Spanish Food Traditions (with Recipes and Vocabulary)

Spanish Food Traditions (with Recipes and Vocabulary)

Food is a significant and a central part of life in Spain. 

Over the centuries, Spanish cuisine has been developed into a wide range of cooking with fresh and colorful ingredients. 

It is a mix of many influences during invasions and conquests in history with available ingredients on the Peninsula. 

Because of many influences, people in Spain cook, eat, and dedicate their time to the food a little bit different than the rest of Europe. 

Even though today’s way of life is fast, and people worldwide don’t eat their meals slowly and calmly as before, for Spanish people we can’t say that. 

And that is why Spanish food traditions are unique.

Spanish eating habits during the day

The uniqueness of the approach to food and meals reflects on their eating habits during the day. Let’s take a glimpse:


Breakfast- Desayuno

Before leaving for work, around 8 am Spanish people, have a light breakfast, usually a  toast, or famous churros and a coffee. The reason is apparent: everyone is in a hurry.

It is also not rare that they used to skip breakfast.


Coffee Break- El Café

Spanish people like coffee a lot. Around 10 am, they take a coffee break. Coffee has to be black and strong.

Another name for this habit is ‘the second breakfast.’ 

Along with coffee, many have some light ‘breakfast’, usually, galleta, which are sweet rolls, or tostada, a grilled roll rubbed with garlic and tomato. After all, they have to make up for the light breakfast from the early morning, right?


Lunch- La Comida

Between 2 pm and 4 pm is time for the most important meal of the day- lunch, in Spanish, la comida. 

They do not rush through their lunch, like the rest of the world. 

Shops are mainly closed during this time of the day because they go home to have lunch and a brief nap or popularly called ‘siesta.’

Lunch consists of a bowl of soup or a salad. The second part is the central part of the lunch, which can be some fish or meat dish. The dessert is also mandatory. It is usually some fruit or pudding. Wine and bread are included, of course.


Afternoon snack- La merienda

This meal is light, which includes some sandwiches, hot drinks, or a pastry. Spanish people usually have a snack at around 6 pm.


Dinner- La Cena

In Spain, people often have dinner somewhere outside, usually in the restaurants. It begins around 9 pm and can last until midnight. It consists of a full meal or tapas. 

People have dinner with their friends, so this is the reason why dinner takes so long.

spanish food traditions

You see now why food takes a central place in the lives of Spanish people. 

For them, it’s not just a meal; it is something more. It is spending time with family and friends, keeping relationships alive.



‘Food’ vocabulary

It isn’t that hard to behave like Spanish. 

In order to become one of them, and discuss the traditions and recipes, it is good to know some of the phrases. 

While travelling through Spain, spending time in restaurants can help you master the language. Explore delicious food while in Spain.

Take a look at the following phrases and try to memorize them. You’ll see they will be useful.


  •  Quisiera hacer una reserva para ... persona(s).- I would like to make a reservation for … people.
  • ¿Podría sentarme en el bar?- May I sit at the bar?  
  • ¿Cuál es el menú de hoy?- What’s today’s menu?  
  • ¿Viene con ...?- Does this come with ...? 
  • ¿Qué me recomienda?- What do you recommend? 
  • ¿Cuál es la comida típica de esta región?- What is the typical food of this region?
  •  No como …- I don’t eat ...
  • Tengo alérgia a ...- I am allergic to ... 
  • Tráigame la cuenta, por favor.- Bring me the check, please.


At home or travelling through Spain, one more way to better immerse you in the language and culture are Spanish culinary specialties. Here are the most famous ones.



Churros are made from fried dough pastry, in sausage shapes and sprinkled with some sugar. 

It is mostly served for breakfast with hot chocolate or cafe con leche, that is, coffee with milk. Ingredients for this snack are flour, water, and salt. 

Churros are fried until they become crunchy. 

Even though churros are famous for breakfast, you can often see people snack them throughout the day.

Paella Valenciana

It is the most popular Spanish dish. 

It originates from the region around Valencia. 

It is an excellent union of two different cultures- Arabic and Roman. 

An interesting fact is that ‘paella’ doesn’t refer to a dish, but to a ‘pan,’ it is cooked in. 

Original paella contains rice, meat or fish, and beans with saffron and paprika.

Even though today there are many varieties of paella, the most popular form of this dish is seafood paella.

Paella is usually served for lunch.



What paella is in the Valencia region, in Barcelona is Fideua. 

Many call these two dishes rivals. 

Just like Paella, Fideua is cooked on a wide and flat frying pan. 

The ingredients are just like in paella, except the main one. Instead of rice, in fideua, there are noodles. 

The noodles are often crispy on the top of the dish. It’s popular along the coast, especially in Barcelona.

