Discover the Delicious Food of Barcelona
The food of Barcelona is second to none. Whether you want to focus exclusively on delicious food from Catalonia or take a magpie’s approach to what the rest of Spanish cuisine has to offer, you will never get bored looking for things to eat in Barcelona.
Can you manage to eat all these specialties while visiting Barcelona? I really think you should try it! Keeping it Catalan, let’s start our food tour of Barcelona by taking a look at ten must-try local Catalan dishes.
Pa Amb Tomàquet
Pa Amb Tomàquet “PAM ta-MAH-ket, or pan con tomate in Spanish is a staple in tapas bars and restaurants.
Deceptively simple, it still has the power to make locals’ eyes glaze over as they wax lyrical about their grandmother’s version, or the place that does it best.
Slices of baguette are grilled and brushed with fresh garlic, seasoned with olive oil, pepper, and salt, and then rubbed with fresh tomatoes cut into halves.
This toasted bread dish is such a staple that when you order bocates (baguettes), the server will often ask you if you want the bread to be livened up with the tomàquet treatment.
Where to eat Pa Amb Tomàquet: Cerveceria Catalana is a great, tourist-friendly place for pan con tomate and other tapas. But be warned, it’s not possible to make reservations and this place is popular, so be prepared to have a drink outside while you wait for a table.
Catalan cuisine is not exactly overflowing with vegetarian options, but escalivada is a proud exception.
A vegetable, normally aubergine or red peppers, is grilled and served either hot or cold with extra virgin olive oil.
Where to eat escalivada: My favorite place for escalivada is Casa Jordi, a stone’s throw away from Avenida Diagonal.
While lots of traditional Catalan food is carby, esqueixada (es-ka-SHA-da) offers some light relief.
This salad is made with shredded bacallà (salted cod), tomatoes, peppers, onions and olives, and sometimes hard-boiled eggs. This light salad is popular in the summer and goes well with a glass of white wine.
Where to eat Esqueixada: Cal Boter, in the heart of Barcelona’s picturesque Gràcia district, does an excellent esqueixada.
“Black rice” might not sound as appetizing as other Catalan dishes, but one taste of arròs negre (ah-ROSS NEG-ra) will have you exclaiming: “What’s in a name?”
The rice is colored with squid ink and cooked in paella, a very wide, flat pan. The flavor of the dish comes from the ink itself as well as an allioli (AL-ee-oh-li), a kind of alternative to mayonnaise whose name literally means “garlic and oil”, giving you an idea of its key ingredients. This one will make your taste buds very happy.
Where to eat Arròs negre: Platja Ca La Nuri is my recommendation for arròs negre. You can’t beat a rice dish served by the sea.
As with a lot of traditional food in the area, the line between Valencian and Catalan cuisine gets a little blurry here.
Fideuà (fee-day-WAH) has a similar vibe to a seafood paella but with one important difference: this delicious dish is made with noodles, not rice.
The main seafood stars are rap (monkfish), squid, and prawns, and the mixture is cooked in seafood or fish stock. Like a paella, fideuà is brought to the table in the pan it was cooked in.
Where to eat Fideuà: Fideuà provides an excuse to visit Sarrià, with Canet Sarrià being the local specialists.
While cannelloni is associated with Sicily and Campania, Catalonia has long treasured its own version of the traditional dish: canelons (“ka-na-LONS”).
Unlike the Italian version, which uses minced meat, Catalan canelons are stuffed with stewed meat.
This is the definitive meal for a late lunch on Boxing Day, with many families choosing to use some leftover meat from Christmas dinner for the filling.
The pasta tubes are topped with bechamel, a rich sauce made of butter, milk, and flour.
Where to eat Canelons: If you can’t gate-crash a Catalan Christmas party, try the canelons at Can Culleretes, a restaurant that dates back to the 18th century, which is worth visiting for the decor alone.
