Intro to Spanish Cuisine (2)

Intro to Spanish Cuisine: 20+ Traditional Recipes (& Vocab!)

Intro to Spanish Cuisine - Traditional Spanish Recipes

How much do you know about traditional Spanish dishes? Learn about the food culture in Spain, and the recipes to salivate over, in this post…

The cultural aspects of any language you learn are just as important as its grammar and pronunciation. Especially, when we’re talking about Spain, with its vibrant traditions and unique style of life!

If you’re used to having only three meals a day and eating your food in a hurry, Spaniards will teach you how to appreciate every dish. Locals usually have five mealtimes a day rather than just three!

El desayuno (breakfast) is the first meal; it’s generally eaten at home and doesn’t take too long. It often includes café con leche (coffee with milk), toasts with jam and butter, and magdalenas — freshly baked lemony cupcakes.

  • Magdalenas
    Time to cook: 30 min
    Difficulty level: easy
    Main ingredients: egg, sugar, butter, flour, lemon, milk

Traditional Spanish dishes - magdalenas

After working for a few hours, many people take a break for el almuerzo (mid-morning snack). The typical foods are all kinds of tapas and bocadillos (sandwiches). It’s a very important meal, and one that many people use as networking time with coworkers. So, if you hear coworkers say “Vamos a tapear!”, grab your jacket and get going. You can also hear the same phrase later in the evening when Spaniards go to their favorite tapas bars.

  • Tortilla española
    Time to cook: 35 min
    Difficulty level: easy
    Main ingredients: egg, potato, onion

Traditional Spanish dishes - tortilla española

La comida (lunch time) in Spain can last for up to three hours. Some office workers prefer to have their lunch at home and most of the time is spent on the commute. Restaurants and cafes will often have a menu del dia that consists of three or four courses. You may be offered sopa de ajo (garlic soup), paella de marisco (seafood paella), and flan (custard with caramel sauce) for dessert.

  • Paella de marisco
    Time to cook: 40-50 min
    Difficulty level: medium
    Main ingredients: rice, chicken, shrimp, mussels, squid, fish broth

Traditional Spanish dishes - paella

If you get hungry at the end of the working day (6pm), you might have an afternoon snack called la merienda, to fill the meal gap between lunch and dinner. It’s often something sweet, like a pastry, but could also be something savory, like a sandwich.

Churros are a very popular option. If you’ve never tasted them before, churros are fried pastries served hot, similar to donuts. Muy delicioso!

  • Churros
    Time to cook: 20 min
    Difficulty level: easy
    Main ingredients: flour, water, sugar, oil

Traditional Spanish dishes - churros

After work, most people spend the evening relaxing with friends and family. You might stay at home and cook something or invite your friends to go out for tapas. Tapas — smal portions of food that are shared — are very popular, and there are dozens of options to suit your cravings.

In general, there are no typical dishes for la cena (dinner), but you can expect smaller portions at this time. It’s also served much later than Americans are used to eating dinner — think 10pm!

Keep Learning: Check out more Spanish phrases for dining, or learn more about the Spanish culture in our other blog posts!

Even More Traditional Spanish Dishes

Beyond these, there are many popular dishes that come directly from Spain. While the origin of churros, for example, is unclear, the 20 dishes listed in the infographic below have strong historical ties to Spain specifically. Follow the numbered guide to see which area the dish is linked to.

20 Traditional Spanish Dishes infographic

Which of these traditional Spanish dishes sounds good to you? Here are some links to recipes around the web:

From the infographic:

  1. Caprese empanadas with tomato, mozzarella, and basil, via Laylita’s Recipes
  2. Tortilla española, via The Kitchn
  3. Fabada asturiana, via My Kitchen in Spain
  4. Cocido madrieleño, via Devour Madrid Food Tours
  5. Paella de marisco, via La Tienda
  6. Pulpo a la gallega, via Cool Food Valencia
  7. Turron de Alicante, via Serious Eats
  8. Pisto, via Spanish Sabores
  9. Pa amb Tomàquet, via Back2Spain
  10. Cooked egg with jamón ibérico, via NY Times Cooking
  11. Arroz negro, via The Food Network
  12. Pork skin chicharron, via Mexico in My Kitchen
  13. Pizza Española With Chorizo and Manchego Cheese, via Enjoying Spanish Recipes
  14. Patatas bravas, via May I Have That Recipe
  15. Zarangollo, via Native Spain
  16. Pringá, via Foods and Wines From Spain
  17. Mojo Picón Sauce with Potatoes, via Your Spanish Recipes
  18. Arroz a la Cubano, via About Food
  19. Ropa vieja, via Arousing Appetites
  20. Pinchos Morunos (Pinchitos), via Spanish Fiestas

Your turn — share or link to your favorite recipes for Spanish food with a comment below!

MarthaGuest Contributor: Martha Simons
Martha is a writer and editor at Translateshark, a translation service. She enjoys writing articles on learning languages and translation, reading, and traveling, as a way to free her mind and relax.

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3 replies
  1. Aurore Michelin
    Aurore Michelin says:

    Excellent post! Local cuisine is definitely essential to fully immerse in Spanish culture! If you are going to study abroad in Spain, don´t miss the incredible dishes that Spain ha to offer! Centro MundoLengua would definitely add to the list the famous salomjero and gazpacho. Don´t miss these 2 must try foods when studying abroad in Spain.

  2. María García
    María García says:

    Se dice arroz a la cubana, acabado en a.
    Y echo en falta las papas arrugás como típico plato canario, acompañadas de mojo picón.
    Un saludo.


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