Spanish cuisine is known and loved the world over, and for good reason too! In this guide, we devour 49 fascinating facts about Spanish food!
It is a well-known fact that all the civilizations living in the Mediterranean basin share some unique gastronomic traits that stand at the base of the delicious and healthy Mediterranean diet.
These include seasonal, fresh vegetables, abundant fish, enough cereals and pulses, a moderate quantity of dairy, small portions of red meat, and — of course — the most authentic and healthier of all local products: Extra virgin olive oil.
Spanish food is no different. These characteristics make the local cuisine a popular reason to discover the country. In this article, you’ll be able to learn some interesting and curious facts about Spanish food that will certainly surprise you!
Considered one of the best cuisines in the world, Spanish gastronomy gains more and more fans year after year. An intrinsic part of the local way of life and culture, Spanish cuisine is full of curious details and amazing interesting facts that you will love to know.
Whether you are planning a trip to sunny Barcelona, Madrid, or perhaps considering the renowned flavours and foods of Seville, read on to learn some of the best-kept secrets of Iberian cuisine and its staple dishes.
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Interesting Facts About Spanish Food
Interesting Facts About Paella
Arguably the most famous dish in Spain, paella, comes from the area of Valencia. For that reason, the traditional dish is also called paella Valenciana.
In some regions of Spain, paella still combines both seafood and pieces of chicken.
The world paella originally did not refer to the dish but it was the name of the pan used to cook this popular Spanish dish.
Although the most popular version of paella includes seafood, the dish was originally made from other meat cuts, including chicken, rabbit, or pork.
Spain is an important producer of rice, a key ingredient for paella The rice that is used for paella is called “Arroz bomba” and its grains are short and round.
Facts About Spanish Food – Other Famous Dishes
The famous local omelette, or Spanish tortilla, is made both with eggs and an abundance of fried potatoes.
A popular Spanish dish is a cold tomato soup known as Gazpacho. The soup is made using skinned tomatoes, olive oil, and raw vegetables including cucumber, green pepper, and garlic.
A variety of Gazpacho is known as Salmorejo, which is a thicker version of the soup that includes pieces of bread blended into the mixture.
Another famous soup eaten in Spain is called “ajoblanco” and it comes from the south of the country. The soup is made of almonds, bread, garlic, water, and olive oil and it can be served with grapes.
Spanish Mealtimes: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Facts
Dinner is often served late, at about 10 pm.
Churros, one of the most famous fried Spanish pastries are a common breakfast food in the country.
Spanish people will never eat eggs for breakfast. Eggs are only eaten at lunch, and sometimes at dinner.
The main meal of the day is often called “Comida” (food) or “almuerzo” (lunch). It is eaten early in the early afternoon and often includes two courses, a dessert, and ends with a small cup of coffee.
A much-beloved tradition after lunch (or dinner) is known as “sobremesa”. This Spanish custom takes place when, after clearing the table, those who attended the dinner engage in very long conversations on any topic. A “sobremesa” can last for hours, especially on weekends.
The traditional Spanish mid-afternoon snack is known as “la merienda” and it can include a cup of coffee and milk, pastries, or bread with jam.
Since lunch often takes place between 2 pm and 4 pm, mornings tend to be long, so Spanish often have a small meal between breakfast and lunch, at around 11 am. This mid-morning snack can be anything you might think of, from a “bocadillo”, a Spanish-style baguette sandwich, to tapas, Russian salad, Tortilla de patata, deep-fried peppers, deep-fried mussels, deep-fried ham croquettes, or “empanadas” puffed savoury pastry filled with beef, chicken, tuna, or tomato.
Interesting Spanish Drinks Facts
More than 14% of the globe’s vineyard comes from Spain, in fact, not many would expect neither France nor Italy as one of the top Vitis vinifera producers in the world.
Although the most prestigious Spanish wines are reds, more than 60% of that vineyard belongs to white grapes.
Jerez (Sherry in English) is a popular variety of wine produced in the southern city of the same name, Jerez. It is often known as Sherry which is the Persian name that the city received in ancient times.
One of the most popular Spanish drinks in the country is known as Sangria, and it mixes red wine and chopped fruit. However, it is believed that the drink does not have Spanish origins but it might come from the Caribbean.
When visiting Spain, you will find several types of coffee available in bars and restaurants. These are: “café solo” a small, strong, black espresso; “café con leche”, coffee with milk, “cortado” or coffee with a little milk, usually strong and short; “café con hielo” or coffee with ice cubes; “café americano” a coffee that contains a higher quantity of water cutting its strong flavour; “café manchado” is a cup of hot milk stained with a dash of coffee (mancha in Spanish means stain).
Food Facts About Spain: Seafood
“Fideuà” is a dish similar to paella in which seafood is cooked with similar ingredients to the paella but includes thin noodles, instead of rice.
Fried fish is one of the most popular dishes in the country and it is believed to have been first made in the area of Andalusia one of the oldest inhabited places in Western Europe.
