The Art of Spanish Gastronomy and Cuisine

spanish gastronomy

Discover the iconic dishes and distinctive regional flavours of Spain, one of Europe’s most rewarding culinary destinations.

A centre of trade and power throughout its history, the culinary culture of the Iberian Peninsula is influenced by former rulers including the Ancient Greeks and Moors. It’s also heavily influential in its own right, with elements of Spanish cooking now found around the world from Africa to the Americas. Spain’s famous dishes draw inspiration from its abundant natural produce and are interpreted differently across its many cultural regions. From Andalusia to the Basque Country, a culinary tour of Spain gives visitors the opportunity to explore this diversity in all its glory.

Seafood and Meat

With extensive Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines, it’s no surprise that seafood is a mainstay of Spanish gastronomy. Perhaps most famous is paella de mariscos, the saffron-infused rice dish that is, for most people, the very definition of local cuisine. Prepared in a flat, round pan, there are many different kinds of paella; but this one, originating as most do in the port city of Valencia, is beloved for its succulent shrimps, squid, octopus and mussels.

Lesser-known but equally delicious seafood dishes to sample on your Spanish holiday include marmitako (Basque tuna stew) and bacalao al pil pil (salted cod served in a sauce of its own oils, blended with olive oil, garlic and guindilla chillies).

Cured meats are also omnipresent. Whether you encounter them hanging in a local market or listed on the menu of a five-star restaurant, must-try favourites include jamón serrano and jamón ibérico, thinly sliced pork tenderloin known as lomo, and fuet, a type of dry-cured Catalonian sausage. Chorizo may be known internationally these days, but in Spain you can become a connoisseur of different regional flavours.

Tapas and Pintxos

Of course, seafood and cured meats both feature heavily in another iconic Spanish gastronomic tradition: tapas. Small plates made for ordering en masse and sharing with friends and family, tapas are a way of life in Spain. Some of the best evenings of your visit are likely to be spent hopping from one bar to the next, sampling different specialities as you go.

Although there are literally hundreds to choose from, some of the most popular tapas dishes include gambas a la plancha (grilled shrimps), marinated anchovies, patatas bravas (fried spicy potatoes) and tortilla Española (Spanish omelette). In the Basque Country and Navarre, tapas are replaced with the subtly different pintxos, which are typically served with a toothpick on bread.

Fruit and Vegetables

Spanish market stalls overflow with gorgeous fruit and veg, from the famous oranges of Seville to the quinces of Grenada. Creamy avocados, plump artichokes, orange persimmons and sweet watermelons – these are some of the delights in store for vegetarian diners. These beautiful ingredients form the centrepiece of many regional specialities – from Andalusian gazpacho flavoured with sun-ripened tomatoes, peppers and cucumber to Cordoba’s addictive berenjenas con miel (fried aubergine drizzled with honey).

Of course, there’s one fruit that’s destined primarily for the glass, not the plate – the grapes that yield Spain’s iconic Rioja, Priorat and sparkling cava wines.

(*) Average meal price calculated on the basis of starter and main course or main course and dessert, excluding drinks, menu and promotional offers. The average price is an estimate only, calculated according to the prices provided by the restaurant. Depending on the country, the average price may or may not include all taxes.