Catalan Food Guide – Dishes you should try in Catalonia

Catalan Food Guide – Dishes you should try in Catalonia

Catalan Food Guide - You'll want to eat it allCatalan cuisine made me so happy! Hiking requires a whole lot of energy, so if you want to explore the stunning mountainous scenery of Catalonia, you will need to eat plenty of tasty food!

I started this Catalan food guide to share some information about the best things to eat in Catalonia. You probably know all about Spanish food as it seems like tapas is fashionable all over the world. But do you know about the amazing dishes you can sample within Catalonia (in both Spain and Andorra)? The local cuisine is as varied as the stunning scenery, so you’ll want to walk to build up an appetite, then eat your way through everything in this post.

Catalan Food Guide – the basics

Catalonia has an amazing location to the North East of Spain, with access to the Mediterranean Sea, but also plenty of land up in the Pyrenees mountains. This means their food integrates mar y montaña, the sea and the mountains. You’ll find loads of meaty dishes reflecting the mountains as well as fish (and seafood dishes) fished from the Costa Brava. In addition to all that protein, there are some truly fantastic vegetables in this region of Spain, with plenty of tomatoes, red peppers, aubergines, calçots, asparagus and mushrooms.

Catalan Sauces:

These are two sauces that you will find all over Catalonia.
Allioli/ Aioli: Garlic and olive oil, whipped into a mayo-like paste.
Romesco sauce: Made with almonds, roasted garlic, olive oil and dried red peppers

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Salads and vegetables in Catalonia

We didn’t always see a huge range of options for vegetarians or vegans, but the vegetables we tried were all incredible.

When it’s hot, it’s always nice to eat piles of salad. My favourite salad involved romesco sauce and had perfectly cooked bacallà/bacalao (salted cod) on top. You might also find, Esqueixada, which involves tomatoes, onions, olive oil and vinegar with shredded bacallà/bacalao.

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Pa amb tomàquet – tomato bread
Tomatoes in Spain taste sooo much better than the ones I am used to in the UK and Canada! This simple dish of tomatoes rubbed into a crusty slice of bread with oil and salt is just perfect.

More Tomatoes
You will want to eat as many tomatoes as you can in Spain. I loved all the tomato salads as well as the pa amb tomàquet (above)

Escalivada – smokey grilled veg
This is one of the first things my husband cooked for me, so it always makes me smile. It involves aubergine (egg plant for my North American friends) and bell peppers grilled until they are squishy and soft, then covered in oil. The photo below was quite posh, so it involved anchovies and olives too. Escalivada is served on warm crusty bread, or just as a side dish.

Calçots, are a type of long stemmed green onion, that are unique to Catalonia. The dish below involved chopped up calçots in ravioli, but we saw them in quite a few different dishes.

Blistered peppers
These Pimientos de Padrón are more Castilian than Catalan, but we found them served a few times and they are sooo good that I had to include them.

We visited Catalonia in the autumn, so it was a great time to sample various mushroom and truffle dishes. The examples below were a deconstructed mushroom tart and a truffle risotto. My mouth is watering just remembering them!

Catalan Soups

We had quite a few fantastic soups while we were in Catalonia. The photos below were of squash (left) and mini leek soups (right).

Escudellla: I love this Catalan stew made with a piece of meat, beans, potatoes, cabbage and sometimes pasta. Marc’s mum makes a fantastic version of it, but I don’t have a photo.

Fish in Catalonia:

Despite being located within mountains, there is far more fresh fish available in Catalonia, than we can normally find in the UK.

Bacallà Salted Cod
Bacallà (bacalao in Spanish) is one of my favourite Catalan dishes – definitely try this while you’re in Catalonia! Salting the cod was a good way to preserve fish to allow people that live up in the Pyrenees to eat it, despite being far from the sea. I think the best example I had of this was bacallà amb samfaina – salt cod on ratatouille.

We found versions served in tomato sauce, as well as bacallà gratinat  which was salted cod covered in allioli then broiled.

Sardina – Sardines
We had quite a few fantastic sardines, mostly deep fried.

