for dinner.
WHERE TO TRY IT: In tapas bars and Madrid restaurants.
HOW TO EAT IT: As a tapa (but not really to share) or main.
ALTERNATIVES: In Catalonia order “Cap i Pota” (veal head and trotters stew). Otherwise “rabo de toro” (oxtail) and “manitas de cerdo” (pig trotters) are also a nice alternatives easy enough to find.


Pimientos del Padrón

Despite being original from Galicia, they can easily be found all over Spain. This tiny green peppers are sauté and sprinkled with salt flakes. According to the saying "Pimientos del Padron, a veces pican y a veces no" (Peppers from Padron, sometimes they are hot, sometimes they are not). And while it's impossible to know beforehand if the one you are putting in your mouth is going to burn your tongue, spicy food lovers will find in them the closest heat to Mexican and Indian food.

WHEN TO EAT IT: Lunch or dinner.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy them fresh to cook at home in grocery shops, markets and supermarkets. Order it at tapas bars and restaurants.
HOW TO EAT IT: As a tapa to share or as a side dish.
ALTERNATIVES: Escalivada, a Catalan specialty that is basically slices of roasted eggplant, red pepper and onion. Pimientos del Piquillo, roasted small red peppers served either stuffed or cut in slices over bread or salad, or entire as a side dish or tapa.


Gambas al ajillo

Shrimp in garlic are a great dinner food in Spain

Shrimp is a delicacy that is easily found along all the Spanish coast. And while it can be served grilled or as an ingredient of paella and other dishes, one of our favorite ways to make them is cooked in olive oil and garlic, and often also a couple of chilies. It's usually served either on a small pan or a small clay pot. Don't forget to order some bread to soak in the oil and clean the plate! Yum! Oh, and don't worry, in this dish shrimp comes already shelled!

WHEN TO EAT IT: Lunch or dinner.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy them fresh to cook at home in fishmongers and markets. Order it at tapas bars and fish restaurants.
HOW TO EAT IT: As a tapa to share, or as a starter.
ALTERNATIVES: If you are not a shrimp person, but you do love garlic, try “pollo al ajillo” instead (chicken fried with garlic and parsley).


Bacalao al pil pil

Cod fish is another common food in Spain, even if this fish is not native to our coasts. But since it can be salted and last for a long time, it became the go-to fish for people living inland. And there's hundreds of recipes with it! But this recipe from the Basque Country is probably one of the most famous. It is cooked on a clay pot with olive oil, garlic and chilies, too. The fish emulsionates the oil giving place to a thick garlicky sauce.

WHEN TO EAT IT: Lunch or dinner.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy them fresh to cook at home in fishmongers and markets. Order it at tapas bars and fish restaurants.
HOW TO EAT IT: As a tapa, starter or main course.
ALTERNATIVES: In Catalonia cod is made “a la llauna” (cooked on a tin with oil and paprika). You’ll often find also cod turned into fritters or croquettes, or added to rice dishes. Not a fan of cod? Try monkfish instead!


Cochinillo (Lechón)

Cochinillo, a top Spanish food to try

Roasted suckling pigs are very traditional in the areas of Castilla and Madrid (center of Spain), and the specialty of one of the oldest restaurants in Spain: Restaurante Botin in Madrid. Another very famous restaurant for them is Meson de Candido in Segovia. The baby pig is cleaned from all the organs but the kidneys, which add flavor to it, then baked in the oven whole on a clay pot with herbs and its own grease.

WHEN TO EAT IT: Lunch or dinner.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Meat restaurants.
HOW TO EAT IT: As a main course.
ALTERNATIVES: Lechazo or cordero asado (sukling lamb).


Hot chocolate with churros

Nothing better than a thick hot chocolate, so thick that you can't really drink it but need to use a spoon to eat it or... dip churros on it! Churros are strips of deep-fried dough sprinkled with sugar. And the combination of both makes it a children favorite... that adults can't stop themselves from joining, too! Hot chocolate and churros are definitely intrinsically part of any Spaniard life and childhood memories.

WHEN TO EAT IT: Breakfast or late afternoon snack (merienda). Sure, in Barcelona I’ve seen some tapas bars starting to serve them as dessert, too, but Spanish people roll their eyes at that. As a pick-me up bought from a churreria truck after partying the whole night long.
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy chocolate powder to make at home in supermarkets (or ready made chocolate in tetrapack, that you only have to warm on the microwave!). Order it in cafes and “granjas” (in Catalonia, cafes specializing in dairy products). You’ll also find it in “churrerias”, shops and food trucks specializing in churros (usually there the churros are delish but the chocolate is just OK).
HOW TO EAT IT: Order a “suizo” to get it topped with whipped cream (only in granjas and cafes).
ALTERNATIVES: For a more liquid chocolate, Cacaolat is the most famous brand of chocolate shake. In Catalonia, melindros (lady fingers) are also commonly dipped in hot chocolate. And at home strips of toast do the trick, too. Or really, any kind of pastry works. Porras are a thicker type of chocolate, that sometimes comes stuffed with chocolate or cream.


