This blog post was originally posted on January 8, 2015 and was updated on November 14, 2019.
Of the wide variety of Catalan cuisine, who would have thought that an onion could be so cherished?
The calçot, a cross between a spring onion and leek, is by and large one of the most beloved products of this region in Spain. For more than a century, they’ve been an integral part of Catalan cuisine every winter.
Sweet, tender and absolutely delicious when dipped in romesco sauce, calçots in Barcelona are wildly popular—and so is the tradition that comes with them.
Roughly between the months of December and March, when the calçot is in season, locals enjoy the calçotada. A calçotada is a winter barbecue where the calçots are packed tight on a grill, charred and then dipped in that rich and nutty romesco sauce (be sure to remove the charred layer first!).
But the feast doesn’t end there. After piles upon piles of these guys come all types of grilled meats (like botifarra, the traditional Catalan sausage, and lamb), which go great with romesco sauce as well. And of course, it’s all washed down with plenty of wine.
If you’re looking to try calçots in Barcelona, you can’t miss an authentic calçotada. So come with a good appetite, tie a bib around your neck and go to town with the calçots. They only come once a year, after all!
History of the calçotada
So where do the calçot and calçotada come from? If you zoom in on a map, about 100 kilometers southwest of Barcelona, you’ll find a small town called Valls. It was here, in this lost little town, that the calçot was born.
During the late 19th century, a village farmer of Valls decided to try an experiment by planting white onion bulbs in trenches (as usual) and then increasing the depth of the soil as they grew. The result was the incredibly delicious, mild and sweet calçot, harvested roughly from November to April each year.
From that point on, the people of Valls started to prepare calçotades for holidays and special family meals. However, little by little, word spread. Now they’ve become a popular tradition all around Catalonia—so much so that you can even enjoy calçotades in the city of Barcelona! (More on that in a bit.)
Where can I find calçots?
If you want to try calçots in Barcelona, you have two options: city center or countryside. Many would argue that in order to authentically experience the calçot, you have to go outside Barcelona. Masias, or Catalan countryside houses or farms, are where you will find the rustic atmosphere associated with calçots. Here are a few of our favorites:
Don’t have a whole morning to spare? There are plenty of options for great calçots in Barcelona, and you don’t even have to leave the city center. Barcelona is home to a number of restaurants that specialize in calçots, so if you can’t make it out to the countryside, let them bring this seasonal delicacy to you.
Want to learn even more secrets of Spanish and Catalan cuisine? Check out our lineup of online food and wine experiences and bring Spain into your kitchen!