Heading to Barcelona or Spain and not sure what to eat? A local chef and culinary expert, Joshua Weitzer, lists the most irresistible “must-try” foods for any visitor to Barcelona or all of Spain!.
15 Food to Try in Barcelona
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“Escalivada” is a typical Catalonian dish which locals often agree on while ordering tapas. Carefully roasted peppers, eggplant, and onions area sliced finely and placed on a large plate. There is plenty of fresh Olive Oil and in some cases a touch of fresh garlic which gives it a kick.
Vegetarians may love this dish because it combines rich flavors and smoky flavors derived from roasting them over coal. All the peels are carefully removed so that you don’t have to eat bits of charred vegetable skins.
14. Spanish Style Oxtails (Cua de Bou)
Stewed oxtails are one of my favorite dishes to try when visiting tapas bars in local markets. It is slowly cooked with a lovely mix of “sofrito” sauce and aromatic herbs which bring savory flavors. The “Cua de Bou” is a hearty meal that will satisfy meat lovers’ desire for rich flavors and perfectly cooked oxtails.
It is important to have fresh bread on hand to scoop up the irresistible sauce that surrounds your oxtails. This dish is often available even in the morning as some locals like to enjoy it as a mid-morning snack!
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13. Crema Catalana
While Crema Catalana is a dessert with its origins in Catalonia you will find it on the menu throughout Spain. This creamy custard dessert is one of the best desserts I can think of from Spanish Cuisine.
Prepared much like Crème Brulee from France Crema Catalana is finished off with a crispy layer of caramelized sugar on top that adds a nice texture to the lemon and cinnamon flavored custard that is much lighter than its French cousin.
Cooked in the same style and pan as the Paella, fideua is can be best described as paella made with pasta instead of rice. While the ingredients used to make fideua can vary from restaurant to restaurant the final results are always sissifying.
The pasta used to make this dish is thin short-cut pasta that is toasted first in the pan to create depth of flavor. Next, it is cooked together with seafood to create a piping hot and crispy pasta experience. Most places finish their Fideua in the oven.
Salt Cod was once one of the staples of the Spanish diet and is cooked in a variety of delightful ways. In fact, they often do not even cook it!
The typical Catalonian desalinated salt cod salad “Esquixada” is made with a mix of peppers, tomatoes, onions and olives finished off with a healthy dose of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to create a lovely salad that is both refreshing and hearty at the same time.
Calçots (specially grown long white onions) are a seasonal crop harvested only from the late fall to early springtime. For this reason you cannot get them year round. This typical Catalonian dish is one of the most enjoyable culinary experiences because you are allowed to get messy when you eat them!
Grilled directly over flames the outsides of the onions charred almost completely black and to eat them you must pull this crusty layer of carbonized onion off to get to the smokey soft tasty onion beneath and smother it a lovely special Romesco like sauce.
9. Grilled Cuttlefish
One of the tapas that Mediterranean locals simply love is grilled Cuttlefish or “Sepia” in Spanish. It is finished off with garlic, parsley, and of course a chilled glass of white wine on the side.
Grilled cuttlefish is more flavorful and meaty than its cousin the squid. It is one of the classic tapas that can be found in almost any seafood tapas bar!
8. Fried Chipirones (very small squid)
Fried squid or Calamari in the US are normally small lightly breaded rings that are fried and crispy! It can obviously be delicious depending on where you go. Here in Spain, the love affair with fried squid goes to the next level. There are multiple variations and ways to prepared them.
For me the best of which is Chipiriones Fritos. They are extremely small squid about the size of popcorn that is lightly floured and fried to a satisfying crunchiness.
When traveling to Spain many people experience Chipirones and simply cannot get enough before they have to return home. If you love crispy fried foods then this may end up being one of your all-time favorites. Not to be missed though are the large battered and fried rings of squid called “Calamares a La Romana”.
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7. Tortilla de patatas
Possible the most popular dish in all of Spain is a go-to meal named “tortilla española”. You can find them seemingly at any time of the day or night. A simple yet delicious dish. You combine slowly cooked potato and onion in olive oil. It is then whipped together with eggs and turned into a sort of omelet.
