Showcasing the Mediterranean diet and Asian diet  

Spanish cuisine






















Bread and rice

Grain foods such as bread and rice have been eaten and enjoyed for centuries throughout Spain.

Bread is traditionally served as an accompaniment to food, often with a little extra virgin olive oil for dipping. Bread with cheese is a common snack, and bread is also used to thicken soups and stews.

The Valencia region is the home of one of Spain's most famous rice dishes, the paella. Traditionally cooked outside on an open wood fire in a large flat-bottomed pan called a paellera, a paella can include all types of ingredients including seafood, chicken, chorizo sausage, rabbit and even snails.

Vegetables and fruits

Many of the vegetables commonly used in Spanish cooking were brought back to Spain from the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 1400s and 1500s. Tomatoes, bell peppers (capsicum), potatoes and zucchini have now become synonymous not only with Spanish cuisine, but Mediterranean cuisine as a whole. Other commonly enjoyed vegetables include onions, garlic, asparagus, eggplant, spinach, cabbage, cucumbers, artichokes, lettuce and mushrooms.

These vegetables are used in rice dishes, stews such as cocida (a one pot dish with vegetables, beans and chicken or meat that originated in Madrid but is eaten throughout Spain) as well as soups such as gazpacho (a cold tomato-based soup) and a wide range of salads and vegetable side dishes.

Fruit—both fresh and dried—is enjoyed as a snack or as a dessert. Commonly enjoyed fruit include apples, oranges, grapes, cherries, dates and figs.

Olives and Olive oil

The warm, sunny climate enjoyed by much of Spain makes it ideal for olive growing. Many of these olives are pressed for their oil, and the most prized olive oil is "extra virgin," made from the first cold pressing of the best quality olives. Extra virgin olive oil is used in cooking and adds depth and texture to hot dishes when added at the end of cooking. It's also used in salad dressings and sauces and for bread dipping.

Whole olives, sometimes stuffed with anchovies or pimento (red pepper paste), are eaten as appetizers and snacks, or added to stews, hot pots and salads.

Fish and shellfish

Much of Spain is bordered by ocean, and fish and shellfish are abundant in these rich coastal waters. Commonly enjoyed fish include tuna, sea bass, hake, monkfish, anchovies, sea bream, sole, sardines, swordfish, clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp and squid.

Fish and shellfish are used in a myriad of ways—grilled over hot coals and served with bread and salad, fried in olive oil and served as tapas (small appetizers served hot and cold in bars and bistros throughout Spain to accompany sherry, wine, or beer) dotted through a paella, or enjoyed in suquet, a saffron-infused stew with tomatoes, fish, shellfish, potatoes and wine.

Legumes and nuts

Legumes (beans, peas and lentils) are used extensively in Spanish cooking. Chickpeas and white beans are used to make hearty bean stews and flavorsome soups. Lentils, such as Spanish pardina lentils, are also added to stews and soups and are used in salads. Green beans and peas are used in a wide range of dishes including paellas and hot pots.

Popular nuts include almonds, pine nuts and hazelnuts which are often ground down and used to thicken and enrich the flavor of stews, sauces and soups. Toasted almonds are also a popular snack.

Meat, poultry, eggs and cheese

In most parts of Spain meat has traditionally been eaten in moderation. Typically, meats like dry cured Serrano ham, lamb or chorizo sausage (a robust, pork sausage made with garlic and paprika) are used in small amounts to add flavor and texture to a dish instead of being the focus of attention.

Chicken is a popular addition to stews and rice dishes and eggs are used in a variety of dishes including tortilla de patatas, a traditional Spanish omelet with eggs, potatoes and onion.

Cheese such as Manchego (a sheep's milk cheese) is eaten as a snack, as tapas or with fruit as a dessert.

Herbs and seasonings

For over 700 years much of Spain was ruled by the Moors (a Muslim tribal people from the Moroccan region of North Africa) and their influence remains today in many of the seasonings used in Spanish cooking including saffron, cinnamon and cumin.

Other commonly used seasonings include smoked paprika, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, pepper, sea salt, white wine vinegar and sherry vinegar, fresh chilies, capers, wine and lemon juice. These seasonings are all used to enhance, not mask, the natural flavors of the food.