Since moving to Madrid I have spent some time working my way around the many wonderful restaurants (I know, it’s a hard life) and trying all the local food.
Spain is well known for its delicious local food. If you are visiting Madrid you may have a limited amount of time in the city but a huge selection of yummy Spanish foods you want to try.
This article covers my suggestions for the best food to eat in Madrid. They are available on bar and restaurant menus, are reasonably priced and dishes that locals enjoy (no tourist traps).
Tapas style of dish is popular in Madrid. Locals will enjoy a quick breakfast, mid morning snack, a large lunch, early evening snack and tapas dinner. Tapas is smaller plates of food perfect for sharing and eating slowly while drinking and chatting with friends and family. A larger portions of tapas are called raciones.
These are my top 12, absolute favourite, you must try, eat them or you will regret it Spanish dishes.
RELATED article: A guide to eating pinchos and tapas in Spain
12 Spanish foods you have to try in Madrid
1. Huevos rotos
Huevos rotos is sliced fried potato topped with serrano ham and fried eggs. When I first tried this dish I thought it would be for breakfast but it’s not. No Madrileno (person who lives in Madrid) would eat this before 2pm. The gooey egg yolk combines with the salty smoked ham and the greasy potatoes perfectly. It’s a hearty dish that young people tend to share over a few beers. Good hangover food!
Pulpo is Spanish for octopus. Even though Madrid is far from the coast, fresh seafood deliveries come in every day. The most popular pulpo dish in Madrid is “galician” style. This is a method of cooking and serving that comes from Galicia in the North of spain. It’s boiled octopus tentacle sliced into small round pieces, sprinked with sea salt and paprika served on sliced boiled potatoes. The octopus meat stays very soft and tender and the skin has a melt in the mouth texture.
3. Jamon serrano
Jamon serrano is dry cured pork ham. You’ll find it hanging, cured and ready to be sliced in shops, restaurants and markets. Arguably the top serrano ham is Iberico (from the black Iberican pig) but it’s also the most expensive. Price ranges depending on the breed of pig and how long the meat was hung for.
Gambas is Spanish for prawns. You can get many different types and size of prawn in Madrid and cooking methods vary from restaurant to restaurant. My favourites are whole gambinas that are grilled or sizzled on a plancha (hot plate) with just a bit of salt. They will need de-shelling and it can get very messy! Or gambas aioli that are de-shelled smaller prawns baked in garlic and olive oil. Be sure to keep some bread to dip into the left over garlicy sauce.
5. Patatas bravas
Patatas bravas is a plate of chunky fried potato wedges covered in a rich and spicy tomato sauce. If it’s too hot you can add some mayonaise but don’t let anyone give you fries instead of chunky potatoes… that’s just fries and hot sauce!
Croquettes are soft creamy mashed potato mixed with cheese, ham or seafood, which is rolled and fried in crisp breadcrumbs. It’s a comforting but not too heavy snack or a good side for a tapas spread.
Chorizo is pork sausage that goes hand in hand with serrano ham on a platter. Cured and thinly sliced its ideal with sandwich fillings or topping pinchos (small bread tapa). But my favourite type of chorizo is Madrid style, smaller soft baked or fried sausages that are served in a spicy olive oil sauce with bread on the side. Picante chorizo has more paprika and a more tangy spicy flavour.
8. Padron pimentos
Padron pimentos are green peppers (a cross between a jalapeno and a bell pepper). They are tossed in olive oil until the skin bubbles and blisters and turns a burnt brown/black in patches. They are sprinkled in salt and served unceremoniously in a heap on the plate but believe me they are the best. Watch out for the hot one, people say 1 in 10 will blow your head off!
9. Bocadillo calamares
Bocadillo calamares is a white baguette stuffed full of crisp fried calamari rings that are smothered in mayonaise or bravas sauce. I thought this was crazy the first time I tried it because it’s a bit carb on carb but it’s so good. It kind of reminds me of a chip butty!
Churros are the famous long thin (sometimes curved) fried batter sweet. Its dusted in white sugar and served alongside a cup of thick dipping chocolate. I was surprised to learn that in Madrid this dish is served for breakfast! It can be difficult to have this sweet treat as a dessert after dinner. But there are a couple of places that will serve churros all night so that you can grab one after a night out drinking. The Madrinelo version of getting a 2am kebab!
11. Tortilla de patatas
Tortilla de patatas is a potato and egg omelette. Its thinly sliced or chopped sautéed potato and onion mixed in a pan with whisked eggs. The mixture gets slowly pan fried and turned to give it the distinct rounded edge. It is pretty much the go-to snack in Madrid and a popular lunch.
12. Queso Manchego
Queso Manchesgo is a hard cheese made from sheep milk. It’s sold in big thick wheels and served sliced into thin triangles. It has a quite a distinctive flavour and goes amazingly well with jamon. There are strict requirements for a cheese to be classed as manchego including that it must be aged for at least 60 days.
It goes without saying that there are many more delicious dishes available in Madrid and an awesome array of regional food throughout Spain. But if you visit Spain and try at least some of these foods then that’s a pretty good start.
If you are interested in joining a guided food tour to explore the culinary delights of Spain in Madrid, there are lots of great tours available. Make sure you book ahead to secure a spot.
Have you tried a dish in Madrid or elsewhere is Spain that you just loved? Tell me all about it in the comments box below.
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