Found in almost every restaurant you can order the classic tortilla with or without onion almost everywhere. Sometimes restaurants will have a variety of tortillas made up and the ingredients can vary considerably. Some of the classics though include Chorizo, Zucchini, Spinach and Cheese.
6. Jamón Iberico
Spanish cured Iberian ham is well known around the world and for good reason. In my humble opinion, it is one of the tastiest things you can eat on the entire planet.
There are many grades of Spanish cured ham which can be confusing even for locals. A general rule is that the more expensive it is the better the quality.
I recommend that you head to one of the local markets like the famous Boqueria to try Jamon. Try and purchase it direct from jamon and cheese stands. More comfortable enjoying it a nice restaurant or tapas bar? Then don’t forget to order a plate of the famous Catalan bread with tomato to along with it!
The French are believed to have invented the croquette, but “invention” is only the first step. Spaniards would argue that they made croquettes an art form! One of the most beloved of all tapas is the simply delicious “croqueta” which is due to how cheap and delicious they are. They ar made by breading and frying a variety of ingredients held together by a thick bechamel sauce that becomes a rich and irresistible base of flavor.
Bar tfar the most popular one is the croqeta de Jamón which is flavored with the mouthwatering flavor of cured Spanish Iberian ham. Don’t stop there though, you will find that the variety of croquetas offered from place to place is one of the best parts of stopping into a tapas bar as the creativity put into these little crispy pieces of heaven.
Many Spaniards will dispute the origin of Bombas. Some say that Bombas are originally from Barcelona and others say they come from various other cities. You cannot deny that the tradition and art of making Bombas here is second to none.
You won’t find them on every tapas bar menu as the process of making them is more complicated. When you do find them though, you are in for a treat.
Perfectly smooth mashed potatoes are stuffed with things like spiced ground meat or even cooked and spiced octopus and then breaded with breadcrumbs and fried to a golden brown crispiness. Finally, they usually have a tangy sauce, similar to that of the patatas bravas, smothered on top.
3. Patatas Bravas
While patatas bravas are a favorite around the entire country Barcelona is a great place to tuck into some perfectly fried potatoes lovingly covered with a special spicy “bravas” sauce. for many bars this is a signature dish as the variety and styles of this sauce can be really different from place to place. there are two main styles that you will come across, one is the more common mayonnaise based one with packed with lovely spices, and the other is the tomato based one that usually has a lovely tanginess of vinegar that mixes so well with fried potatoes.
2. Pamtomaquet (Catalonian style bread with tomato)
The humble origins of Pamtomaquet are a simple expression of the the spendthrift nature of the Catalan people who said; why waste old bread when you can revive it with a bit of heat and tasty tomatoes? The delightfully tasty tradition consists of rubbing a local variety of tomato, the “hanging tomato”, onto toasted bread. Next you add some top notch local Extra Virgin Olive oil and a touch of salt on top. For those who like a bit more punch, you can sometimes get it with a touch of fresh garlic.
Pamtomaquet makes for a heavenly starter or accompaniment to any dish. Most restaurants will offer you the chance to order it and I recommend that you take them up on the offer. As well, there are places that bring the oil, tomatoes and a few pieces of garlic to the table so that you can make your own with perfectly toasted bread made to order. While not everyone add the touch of garlic to the bread I think it adds a nice touch to this iconic Catalonian dish.
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1. Seafood Paella
As a well-known destination for foodies, Barcelona offers up some of the best Paellas you can find in Spain. While Valencia is definitely the capital of Spanish Paella Barcelona is no slouch in the rice department. The dish is prepared with the special Bomba rice in Barcelona. The different rice makes Barcelona a great place to enjoy Paella!
The dish is a combination of shellfish and seafood cooked together with a tomato sauce base. A “sofrito”, fish stock, and rice is combined to make one of the great dishes of Spanish cuisine. Those who are not fans of seafood don’t need to despair as most restaurants specialize in meat and vegetable Paella as well.