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Again, I am not sure if this is typically Catalan, as you can find octopus dishes all over Spain. But we had several fantastic Catalan dishes with octopus. I loved this one that was flavoured with paprika and oodles of olive oil.

Meat in Catalonia

Marc and I don’t actually eat much meat normally, so I have to admit, it was a bit of a shock to eat so many tasty meaty dishes in Catalonia. Firstly, you’ll find cold cured meats everywhere, and they are incredible. Last time we also tried cargols a la llauna super garlicky snails served in a teeny tray. I couldn’t find my photo, but I may update this post later(!)

Catalan Meatballs
We had fantastic meatballs a few times. One of the things I have to include in my Catalan Food Guide is mandonguilles amb sípia – meatballs in seafood sauce. It’s perfect example of mar y montaña including both meaty and fishy elements.

We saw some sheep and goats in the mountains with cute bells around their necks, so it’s not too surprising that we found plenty of lamb on Catalan menus. One of the famous dishes is lamb roasted with mounds of garlic “Xai Rostit Amb 12 Cabeçes d’All. This translates as lamb Roasted with 12 Heads of Garlic, so as you can imagine, it’s full of garlicky goodness.

I am not much of a steak-lover, so these photos are from my husband’s plate. Still, I had a few bites of these steak dishes and they were all fantastic.

I have no idea if this is normal in the mountains, but one of the tastiest stews we ate in the Pyrenees was venison stewed with red wine and mushrooms. On previous visits we had some really good rabbit dishes in Catalonia too, so keep an eye out for both.

Catalan carbs

There is quite a lot of pasta available in Catalan Cuisine. You’ll find canelons (cannelloni) everywhere. It normally has a stewed, meaty filling, and served with béchamel sauce (rather than tomato). You might also see Fideua. This is a traditional Catalan dish; It is basically like paella, but instead of rice, they use mini spaghetti-like noodles called fideos.

You may have noticed in the photos above, that there are plenty of potatoes in Catalan cuisine. Lots if dishes come with roasted or boiled potatoes (drizzled in olive oil). One of my absoute favourite dishes is Croquetas de jamón, which are croquettes with tasty morsels of ham inside them. We also had some fried in olive oil and the fats from sausage meat. We loved these meaty potatoes.
NB: A commenter informed me croquetas are often made with bechamel sauce (rather than potatoes)
We found some really tasty bean dishes in the mountains as well. The photo below is faves a la Catalana – beans and black pudding (although I think this version had white botifarra sausage rather than black pudding.) There is another dish like this called botifarra amb mongetes, which includes beans with a large sausage served to the side.

Catalan Desserts

We tried some fantastic deserts in Catalonia as well. These are just a few of my highlights.

Crema Catalana
Unlike the French version, crema catalana uses a base of milk (rather than cream) and is thickened with eggs. It’s cooked in  a water bath (inside the oven); once out, the tops are doused with sugar and torched.

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This was a perfect almond cake. It was one of the highlights of my holiday (high praise as it was a brilliant holiday!)

As well as the traditional dishes, there were plenty of more international-style sweet treats. We tried some cheesecake, a lemon cake as well as the most incredible selection of sorbets and ice-creams.

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Catalan Cheese

I am a massive fan of Manchego (this is not Catalan, but you can find it everywhere!) So while we were hiking, we often took baguettes filled with cheese. But we didn’t hold back from trying lots of other cheeses. Watch out for Mató which is a soft, sweet cheese served as a desert. We also loved some of the goats cheeses.

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I hope this Catalan Food Guide gives you some ideas about what you can eat. It wasn’t the most vegetarian friendly area I have visited, but they did have some fabulous vegetarian options. If you like meat and fish, you will LOVE Catalonia. Please note, I am not an expert on Catalan food by any stretch of the imagination, so I am just sharing what we ate. I would love to hear more about other dishes that we missed out on, so let me know if you can think of other dishes we should try next time we visit Catalonia and Spain.

I’ll leave you with the Catalan for bon appétit – Bon Profit!