Although Catalonia’s weather is generally glorious, winter can get chilly, which is where escudella (es-ku-DEY-ya), a warming soup, comes to the rescue.
Made with pasta, vegetables, beans, and any meat going spare, a generous helping of this hearty dish is ideal to warm the cockles on a wintry day.
On Christmas Day, the dish is tweaked with the meat, beans and vegetables served as the first course, while the soup is served with snail-shaped pasta to make sopa de galets.
The calçot (“kal-SOT”) is more than just a vegetable, it’s a cultural activity. Calçot bulbs are planted in trenches like onions, but the depth of the soil around the stem is increased during autumn and winter, so when the bulb sprouts, the stems grow long.
They can be eaten from December until March in restaurants, but perhaps the most authentic option is to find a calçotada, a kind of calçot-centered barbecue.
These gatherings are often multitudinous, raucous affairs in the open air, with diners peeling the charred outsides of the calçots and dipping them into salvitxada, a relative of romesco sauce, made with almonds, tomato, garlic, vinegar, salt, and parsley.
Where to eat calçot: Can Cortada gives you a taste of this without requiring you to make too much of a journey: located in the foothills of the Collserola mountain range, you can get there via the Metro (stop: Valldaura).
Bombas can now be found all over Spain but were invented in La Cova Fumada, a bar in Barceloneta.
Despite their seaside origin, the ingredients owe little to the ocean: these are breaded and fried mashed potato balls topped with spicy minced meat – which tells you why they were christened “bombs”.
Botifarra and fuet
Pork delicacies can be found all over Spain, and Catalonia is no exception. Botifarra (“boo-ti-FAR-rah”) is a constant presence in restaurants, butcher’s shops, and supermarkets, and comes in various forms.
Botifarra negra (black botifarra) is a blood sausage, similar in style to morcilla, a dish popular throughout Spain. Botifarra blanca (white botifarra) is a white pork sausage.
The recipe is said to have been handed down from Roman times and the traditional version with spices and seasoning is often adapted with other ingredients such as eggs and truffles.
While it is usually eaten cold, it is also boiled when used in escudella.
Elsewhere, fuet (“FWET”) is Catalonia’s version of salami: a long, thin sausage of dried, cured pork.
Where to eat Botifarra: The L’Obrador chain of bakeries does a delicious botifarra flauta (a thin baguette). They have locations throughout the city.
Catalan drinks and desserts
Crema Catalana is the Catalan dessert par excellence.
A kind of local version of a creme brûlée, these vanilla-flavored custards boast a delightful crunchy top layer due to being lightly torched after cooking.
A more unusual dessert features mató (“mah-TOE”), a soft goat’s cheese somewhat like ricotta.
It is served with honey and walnuts to create a very agreeable mix of savory and sweet flavors, contrasting soft and crunchy textures.
This dish is simple enough for the more adventurous travelers to try their hand at it.
Where to eat Mató: Granja Armengol has a range of old-fashioned dairy shops throughout the city, and mató can be bought by the slice.
France has champagne and Italy has prosecco. Catalonia has cava. Considering it has only been around since the 19th century, it has considerable pedigree.
A Catalan friend once claimed that while the best champagne was unbeatable if your budget is under €50 a bottle, you will find better quality caves than champagnes.
Where to drink Cava: A sentiment that is worth a toast. Can Paixano, better known as the La Xampanyeria, is a classic cava den in Barceloneta.
Another drink with any number of variations around Europe, but with a very popular Catalan version: vermut (bear-MOOT).
In Catalan, “fer un vermut” (literally, “to do a vermut”) is a classic excuse to pop into local restaurants or bars before lunchtime.
This fortified wine has a heavy, bittersweet quality and is often adorned with black olives or mixed with soda.
Where to drink Vermut: La Pubilla de Taulat is an old-school venue in Poble Nou, and the tapas are great too.
