Last Updated on February 05, 2023
The Catalan capital is a place full of wonders that everyone should visit at least once. There’s the striking architecture of famous architect Gaudi’s buildings, the breathtaking Sagrada Familia, gothic cathedrals, sun-dappled squares, and cute little alleyways full of surprises. You can spend some time on the beach or visit one of Barcelona’s many museums – the options are endless!
And so are the food options, so don’t forget to leave some room in your itinerary to taste Barcelona’s delicacies. Whatever your cup of tea, Barcelona won’t disappoint you!
You’ll immediately notice that Barcelona is crammed with buzzing restaurants, tapas bars, and fresh food markets with access to the best produce from both land and sea thanks to its geographical advantage. But that’s not the only explanation for the extraordinariness of Catalan cuisine.
They say a country’s cuisine is its landscape added to a pot. But the analogy isn’t complete without a pinch of cultural spice. The Mediterranean spirit, with its vast vineyards and top-quality olive groves, is also present here. But Catalonia has been an autonomous region in Spain since the 1200s and has developed its own tradition, culture, and cuisine.
Catalans are known for their love for surf and turf recipes, known in the local language as mar i muntanya, sea and mountain. The term refers to dishes that include both seafood and meat, such as chicken and shrimp, lobster, or cuttlefish, rabbit with sea snails, and many more. Catalans see no harm in combining anything from sea and land, like mussels, shrimps, monkfish, snails, and sausages.
Speaking of sausages, Barcelona also has a huge sausage tradition, with varieties that are quite different from Spanish chorizos. You can find sausages made of liver or tongue, mixed with spices, vegetables, and nuts. If you’re a fan, don’t forget to pay a visit to the Boqueria Market. We also offer a cooking class with a visit to the Boqueria Market if you like to learn a couple of Spanish recipes.
Sauces here are an important part of the cuisine. They use picada, a paste made of nuts, garlic, herbs, and wine, to add consistency to the dishes. Sofregit is a thick base for many dishes made by simmering tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions in olive oil. And samfaina is a popular vegetable sauce made of red and green peppers, aubergines, onions, tomatoes, and courgettes, typically used to top meat or fish stews.
Here are the dishes you must try when you’re in Barcelona.
1. Esqueixada de Bacallà
Bacalla, or codfish, is a very popular fish throughout the Iberian Peninsula and Catalans make no bones about embracing this salty and savory fish too. Esqueixada de bacallà is a special dish made of shredded salted cod. It resembles the Portuguese bachalau a brass, but the Catalans layer the fish shred with chopped red and green peppers, onions, and tomatoes, and top it with black olives and olive oil. It’s a dish served cold, almost like a salad with cod fish, which makes it perfect for the summer.
Paella is the quintessential dish of the Iberian peninsula. Even though Valencia is the capital of paella, Barcelonian chefs also take this Spanish landmark to heart. When you combine their passion with access to super fresh produce, you get especially delicious paellas.
In Barcelona, paella is usually made with bomba rice and assorted seafood, which is not to be underestimated, as Spain’s list of assorted seafood can still surprise you, even if you have already eaten your way through the peninsula.
When ordering, you can’t go wrong with a traditional paella, but you can also try ones with a special smoky twist, made with smoked pork ribs and sausages. Or even better, learn how to make delicious paella yourself with the guidance of an experienced local chef by joining one of our paella cooking classes in Barcelona.
3. Mandonguilles Amb Sípia
A fabulous example of Catalan surf and turf dishes, mandonguilles amb sípia is cooked by grandmothers all across the country. It’s made with meatballs and cuttlefish simmered together in a rich and thick gravy, along with nuts and garnishes.
4. Pa Amb Tomàquet (Bread and Tomato)
Pa amb tomàquet is one of the most popular things to munch on in Catalan cuisine. Like Italy’s bruschetta, it’s a simple appetizer that just hits the spot.
Pa amb tomàquet is very easy to make but to succeed, you need top-quality ingredients. Good pagé bread (farm-bred), tasty summer tomatoes, and top-quality extra virgin olive oil are the keys to the dish’s success.
We can also add that there is no dish more traditionally Catalan than good tomato bread accompanied by sausage. Pam amb tomàquet is a great appetizer or even lunch when you start to feel peckish during your walking tour around the city, and you’ll easily find it across the many restaurants.
5. Escudella i Carn D’olla (Stew and Meatball)
Escudella i carn d’olla is a traditional Christmas Eve dish in Barcelona. The writer Francesc d’Eiximenis wrote in the 14th century that escudella i carn dolla was a dish that was eaten almost daily in every Catalan household by people of all social strata. Thanks to the generous amount of calories in the dish, it was considered a solid start to a hard-working day. Today, you can find this vegetable and meat stew made of black and white pork both at high-end restaurants and in small family diners.
6. Suquet de Peix (Fish Stew)
Suquet de peix is one of the most popular fish dishes in Catalonia. It’s a stew with clams, prawns, several types of fish like monkfish or cuttlefish, and saffron sauce. The stew is hearty, savory, and golden yellow.