Catalan Cuisine - Quick guide to Catalan food Catalan cuisine - Try some fantastic food in Catalonia including fava beans Catalan Food Guide - You'll want to eat it all

72 thoughts on “Catalan Food Guide – Dishes you should try in Catalonia

    1. Yay! Thank you lovely! I have to be careful not to look at the photos when I’m peckish. It makes me so hungry!

  1. Now that’s just made me really hungry. I love Catalonia, although it’s mainly Barcelona I know (and it’s far too long since I’ve been there). The food is incredible. You’ve reawakened a deep-seated craving!

    1. Barcelona is fabulous isn’t it! I have to admit though, I like the more rustic food away from the big cities. It tastes how you’d imagine a grandma to make it…

  2. All looks absolutely delicious, especially like the look of the meatballs and the lamb. Everything looks tasty though and all so very fresh.

    1. I wonder if you’d like some of the fishy sauces (like the one with the meatballs…it didn’t taste fishy at all, so it might be a way for you to try some fish and enjoy it. 😉

  3. Most of that looks heavenly. I do not like sardines so you can keep those, but I’d try the other stuff. 12 gloves of garlic is right up my alley!

    Thanks for sharing your lovely photos. I’m glad I had breakfast before reading this post. Otherwise nothing in my kitchen would please my palette after reading this.

    Have a great rest of the week Josy

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    1. Yeees! I totally agree about the garlic! I love garlic, so Catalonia was great for me…I didn’t like it much as a child though. Mini me would not have coped well with this cuisine.

  4. Is that ravioli I see? Mmm, my favorite. Some great looking food here, and that dessert! Glad to see so many veggie options too. I could eat my way around Catalonia for sure!

    1. The veggie options improved since the last time we visited back in 2015, but there was still a lot of meat!

      It’s pretty cool that they have so much pasta. It’s just totally different flavours to Italy!

  5. It looks like you had a chance to sample lots of delicious Catalan food! Those mushroom dishes sound and look so tasty. It looks like there is a decent amount of Catalan food that is vegetarian too!

    1. The mushroom dishes were fantastic! I love it when there are a whole variety of fungi types. But for veggie dishes, it was the tomatoes that really stood out.

  6. I’m such a culinary simpleton! I want the tomatoes on bread and the grilled vegetables on bread. I mean, everything looks fantastic, and I wouldn’t shy away from any of it. But I love my veggies!

  7. Yum! This is making me want to go back to Spain! We loved, loved, loved the food in Barcelona. I especially loved the desserts. That crema catalana is calling my name! Thanks for sharing all these delicious dishes!

  8. All of the food looks fantastic, my mouth is watering when I look at it. I’m especially tempted by the desserts, I would get fat only by looking at it

    1. We were wondering the same thing.

      I think it would be great to travel here as a vegan that likes cooking (as the produce is so fantastic) However, once you get into the countryside, there are very few vegetarian or vegan options in restaurants. The traditional dishes often involve roasted meat, which is pretty difficult to make vegan. I definitely ate more meat than I would normally at home where there are loads of vegan and veggy options.

      I think it is changing, as Barcelona has plenty of vegan options. It just takes longer for that culture to make it out to the countryside.

  9. I should not have read this before breakfast, because now I am SO HUNGRY. These dishes all look amazing!! Such an interesting combination of all the surrounding places. The tomatoes and fish dishes remind me so much of Portugal – they really have a thing for salting all of their fish too. But then pasta and potatoes and lamb – I’m here for any kind of lamb dish! And I knew Manchego was spanish, but I didn’t know that it was specifically Catalonian! It’s one of my favorite cheeses! Yep, I am ready to go to Catalan and just eat the whole time haha

      1. Oooh thanks for letting me know. I guess Catalan people just enjoy eating it! We found it everywhere. 🙂

        I’ll add a note to the post.

  10. Such a diverse offering of foods! Looks like you could try something new every day. Bet the flavors are amazing!

  11. A potato + ham little ball of wonder! We always eat so well when we visit Spain, and this reminds me why. Thanks for all of the mouth-watering pics!

    1. Omg, I know they are simple, but those croquettes are one of the best dishes EVER! Balls of wonder is a great description of them!

  12. Oh my goodness I’m SO hungry now! I had no idea Catalan food was so diverse! I really don’t know much about it to be honest.. but I know now that I would 100% be down to eat my way through the area haha!

