Top 10 Spanish foods

Food is as integral to Spain as its rich history, with each of Spain's regions home to a range of unique cuisines and flavours. Here's a selection of the top 10 foods to try in Spain.

Each regional speciality is worth trying, and restaurants from different regions bring their local delights to most main cities. Besides the usual tapas, for example olives, Manchego cheese or a plate of Spanish bravas (fried potato with spicy tomato sauce), here are a few foods you shouldn't leave without trying.

1. Croquettes 
You can find Spanisha plate of croquetas in almost any restaurant or bar, each made to the establishment's own recipe. It makes food comparison throughout Spain a delight, and not at all a bad idea for judging up a restaurant's quality (hint: the traditional, scrubbed-down bars serve the best). While the creamy cheese (queso) croquettes pack a smooth flavour, try croquettes filled with a mixture of béchamel and Spanish cured ham (jamon), or the local sweet-spiced black sausage (morcilla) for something stronger.

Top ten foods in Spain: Spanish croquettes
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2. Tortilla Espaniola
A great starter or meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner, no doubt you'll come across a Spanish potato omelette during your time in Spain. Like croquetas, you can find them in almost any bar Top ten foods in Spain: Spanish omlette with potatoand to varying degrees of quality and flavour. The best ones are from slow-cooked potato in olive oil, which make a soft centre once egg is added to create an omelette cake; even tastier when onions are added to the slow-frying process for a sweet underlying flavour. You'll also find wedges of Spanish omelette squeezed between abocadilla for a tasty sandwich snack.

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Gazpacho or salmorejo
This cold tomato soup has claimed space in many supermarkets around the world, but carton gazpacho compares little to the Spanish tangy, refreshing variety. Usually eaten as an appetizer – and sometimes straight from a bowl or glass – its thickness is derived from blending a whole heap of fresh tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, garlic, onions, vinegar, and herbs. Salmorejo is a similar Andalucian version combining pureed bread, tomatoes, garlic, and vinegar – also served cold – and sometimes varied with a bit of ham or egg.

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4. Pisto – Spanish ratatouille
This vegetarian option is enjoyed by all, as a tapa, starter, a side dish to meats, or even with a fried egg on top. It's a Spanish ratatouille of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, garlic, and of course, olive oil. The palatable competition of intense roasted flavours makes this a tasty recipe.
Top 10 foods in Spain: Pisto - Spanish ratatouille
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5. Cured meats – jamon, chorizo, salchichón
Jamon is ubiquitous in Spain, carved thinly off cured legs of Top 10 foods in Spain: jamon, chorizo, salchichonpork that you will see hanging in most bars and restaurants. Jamon is a serious business and an art in Spain, with many varietals that determine quality, such as what the pigs are fed and the curing process.Jamón ibérico de bellota is thetop category, where the pigs are free-range and acorn-fed. Chorizo is identified by its red smoked-pepper colouring, and is a dried sausage with sweet and spicy hints. You'll also see the softer-flavouredsalchichónserved on mixed charcuterie platters.

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  • Learn the different varieties of Spanish cured meats with this slideshow guide.
  • Find out how to identify the different types of jamon.
6. Pulpo a la gallega
This octopus dish is macerated with paprika (pimenton), crusty rock salt and a drizzle of olive oil. It's a signature Galician dish, and you'll find it on the menu in many Galician restaurants around Spain. It's usually served with a potato or two, on top of a wooden platter.

Top 10 Spanish foods: Pulpo a la gallega - octopus
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7. Bean stew
Spain is home to a wide variety of interesting beans and legumes, and certain regions are famous for particular types, for example the dried large white beans of the region La Granja, an hour from Madrid. Top 10 Spanish foods: Bean stew - fabadaThe Basque town of Tolosa even holds a week-long festival in November in honour of the local renown bean, alubias de Tolosa. Around the country you can find different regional bean stews known as fabada, that involve cooking the beans slowly with a mixture of meats – such as chorizo pancetta, black sausage and so on – depending on the region. The hearty Asturian version, fabada asturiana, is widely available in restaurants across Spain and commonly eaten in winter; Madrid's cocido adds vegetables and cabbage to a tasty mix of sausages and chic peas.

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8. Paella
This rice-based Valencian dish is well known internationally, and comes in many variations that equally vie for attention. The traditional version is a mixture of chicken or rabbit (or both), white and green beans and other vegetables, but mixed seafood is also common, where you will find an array of seafood suprises among the flavoursome rice – calamari, mussels, clams, prawns, scampi or fish, for example. For the adventurous, a black rice stained by octopus ink is a must try. Fiduea is also tasty, and uses a small curly pasta instead of rice.

Top 10 foods in Spain: Paella
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9. Fried milk
Top 10 Spanish foods: Fried milk - leche fritaYou might not find ‘leche frita' on every menu, but it is a classic Spanish dessert to try if you want something unique. Its firm, cool, milk-pudding centre contrasts with a warm, crunchy encasing of flour and egg, dusted with sugar and cinnamon. If that's not on the menu, it's hard not to like the Spanish version of crème brûlée, crema catalan, that can be found with variations of orange or lemon zest, or cinnamon.

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  • This recipe adds nutmeg.
  • Watch leche frita being made.
10. Red or white sangria and tinto de verano
Top foods to try in Spain: Sangria, rebujito and tinto de veranoEvery meal can have an alcoholic accompaniment – coffee and whisky in the morning or after meals, or any combination of beer, wine or cava for morning break, lunch or dinner. Two Spanish specialities are the refreshing tinto de verano (‘summer wine') and rebujito (white sangria), which involve little more than mixing wines with soft drinks but create a surprisingly tasty refresher. Tinto de verano is red wine with lemon soda, while rebujito is a white wine mixed with lemonade and topped off with fresh mint, and popular at the Sevillan Feria de Abril (April Fair).

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Read more on local and traditional foods around Europe:
Photo credit: PincasPhoto (croquettes), The Aimless Cook (gazpacho), jlastras (pisto, octopus), derameanrama (cured meats), Barcex (paella)Juan J. Martinez (fabada),Tirithel (dulce frita), Evan Swigart (sangria)


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