Spain is full of rich culture and delicious flavors. From mountains to small coastal fishing towns, you know for a fact that the food has to be good. But when I took the journey to Spain, I had no idea it was going to be this life changing.
When you visit this 17 region country in Southwestern Europe, you have to be sure to try as many new foods as possible. The depth of flavor combined with fresh ingredients makes for a delicious meal everywhere you go. Out of all the delectable meals I was able to enjoy, here are 5 of my favorites that completely blew me away. I even attempted to recreate these at home – – but it seems near impossible to get the same bold, unique flavor! Either way, when you go to Spain, you must try these five staples.
This decadent Spanish rice dish is strong staple in many local’s diets. Paella is typically made in three main ways: Valencian Paella (Paella Valencia), Seafood Paella (Paella de Marisco), and Mixed Paella (Paella Mixta). Valencian Paella is the most traditional dish, which mixes round grain rice with green veggies, beans, snails, rabbit, chicken or duck. Seafood Paella involves mixing round grain rice with prawns, mussels, shrimp, clams and others. Mixed Paella is exactly what you would think – a mix of Valencian and Seafood Paella, to get the best of both worlds (in my opinion!).
All types of Paella contain Saffron – a Spanish staple that has claimed the spot as the world’s most expensive spice by weight. The one linked in this article weighs in at only two grams, but costs nearly $20. But, this incredible spice gives off the most interesting floral taste, and without it, Paella probably wouldn’t have made it on this list. When buying saffron from a cheap source, the spice may begin to taste bitter or even like plastic. So, always invest the extra few dollars and buy high quality saffron.
Now, let’s talk about the experience of eating Paella – one that brings people together. It typically feeds two to four individuals, and is shared between everyone at the table. When you’re at a restaurant, they will bring it to you in the pan that it was cooked in, otherwise known as a Paella Pan (shocking). Your server will pass around regular sized plates to all guests, and put the Paella in the middle of the table. Now all of you can dig in!
Dishes that bring people together are some of the best to have while traveling. Retelling stories of the day, laughing at mistakes made and eating authentic cuisines are some of the best ways sharing a communal meal encourages us to open up. So I encourage you, order Paella for your table during one of your dinners in Spain – you won’t regret it.
To take a crack at making your own Paella at home, try this recipe:
2. Mint Tea
When our road trip took us to the city of Granada, we decided to sign up for a Hammam Bath. With Spain being so close to Arab areas of the world, hammam baths have become more and more popular. We did some research and discovered that this hammam is covered, meaning you wear a bathing suit. But many traditional hammams would have you enter completely nude. Either way, we probably would have still gone if it was natural.
Anyways, when we arrived to the building, we entered what felt like the most calming room I’ve probably ever been in. With spiritual music playing, dim lighting and Moroccan Mint Tea, we waited until we were called into the locker room to get changed.
We eventually put our bathing suits on and headed into the bath house itself. If you aren’t familiar with hammams and what you goes on inside, let me tell you. A hammam is a place where you typically get a massage for maybe 20 minutes or so, then go out into the baths. You look down a long hallway, and on either side there are a bunch of different small pools, all of varying temperatures, sizes, and depths. You’ll pick one that you feel suits your mood, and relax in the candlelit rooms.
There are tea pots filled with Mint Tea that sit against the wall, with little metal cups for drinking. You pour yourself a cup and climb back into a warm (or cold) bath – completely relaxed.
Now thanks to your trip to a Hammam, you will forever associate mint tea with this relaxing experience.
Now craving Moroccan Mint Tea? Try this easy recipe:
And if you ever find yourself in Granada, you should definitely check out the bath we went to, called Hammam Al Ándalus Granada (Baños Árabes de Granada).
Jamón was one of my absolute favorite foods while traveling around Spain – a cured leg of pork, traditionally only found in Spain and Portugal. Now, because of globalization, you can pretty much find these anywhere if you look hard enough, but the quality will lack greatly when compared to traditional Jamón from Spain.
This rich meat is almost always served at room temperature and sliced so thin it is nearly transparent. These two factors make it ready to melt on your tongue. But the way that we had it made taste even better than I could have imagined.
Jamón can be found in a variety of different Spanish dishes – croquettes (another one of my favorites), eggs, fish and other meats. Be sure to try it as much as possible when you are in Spain, because it won’t taste nearly as authentic anywhere else!
