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Spain: A Love Story Told In 10 Dishes


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Marjorie Bagby



Welcome to Spain, a country where every bite tells a story and every dish is a celebration of flavors. From the sun-drenched coastlines to the vibrant city streets, Spain is a food lover’s paradise, offering a culinary journey like no other. Exploring the rich tapestry of Spanish cuisine is like immersing yourself in a love story, as you discover the country’s diverse regional specialties and fall head over heels for each delicious bite.


Spaniards have a deep appreciation for food, and it is an integral part of their culture and way of life. The country’s gastronomy is a reflection of its history, traditions, and the abundance of fresh, high-quality ingredients available in every corner. Each dish tells a tale of centuries-old recipes passed down through generations, blending influences from various cultures that have shaped Spain’s culinary landscape.


In this culinary love story, we will journey through 10 iconic Spanish dishes, each representing a different region and showcasing the unique flavors and techniques that make them so special. From the sizzling paella of Valencia to the indulgent churros con chocolate of Madrid, these dishes will take your taste buds on an unforgettable adventure.


Join us as we delve into the vibrant world of Spanish cuisine, discovering the stories behind the dishes and the unforgettable experiences they offer. Get ready to immerse yourself in the flavors, aromas, and passion of Spain, as we embark on this gastronomic love affair.


Dish 1: Paella

When it comes to Spanish cuisine, one dish that immediately comes to mind is paella. Hailing from the region of Valencia, paella is a vibrant and aromatic rice dish that captures the essence of Spain’s culinary heritage. It is a dish that represents communal dining and gathering around a steaming pan filled with delicious flavors.


The star ingredient of paella is rice, cooked to perfection with a savory broth made from a combination of meats, seafood, vegetables, and spices such as saffron. The result is a hearty and flavorful dish that encompasses a medley of tastes and textures.


Traditionally, paella is cooked over an open fire in a large, shallow pan known as a “paellera.” This method imparts a smoky flavor and allows the rice to develop a delicious crust on the bottom, called “socarrat.” The socarrat is highly coveted by paella aficionados, as it adds an extra layer of depth to the dish.


While the classic Paella Valenciana is made with a combination of chicken, rabbit, and vegetables, there are numerous variations to suit different tastes and preferences. Seafood lovers can indulge in Paella de Mariscos, which includes a lavish selection of shrimp, mussels, clams, and prawns. For a vegetarian twist, there’s Paella de Verduras, made with an assortment of seasonal vegetables.


Paella is more than just a meal; it’s a symbol of togetherness and celebration. In Spain, it is often enjoyed with a group of family and friends, with the pan placed at the center of the table for everyone to share. The act of savoring each spoonful of paella, accompanied by lively conversation and laughter, is an experience that truly embodies the spirit of Spanish dining.


So, if you find yourself in Spain, make it a point to indulge in a plate of authentic paella. Let the flavors transport you to the sun-drenched coast of Valencia, where the dish originated. Embrace the tradition and the sense of community that comes with every bite. Paella is more than just a dish; it’s a culinary masterpiece that will leave you craving for more.


Dish 2: Jamón Ibérico

In the realm of Spanish culinary delights, one cannot overlook the exquisite Jamón Ibérico. This iconic cured ham is a gourmet gem that embodies the art of preserving and enhancing flavors. Hailing from the Iberian Peninsula, particularly the regions of Extremadura and Andalusia, Jamón Ibérico is a true delicacy beloved by locals and visitors alike.


What sets Jamón Ibérico apart is the breed of pigs used and their unique diet. The hogs, known as Ibérico pigs, roam freely in the Spanish countryside, allowing them to exercise and feed on a diet primarily consisting of acorns, known as “bellota.” The acorn-rich diet gives the meat a distinct flavor and marbling, resulting in a rich and buttery taste.


The process of making Jamón Ibérico is a meticulous one, involving salting, air-drying, and aging for a period of time that can range from one to four years. The result is a ham with a deep, intense flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth texture. A good Jamón Ibérico can be distinguished by its marbled fat, which lends a creamy richness to the meat.


