Spanish culture has a rich and varied food scene. Cooking is part of how they socialize and bond with each other, which is evident from their many large sharing dishes.
Tapas is another common way of eating food in Spain which involves a number of small sharing plates which are ordered for the table and can be found at every corner.
Spanish cuisine has something for everyone, especially if you don’t mind a bit of spice. Perhaps you want to relive that magical Spanish holiday or are looking to expand your culinary skills…
Here we have found 27 of the best and most authentic Spanish dishes for you to try, from breakfast to dessert we’ve got it all covered.
Paella is probably the dish most associated with Spain. Paella originated in Valencia and contained chicken and either pork ribs (see also ‘18 Tasty Side Dishes To Serve With BBQ Ribs‘) or rabbit with spices and vegetables.
Despite what you might think, seafood was introduced to the dish much more recently. This is a fantastic sharing dish, full of flavor and can be served straight out of the pan around the table.
We’ve opted for a traditional Valencian recipe which does include rabbit however this is completely optional. If you don’t already own a paella pan, using your largest, flattest pan will produce the best results.
For the most authentic feel, you can even go one step further and cook over an open flame.
A tortilla or a Spanish omelette is made with potatoes, onions and eggs. Here, the recipe takes inspiration from Catalonia and is made with five simple ingredients for an authentic taste.
Tortillas are simple, yet tasty food that can be adapted to suit the individual.
You can use pretty much anything in a tortilla. The most common tortilla fillings include spinach, bacon and tuna.
They can be eaten on their own as a snack or as part of a tapas spread which can be dipped in a variety of delicious sauces from other plates.
Simple and full of flavor, Padron peppers are a welcome addition to any dinner table. These small peppers come from Northwestern Spain and are traditionally served in tapas bars.
Deep fried in oil, their skin blisters and they soften and seasoned with sea salt flakes. Some peppers are hot and some aren’t; you can’t guarantee which you’ll get.
Another tapas essential is patatas bravas, which are potatoes served in a spicy sauce. The sauce is the main component of the dish containing onion, tomatoes, garlic, paprika and sugar.
You can adjust the level of heat easily by adding more or less paprika or any other spice you desire. Served with aioli, this counteracts the heat from the bravas sauce.
Pan con Tomate is bread with tomatoes, a tapas classic. Although simple, it’s full of flavor and can make a great sandwich base.
This is a less traditional method that focuses on really getting the bread to absorb the tomato flavor. Usually, the sliced tomato is rubbed on the surface of the bread, getting as much pulp as possible on there.
With this recipe, toasting crusty bread, drizzling with oil and adding garlic and grated tomatoes is all it takes to produce this Spanish favorite.
Croquettes are usually made with ham, not cheese. But Spanish people have experimented with various different fillings from chocolate to mushrooms; when it’s deep fried it probably tastes good regardless of what’s in it.
Making the dough might seem a little intimidating at first, but it’s actually relatively easy. The hard part is staying clean! This traditional ham recipe combines Serrano ham with a bechamel sauce for that delightful creamy texture.
Croquettes can be served on their own, as part of a tapas spread (see also ‘19 Delicious And Simple Spanish Tapas Recipes‘) or as a starter.
Empanadas (see also ‘20 Best Empanada Recipes‘) or beef turnovers are meat-filled pastry pockets. These are usually served as an appetizer or even after the main course.
The filling contains a delicious beef mixture of tomato, onion, garlic and various spices and is encased with a beautiful flaky pastry for a mouth-watering crunch.
These need to be shallow-fried in oil, so they aren’t the healthiest but they sure are tasty. It is recommended that you use a deep-fryer thermometer if you have one to keep an eye on the oil. The wooden chopstick trick can also work just as well.
If you’ve visited Spain before, you’ve probably seen an appetizing looking dessert called flan in a bakery. A smooth, creamy and rich dessert made from custard and caramel, a flan is great for any occasion.
In order to get a perfect consistency, you’ll need to cook the custard in a bain-marie.
Variations on this classic recipe include adding a citrus element with orange zest in the custard or for our coffee lovers, mixing in a few shots of espresso to the custard mixture.
Similar to the flan, the Crema Catalana is also made with custard and is similar to a traditional crème Brulee. However, vanilla, orange peel and cinnamon are used here to offer a sweeter taste.
Using a round iron device is used to burn the sugar on top in order for it to caramelize however, using a kitchen torch can work just as well.
Churros are a great after-dinner snack coated in cinnamon sugar and dipped in a rich chocolate sauce.