Crema Catalana

Crema catalana: You must try this food when you are in Spain!

And let's start now with sweet specialties! In reality, in Spain you'll often find a typical dessert or pastry for each celebration along the year. But there's things that are there all year around! And Crema Catalana, the Catalan creme brulee, is one of them. But creme brulee is richer and has a vanilla flavor, whereas Crema Catalana is thicker and has a cinnamon and lemony aftertaste.

WHEN TO EAT IT: Lunch or dinner, or as a rich breakfast or late afternoon snack (merienda)
WHERE TO TRY IT: Most restaurants, tapas bars and “granjas” (in Catalonia, cafes specializing in dairy products).
HOW TO EAT IT: As dessert or sweet treat.
ALTERNATIVES: Arroz con leche (rice pudding), flan (creme caramel), natillas (custard), torrijas (French toast).



There's many traditional pastries in Spain, but if there's one that is as common as croissants for France, that's the Ensaimada, a flat roll made with a dough that incorporates lard instead of butter ("saim", in Majorcan). The two most common varieties are the plain one and the one with "cabello de angel" (quince squash), but in Mallorca you'll see it with lots of different fillings: whipped cream, chocolate, custard, pistachio, marzipan, apricots... even sobrassada (paprika pork spread) with honey

WHEN TO EAT IT: Breakfast or late afternoon snack (merienda). 
WHERE TO TRY IT: Buy then in bakeries and cake shops, or find industrial ones in supermarkets. Order it in cafes and bars.
HOW TO EAT IT: By itself, or dipped in coffee, milk or hot chocolate.
ALTERNATIVES: Xuixos (Catalan deep fried roll stuffed with custard), palmera (puff pastry), tortas de aceite.


BONUS! Best regional food in Spain, by Autonomous Community

  • ANDALUSIA: Pescaito frito (baby fried fish).
  • ARAGON: Frutas de Aragon (candy fruit coated in chocolate).
  • ASTURIAS: Cachopo (giant schnitzel made with two steaks, ham and cheese).
  • BALEARIC ISLANDS: Sobrassada (paprika pork sausage spread)
  • BASQUE COUNTRY: Pintxos (tapa consisting on a slice of bread with a variety of toppings)
  • CANARY ISLANDS: Papas arrugás con mojo picón (boiled potatoes with their skin, with a spicy sauce)
  • CANTABRIA: Sobaos passiegos (breakfast bakery)
  • CASTILLA Y LEON: Garlic soup
  • CASTILLA LA MANCHA: Marzipan from Toledo
  • CATALONIA: Butifarra amb seques (pork sausage with white beans). And of course, “pa amb tomàquet”, bread with tomato rubbed on top.
  • VALENCIA REGION: Horchata with fartons (vegetal milk with lady fingers to dip in)
  • EXTREMADURA: Ajoblanco (almond gazpacho)
  • GALICIA: Empanada gallega (tuna pasty)
  • LA RIOJA: Rioja-style cod (stewed with tomato and red peppers)
  • MADRID: Cocido Madrileño (traditional meat stew)
  • MURCIA: Paparajotes (sweet battered lemon tree leaves – you really only slurp out the batter, you don’t eat the actual leave)
  • NAVARRA: White asparagus

Now it's your turn, what do you think is the best food in 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.

Cochinillo: a great Spanish meat dish

Traditional Spanish meat recipes you need to try

Best manchego cheese from Spain

Everything about Manchego cheese from Spain

What is paella española

What Is Paella?

Authentic Gazpacho from Spain

My Mom’s Recipe For Spanish Gazpacho

Spain Fish Dishes | ForeverBarcelona

Traditional Spanish Fish Dishes To Try In Your Next Trip

Spanish cakes and pastries | ForeverBarcelona

Our Favorite Traditional Spanish Pastries

Soup from Spain

Most Authentic Spanish Soups

Types of Olives Spanish

Types Of Spanish Olives You Need To Try In Your Next Trip

Weird Spanish foods to try on your next trip if you are brave

Weird Foods In Spain. Are You Daring Enough?

Vegetarian Tapas in Barcelona | ForeverBarcelona

Vegetarian Spanish Tapas: An Impossible Quest?

Spanish Cold Cuts

Types Of Spanish Charcuterie Meats

Awesome Spanish tortilla recipe | ForeverBarcelona

My Mom’s Easy Spanish Omelette Recipe

Iberian Ham varieties | ForeverBarcelona

Types Of Spanish Ham: Which One To Buy?

Spanish tapas dishes you need to try | ForeverBarcelona

Best Traditional Tapas From Spain

Spanish Types of Shellfish | ForeverBarcelona

Spanish Seafood You Must Try (Awesome Tapas Ideas)

How to make crema catalana

The Original Crema Catalana Recipe

Need more inspiration?

Our 100% FREE Barcelona Collection will give you everything you need to organize the trip of your lifetime to Barcelona.


Scroll to Top