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What to order at a restaurant in each region of Spain

Regional cuisine differs greatly between different areas of Spain, so if you're travelling in the country and not sure of the best dish to order, here's the food that's famous in each Spanish region.

What to order at a restaurant in each region of Spain
Espetos de sardinas (grilled sardines on skewers) is one of the best food to order in Andalusia, especially if you're in Málaga province. Photo: Guillermo Gavilla/Pixabay

In Valencia, order paella

Paella is of course one of Spain’s most famous dishes, but not everywhere in Spain does good paellas. The very best place where you should eat paella is of course Valencia, the birthplace of paella and the region’s speciality. The most typical paella in Valencia however is not the seafood paella, but a paella made with chicken, rabbit, snails, butter beans and green beans.

READ ALSO: Five facts you probably didn’t know about paella

In Asturias, order fabada asturiana

Central and northern Spain love their hearty stews, particularly in the region of Asturias. Fabada asturiana is the dish to order here, made with white fava beans, blood sausage and pork. Wash it all down with the glass of Asturian cider or sidra (apple cider) from one of the traditional sidrerías.

fabada Asturiana
Fabada Asturiana. Photo: WordRidden/Flickr

In Galicia, order pulpo a la gallega

Galicia is all about seafood, from steamed mussels, scallops, oysters and Galician lobsters (bogavante), but the king of seafood here is the octopus. Pulpo a la gallega or pulpo a feira is the most typical way of cooking it, boiled and sprinkled with paprika on top of thin slices of potato. Other must-try foods in Galicia include pimientos de padrón (small fried green peppers), tarta de Santiago (an almond tart from Santiago de Compostela) and empanadas (pastry covered pies filled with different ingredients, typically tuna).

In the Basque Country, order bacalao al pil pil

The Basque Country is known throughout Spain, and even the world, for its excellent haute cuisine as evident from its many Michelin-Starred restaurants. It has many regional specialities including pintxos, baked spider crab (txangurro) and goose barnacles (percebes). Seafood is particularly popular here, but none so much as cod. There are many cod dishes in the Basque Country but the most classic is cod pil pil, which is fried with garlic, chilli and olive oil and makes a popping sound when it’s skin goes crispy.

bacalao pil pil
Bacalao al pil pil. Photo: Joselu Blanco/Flickr

In the Canary Islands, order papas arrugadas con mojo picón

These delicious wrinkly baked potatoes with spicy sauce are one of the Canary Islanders’ best loved side dishes. They are typically boiled in salty water or even seawater so that they form a slightly salty crust. The addictive sauce is made from dried red pepper, cayenne peppers, chilli, cumin, garlic and bread. For a less spicy sauce, dip your potatoes into the mojo verde (green mojo).

READ ALSO: The best food in Spain’s Canary Islands

In Andalusia, order all manner of tapas

Andalusia is the queen of the tapas scene in Spain with each province specialising in a different dish. In Cárdoba it’s salmorejo, a thick type of gazpacho or cold tomato soup. In Cadiz it’s tortillitas de camarones (baby shrimp fritters) and in Málaga its sardines cooked on skewers at the beach (espetos de sardinas) or ajoblanco (a cold garlic soup).

In Granada you can’t miss pescadito frito (small battered fish) and berenjenas con miel (battered deep fried aubergine smothered in honey or a sweet treacle-like sauce). Wash it all down with a glass of Spanish sherry from the town of Jerez, where it’s made.

In Navarra, order estofado de toro

In Navarra, cuisine is all about hearty chunks of meat and fresh garden vegetables, particularly asparagus, artichokes and piquillo red peppers. This thick Navarran stew known as estofado de toro is full of both and is sure to keep you full. Literally translated as bull’s stew, it’s made from bull’s tails, carrots, potatoes, bell peppers, onion and garlic, cooked in a tomato and red wine sauce and flavoured with saffron.

In Castilla La-Mancha, order pisto

Pisto is Castilla La-Mancha’s answer to France’s ratatouille and is one of the country’s few purely vegetarian dishes, besides some of the tapas. It’s made from aubergines, courgettes and onions, all fried together in a tomato sauce. It’s often served with a fried egg on top. Don’t forget to also eat some of the local Manchego cheese. 