You might think these tasty pastries are difficult to make, but here is a recipe using pantry staples to make the perfect, easy churro.
Using fresh oil is key to making amazing churros, pipping the batter straight into the hot oil.
Churros can be eaten at any time of day. Serve with a rich and delicious sauce such as caramel, chocolate or dulce de leche.
Salmorejo is a cold tomato soup that is from the South of Spain. A thicker and creamier version of gazpacho, this dish is the ultimate refreshment on a hot day.
Blending fresh tomatoes, garlic, stale bread and a little sherry vinegar, this is a healthy and low-calorie food which tastes great. Topped with Spanish ham and a hard-boiled egg and you’re ready to eat.
Vegan and vegetarian alternatives can be easily made with this recipe to suit all guests and family members.
Chicken and chorizo are often a combination that we associate with Spanish food. This chicken casserole is a great sharing food and is full of flavor from the Chorizo oils that are released during cooking.
A great alternative to paella, this one-pot dish is ideal for a fuss-free weeknight dinner (see also ‘28 Of The Best Easy Friday Night Dinner Recipes‘) on a slow-cooker.
Another one-pot recipe (see also ‘33 One-Pot Recipes Perfect For Vegetarians‘) is this simple Spanish chicken stew, ideal for an easy and hearty dinner on a cold winter’s evening.
Chicken thighs, chorizo and cannellini beans (see also ‘Cannellini Beans – What Can I Do With Them?‘) are the main components of the dish, leaving you feeling full and satisfied. This is a typical dish shared with friends and family and is ideal for making in larger quantities.
As we’ve already covered salmorejo, it’s time to talk about gazpacho. This quick and easy recipe can be ready in just 15 minutes.
Using fresh in-season tomatoes will produce amazing results as they are more flavorful and a little sweeter.
Gazpacho is a refreshing and chilled Spanish soup that varies from region to region, so don’t be alarmed if yours doesn’t taste the same as it did on holiday.
You can puree the soup to your liking before serving. Classic gazpacho toppings include homemade croutons, black pepper, Spanish ham and a chopped hard-boiled egg or simply some fresh herbs.
15. Jamon Iberico
Jamon Iberico is ham made from Iberico pigs and is famed for its noble lineage.
The ham can be eaten by itself or served with almost anything you like but here we’ve included a recipe in which it’s used in a toasted baguette with melted goat’s cheese, a handful of spinach and spicy Dijon mustard for this ultimate indulgent but easy lunch.
Albondigas is the Spanish word for meatballs. These meatballs are typically served in a tomato sauce, tapas style with a side of crusty bread or as a main course with rice or noodles.
The meat used can be a mixture of pork and beef.
Using fennel seeds adds extra flavor to the tomato sauce and Spanish paprika is used to add sweetness and spice to the meatballs themselves. You’ll need to make breadcrumbs to coat the meatballs.
17. Gambas Al Ajillo
Spanish garlic shrimp is a popular dish which contains juicy shrimp bathing in olive oil and garlic sauce.
This sauce is spicy and rich, perfect to infuse with the shrimp as well as to dip in some crusty bread afterwards.
The dish is so simple and easy to make, which can be done in under 10 minutes so if time isn’t on your side, have a go at making this dish.
18. Arroz Con Leche
Arroz con Leche is a Spanish rice pudding, which literally means rice with milk. A classic dessert in Spain, the pudding can be served either hot or cold depending on the time of year.
Here it is flavored with cinnamon and lemon and consists of a few simple ingredients. The milk is aromatized with sugar, lemon and cinnamon sticks to produce the ultimate flavor.
Magdalenas are small, sweet little cakes that are light and fluffy when you bite into them. In Spain, they are traditionally served as breakfast food, served with hot chocolate or coffee.
Using typical pantry ingredients, it’s easy to make these tasty treats. The secret is the zest of a lemon to bring out that classic tangy flavor.
This is a really simple recipe that produces great results fast and is ideal for keeping children (and adults!) quiet and happy in the morning.
The burnt Basque cheesecake is a light, creamy and caramelized form of cheesecake that is guaranteed to impress your guests and it’s super easy to make.
A local favorite with Spaniards, it uses the usual cheesecake ingredients such as eggs, sugar and cream cheese but the burnt element comes from caramelizing the exterior when cooking it in the oven.
If you’re looking to use a different variation of this cheesecake, you can easily add citrus, bourbon or bake it for more or less time to alter the texture.