The legend says that this meal is made because the captain of sailors liked the rice so much that he had often eaten all of the rice, and sailors didn’t get anything.  

Then, one day, the cook came up with the idea to put noodles instead of rice so that the captain eats less, and no one stays hungry. The result is visible.


Tortilla Espanola

Worldwide known as a Spanish omelet, this dish is among tapas favorite. 

It is because you can eat it at breakfast, as a snack, or even in a sandwich, which is popular among kids. 

To make a tortilla, ingredients you need always have at home- potato, onion, and eggs. 

The preparation for this delicious dish is simple. 

Fry up the onion slowly, then dice and add the potato, and in the end, eggs. If you want, you can add pepper, spinach, or chorizo. 


Patatas bravas

It is one more delicious tapas on the menu, and very easy to prepare, too. 

It is named after a spicy sauce.  

Potatoes have to be in cubes and shallow fried in oil. 

The sauce is made from spicy ketchup, which initially comes with it, to garlic and mayonnaise, or smoked paprika.

It originally comes from southern Spain and spread through the whole country. 

Still, many say that the best patatas bravas are still in Sevilla.

If you travel to Spain, you need to try this dish. 

Don’t forget this tip from the locals: the dirtier the tapas bar, the better bravas.



Another dish made of potatoes. This dish is a classic among tapas bar. 

You are undoubtedly familiar, and you know how to make it, like the rest of the world, too. However, Spanish croquetas are something different and something worth trying.

There are many varieties of croquetas, but the best one is the combination of jamon, morccila, which is the blood sausage, and fresh cod, or in Spanish, bacalao. 

Blend all the ingredients, and then add the bechamel sauce.

Croquetas are a good combination with a cold beer. So, what are you waiting for? Try it out.


One of the most popular food products is Jamón, or, in English, simply called ham. 

The most popular is the ‘Jamón Serrano,’ and the most expensive is the ‘Jamón Iberico.’

In Spain, there are bars, famous tavernas; you can try out this fabulous food. 

The secret in enjoying the ham is that it has to be sliced very thin and eaten with just a little bread and some red wine.



Chilled tomato soup is ideal for hot summers, don’t you think? 

This soup in Spain is called gazpacho. 

To prepare it, you need the main ingredient- fresh tomato, cucumber, garlic, and herbs. Mix and blend up all the ingredients. Serve with bread.

Now let’s get back for a minute to the beginning of this post about Gazpacho. 

What does hot summer have with the soup? 

Well, this soup is served cold, which makes it ideal for the hot Andalusian summer.



It is thought that this dish originates from Barbar or Arabic dish, and it is imported to Spanish during the Muslim rule. 

In Spanish, albondigas means meatballs, which this meal is, indeed.

It is made of rice meatballs, herbs, bread crumbs, onion, eggs, butter and carrots, potatoes, celery- the seasoning. 

You can cook them by steaming, frying, or braising in sauce. 

Depending on the meat, as well as vegetables and herbs, there are many varieties of this dish.



The most typical Spanish dessert is called Flan. 

You can find it on every menu in the country. 

The preparation is effortless, and the ingredients are not difficult to find. 

In fact, we are sure that at this moment, you have the ingredients at home- milk or cream, eggs, and sugar. 

The caramel sauce on the top is a must. 

It is very light for those who take care of what they eat, but sweet and creamy enough. 

You can make it in around 10 minutes. 

The only thing is that you will need to put it in the fridge for at least four hours to get the desired texture. 

But, trust us, it is worth waiting for four hours.


Léche Frita

One more dessert, yummy. The ‘Leche Frita’ or translated as ‘fried milk’ is one of the favorite desserts among Spanish people. 

It is especially prevalent in northern Spain and among the kids.

It is made of firm milk pudding encased in an egg and flour fried shell. 

It is served with whipped cream or ice cream.


Conclusion about Spanish food traditions

Is there a better way to explore the Spanish culture

Or perhaps practice the language while talking about food, delicious meals, exchanging recipes, and summarizing experiences? 

Try out at least one of these dishes. 

We can’t tell you which one to try first because all of them are very delicious. 

That is up to you. 

If you're interested in expanding your Spanish vocabulary even further, you should try some of these cool options:

Check out Babbel for fun, interactive lessons that fit into your day easily.

If you want something more in-depth, there's a great Spanish course on Coursera that covers everything from the basics to more advanced topics.

And if you prefer learning with a personal touch, Lingoda offers classes with native speakers that can really help you practice speaking.

What are the traditions in Spain?

Flamenco, festivals, fiestas, religious events, siesta

What is a traditional Spanish breakfast?

Churros with sugar or chocolate

What foods are traditionally eaten in Madrid Spain?

Bocadillo de Calamares, Churros con Chocolate, Oreja a la Plancha, Cocido Madrileno

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