To fully experience the magic of Jamón Ibérico, it is best enjoyed thinly sliced, allowing its flavors to unfold on the palate. The ham is often served on its own or accompanied by traditional accompaniments, such as crusty bread, ripe tomatoes, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


Indulging in Jamón Ibérico is an experience that goes beyond the culinary realm. It is a journey into the culture and history of Spain, as this delicacy has been enjoyed for centuries. From family gatherings to celebrations and tapas bars, Jamón Ibérico holds a special place in the hearts of the Spanish people.


When in Spain, be sure to seek out the finest Jamón Ibérico and allow yourself to be transported to a realm of flavors. Whether you choose to savor it in a tapas bar in Barcelona or indulge in a tasting experience in Madrid, Jamón Ibérico promises a gastronomic adventure that will leave you craving for more.


Dish 3: Gazpacho

When the summer heat in Spain becomes a little too intense, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as a bowl of gazpacho. This chilled soup is a beloved Spanish classic, originating from the southern region of Andalusia. With its vibrant colors and invigorating flavors, gazpacho is the perfect antidote to beat the summer heat.


At its core, gazpacho is a tomato-based soup made with fresh, ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and bread. All the ingredients are blended together to create a smooth and velvety consistency that is then served chilled. Gazpacho showcases the quintessential flavors of Mediterranean vegetables, resulting in a light and refreshing soup bursting with natural sweetness.


Traditionally, gazpacho was made by pounding the ingredients in a mortar and pestle, but nowadays, most people use a blender for convenience. The soup is then strained to remove any remaining solids, resulting in a silky texture.


One of the glorious aspects of gazpacho is its versatility. While the basic ingredients remain the same, variations can be made to suit personal tastes. Some add a touch of spice with the inclusion of hot pepper or a pinch of cayenne, while others experiment with different vegetable combinations for added depth of flavor.


Gazpacho is more than just a soup; it’s a celebration of summer in a bowl. It is the epitome of freshness, with each spoonful delivering a burst of vibrant flavors and a welcome respite from the scorching sun. In Spain, gazpacho is often enjoyed as a starter or appetizer, but it can also be a satisfying main course when paired with crusty bread or topped with diced vegetables and croutons.


If you find yourself in a Spanish tavern or a sun-drenched terrace, be sure to raise a glass of gazpacho and savor the essence of summer. Let the coolness wash over you as you revel in the simple yet exquisite flavors of this iconic Spanish dish.


Dish 4: Tortilla Española

Tortilla Española, also known as Spanish omelette, is a humble yet iconic dish that holds a special place in the hearts of Spanish people. This classic dish is a staple of Spanish cuisine, beloved for its simplicity and versatility. Whether enjoyed as a tapa, a light lunch, or a filling dinner, Tortilla Española is a true culinary gem.


The main ingredients of Tortilla Española are eggs, potatoes, onions, and olive oil. Thinly sliced potatoes and onions are gently cooked in olive oil until softened and slightly golden. They are then mixed with beaten eggs and cooked together until the exterior is set while maintaining a creamy and slightly runny center. The result is a savory, satisfying dish with a delicate balance of textures.


Tortilla Española is more than just a combination of ingredients; it is a dish that embodies the essence of Spanish cooking. It is an ode to simplicity, showcasing the art of elevating humble ingredients through careful preparation and skillful technique.


While the basic Tortilla Española is a delicious delight on its own, there are countless variations to suit different tastes. Some add extra ingredients like chorizo, bell peppers, or spinach, to add a twist to the traditional recipe. Regardless of the variations, Tortilla Española remains a comforting and flavorful dish that can be enjoyed in any setting.


It’s not uncommon to find Tortilla Española at Spanish gatherings and tapas bars, as it is a dish that brings people together. The act of sharing a slice of this hearty omelette, accompanied by good company and lively conversation, is a cherished tradition in Spain.


When in Spain, be sure to seek out a taste of Tortilla Española. Whether you find it in a bustling tapas bar in Barcelona or at a cozy family-run restaurant in Seville, this simple yet satisfying dish will leave an everlasting impression on your taste buds.


