Spanish Food Culture And Traditions

Spanish Food Culture And Traditions

What is traditional Spanish food? Spanish food culture and traditions are one of a kind – not many places in the world can compete with it. In addition, the local diet can be characterised fresh and healthy.

“Homemade food” in local taverns and bars beat many expensive restaurants for taste and originality (and I do not even mention the price at all).

Spain has not only some of the most delicious dishes but they are also ranked among the top 10 worldwide. Check for example Travel Channel’s list of top 20 must eat foods from around the world or CNN’s list of the best 50 foods in the world including seafood paella in Spain.

In addition, the Mediterranean diet is healthy including a lot of fish and seafood and lots of vegetables.

What is the most popular food in Spain?

The most popular (and mouthwatering) dishes could be jámon, gazpacho, Queso Manchego, paella, seafood, tortilla de patatas…? Delicious – you cannot debate about it. They have an unbeatable combination of fresh ingredients, culinary traditions and atmosphere to enjoy your meal.

Table of content

  1. Versatile Spanish food culture
  2. Local specialities of the Spanish food culture and traditions
  3. Conclusion
  4. Learn 5 words of Spanish
  5. Did you know this funny fact?

Spanish food culture: Tapas in Spanish menu

1. Versatile Spanish food culture

Over the years we have spent a lot of time in Spain, and I feel the entire Spanish culture is tied around food. Food markets to visit & wander around, restaurants and little taverns in every corner (and in between the corners).

The locals go to work, eat & drink, work a little more and AGAIN eat & drink. The Spaniards know how to make you feel welcomed in their sunny country. Spanish people are in general very hospital and friendly.

That is why I believe it is the reason behind the growth of tourism in Spain. Respect and friendly service bring visitors back to Spain year after year.

Serving something tasty with a drink is a Spanish tradition, therefore especially in smaller cities, you might get yourself a dinner just by ordering drinks.

No wonder hospitality has attracted several hundred thousand immigrants to come to live in sunny Spain and Mediterranean cost line, like the Costa del Sol and Alicante area. The Spanish food culture and traditions around it are very welcoming and heartfelt.

The Lively Plazas

I cannot think of anything more Spanish than having a drink with your friends in the local plaza. If you are around the city sights, the prices are a bit higher. Instead, if you have any energy left, walk a little further, and I’m sure you’ll find a smaller plaza full of locals. There’s your jackpot.


Obviously the most delicious tradition of Spain. This is something to be added into your Bucket List: try a traditional Spanish tapas menu in Spain (it’s not the same anywhere else – you have to experience it once in your lifetime). The small plates, full of delicious little bites, are created always with a local twist and without lack of imagination.

» Read more about my thoughts on the tapas etiquette.

The Coffee

The range of coffees available in Spain is unbelievable. The espresso brewing is the basis for your coffee – you just pick how you wish to enjoy your espresso.

Café solo is espresso without any milk. Café cortado is a small cup of espresso with just a hint of milk. Café Americano is an espresso with some added water to make it milder.

Café con leche is coffee with equal parts espresso and milk. Café con Hielo is coffee with ice. Café bombon is espresso with sweetened condensed milk.

Carajillo is an espresso served with whisky, rum or brandy. Just a few to mention 😉

Many variations of coffee - Spanish food culture

The wine

Spain is the 3rd largest wine producer in the world with over 2.9 million hectares of vineyards  (right after France & Italy). Major Spanish wine regions include for example the famous La Rioja and the Ribera del Duero.

My ultimate favourite – Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, – is mainly produced in Catalonia.

Best wines in the world - Spanish food cultureSherry comes from Jerez de la Frontera, located in southern Spain. Spain’s geography is optimal for producing wine: hills perfect for raising grape wines combined with the ideal weather with the cool morning and warm days.

Did you know, that the Wine Spectator listed the wine Imperial from the La Rioja region as the best wine of 2013?

Light lunch and late dinners

How are the culture and food of Spain related?

During the daytime, locals do not eat too much. They have a light breakfast – perhaps just coffee with a croissant to go. Before siesta, they’ll have something small for lunch – some tapas or few slices of pizza. Dinner time is late, sometime between 9-11 pm.

Sounds crazy I know, but after the sunset, it is not so hot anymore, and you’ll have a better appetite. That being said, what could be more delightful than start the dinner with a small tapas to share?

2. Local specialities of the Spanish food culture and traditions

If I rated the Spanish cuisine on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give 12. The variety of food in endless, with regional variations and specialities. In addition, food is relatively cheap, especially if you have the patience to walk a little further away from the city centre.

A menu of the day is a fantastic opportunity to have a meal for a bargain. Therefore, if you wish to set yourself a holiday budget, read our tips & guides here.

The Málaga Province

Its cuisine specializes in many of the dishes that people consider to be typical Spanish. Taste pescaíto frito, calamaris and chaperones (the deep-fried fish and seafood tapas) and espetos – sardines grilled over a wood fire (often on the beach).


This is a popular dish/soup in Southern Spain. But unlike gazpacho, Córdoba’s speciality salmorejo is not spread around the country. This soup is made from fresh tomato juice, olive oil and garlic as gazpacho, but it is thickened with breadcrumbs and quite often topped with pieces of jamón, croutons and slices of hard-boiled egg.

Why not try to cook gazpacho yourself, while planning your holiday?

Tapas & seafood in Cádiz

A local delicacy is tiny camarones, little pink shrimp eaten whole – shells and all. Tuna fished with an old method “Almadraba” takes your breath away! The city of Cádiz is also home of the sherry triangle: Jerez, El Puerto de Santa María, and Sanlucar de Barrameda. So, make a visit to a local bodega to have a sip of this fancy & delicious drink.

I just love tapas to death. Cook them first at home and then taste the authentic ones in Spain 😉

» Read more about our tips regarding what to do in Cádiz here or here.


Though the city is packed with modern tapas bars, try to find “off-the-track taverns” with local specialities, like spinach and chickpeas, slow-cooked pork etc.

And do not leave Seville without tasting the dry manzanilla sherry! Pair it with jamón Ibérico and you will lose your mind!

If you do not get excited about wine, try vino de naranja, a local speciality drink in Seville. This sweet orange wine is delicious! And do NOT forget sangria!


Paella originates from Valencia and is a big part of the Spanish food culture and traditions. You can have paella in dozens of local varieties: mussels, prawn, chicken, ham, fish etc. but always – whatever the combination is, it is regionally the ‘pride of the city’.

Lucky us – have tasted many, and they are all more than tasty. At home, I love to cook paella over my BBQ…

Many love Spanish food, but unfortunately, it does not taste the same when you are not in the country… What is your favourite dish? Do you cook it yourself, or travel to Spain & order it in the authentic environment?

3. Conclusion

What are the two basic ingredients for a Spanish food?

I would say olive oil and garlic are the basic ingredients of any Spanish food. In addition, Spanish food menu is full of seafood, vegetables, tasty jámon or chorizo and tomatoes. Therefore the Spanish food culture and traditions are so miscellaneous, that you can enjoy and explore it time after time.

Print your bucket list of the Spanish food culture and traditions & book your dream holiday to Spain!

Print your food & drink list!

4. Learn 5 easy words of Spanish

Una mesa para dos (oona may sah pah rah dohss) – a table for two
Vino tinto (vee noh teen toh) – red wine
Vino blanco (vee noh blahn coh) – white wine
Un postre – dessert
La cuenta – check

5. Did you know this funny fact about Spanish food culture?

About 44% of all of the world’s olive oil is produced in Spain. The largest region producing this “golden liquid” is Andalucia.

If you liked this article, please share : )
Posted in Spain Holidays.