Top 5 Traditional Spanish Dishes

Spain has a rich tradition of cooking delicious, healthy food with fresh ingredients. Here are five of the best known and most mouth-watering dishes.


Spain’s most famous meal is a regional dish. Its modern form originated in the 19th century in Valencia and evolved from a much older casserole-like dish from Moorish Spain. By the 15th century it had become traditional to combine rice, fish and vegetables to create a dish suitable for Lent.

There are several types, though the dish lends itself to improvisation. All of them contain rice, olive oil and saffron. Valencian paella contains rice, vegetables, meat, land snails and beans. Seafood paella leaves out the vegetables, beans and snails and contains seafood such as prawns and mussels.


Perhaps the best example of the social aspect of Spanish food is tapas. Both the sharing aspect and the fact that diners aren’t fixated on eating their own meal help to create a friendly atmosphere and encourage conversation.

Legend states that tapas were born when King Alphonso X requested small dishes with wine while recuperating. The word means ‘lid’ and originally tapas were the slices of meat or bread used to cover wine to keep flies out of it. The snack adapted to incorporate the ingredients and tastes of influencing cultures such as the Romans.

Tapas can include a huge variety of both hot and cold dishes. Popular tapas include olives, breads with olive oil, meat balls in sauce and patatas bravas (fried potato in spicy tomato sauce).


This extremely tasty dish is very simple – the ingredients are egg, potato, onion and olive oil. Other ingredients can be added such as chorizo or vegetables. The Spanish refer to it as tortilla de patatas or tortilla espaaola to differentiate between the Spanish and French versions of omelette.

The first written reference to a tortilla is from 1817 in a report to Navarra’s Court that discusses the plight of farmers at the time who only had some basic supplies to feed their communities. Legend tells that the tortilla de patatas was created at the siege of Bilbao, during the Spanish civil war, as a speedy way to produce nutritious food for the Carlist army.

Jamon Iberico

Spain produces some fine hams and one of the finest is Jamon Iberico. A cured ham, it’s made in the south and south west from black pigs that have inhabited the area for thousands of years. The piglets are raised briefly on barley and corn then grazed in oak groves, feeding on acorns, grass, herbs and roots until close to the time for slaughter. At this stage those destined for the best grade of ham have a strict diet of olives or acorns, while lesser pigs may have a mixture of acorns and commercially produced mixtures. The curing process takes at least a year and longer from certain producers.


There is some debate over the origins of this cold soup. Some think a form of it came over to Spain with the Romans, others that it is an even older ancient Arab recipe. Whatever its beginnings, it was adapted into Spanish tradition and into Andalusian cuisine. Considered a food for peasants, there were many varieties, including white, with no tomato but additional dried fruit and green and like the white but with colouring spices.


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Gazpacho contains stale bread, bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, onion, wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil and salt. Traditionally, it should be prepared with a pestle and mortar, which helps to keep the mixture cool and prevents the foam created by modern food processors.

Zoe has written this guest post today on behalf of Range Cookers.

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