But what if you aren’t a ham person? Now, I’m not either, and I never really eat ham and cheese sandwiches. But, jamón and cheese sandwiches (or bocadillo, as they are called in Spain) are a different story. When I tell you that these sandwiches were the best I have ever had in my life, I’m not joking. The sandwich is typically served with a manchego cheese, which helps bring out the flavor of the meat without masking it. The melted cheese and cool ham will be served between two slices of a baguette, giving it that perfect crunch on the outside, but also a soft bite on the inside.
So yes, when you go to Spain, grab yourself a jamón and cheese sandwich. And if you have a long flight home on a Spanish airline like Iberia Air (which we flew), you will probably get one of these amazing sandwiches for breakfast while you are 30,000 feet above ground.
And if you aren’t able to travel but are still craving this delicious bocadillo sandwich, try this super simple recipe:
4. Churros With Chocolate
This is one Spanish staple you cannot miss. Churros are a fried dough type pastry – but nothing like fried dough from The United States. Churros originated from Spain and Portugal, before becoming popular in North America and The Philippines. Now you can find them world wide, but the way they are made in Spain is way better than anywhere else I’ve been!
These delicious snacks can be eaten as just that, snacks, or as breakfast. We ate them twice on our visit – once at night after dinner, and another time as breakfast. I must say, I would encourage you to start your day with a cup of the hot chocolate and churros.
These crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside churros are great on their own. But once dipped in hot chocolate, they instantly become addicting. The hot chocolate they serve with the churros is so thick that it is more like a giant chocolate bar melted down into a cup. You can sip on the hot chocolate while you dip your churro into it for the ultimate experience.
We ate our churros at El Buen Churro in Granada and at Kukuchurro in Seville, but I must say that Granda’s churros took the prize and were much better. Either way, they were delicious and better than any dessert I have had in The United States.
To learn how to make your own churros, try this recipe:
5. Olives & Olive Oil
Being the world’s largest producer of olive oil, one would expect Spain to have the best tasting olives, Right? Well, that’s the truth! With Spain creating over 40% of the world’s olive oil, they seem to have perfected their craft. With the province of Andalucia being the largest olive growing area on earth, we knew on our road trip we had to try some.
We didn’t have anything planned, but knew a lot of people who visit Spain make sure to go olive oil tasting. Since we visited in the off season (January), we didn’t expect many of these tourist activities to be open, so we never formally booked anything.
But on the third or fourth day of our road trip, we drove by a sign with only a picture of an olive on it and an arrow. Then we drove by another… and another. We began following the signs out of curiosity and eventually came across the most amazing olive farm I have ever seen.
In the middle of Andalusia, we had stumbled upon a famous Olive Oil Farm owned by The Gómez de Baeza family. LA Organic has a long driveway as you pull in, with olive trees on both sides of the road. Eventually you come across a building to your left with a flock of sheep, and to a parking lot with a bunch of billboards of fashion models on them. We thought this was a bit strange, but we decided to park and walk up to the building.
As the only car in the parking lot, we expected LA Organic to be closed. But, we approached this beautifully unique structure and pulled on the door – it was open. As we entered, we were greeted by a woman who immediately took us in and showed us around. I was right away struck with the intense architecture of the building – red windows and doors in what looked like a rustic barn. It was a twist of very modern and old fashioned – and out one door the sheep were peering in at us!
She quickly brought us bread and poured a sample of a bunch of olive oils into little dishes, and some balsamic vinegar into a wine glass, without us even asking. We tried them all, and I chose my favorite one to bring home – LA Organic Oro Trufa Blanca (White Truffle Olive Oil).
I’ve never had any olive oil that has tasted this amazing in my entire life. The hospitality we experienced at LA Organic’s farm in Andalusia was incredible, especially since we were in the off season. If you find yourself in Andalusia one day, you should add this olive oil farm to your bucket list.
For more information on LA Organic’s Farm, click here. They give tours out of Rhonda and Mallorca, which include producing your own oil, having a guide and sponsoring an olive tree. We only did the tasting, but we were able to appreciate all the olive trees on our drive down the long road to their farm, and on our walk up to the building.
Unfortunately LA Organic does not have the Trufa Blanca Olive Oil for sale on their website, but they do have their regular olive oil – click here to purchase, you won’t regret it.
Spain has some of the best cuisine in the world, along with some of the most unique. Although I didn’t mention many other important Spanish foods, I felt that for me, these five were the most honorable mentions.
So on your next visit to this diverse country, be sure to add these foods to your list to try, and maybe even bring some home for your family and friends. And while you take a trip around Spain, be sure to visit Gibraltar – The British Territory. Here they also have some very unique foods that are more local to The United Kingdom, which can add some variety to your trip. For more information on Gibraltar and all it has to offer, check out this link, Gibraltar: 5 Things to Know Before Your Visit.