Dish 5: Pimientos de Padrón

Prepare for a burst of flavor with every bite of Pimientos de Padrón, a popular Spanish tapas dish that originated in the region of Galicia. These small, green peppers are a true culinary delight, offering a delightful combination of mild sweetness and a hint of smoky heat.


Pimientos de Padrón are typically fried in a pan with a generous amount of olive oil until they blister and char slightly. The peppers are then sprinkled with coarse sea salt, elevating their natural flavors and adding a satisfying crunch. The beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity, allowing the natural taste of the peppers to shine through.


One unique aspect of Pimientos de Padrón is their unpredictability. While most peppers are mild, there are occasional surprises where one pepper may pack a spicy punch. It adds an element of excitement to each plate, as you never know which pepper will turn out to be fiery!


This popular tapas dish is not only loved for its delicious taste but also for the social aspect it brings. Pimientos de Padrón is often enjoyed with a group of friends or family, who eagerly await their turn to try the peppers. It’s the perfect conversation starter and encourages a lively atmosphere.


Served in small dishes or on a traditional wooden board, Pimientos de Padrón is best paired with a cold beer or a glass of crisp white wine. The combination of the peppers’ subtle spiciness and the refreshing drinks creates a harmonious balance that keeps you coming back for more.


When you visit Spain, be sure to seek out Pimientos de Padrón for a true taste of Galicia’s culinary prowess. Whether you try them in a bustling tapas bar or in a charming seaside restaurant, let the flavors transport you to the beautiful region where they originated.


Just remember, when it comes to Pimientos de Padrón, every bite is a culinary adventure. Enjoy the anticipation of the next pepper, relish the flavors, and savor the memories created around this delightful Spanish dish.


Dish 6: Pulpo a la Gallega

Prepare to be captivated by the flavors of Galicia with Pulpo a la Gallega, a beloved Spanish dish that showcases the region’s culinary heritage. Pulpo a la Gallega, also known as Galician-style octopus, is a mouthwatering seafood delicacy that has gained international acclaim.


Galicia, located in the northwest corner of Spain, is known for its stunning coastline and rich fishing traditions. It comes as no surprise that seafood plays a prominent role in Galician cuisine, and octopus holds a special place in the hearts of the locals.


Pulpo a la Gallega is prepared by tenderizing and cooking octopus until it becomes tender and succulent. The octopus is traditionally boiled in large copper pots with a touch of sea salt to enhance its natural flavor. Once cooked, the octopus is typically sliced into bite-sized pieces and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled generously with paprika and sea salt.


The result is a dish that combines the delicate oceanic taste of octopus with the smoky and slightly spicy flavors of paprika. The simplicity of the dish allows the natural flavors to shine through, creating a harmonious balance that is both satisfying and nuanced.


When enjoying Pulpo a la Gallega, it is not uncommon to encounter other traditional Galician flavors alongside the octopus. The dish is often served on a wooden plate or a bed of boiled potatoes, known as “cachelos,” and garnished with a sprinkling of parsley. This additional accompaniment adds further depth to the dish and completes the Galician culinary experience.


Pulpo a la Gallega is more than just a seafood dish; it is a gastronomic journey that transports you to the rugged coastal landscapes and vibrant marketplaces of Galicia. It is a testament to the region’s culinary prowess and the pride that the Galicians take in their seafood traditions.


When you have the opportunity to sample Pulpo a la Gallega, be sure to savor each tender bite of octopus. Let the flavors transport you to the picturesque shores of Galicia, where the dish originated, and immerse yourself in the rich culinary heritage of this enchanting region.


Dish 7: Churros con Chocolate

Prepare to indulge your sweet tooth with a beloved Spanish treat: Churros con Chocolate. These crispy, golden pastries paired with a thick, velvety chocolate sauce are a match made in dessert heaven.


Churros con Chocolate is a popular dessert or breakfast item in Spain, enjoyed by people of all ages. The churros themselves are deep-fried strips of dough, typically dusted with a generous coating of sugar. The dough is made with a simple mixture of water, flour, and a pinch of salt, resulting in a light and airy texture when fried to perfection.


