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What to Eat in Barcelona: A Catalan Food Guide

What to Eat in Barcelona: A Catalan Food Guide

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Wondering what to eat in Barcelona? If you’re a food-motivated traveler, then you’re in luck: the Barcelona food scene is about as diverse as the city itself!

If you are traveling from Madrid, you won’t want to miss the tapas bars there, but Barcelona and the Catalonia region offer a very different foodie experience.

This post dishes the details on the most delicious things to eat in Barcelona.

What food is Barcelona known for?

Located in Catalonia (Cataluña), Barcelona cuisine encapsulates the flavors and produce of this northwest Spanish region.

With Barcelonian and Catalan gastronomy plucking inspiration from wider Spain, the Mediterranean, Latin America, and North Africa, Barcelona is one of the best cities in Spain to visit for food. 

As Barcelona experiences four seasons but maintains a mild climate overall, what to eat in Barcelona does vary somewhat subject to the time of year you visit, what’s in season, and what’s available at the local markets.

Seafood is particularly appealing, due to the city’s location in Mediterranean Europe. 

In keeping with the rest of Spain, it’s common to dine on tapas in Barcelona. These small bites are designed to be shared and mean you can experience multiple must-try foods in Barcelona in one fell swoop.

In addition to tapas, you can expect to eat pintxos (also known as pinchos or pinchus) while in the city.

These are appetizers with similarities to a typical tapas menu. However, pintxos are usually served on bread and are more common at bars than in restaurants. 

If you’re looking for some great restaurant recommendations, be sure to check out this guide to top places here.

a big tray of paella is one of the best things to eat in Barcelona

Paella is a popular dish all over Spain and each region puts its own stamp on it.

What to Eat in Barcelona

Whatever your Barcelona itinerary has in store for you, allow plenty of space to check out these must-try foods in Barcelona. 

1. Paella 

Although paella originates from Valencia, this much-loved Spanish dish is widely available across the country and is an obvious must-eat in Barcelona. 

Consisting of bomba rice cooked with saffron, white wine, vegetables, meat, and seafood, paella requires cooking in a wide frying pan known as a paellera.

It’s easy to find vegetarian variations of the popular dish while pescatarians can look forward to a topping of mussels and squid. 

This hearty meal is welcome after a busy day taking in the parks and architecture of Barcelona. Notoriously challenging to cook at home, take the opportunity to tuck into this fragrant dish during your Spanish trip. 

2. Jamón Ibérico (Iberian Ham)

Wafer-thin, dry-aged jamón ibérico is one of the most famous foods in Barcelona. Available at restaurants, delicatessens, and markets, this is something you can enjoy while eating out as well as back at your accommodation if you have kitchen facilities. 

Produced from Iberian pigs, the best quality jamón ibérico comes from the black-hoofed species from the oak forests of the Iberian Peninsula. These free-roaming pigs exist on a diet of acorns, herbs, and plants, which contribute to the flavors in the meat. 

In addition to the black-label ham (often referred to as pata negra), you’ll find red, green, and white-label options. 

jamon iberico hanging at a market stall

Jamon Iberico is the pride of Spain and should not be missed on a trip to Barcelona.

3. Chorizo

Chorizo is another of the typical foods to try in Barcelona and eat with abandon.

Infused with paprika, these cured and smoked pork sausages have a delicious tang and pair well with other Spanish staples.

You’ll come across chorizo in paella and tapas dishes as well as in sandwiches. 

Chorizo is ready-to-eat, which makes it useful for picnics during your exploration of the city’s beaches and parks. Consider stocking up at one of the city’s markets if you want to save some cash on dining out. 

4. Patatas Bravas (Spicy Potatoes)

If you’re wondering what to eat in Barcelona as a vegetarian, you can’t go wrong with patatas bravas

White potatoes are chopped into small cubes before being vigorously fried in oil with a dusting of rosemary until they’re nice and crispy on the exterior yet fluffy inside.

A common inclusion on tapas menus, they’re served with a tomato-based sauce and aioli tinted with lemon. 

Recipes for patatas bravas and its accompanying sauce vary according to the chef, meaning that no helping is ever identical to another. So you’ll just have to sample all of them to find out which one you like best!

man cooking a big plate of paella with two people watching

Enjoying some local dishes while visiting Barcelona.

