Spain is huge in the culinary world, and cities like Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian have long had a strong presence on the foodie map. All the same, each region, city and even town boasts their own specialties, and depending on where you are, you can enjoy truly authentic foods that you may not find anywhere else in the country. Traditional foods in Barcelona include anything from fideuà, paella’s noodle cousin, to crema catalana, the ancestor of creme brulée. This list could go on for days, but we will start with just a brief introduction to some of the most typical traditional foods in Barcelona.
Escudella d’Olla, a hearty Catalan stew, is something you will most typically find between October and May. It is often served in two courses, first the broth and then the varying solid ingredients which can include anything from different vegetables to pasta, and of course, loads of meat. The pilota, which literally means “ball” in Catalan, is an enormous egg-shaped meatball, but botifarra, or Catalan sausage, and botifarra negre, blood sausage, are also common suspects in this savory dish that will warm your body and soul.
If escudella d’olla is a dish reserved for the cooler days of the year, then esqueixada would be it’s warm weather opposite. Often referred to as the Catalan ceviche, this refreshing salad consists of bacalao, or salt cod, with peppers, tomatoes, onions and olives. Vinegar and olive oil add more flavor, and you can often find it topped with the delicious nutty romesco sauce.
Suquet de Peix
Seafood obviously plays a huge role in the traditional foods of Barcelona, so it’s no surprise that a Catalan favorite is the suquet de peix, a potato-based seafood stew. It can be made with a wide variety of fish, really whatever is in market, and cooked up with a bit of garlic and tomato, this stuff is absolutely packed with flavor.
A lot of people come to Barcelona without realizing that, for the locals, paella is often sidelined next to its noodle version, the fideuà. Like paella, fideuà is made in a large, shallow pan and has many different variations, though it most commonly features a handful of treats from the sea. Enjoy it with some freshly made alioli, a thick garlic and olive oil creamy sauce, and you won’t go wrong.
One of the most famous dishes of the region also happens to be one of the simplest. Escalivada, which comes from the verb escalivar (to roast on ashes), is a smoky vegetable dish usually consisting of eggplant and bell peppers, sometimes accompanied by onions, tomatoes and garlic. People eat escalivada as a tapa, or sometimes as a relish for other savory bites of fish or meat.
As far as desserts go, Catalonia has various mouthwatering specialties. One of them is crema catalana, a custard dessert similar to creme brulée but not without its differences. Unlike the vanilla flavor traditional of the French custard, crema catalana is a bit lighter with citrus and cinnamon flavours. Many debate on which came first, but there’s really no need: crema catalan recipes began appearing in Catalan cookbooks in the 14th century, whereas creme brulée made its debut in French ones in the 17th.
Mel i Mato
A dessert even non-dessert people will like, mel i mato is exactly what it sounds like: Catalan for honey and Mato cheese (a fresh, unsalted soft cheese). Not overly sweet, it is also often topped with walnuts, making for a simple, delicious and healthy end to a meal.
Come try traditional foods in Barcelona with us as we explore the city’s most traditional-meets-trendy neighborhoods! We visit nine different family-run establishments throughout the four hours of our Gràcia neighborhood food tour, and eat our way around Born and Barceloneta on our Tastes, Tapas & Traditions of Barcelona tour.