What makes Churros con Chocolate truly irresistible is the rich and decadent chocolate sauce it is served with. The chocolate is often a thick, melted concoction, made with high-quality cocoa, milk, and sometimes a hint of cinnamon. It serves as the perfect dipping sauce for the churros, adding a luscious and indulgent element to each bite.


Traditionally, Churros con Chocolate are enjoyed in the early morning hours or as a late-night indulgence. In Spain, it’s not uncommon to find churrerías, specialized shops or stalls, dedicated solely to making and serving these delectable treats. The aroma of freshly fried churros wafting through the air is enough to entice anyone passing by.


Whether you’re strolling through the winding streets of Barcelona or exploring the vibrant neighborhoods of Madrid, churro vendors can be found dotting the cityscape. Join the locals in lining up for a piping hot batch of churros, enjoy the sights and sounds around you, and dip each bite into the warm chocolate sauce for a truly blissful experience.


Churros con Chocolate is not just a dessert; it’s an opportunity to indulge in a moment of pure happiness. It’s a chance to satisfy your sweet cravings while immersing yourself in the rich culinary traditions of Spain. So, embrace the joy of Churros con Chocolate and let your taste buds savor the ultimate confectionary pleasure.


Dish 8: Fabada Asturiana

Prepare to be transported to the rustic region of Asturias with Fabada Asturiana, a rich and hearty stew that embodies the flavors of northern Spain. This traditional dish is a culinary masterpiece, showcasing the region’s love for hearty meals and showcasing the humble ingredients to create a harmonious symphony of flavors.


Fabada Asturiana is a white bean stew made with tender white beans, pork shoulder, chorizo, black pudding, and saffron. The dish is slow-cooked to perfection, allowing the flavors to meld together and create a comforting and satisfying feast.


Asturias, known for its rugged mountains and picturesque countryside, is blessed with lush pastures that provide high-quality ingredients for Fabada Asturiana. The large, creamy white beans used in the dish, known as “fabes,” are a local specialty and prized for their buttery texture.


What sets Fabada Asturiana apart is the variety of meats used, which add depth and complexity to the stew. The pork shoulder, chorizo, and black pudding infuse the broth with their rich flavors while also adding a touch of smokiness and spiciness.


Traditionally, Fabada Asturiana is a dish cooked in large quantities and enjoyed with family and friends. It is often served as a main course, accompanied by crusty bread and perhaps a glass of cider, the drink of choice in Asturias.


Indulging in Fabada Asturiana is not just a culinary experience; it’s a journey into the heart and soul of Asturian culture. It pays homage to the region’s agricultural traditions and the people who have lovingly prepared and enjoyed this dish for generations.


When in Asturias, be sure to seek out a taste of Fabada Asturiana. Whether you find it in a cozy village restaurant nestled in the mountains or a bustling cider house in the city, let the flavors transport you to the authentic tastes of northern Spain. With each spoonful of Fabada Asturiana, you’ll discover the warmth and richness that come from a dish created with love and passed down through the generations.


Dish 9: Gambas al Ajillo

Get ready to tantalize your taste buds with a classic Spanish tapas: Gambas al Ajillo. This garlicky shrimp dish showcases the simplicity and boldness of Spanish cuisine, making it a favorite among locals and visitors alike.


Gambas al Ajillo, which translates to “garlic prawns,” is a popular dish found across Spain. The secret to its tantalizing flavors lies in the simple yet powerful combination of ingredients: fresh shrimp, garlic, olive oil, and a touch of red pepper flakes.


The dish starts by sautéing the peeled shrimp in a generous amount of olive oil and minced garlic until they turn pink and succulent. The heat intensifies the fragrance of the garlic as it melds with the natural sweetness of the shrimp. A sprinkle of red pepper flakes adds a subtle kick, enhancing the flavors without overpowering them.


Gambas al Ajillo is not just about the taste; it’s also about the experience. Imagine savoring each juicy shrimp, lusciously coated in a fragrant garlic-infused oil. The aroma wafts through the air, teasing your senses and enticing you to take another bite.