    1. I think you’d love the mountains too! The food is fantastic all over Spain, but I am very sure you’d love Catalonia Lindz.

    1. Oooh you know, we found one icecream that was creme catalana flavour, it was one of the best things I ate the entire trip!

  13. Wow the food looks amazing. My mouth is literally drooling. Definitely pinning so I have these great tips for my travels there. Thanks for the helpful information.

  14. Wow. This food looks absolutely incredible your descriptions have made me so hungry. I don’t think there’s anything on this list I wouldn’t like! Food is a big part of travel for me – looks like I’d get along quite well with Catalan cuisine!

  15. This has made me so hungry! I love Catlan food, except snails. I’ve tried them a few times and can’t get a taste for them!

    1. I know what you mean, Catalan style doesn’t really have a snail-like taste. They just taste like garlic. It’s the texture that I find a bit difficult.

  16. Looks like they have an interesting variety of foods! I’m a picky eater, but I’d definitely try most of these at least once.

    1. It’s funny you say that. My husband was trying the Keto diet before we went to Spain, we had to pause it for a couple of weeks as there were just so many carbs! Those potatoes, pastas and bread were great though.

  17. What a yummy post! Oh jeez, I think I just gained 10 lbs that would be totally worth it. Lol. Everything here looks so delicious except for maybe the sardines. But I’d still give them a try! Any of these meals would be wonderful after a long day of hiking or exploring! 😁

  18. This all looks soooo delicious!! I love aioli I’m literally anything and I definitely would want to try the octopus! I’ve never been to tjis area in Spain but if I go now I know there is amazing food!

  19. I had no idea Catalan cuisine is so different from Spanish cuisine further south. That Escalivada looks to-die-for.

  20. I was in Catalan a couple years ago but now you have me wishing to go back, ASAP! I also love manchego cheese. I’ve had it in Central America as well, there they fry it for breakfast.

  21. Oh my goodness. So delicious. We travel with food allergies, and it is great to see so many dishes that don’t have nuts. Love this list for when we reschedule. I think I am going to make a Catalan food bucket list!

    1. Thanks Jenny! I hope you will looove the food once you make it to Barcelona (after this lock down is over!) Just, please be careful with the romesco sauce. It looks like it is just peppers, but they often add toasted almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts in it.

      1. I would also be careful with many stews or other cooked dishes. One of the four main Catalan bases to start a dish is to make a ‘picada’, which is a type of ‘roux’ that includes roasted almonds and/or hazelnuts. The picada is used to thicken and bind cooking juices, and to add flavour to the dish; it is used in many stews and sauces. So, to be on the safe side, better ask if a dish contains almonds or hazelnuts (or pine nuts), which are used very often.

        1. I loved that about the stews – but you are right, if people have nut allergies they need to know that.

  22. the best thing about Spanish food is that every region has its own cuisine and that adds so much diversity to the whole country.

    1. It’s awesome isn’t it. 🙂

      We’re over in Canada now, so I miss this the freshness of Mediterranean food! It’s such good produce, especially fruit and veg…

  23. Yummm this made me hungry! Everything on the list looked/sounded so good, but my fave is croquetas! Def one of my favorite dishes to have when I visit Barcelona!

      1. Hi Josy, you may like the croquetes in Catalonia because, unlike those in other countries, they are not usually made with potatoes, but with a thick bechamel sauce that tends to include some egg and possible cooked onion as well. They are, therefore, very creamy, and juicier than those made with potato. (Although in tapas bars you will probably find cheaper versions made with potato.)

        1. Oooh interesting. That sounds similar to some of the ones (that I LOVE) in Japan too. I didn’t realize why they are so smooshy and creamy.

          Thank you for the comments Merce!

  24. Nice post! Thanks for sharing such a beautiful informative information on the blog. Articles that have meaningful and insightful comments are more enjoyable.

  25. I love food in Spain! A friend of mine from Catalonia used to make me Spanish omelet and pan y tomate. He would add olive oil and fresh garlic to the pan y tomate too.

    1. It’s sooooo good right? I think the tomatoes are more flavourful in Spain though, so simple dishes can be incredible.

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