5. Potato Bombas 

Potato bombas, or potato balls, originated in the Barceloneta neighborhood at a time of civil unrest – hence the tongue-in-cheek name. They have long been associated with the most famous food in Barcelona.

Much like potato croquettes, they’re crafted using mashed potato that is then deep-fried in breadcrumbs and stuffed with meat. While in Barcelona, you’ll find potato bombas containing the likes of seasoned minced meat, ham, or chorizo. 

In general, they’re served with a lightly spicy sauce with a base of bell peppers, paprika, and herbs. When paired with a dollop of aioli, they really are the bomb.

6. Escalivada

If you’re concerned about what to eat in Barcelona on a plant-based diet, escalivada is the dish to look out for.

Another Catalan concoction, escalivada is a plate of slow-roasted vegetables with eggplant and bell peppers forming the base. These are prepared with calçots (the provincial onion), garlic, olive oil, and herbs. 

The trick is to end up with vegetables that are soft in the middle but moderately charred on the outside. While in Barcelona, you can eat escalivada as part of a tapas meal or with fresh bread. The dish works equally well hot or cold. 

table full of cheese from spain with a sign that says "queso"

Try the different regional cheeses while you are visiting Barcelona to enjoy something unique.

7. Quesos Españoles (Spanish cheeses)

Where there is meat, there is cheese – and Spain excels at cheesemaking from both cows and sheep.

Hailing from the Castilla La Mancha region, manchego is probably the best known of quesos españoles and does feature in many Catalan tapas spreads and dishes. 

However, you’ll also want to look out for locally-made cheeses from the province. These include garrotxa, a historic pasteurized goat’s milk cheese that almost went extinct.

This semi-soft cheese has a firm texture that pairs well with bread, cold meats, and nuts. Meanwhile, Serrat del Triado is an unpasteurized semi-hard cow’s milk cheese with an intense flavor. 

On the other hand, there’s mató – a fresh cheese made from cow or goat’s milk and free from added salt with a similar texture to ricotta. Mató served with honey is a must-eat in Barcelona for dessert.

pan con tomate in a basket with jamon iberico next to it in Barcelona

Pan con tomate is one of the best ways to start the day when you are visiting Spain.

8. Pan con tomate 

In terms of what to eat in Barcelona for breakfast, you will have your pick of pastries and light sandwiches as well as the standard continental spread if you stay at a hotel.

Catalan pan con tomate (bread with tomato) is a simple choice of breakfast food widely consumed by Barcelonians.

Fresh bread is toasted before being rubbed with fresh garlic, coated with chopped tomatoes, then drizzled with salted olive oil and a dash of herbs.

It’s delicious on its own, but you can add Spanish cheeses, cold meats, or an egg if you need something more substantial alongside your morning coffee. 

While you can buy pan con tomate in cafes, this is one of the easiest Catalan meals that you can make from your accommodation.

9. Tortilla Española (Spanish omelet)

One of the classic comfort dishes, tortilla española (tortilla de patatas) is a beloved component within tapas also enjoyed as a main meal.

Traditionally made with just eggs and potatoes, there is the option to add onion. This is passionately contested, so you’ll need to sample one of each to cast your own vote.

Furthermore, you can find variations of Spanish omelet with such additions as ham, chorizo, bell pepper, cheese, and tuna flakes. 

While its origins are unknown, some claim it was invented in Catalonia while others argue it came from Basque Country. Either way, Barcelonians often turn to Spanish omelet in bread as a breakfast sandwich and it’s one of the tastiest foods to try in Barcelona.

Spanish tortilla is one of the best things to eat in Barcelona.

A nice thick slice of tortilla should not be missed when visiting Barcelona.

10. Calçots

Although the Catalan-grown green onions, calçots, don’t exactly constitute a full meal, you’ll want to make sure you sample these during your time in Barcelona. 

In fact, calçots are a staple of Barcelona cuisine and you’ll already have encountered them in some of the dishes listed in this guide.

With a mild flavor, grilled calçots are available solo as a side dish. Furthermore, raw calçots are added to salad dishes and they’re also used to flavor hot dishes. 

The best time of year to find calçots at the Barcelonian markets and restaurants is during spring and summer.