When enjoying Gambas al Ajillo, it’s customary to soak up the remaining oil with crusty bread, turning it into a delectable garlic-infused treat. This simple act of sopping up the flavors creates an even more satisfying and indulgent experience.


Gambas al Ajillo is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed as an appetizer, a main course, or part of a tapas spread. It pairs wonderfully with a crisp white wine or even a chilled glass of sparkling cava, enhancing the flavors of the shrimp and complementing the garlic and spice.


So, when you find yourself in Spain, be sure to seek out this beloved tapas dish and experience the explosion of flavors in every bite. Gambas al Ajillo is a testament to the beauty of simple ingredients and the mastery of Spanish cuisine.


Dish 10: Crema Catalana

Get ready to indulge in the sweet finale of your Spanish culinary journey with Crema Catalana, a delightful dessert that captures the essence of Catalonia. Often considered Spain’s answer to crème brûlée, this creamy custard with its caramelized sugar topping is a true delight for your taste buds.


Crema Catalana is made by gently cooking a velvety custard mixture of milk, egg yolks, sugar, and a hint of citrus zest. The custard is then infused with flavors of cinnamon and lemon or orange peel, imparting a distinct aromatic profile.


What truly sets Crema Catalana apart is the caramelization of the sugar topping. Just before serving, the custard is generously sprinkled with granulated sugar, which is then caramelized using a small kitchen torch or placed under the broiler. The result is a thin, caramelized layer that adds a satisfying crunch and a rich, burnt sugar flavor to each spoonful.


Crema Catalana is often served in individual ramekins or shallow dishes, beautifully presented with the caramelized sugar creating a dramatic contrast against the creamy custard. The combination of textures and flavors makes it a dessert that is sure to please even the most discerning palates.


In Catalonia, Crema Catalana is a beloved tradition and is often enjoyed on March 19th, on the day of Saint Joseph, as part of the annual celebration known as “La Diada de Sant Josep”. However, you can find this delightful dessert in restaurants and bakeries throughout Spain, all year round.


When trying Crema Catalana, revel in the velvety smoothness of the custard as it melts on your tongue, savor the delicate hints of cinnamon, lemon, or orange, and delight in the irresistible crackle of the caramelized sugar topping. Enjoy it alongside a cup of strong coffee or a glass of sweet dessert wine for a perfectly balanced ending to your Spanish culinary adventure.


So, save room for dessert and give yourself the pleasure of savoring the enchanting flavors of Crema Catalana. Let this classic Catalan dessert leave a lasting impression, creating sweet memories that will linger long after your visit to Spain.



Embarking on a culinary adventure through the diverse and vibrant world of Spanish cuisine is a feast for both the senses and the soul. From the heavenly aromas of paella and the rich flavors of Jamón Ibérico to the refreshing simplicity of gazpacho and the tantalizing pleasures of churros con chocolate, each dish tells a story and transports you to a different region of Spain.


Throughout this gastronomic journey, we have explored iconic dishes that exemplify the unique flavors and traditions of Spanish food. We have discovered the communal joy of sharing a pan of paella, the excitement of sampling the unpredictable heat of Pimientos de Padrón, and the rich heritage of Fabada Asturiana.


Spaniards have a deep appreciation for their culinary heritage, and their love for food is evident in the passion with which they prepare and enjoy each dish. Food in Spain is not simply about sustenance; it is an opportunity to connect with loved ones, to celebrate life’s moments, and to cherish the rich cultural traditions that have shaped the country’s cuisine.


So, whether you find yourself sipping on sangria and indulging in tapas in a bustling bar in Barcelona or sitting in a quaint family-run restaurant in the heart of Andalusia, allow the flavors of Spain to take you on a magical journey.


Embrace the vibrant colors, the enticing aromas, and the explosion of flavors as you explore the culinary treasures Spain has to offer. Let each bite be a celebration, a love letter to the land, the people, and the traditions that have come together to create this extraordinary gastronomic tapestry.


So gather your appetite, pack your taste buds, and embark on your own adventure of Spanish food travel. Let the dishes we’ve explored be your guide as you dive into the rich tapestry of Spanish flavors. ¡Buen provecho!