Beyond tapas: the Spanish food and drink you need to devour

written by Esme Fox

updated 24.03.2020

Spain is known throughout the world for its Mediterranean diet, heavily featuring seafood, meat and fresh vegetables, all splashed with a healthy dose of olive oil. But while you may think Spanish cuisine is all about tapas, paella and sangria, there are many more dishes that are not so well known, but are just as popular among the locals. Here's our pick of the best Spanish food on offer throughout the country.


Originally from the southern Spanish province of Andalucía, migas is a firm favourite among many Spaniards, and consists of a plate of fried breadcrumbs or flour, mixed with green peppers, garlic and pieces of meat, such as chorizo (spicy pork sausage).


A bit like gazpacho, salmorejo is a thick cold soup made from tomatoes, stale bread, garlic and olive oil. A typical dish from the Andalucían city of Córdoba, it is often served sprinkled with chunks of ham and pieces of hard-boiled egg.


Catalunya’s answer to the paella, this dish is made with short noodles instead of rice and also features seafood such as prawns, mussels and squid. Meat versions are often on the menu too. Like paella, it’s flavoured with saffron strands. Fideuà is traditionally served with aioli – a type of garlic mayonnaise made from olive oil.

Fideua, Spanish pasta dish with mixed seafood, served on plate

Cocido Madrileño

Madrid’s most famous dish is a kind of thick stew. Recipes vary slightly, but most feature a mix of chickpeas, onions, carrots, potatoes, chorizo, bone marrow, ham and chunks of bacon. Andalucía and other regions of Spain also have their own version, featuring different combinations of meat and vegetables.


One for the vegetarians, this delicious dish is made from roasted red peppers, aubergines, courgettes, onions and garlic in a tomato sauce. It originates from the Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha – where the famous Manchego cheese comes from – and is often served with a fried egg on the top.

Pulpo a la Gallega

As the name suggests, this is Galician style octopus that’s chopped into chunks, boiled and then served on top of sliced potatoes and sprinkled with smoked paprika. This is a typical dish from the province of Galicia, in the northwest of the country.


© Isaphoto2016/Shutterstock

Fabada Asturiana

The signature dish from the Spanish region of Asturias, this hearty stew features white fava beans mixed with bacon, chorizo and black pudding. It’s spiced with smoked paprika and saffron.


This is one of the most common Spanish desserts, found on almost any menu. Similar to the French crème caramel, it’s made from eggs, sugar and condensed or evaporated milk, topped with a thin caramel-like sugary syrup.

Arroz con Leche

Another of the most typical desserts in Spain is arroz con leche. Simply translated as rice with milk, it’s Spain’s version of the British rice pudding. Made from risotto-type rice, milk and sugar, it’s flavoured with cinnamon and often lemon peel.


Forget gintonics, vermouth is now making a comeback in Spain. A type of sweet fortified wine, vermouth comes in red or white and is served chilled with a few cubes of ice, and often an olive on stick.

It is drunk at la hora de vermut (literally the hour of vermouth), around midday and acts like an aperitif before the main meal – eaten around 2pm. Vermouth is especially good with tapas plates such as anchovy-filled olives or small pickled fish called boquerones.


© Isaphoto2016/Shutterstock

Tinto de Verano

Instead of asking for a glass of sangria, do as the locals do and ask for a tinto de verano or summer wine. Very similar, but usually cheaper, tinto de verano is red wine mixed with fizzy lemonade.


This cool summery drink hails from the Valencia region of Spain and has a milky, creamy texture. It’s actually tiger nut milk, made from pressed tiger nuts mixed with sugar, water and cinnamon. Tiger nuts are in fact not actually nuts at all, but small root vegetables that are grown in Spain, as well as north and west Africa.

In between indulging in Spanish cuisine, check out our list of the best things to do while you're in Spain.

Explore more of Spain with the Rough Guide to Spain. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

Top image © Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock

Esme Fox

written by Esme Fox

updated 24.03.2020

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