Pisto. Photo: Abhay Kumar/Flickr

In Extremadura, order chanfaina

One of Extremadura’s most typical dishes is chanfaina, a thick stew made from lamb and offal mixed with breadcrumbs, blood sausage, almonds, garlic, olive oil and vinegar. They also love their soups in this region, from chickpea and bean soup, and chestnut soup to garlic soup, and a special local version of gazpacho.

In Catalonia, order suquet de peix 

This Catalan fish stew is popular in places such as the Costa Brava and features potatoes, chunks of white fish, langostines, mussels and fat red prawns. Saffron, garlic and parsley are added for flavour. It’s served with picada, made from white bread, chilli and blanched almonds and hazelnuts. Other dishes from Catalonia include crema Catalana (a creamy custard-like dessert with a caramelised sugar topping) and escalivada (roasted red peppers, aubergines and onions). 

In Aragón, order migas

Migas is a popular dish all over Spain, but it’s perhaps the Aragonese who love it the most. Migas are fried bread crumbs or fried flour with chorizo or longaniza sausage, onion and garlic. The Aragonese version also has grapes and a fried egg. 

Migas. Photo: Jonathan Pincas/Flickr

In La Rioja, order a glass of wine

Wine is of course what La Rioja is all about, and luckily the wine here goes with all the local dishes. Riojan wine is typically red and full bodied and goes well with the region’s thick bean stews, lamb dishes and beef or pork cheeks cooked in wine. Patatas a la Riojana is a traditional dish made with potatoes, chorizo, garlic and paprika.

In Castilla y León, order cordero asado  

In Castilla y Leon, most dishes contain some form of roasted meat, so it’s a must visit for carnivores. Roasted pork and roast suckling pig are popular, as well as cordero asado (roasted lamb). Other dishes from the region include lots of cod, fried trout and lots of thick stews, from meat ones and vegetable ones with lentils and beans to seafood ones with crab.

In Madrid, order cocido madrileño

Madrid’s most traditional dish is a stew named after the region – the cocido madrileño. It comes in two parts, the first with the meat and vegetables and the second with the chickpeas. Huevos rotos (scrambled eggs), oreja a la plancha (grilled pig’s ear) and bocadillo de calamares (a battered squid ring filled baguette).  

Cocido from Madrid
Cocido Madrileño. Photo: SalvatoreG2/Flickr

In the Balearics, order caldereta de langosta

Typical to the island of Menorca  is caldereta de langosta or lobster stew. If you’re in Mallorca, you’ll want to try ensaimadas, sweet bread-like pastry swirls topped with powdered sugar and sobrasada, a cured soft pork sausage often used as a sandwich topping, flavoured with paprika and other spices. 

In Murcia, order ensalada murciana

Much of Spain’s fruit and vegetables grow around the Murcian region, so it’s a great places for lots of fresh dishes. The ensalada murciana is perhaps one of the most typical. It’s made from cod or tuna fish mixed with tomatoes, onion, hard-boiled egg and black olives. 

In Cantabria, order sorropotún

Located right on the north coast, Cantabria is full of lots of excellent seafood options. One of the most typical seafood dishes is sorropotún or marmita, a local fish stew that was once eaten on tuna fishing boats. It’s made from tuna, potatoes, onions, peppers and tomatoes. Other Cantabrian dishes include plump anchovies, hake in green sauce and quesada pasiega, a type of cheesecake made with local Cantabrian soft cheese.

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Menú del día map: Where has Spain’s staple meal become most expensive?

With inflation putting up the price of everything from olive oil to electricity bills, now a Spanish custom renowned for its value for money is also being affected: the menú del día.

Menú del día map: Where has Spain's staple meal become most expensive?

Spain’s much-loved menús del día (menus of the day) are sacred to many Spaniards and can be found in pretty much every city, town and village across the country.

They are typically three-course menus served at lunchtime for a fixed price and include a drink, which may be beer or wine, as well as bread.

READ ALSO – The secrets of El Menú del Día: The surprising story behind Spain’s fixed-price lunch menu

The menús del día date back to the 1960s during the Franco regime, when they were called menús túristicos and were introduced so that tourists would be able to pay a fixed price to enjoy Spanish cuisine.

