What to eat in Spain: Ten Foods you Must Try

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Eating our way around Spain may have been my favorite activity on our trip to Spain earlier this year. We spent a lot of time in Southern Spain, so a lot of these dishes are more popular in those regions.

I also have a travel guide on the sights to see in Spain!

Spanish foods are all about quality ingredients. Most of the dishes are made of simple, and fresh ingredients! You can really tell the difference.

We found that Spanish food had a lower focus on carbs, and more protein, especially meat and seafood.

Meal times in Spain


In general, we found that breakfast/brunch isn’t a big affair. It wasn’t as popular as brunch is in North America.

It’s typically light, and quick meal. Typically a quick pastry, or a pan con tomate (more on that below) served with orange juice and/or coffee.

What to eat in spain - a light breakfast


Lunchtime is sacred. Many shops are closed during the afternoon siesta, but we found that restaurants, bars and cafes were very busy


In the evening, especially in across southern Spain, we found dinner in the form of tapas to be the most popular meal! Smaller, shared plates, served with drinks. The focus seemed to be more on socializing, and not on a huge heavy meal. Most tapas places didn’t even open until 8!

All the food you must try in Spain!

ONE: Pan con Tomate

Breakfast didn’t feel like a huge affair in Spain.

The simplest and tastiest breakfast for me usually consisted of tomato, garlic and olive oil slathered on a piece of hearty bread!

Although it sounds simple, let me tell you, it started off each morning on the right foot.

Good quality olive oil is so widely available in Spain, so it’s no surprise that such simple ingredients paired so well together.

Enjoy this with a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) or a freshly squeezed orange juice, and you’re set for the day! 

TWO: Tapas

Tapas aren’t a specific food to eat, but rather a way of eating, or the description of a meal time.

Small plates shared amongst diners with drinks – This may be my favorite way to eat!

The plates are reasonably priced, which allowed us the opportunity to try multiple dishes at each place; a task otherwise difficult among just two people.

Depending on the city, we found tapas offerings to differ, and so did the serving sizes.

Tip: My suggestion would be to order one or two tapas to start, so you get an idea of the serving size at the bar or restaurant.

In Granada, we found the restaurants were super generous! A free, very generous tapa was served along with each drink order. Of course, this meant that we ordered too much food on out first night out!

THREE: Paella

What to eat in spain - Seafood Paella for 2 in Barcelona at Gaudim Restaurant
Seafood Paella for 2 in Barcelona at Gaudim Restaurant

Paella was the dish I really wanted to try in Spain!

Living in Toronto, we are lucky to have a diverse food scene, but I’ve only had paella a couple of times.

Paella is a rice dish, made with saffron infused rice, and various meats such as chicken or seafood.

It is usually cooked in the same dish as it is served on the table. My favourite part was the crispy rice at the bottom of the dish!

Paella is often served as a dish for two, and restaurants will make it fresh for you when you order it.

Be prepared to wait at least 30 minutes. Be sure to order an appetizer and a drink, while you wait!

FOUR: Olives 

What to eat in Spain - lots of Olives

We took the train all across Spain. Especially in Southern Spain, we found that there were fields lined with olive trees. It is no surprise that olives are on this list!

I don’t think you can have a bad olive in Spain!

Whether olives were served in the form of a free tapa, or paired with cheese on a skewer or stuffed olive, you cannot go wrong!

Spain is famous for olives and olive oil. My biggest regret of the trip was not bringing back any with me!

FIVE: Pulpo (Octopus)

What to eat in Spain - Octopus
Pulpo (Octopus) at La Taberna in Ronda

One of the things that my husband really enjoyed in Spain was fresh seafood, specifically, the octopus.

The most popular way we ate octopus was boiled, served with potatoes, olive oil, and a generous seasoning of paprika!

SIX: Jamon iberico

Cured meats are very popular in Spain. You’ll probably see them being served with

Jamón Ibérico must be made from black Iberian pigs, or cross-bred pigs as long as they are at least 75% Ibérico. The production of Iberico ham is highly regulated, and can only be called so, if it’s from Spain or Portugal

What to eat in spain - jamon iberico

SEVEN: Cheese

Cheese is always a good idea.

My favorite variety was Manchego Curado, paired with some cured meat, olives and a drink. A perfect tapas combination!

EIGHT: Pintxos

Pintxos literally means poke. These are often combination of olives, cheese, meat, even seafood on a stick – it makes for perfect tapas food.

Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, close to Plaza Mayor had a few places that served inspired combinations of seafood, meats, cheese, and olives on sticks.

Or visit La Bouqeria in Barcelona, near the famous Las Ramblas street!

NINE: Gambas (shrimp)

As I mentioned, we went crazy for the seafood, as we seem to have limited fresh variety in Toronto.

Shrimp is one of my favorite seafood options, and I took every oppportunity to enjoy it!

The best option was always the shrimp with garlic and chili, found on many tapas menus!

TEN Churros with chocolate 

What to eat in Spain - Churros con chooclate

I couldn’t possibly write a whole food related post without mentioning something sweet!

To be honest, I was disappointed with the sweets selection on the trip! I have a huge sweet tooth, and feel the need to end every meal with something sweet, but the Spanish didn’t seem to be too big on sweet.

But they do have churros!

Churros are fried dough sticks. They are the version that seems to be more popular worldwide!

Porras, are churro’s cousin – a thicker, chewier version of a churro. These were the one’s I enjoyed more.

Churros are typically eaten either for breakfast, or as an afternoon snack with coffee. Don’t forget to get some dipping chocolate to go with the Churros or Porras!

Favorite places for Churros:

San Gines in Madrid is an institution. It’s been in Madrid since 1894! The dipping chocolate as divine, so make sure to get that to go along with the churros!

Another spot we thoroughly enjoyed for churros was Cafeteria Alhambra in Alhambra. Their churros were thicker, and were perfect with some coffee!

Honorable Mentions:

Over the two weeks in Spain, we spent so many meals, trying so many different things!

Here are a few of the other dishes you must try as you make your way across Spain:

Bocadilla calamares – Fried squid ring sandwich. This was especially popular in Madrid!

Patatas Bravas – Fried potatoes, served with garlic aioli and hot sauce, found on most tapas menus.

Tortillas Espanola – Spanish omelette, basically a quiche stuffed with potatoes!

Turron – Almond Nougat – makes for great gifts from the trip.

Sangria & Tinto de verano – Just a few of the drinks you must try

I know this post was about food, but, of course, you cannot visit Spain without trying Sangria! Every restaurant seemed to have their own variation of this, but were all great in their own way!

Another drink you have to try Tinto de Verano – a refreshing summer wine made from red wine mixed with either lemon or orange juice. It is especially refreshing after a whole day of exploring on a sunny day!

Phew, there you have it, a guide to all the food to you must try as you travel across Spain.

If you’re looking for all the things to do, make sure to check out my Travel Guide for Spain!



  • Becks June 5, 2020 at 3:26 PM

    I absolutely love Spanish food, it’s probably one of the reasons I keep going back there! Although I did have a paella served as a tapa with a drink once, thought it was vegetable, tucked in and thought I was eating a mushroom until I realised it was a tiny octopus…I don’t eat seafood so it was a bit of an ‘ahhh’ moment lol! Have you been to the north of Spain? The pintxos in the north are the best!

    • Anum H June 9, 2020 at 10:15 PM

      oh no! i love seafood, but i can imagine it being a surprise if that’s not what you’re expecting! we only touched on Madrid in Northern(ish) Spain, and spent most of our time in the south! hopefully next time!

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