Fresh fish and seafood are popular all over the country. One of the most delicious dishes in Spain is the so-called “pulpo a la Gallega”, or octopus prepared according to the tradition of Galicia, an important region on the northwestern coast of Spain. However, in Galicia, the dish is called polbo á feira which in the local dialect stands for octopus prepared the way it is cooked in the market. In this particular recipe, octopus is sliced and served on a bed of sliced, boiled potatoes, sprinkled with paprika, and olive oil.
The region of Galicia, which faces the Atlantic Ocean, is famous for its fish and seafood dishes. One of the most important dishes in the region is a local version of meat pie made with fish, commonly known as “empanada Gallega”
Another popular dish in Spain is “calamares fritos”, which are sliced rings of squid coated in flour and deep-fried in olive oil.
One more interesting fish dish comes from Andalucía and it is called “pescaíto frito” which literally means fried little fish it includes a mixture of anchovies and sardines, coated in flour and deep-fried.
Gambas al ajillo is another amazing seafood dish popular all over the country made with peeled prawns heated in a pan of olive oil with freshly sliced garlic, chili pepper, and fresh parsley.
Facts About Spanish Foods: Meats
Despite chorizo sausage being one of the most popular foods in the country, no authentic paella should ever include chorizo.
Although Spain is mostly famous for its “jamón”(or “Jamón Serrano” which means produced in the mountains), there are many other ham varieties that are popular in Spain depending on the region in which the ham is produced, the production method, and the pork meat used.
“Jamón Ibérico” is considered to be one of the finest and most expensive hams in the world. It is also known as black ham (“Jamón Negro”, as it is made from Black Iberian pigs which are fed on a diet of mostly acorns.
The most famous sausage in the country is the Chorizo, a pork sausage, often eaten smoked that is flavoured with a lot of paprika which does not really make it very spicy but it does offer its distinctive orange colour to the sausage.
The most popular meat eaten in the country is pork.
Interesting Facts About Spanish Tapas
“Patatas bravas” is another popular dish from Spain which is supposed to have been first made in Madrid. The name of the dish translates as “spicy potatoes” and it is made from fried, cubed potatoes usually covered in a spicy tomato sauce made using tomatoes and “pimento” (sweet paprika).
Often known as tapas, these unique Spanish appetizers have gone a long way! They started as small, round dishes, for instance, slices of tomato or cheese, that were used to cover (tapar is the Spanish verb) the top of the glasses to avoid flies and mosquitoes entering the drinks. Today, tapas are more elaborated small dishes that locals enjoy with a drink or a beer before dinner.
Toasts with chopped tomato, fresh herbs, and a drizzle of olive oil on top is another one of the favoured delicacies that you will find in the country.
A popular Spanish tapa is morcilla. Morcilla is a sausage made from pigs’ blood, pork fat, onion, herbs, and spices. Spain has several varieties of morcilla that come from different regions in the country. A very popular morcilla variety contains sugar and raisins and it is known as morcilla dulce.
Other Unique Facts About Food in Spain
Spain produces more than 40% of the olive oil present in the world market… even more than Italy and Greece!
Spain accounts for 75% of the world’s production of saffron, a key ingredient in the Spanish Paella, and one of the staple foods in Spanish cuisine.
Spanish saffron is considered the best quality saffron in the world.
Bread is eaten at almost every meal.
Some of the most popular foods that today we consume in Europe were introduced to the continent by Spain after discovering America, including potatoes, tomatoes, corn, and cocoa.
Madrid is home to the oldest restaurant in the world… Yes! The oldest restaurant in the world, called Restaurante Botin, has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the oldest restaurant in the world and it has been serving delicious food since 1725. Besides, this restaurant is known for its own speciality, one of Madrid’s favourite dishes, roasted suckling pig.
Some of the most popular desserts in Spain are made with fat milk or thick cream, these include “flan”, “natillas”, and the popular rice pudding or “Arroz con Leche”. “Leche frita” (which translates as fried milk) is a lesser-known dessert from Northern Spain made by cooking flour with milk and sugar till it thickens to a firm dough. The sweet is then made into portions, fried, and served covered in sugar and cinnamon.
Due to its hot, Mediterranean weather, summers tend to be long in the country. This makes it easy for Spain to produce a wide variety of fruits, including apricots, cherries, and peaches, but also grapes, apples, pears, and different types of berries. Just as in many other Mediterranean countries, oranges, tangerines, and lemons are often produced in winter.
Christmas is a popular occasion to try some unique sweets in Spain. Almost every table will serve a variety of nougats, marzipans, and crumbly cakes with different shapes and made of a variety of nuts. The most popular of them all is called “turron”. Turrones are produced in every region of the country, however, the two most popular varieties come from Alicante and Girona. While the turron de Jijona is a soft nougat easy to cut and chew, the turron de Alicante is a much harder type of nougat.
Another important celebration around Christmas time takes place on January 6th, or “Día de Reyes”. On that day, locals love to share what is known as Rosca de Reyes or Roscón de Reyes, a sweet ring cake made to resemble a crown filled with nuts and plenty of candied fruits.
A heartfelt New Year’s tradition is to eat 12 grapes when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. The so-called “uvas de la suerte” (lucky grapes) are part of an ancient tradition that is believed to bring good luck in the year to come.
Even though locals enjoy cooking, the country has more bars and restaurants per capita than any other country in the world!