I love Spanish food with all my heart! But it took me awhile to figure out the hidden gems of the cuisine and what and when to eat certain foods. It’s almost tragic that some travelers walk the Camino without really understanding or caring about what to order. I’ve put together the top 5 list of things you MUST eat while in Galicia.
Pimentos de padron (Grilled padron peppers)
Many people complain about Spanish food being bland. They don’t use any seasoning in most dishes but their local vegetables and meat impart such wonderful flavors you don’t need any extra spice. One of the best local dishes is pimentos de padron. These peppers are local to Galicia and are cooked in a hot pan with salt until their skin is charred and softened.
The flavor is unlike any pepper you’ve had before as they’re not very spicy although once in a while you get a surprisingly spicy one, making eating them even more fun. You pick them up by the stem and eat the whole pepper (excluding stem), seeds and all. These are addictive and delicious, but as many things in Spain they are seasonal. May-November is the best time to enjoy them.
Everyone always talks about the famous Spanish jamon, but I think the most delicious meat in Spain is chorizo. Chorizo comes in different forms, but no matter if it’s deli meat, sausage style, or sliced and fried in cider, it’s all delicious. Chorizo is flavored pork with smoked paprika and is always red in color.
My favorite type of chorizo is called Chorizo de Salamanca, and it’s thinly sliced meat that you can put inside sandwiches or on top of bread and cheese for a tapa. Chorizo along the Camino comes served as a racion, or a small portion of food, and can be sliced and grilled. If stopping at a café and wanting food to go, please order the bocadillo de chorizo. Funny story, my husband’s family knows my loves for Chorizo and they gave me a huge basket of it for a wedding present.
Oh how do I begin to talk about my favorite fruit of all time? Unbeknownst to me until I moved to Spain, the Spanish actually have a special fruit that we do not have here in the US. Simply called, melon, this is an oval shaped green melon that is enjoyed in the summertime. They have different varieties, but the most famous and most delicious is the piel de sapo, or toad-skinned melon. Usually eaten for dessert or sometimes for an appetizer with Spanish jamon, this melon has a unique taste and is so yummy. Before moving back to the states I tried to figure out how to grow melon or at least bring seeds back and plant them, but customs prohibits seeds and fruit from coming in. So now I sadly only eat melon in the summertime in Spain. You must try this!
I was trying to think how to describe this next food, but it’s hard to put into words the complexity of this simple dish. Empanadas are large savory pies that have a buttery brown crust on top and bottom and are filled with a mixture of meat and vegetables or tuna and vegetables. Empanadas can be found all over Spain, but the Galicia region is famous for them. On the Camino you can usually find them stuffed with tuna, sweet red peppers and onion, and they are a must try. Even if the ingredients don’t sound appealing, trust me and get an empanada.
If you’re ordering this in a café, you will be cut a piece from a large pie, or you can go into a supermarket and just buy a whole one and share it. It’s eaten at room temperature, and you can just pick it up with your hands. I feel like I’m failing to transmit how good this dish is, and honestly, it’s not that appealing to look at, but this is usually a favorite of everyone that we serve on our group picnics during guided tours.
Each region of Spain has their own soup, and Galicia has some of the best soup of anyone. Because the weather is unpredictable in Northern Spain, Galcians tend to have caldo available Winter/Fall and Spring. Caldo is a bone broth soup that has a deep flavor that warms you up if you’ve been walking in the rain or cold. It’s served with big crusty bread and sometimes has fideos (noodles) in it. Each café makes their own caldo, so I like to try many different ones along The Way.
Another delicious soup is Cocido Gallego, sopa Gallego or potaje. When you see these listed on the menu, you’re in for a heartier soup. Sometimes they’ll have garbanzos and spinach, or potatoes and spinach, but each Galician soup is hearty and homemade. I especially like to have this as a first course for a lunch meal and follow it up with a fish dish or meat. But it’s so nice to walk into a café, cold and wet and eat a warming soup that’s homemade and delicious.
As I finish this list, I can’t help but think of the other 2596+ other foods that no one ever mentions. I think I’ll have to do another top 5 list one day. Also, when you take a tour with us, guided or self-guided, we always include a list of top foods to try in Spain. We try and personalize every tour and let you feel connected to this wonderful country, and what better way than through food. Have you ever eaten anything in Spain that has blown your mind? Let us know!