Although you can serve the cheesecake plain, some prefer to serve it with a fruit or caramel sauce for that extra bit of indulgence.
Spinach with Garbanzo beans is usually served as a side dish or a light meal on its own, especially popular in tapas bars. Serving suggestions include grilled pork chops or even some plain crusty bread.
Garbanzo beans or chickpeas are a great source of protein and fibre, not to mention they are delicious.
Garlic, onion, spinach and beans are cooked with cumin and salt blend well together to give you an authentic taste of Spain. Adding a splash of wine, or some paprika can really bring the dish alive.
The great thing about many Spanish dishes is that you can easily season them to your own liking.
Originally from Galicia, this tart is traditionally decorated with the St James cross. It is an almond and citrus tart that is ideal for dessert or in the afternoon with a coffee.
The light and fluffy tart are easy to make by simply creating a mixture and cooking the sponge.
To decorate the tart with the cross icing sugar is sprinkled over a stencil. You can either buy a stencil or make one using an internet printout which works just as well.
23. Dátiles Rellenos
Dates stuffed with cheese and bacon are a great snack in the style of tapas foods.
The sweetness from the dates pairs well with the creamy ricotta cheese and salty bacon, creating a wonderful taste sensation. This quick and easy recipe is ideal for creating large portions for a family gathering or event.
Dates are stuffed with the cheese using a piping bag and then covered with bacon, kept in place by a toothpick before cooking the bacon until golden.
Bocadillos refers to a sandwich made with a Spanish baguette and is filled with a variety of cured meats, cheese, fish or any number of combinations.
Here we’ve featured a savory tuna bocadillo which will shake up your lunchtime routine.
Cooking the vegetables with herbs and spices, sugar and vinegar you create a coleslaw-style element.
Tuna is then added to the vegetable slaw mixture which will be placed on either side of the toasted baguette and topped with piquillos peppers (see also ‘What To Use Instead Of Piquillo Peppers (8 Substitutes)‘).
Spanish chorizo is made from pork meat and fat, seasoned with paprika and garlic. This meat can easily be found in any grocery store or deli counter.
A firm tapas favorite, chorizo can be served in a number of ways.
This recipe uses red wine and honey to give the meat a sweet syrupy coating. This can easily be prepared in advance, so it is great if you’re entertaining.
Pulpo a la Gallega is a Galician-style octopus and is a typical way to serve and eat octopus in the Northwestern regions of Spain.
A simple dish using high-quality olive oil, paprika and sea salt to season the octopus you can’t really go wrong. Cooking the octopus until it’s rich and tender is vital in creating a truly delicious dish.
Using frozen octopus means the meat will come tenderized and ready to cook. If you wish you can tenderize even more with a meat mallet, but this usually isn’t needed.
Serving with sliced baby potatoes adds some more substance to this dish if you want to serve it as part of a meal.
Boquerones fritos, or fried anchovies are a traditional Andalusian recipe. Anchovies aren’t for everyone, but frying these salty little fish (see also ‘The Perfect Foods To Serve With Fish‘) may change your mind.
When preparing, you can choose whether or not to leave the bone in as they are so small they can usually go unnoticed.
This recipe has instructions and a clear video indicating how to clean the anchovies, ready to coat in flour and salt.
Various fishmongers or grocery stores sell pre-prepared anchovies if you don’t feel like dealing with all the bones and guts. Fry and serve with fresh lemon wedges for a traditional Andalusian appetizer.
If you’re looking to make a traditional Spanish feast, then look no further. Here we have included the most authentic and popular foods from breakfast to dessert, so there’s plenty for you to try out.
As you can see there is a way to shape each recipe to suit your tastes and dietary requirements, making for lots of happy tummies.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are 4 Popular Spanish Dishes?
All of the dishes featured in this article are popular throughout Spain, with some more popular in certain regions.
The most popular and commonly associated dishes eaten in Spain are paella, tortilla Espanola, gazpacho and patatas bravas. These dishes are usually served on small sharing plates known as tapas.
What Is A Good Spanish Meal?
Spanish rice, paella, stews and seafood are all considered to be very good Spanish dishes and are very popular throughout the country.
In terms of whether a dish is ‘good’ is subjective and depends on the individual’s personal tastes.
What Is The Most Popular Food In Spain?
Paella is considered to be the national dish of Spain. Traditional paella comes from Valencia, where they use chicken, pork or rabbit with paella rice and vegetables.
Many different variations have been created over the years, including chicken and chorizo, seafood or vegetable paella which are very popular with tourists visiting the country.