In the 1970s, they changed their name to menús del día as they became even more popular with the local population. In most cases, you can select between several dishes for each course and depending on what you order, menús del día can be great value for money.

Between 3 and 4 million people regularly enjoy the menú del día offer in Spain.

Inflation on the menu

But like a lot of the world in 2022, Spain has been gripped by a cost-of-living crisis and it now seems that the much-loved menú del día is becoming the latest victim of inflation. 

According to a survey conducted by Hostelería de España, between November 2021 and April 2022, four in ten restaurants in Spain have put up the price of their daily menu offer by 5 percent, a third have raised it by 10 percent, and 7 percent of restaurants raised the prices by 15 percent.

In cash terms, a 5 percent increase is roughly 70 cents, a 10 percent rise is around €1.40, and restaurants that have raised the price by 15 percent have put up prices by around €2. 

READ MORE: Huge debate roars over vague hint that ‘menús del día’ should drop beer and wine

According to the survey, the average price of the menú del día across Spain is now around €12.80.

The hospitality sector in Spain, though enjoying the return of post-pandemic tourism, is struggling to cope with the surge in energy prices and raw materials.

Spain’s National Institute of Statistics, the INE, reported in mid-July that the country’s 10.2 inflation rate was the highest level the country had experienced since 1985

For many restaurants and bars, simply paying the gas and electricity bills or buying basic food stuffs have become an existential cost. As a result, many have decided – or been forced – to raise their prices, and the affordable menú del día is no exception. 

The menú del día cost a little over €4 on average 20 years ago, around 700 pesetas. Nowadays, fixed menus can range from €8 to €14.

Most expensive menús del día in Spain in 2022

But where are the most expensive cities in Spain for a menú del día?

It is worth noting that the following figures are very much focused on major cities, and are not reflective of prices in smaller towns and villages. Often, it will be possible to find much more affordable menú del día offers in small-town bars and restaurants, although even there the inflationary pressures have likely passed on price increases to the customer. 

According to the figures from Hostelería de España, Barcelona is the priciest place in Spain, with an average price of €14. Not far behind in second place is Madrid, where the average price is now €13.90.

Coming in third is Palma de Mallorca, where the price has risen to €13.60 on average, and Bilbao comes in at fourth, with an average menú del día price of €13.50.

Rather surprisingly compared to the cost of living in Murcia more generally, the average price in the southern region has risen to €13, and Zaragoza is shortly behind at €12.80, with Valencia at €12.60.

As is often the case in Spain, the further south you go the cheaper things get. In Andalusia, a menú del día now costs €12.50 on average in Málaga, and €12 in Seville.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands reportedly has the cheapest menú del día at an average price of €11.50, although it’s worth noting that this data only encompasses Spain’s ten most populous cities (More on regional menú del día data further down). 

Here is a breakdown of the average menú de día price in 2022 in Spain’s biggest cities:

  1. Barcelona €14
  2. Madrid €13.90
  3. Palma de Mallorca €13.60
  4. Bilbao €13.50
  5. Murcia €13
  6. Zaragoza €12.80
  7. Valencia €12.60
  8. Malaga €12.50
  9. Sevilla €12
  10. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria €11.50

Hostelería de España has also collected data on what the average price of the menu del día is across Spain’s regions.

We’ve compiled their data into the following map, and below that you’ll find a breakdown of how much menú del día prices have increased across Spain’s regions from 2016 to 2022.

Price increase of the ménu del día across Spain's regions from 2016 to 2022

Galicia: +16.4 percent
La Rioja: +15.7 percent
Basque Country: +12.5 percent
Extremadura: +11.3 percent
Catalonia: +10.8 percent
Madrid: +10.4 percent
Asturias: +9.8 percent
Andalusia: +9.7 percent
Cantabria: +9.6 percent
Castilla y León: +9.1 percent
Aragón: +8.8 percent
Valencia region: +8.3 percent
Navarre: +6.5 percent
Balearic Islands: +4.6 percent
Castilla-La Mancha: +4.4 percent
Canary Islands: +2.7 percent
Murcia: +1.6 percent