The coast of Barcelona is the best place to savor a plate of good suquet de peix. Find a spot where you can appreciate the exceptional Mediterranean scenery while enjoying your plateful of suquet de peix.
7. Fricando (Beef Stew)
Fricando is a staple dish throughout all of Catalonia. It’s a dish prepared all over the region since medieval times. Today it’s a delicacy mastered by chefs and Catalan grandmothers alike. Nowadays, fricando is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve, but you can still find it on the menus of restaurants all around the city of Barcelona.
It’s made of thin fillets of meat slowly simmered in gravy with dried mushrooms and picada. The stew is typically served with yellow rice.
Bombas, or potato bombas, are perfectly smooth mashed potato balls filled with a mixture of meat or seafood, covered in bread crumbs, and fried until golden excellency. Then the golden crisp potato balls are topped with a tangy sauce.
It’s a must-try tapas while you’re in Barcelona. And if you like what you taste and want to treat your guests back home with these Iberian appetizers, you can join the classic tapas class. You’ll spend your Saturday learning more about the art of preparing Spanish and Catalan tapas with an experienced local chef.
9. Tortilla de Patatas
Spanish potato omelet is one of the most famous dishes in the country, and Barcelonian chefs and cooks make it super delicious. It’s a simple dish that ticks all the boxes. In Barcelona, you can order tortilla de patatas with or without onions, any time of the day — or night.
Fideua is basically paella made with short and thin noodles instead of rice. The noodles are fried before being simmered with the other ingredients, typically various kinds of seafood, and finished with a roast in the oven for the ultimate flavor. Like paella, the ingredients in a plate of fideua can differ according to the region, season, and the chef’s mood.
Escalivada is another quintessential tapas you have to try. The name of this savory tapas comes from the Catalan word escalivar, which means to cook in ash. Simple yet delightful, it contains all the superstar Mediterranean ingredients like peppers, eggplants, onions, and tomatoes, which are caramelized in a wood-burning oven.
The smoked/cooked vegetables are topped with salty minced garlic and olive oil, resulting in a smokey, savory, fresh, and absolutely delicious dish. If you’d like to learn more about Catalan tapas, check out the Catalan Tapas and Wine Class, where you’ll visit the famous Boqueria Market, get fresh ingredients, and prepare delicious tapas for yourself. At the end of the day, you’ll pair your hard work with some local wine.
Calçot is a special kind of green onion grown in Catalonia. These special green onions from the city Valls are also protected by the EU’s geographical indication.
The difference between your regular scallion and calçot is that the latter is bigger in size, less bulbous in shape, and milder in taste. In Valls, there’s an annual calçot festival during the harvest season, towards the end of January. During the festival, calçots are grilled, wrapped in straw paper, and served on clay tiles. You need to peel the burned layer off before you put one in your mouth and dip it in the traditional Romesco sauce.
If you visit Barcelona around this time, don’t miss out on your fair share of these sweet, charred, and zesty onions.
13. Coca De Recapte
Coca is the word in Catalan for various kinds of bakeries and pastries and comes from the same root as cake. You can find all kinds of coca — or coques — around the town, both sweet and savory.
Coca de recapte is the descendant of the savory flatbreads of the Romans, Greeks, and Arabs. Like Italian pizza, Turkish pide, or Armenian lahmacun, these flatbreads are topped with various kinds of ingredients, the most popular being red peppers, aubergines, onions, spinach, or pine nuts. They can also be topped with mushrooms, poultry meat, or various fish. You can enjoy this deliciousness, both hot and cold.
14. Fried Chipirones
Calamari in the rest of the world is usually eaten by cutting its legs into rings and coating them in crumbs, followed by a deep frying session. But Spanish cooks here take it to the next level. So if you like fried calamari, fried chipirones can be your next seafood obsession. This classic Spanish dish contains heaps of popcorn-sized baby squids, battered and fried as a whole. Once you start eating them, you just can’t stop.
15. Crema Catalana (Catalan Cream)
Locals call Catalan cream “crema de Sant Josep” because it is traditionally eaten on March 19, Saint Joseph’s Day. It is one of the oldest desserts in European gastronomy and par excellence in Catalan gastronomy. It appears in medieval Catalan recipe books, dating back to as early as the 14th century.
Catalan cream is one of the landmarks of Catalan gastronomy. Although it resembles the French creme brulee, cream Catalan has some distinct characteristics. It’s made of milk rather than cream and thickened with egg yolks rather than whole eggs — just like Lisbon’s pastel de nata.
Finally, it’s flavored with cinnamon or citrus zests that give the dessert a fresh kick. As a result, it is lighter than creme brulee, with a more liquid texture.
Over and Out!
Barcelona offers various foods, from fusion world cuisine to Mediterranean classics that match its magical scenery. It’s a place where you can dip your head in culture, your feet in the sand, and enjoy a wide variety of mouthwatering dishes.