Discovering Culinary Spain – a Taste of Tradition

Spain is known as a country rich in history, culture, and traditions. While the cultural offerings are well-known, its equally impressive culinary landscape is less so. We have lived for almost one year in this beautiful country and learned that unique and tasty regional cuisine can be found all around Spain. If you’re a foodie searching for the latest culinary trends or looking to sample traditional regional specialties, a trip to Spain should be high on your bucket list. Here, every plate tells a story, every bite is a journey through time, and we are proud to take you on a mouthwatering journey to these culinary treasures.

Spain - local markets with jamon (ham)

Spanish Food Regions

Spain has been inhabited by a variety of cultures over the centuries, from the Romans and Celts to the Moors and Phoenicians. These diverse regional influences made its culinary scene so rich, unique, and worthy of exploration.

Regardless of the region, bustling local markets are where you can enjoy the true taste of the land. The sensory explosion from the sights and sounds of vendors selling fresh produce, cheeses, and spices is quite a unique experience. 

Northern Spain: A green gastronomic paradise

The Basque country is where you find lush landscapes that are the source of exquisite dishes. Small, flavourful snacks called ‘pintxos’ rule the dining scene. They are named after the Spanish pincho, a cocktail stick, originally served in bars. Succulent meats, fresh seafood, and creamy cheeses are just some of the usual ingredients that go into creating these bite-sized gastronomic delights.

Central Spain: The heart of tradition

When travelling to central Spain, you’ll encounter dishes with more robust flavours. Cocido Madrileño, a hearty stew packed with chickpeas, veggies, and meats, is a prime example of the rich and flavorful dishes you can sample in this region, especially in the busy capital of Madrid. This Spanish comfort food warms the soul while connecting you with the Spanish heritage of inland Spain.

Southern Spain: A fiesta of flavours

In the southern region, the sun shines brightly, and the food is full of life, just like the locals. It is also the home of Andalusian paella. While not as famous as the paella Valenciana, this colourful medley of rice, saffron, and an array of seafood or meats served in a pan, or paellera, is a sensory delight that captures the essence of southern Spain.

Traditional Spanish dishes

Every region has its own specialties but we would like to explain a little more about the most renowned, traditional dishes. These dishes are emblematic of Spanish cuisine and represent the country’s finest.


Paella, undeniably the most famous dish, is a symphony of flavours and colours that brings fiesta to your plate in every bite. As mentioned, it is a saffron-infused rice dish cooked with a variety of seafood, fish and meat, but there are countless regional and personal variations throughout Spain, so you won’t run out of versions to try. Traditionally paella is cooked over a wood fire and paella is supposed to be shared, part of an old custom that unites families and friends around the table.



Tapas are delightful little bite-size dishes often served as appetisers. You can find them all around Spain in bars, restaurants, or social gatherings. They make a wonderful introduction to Spanish gastronomy, as they allow you to try many different dishes in one sitting, typically two to three per person, but some choose to enjoy a full meal with tapas. It can be anything from crispy patatas bravas to olives seasoned in garlic to delicious chorizo. A true culinary adventure!


Spain, especially its Mediterranean coastline, is known for its sun, sand, and sea. The country’s refreshing culinary gift is gazpacho. This chilled soup has a tomato base with touches of garlic, cucumber, and bell peppers. Whether you want to drink it out of a glass or slurp it from a bowl, it’s an invigorating blast of cool, tangy flavours. The best gazpacho we ever tasted was in Cordoba, where it is a local specialty as they finish the dish with finely sliced Serrano ham.

gazpacho in Spain

Local Ingredients

Although Spain is known as a warm country, it is vast with areas that get real winters and therefore anything and everything can be grown. Locally cultivated ingredients have been cherished for centuries, and are used to elevate flavour.

Olive oil

Olive oil from Spain, one of the world’s leading producers of this liquid gold, is highly sought after. It adds a touch of sophistication with its fruity and peppery undertones to even the simplest of foods. Flavours of many Mediterranean dishes can be enjoyed with a drizzle of Spanish extra-virgin olive oil from fresh bread, to salads, grilled vegetables or meat and seafood.


Castilla in the region of La Mancha is the region in central Spain where the world’s best saffron grows following producer Jesús Sánchez Cruza. It’s the natural, traditional methods of harvesting by hand, cleaning and roasting that make the difference. Saffron is used in many traditional Spanish dishes where it magically elevates the most ordinary dishes to gourmet creations. It is the key ingredient that gives paella its distinctive flavour and colour. If you want to sample other must-try Spanish dishes splashed with a dash of this red gold, arroz con pollo, fideuà, and sofrito, are only a few to mention.


The Spanish ham, called jamón, is a gastronomic wonder in itself. Spain has a long-perfected history of curing ham, a process that yields juicy, savoury slices of pork sought beyond the country. Jamón Ibérico, Pata Negra, or the sweeter Jamón Serrano are the best known and can be found all around Spain. It is often served as tapas, on a piece of bread or in a sandwich which is also called bocadillo.

spanish jamon ( ham)

A journey worth savouring

Exploring Spain’s culinary heritage through travel is an experience like no other. With a massive variety of regional cuisines and iconic dishes to choose from, foodies are spoiled for choice. Don’t forget to inform us of your most favourite Spanish dish when you have travelled here. And if you even come to La Nucia in the Valencia region, visit us at our restaurant La Alegria.

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