11. Fideuà

Fideuà is similar to paella and the Alicante equivalent of arròs a banda, only it is made with short pasta noodles rather than bomba rice. As with paella, fideuà hails from Valencian kitchens and is now prevalent in cooking across all regions of Spain. 

In contrast to paella, fideuà is only really made with shellfish and seafood such as plump prawns, squid, fresh mussels, and white fish. The same cooking method applies, with a paellera required and a pinch of saffron to add taste and color as well as paprika. 

12. Esqueixada

Esqueixada is a traditional Catalan fish dish often likened to ceviche. Shredded salt-cured cod is mixed with fresh tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, red onions, black olives, olive oil, and salt. 

Free from meat, esqueixada is one of the best things to eat in Barcelona for pescatarians. 

This is the perfect lunch or supper dish during the summer months, especially when paired with a citrusy cocktail or glass of Spanish cava. 

bowls of gazpacho in white bowls

Gazpacho is one of the best things to eat in Barcelona on a hot summer day.

13. Gazpacho

Hailing from the Andalusia region, gazpacho is another dish that has become established within the Barcelona food scene.

This is a tomato-based soup best served cold and is most commonly eaten during the summer months when temperatures soar.

Generally, the best gazpacho is made using super ripe, slightly sweet summer tomatoes. These are blended with other raw vegetables – cucumber and bell peppers in particular. 

Naturally, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil are thrown in too to pull out the flavor. Although it’s rarer to find on menus, you can also have gazpacho served hot. 

What to Eat in Barcelona for Dessert 

Another crucial question to ponder when traveling to Barcelona: what to eat for dessert?

You’ll find a generous supply of all the classic Spanish desserts in the Catalan capital. Furthermore, the joy of Barcelona’s tapas culture is that it’s easier to save space for a little sweet treat at the end.

Here’s what to eat in Barcelona for dessert or as an afternoon pick-me-up. 

14. Crema quemada/Crema Catalana

Crema quemada (crema catalana outside the region) is one of the top things to eat in Barcelona for dessert. 

The custard pudding is made with milk, egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch infused with lemon zest, cinnamon, and vanilla. With its crisp caramel crust, you’ll notice a comparison with another popular European dessert – crème brûlée.

In fact, crema quemada was the inspiration for France’s iconic cream-based dessert as well as England’s burnt cream. 

As crema quemada has a light texture, it works well as a year-round pudding. It isn’t too heavy to have after a heavy main such as paella or meat. Plus, this is the same crema catalana used to fill the xuixo pastries mentioned in number 16.

dipping churros into chocolate

Churros are a fantastic treat when exploring Barcelona.

15. Churros 

Although the origin of churros is unclear, they are prominent in Spanish and Portuguese cuisine as well as in Latin America – particularly in Mexico.

Churros are the result of dipping choux pastry dough into piping hot oil. Dusted with cinnamon sugar, they’re usually served with hot chocolate, although you can eat them plain or with an alternative sauce. 

In general, Catalan churros are accompanied by a thick, hot chocolate sauce. 

As well as tucking into churros for dessert, they make a great afternoon snack. Even better, they’re one of the most typical breakfast foods in Barcelona.

16. Xuixo (Catalonian pastry)

Xuixo (or chucho, pronounced like “shoo-shoo”) is a typical viennoiserie pastry created in the Catalan city of Girona. Prepared in a cylindrical shape not dissimilar to a croissant, this deep-fried pastry is filled with crema catalana and coated with sugar. 

You can pick up xuixos from bakeries and enjoy them as a light breakfast or sweet snack during the day. As with any pastry, you’ll get the most out of this famous Barcelona food when you pair it with a coffee or mug of tea. 

coffee and pastry are the best things to eat in barcelona

Breakfast in Barcelona.

17. Carquinyolis

Carquinyolis are a simple dessert biscuit in Catalan cuisine, much like the biscotti of Italy. Twice-baked using a mixture of almonds, eggs, flour, milk, and sugar, they have a gentle taste that pairs well with a cup of coffee or a glass of Vermouth. 

If you fancy taking a souvenir back home, you can pick up a tin of carquinyolis to serve as a reminder of your culinary adventures in Barcelona. Remember to save space in your bag when packing for Barcelona.