Classic Spanish dishes in Barcelona
Barcelona has long been the destination of migrants from all over Spain and has thus adopted specialties from other regions.
As well as the obvious variety on offer in any tapas bar, Barcelona restaurants often boast of their Galician or Basque cuisine.
Paella (“pie-EH-ya”) hails from Valencia but there is no shortage of places to enjoy it in Barcelona, not least on the seafront where the draw of fresh seafood and views of the Mediterranean sea make up for the somewhat touristy prices.
Paella de verdures (vegetable paella) is the vegetarian version, although you should note that locals tend to be very conservative about the ingredients: a paella with anything exotic is dismissed as “arroz con cosas” (“rice with stuff”).
Where to eat seafood paella in Barcelona: Restaurante Barceloneta is not cheap but is one of those places that is so good that even locals forgive the prices.
Croquetas (“cro-KET-ahs”) are the Spanish version of croquettes. Instead of using creamy mashed potatoes as a base a la française, Spanish croquetas use bechamel sauce.
Traditionally, this is used to coat ham, but chicken and even vegetarian croquetas are commonplace.
Where to eat Croquetas: Perikete in Barceloneta does three kinds of croquetas: ham, salted cod, and ribeye.
Patatas bravas (“pa-TA-tas BRAH-bahs”) are thick fried potatoes usually wedges or cubes topped with a spicy sauce, which gives the dish its name: brava here is “wild”, not “brave” as it is sometimes mistranslated.
They are served with a spicy red sauce or allioli (or both) and it’s common for locals to have their favorite destinations.
Where to eat patatas bravas in Barcelona: A classic is the El Tomàs bar in Sarrià, although bear in mind it gets busy.
Tortilla de Patatas
Also known as Spanish tortilla (“tore-TEE-ya”) or Spanish omelet, this is one of the most delicious tapas available.
Often served on its own or with pan con tomate, it’s also a classic sandwich filling: for a quick lunch a slither of tortilla de patatas between two slices of fresh bread always hits the spot.
Where to eat Tortilla de patatas: Bar Lalans in Poble-sec might not look anything special, but they have a killer version of this.
Pimientos de padrón
“Pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non” is the refrain in Galician: “some are hot, others not”.
The truth is, if you have been brought up with spicy cuisine, these bell peppers are mild, but they are a salty, moreish delight.
Where to eat Pimientos de padrón: You can’t really go wrong with this simple dish, but I have many happy memories of the pimientos in La Flauta.
Gazpacho (“gath-PAH-cho”) is a tomato soup served cold, which proves to be an absolute godsend when the weather turns warm.
Refreshing and surprisingly substantial, it has also given rise to countless new versions as local chefs throw in melon, cucumber, strawberries, and anything else that comes to mind.
Where to taste Gazpacho: Teresa Carles is a vegetarian restaurant that does a great gazpacho, and it’s increasingly common to see high-quality gazpachos in Barcelona’s more upmarket supermarkets, like Ametller Origen.
Produced in the west of Spain, jamón ibérico (“ha-MON ee-BEAR-ri-co”) is an internationally renowned delicacy.
One of the most arresting sights in Spanish supermarkets is the legs of jamón available for sale.
Where to eat Jamón ibérico: If you don’t fancy smuggling a whole one home, Ciudad Condal is an elegant location in the center of town.
Chorizo (cho-REETH-oh) is another world-famous Spanish dish: a pork-based sausage made with lard and spiced with paprika. Distinctively red in color, it often occupies pride of place in local bars, hanging from hooks.
Where to eat chorizo in Barcelona: Gasterea in Carrer de Verdi is a top choice for chorizo and given its location makes for a great film and dinner combination, with the arty Cine Verdi – which always shows films in their original English version – just a few doors down.
Surtido de quesos (“soor-TEE-do deh KEH-sos) is the key phrase here: a cheese platter. Along with patatas bravas, jamón and pan con tomate, this must be one of the most-ordered tapas available, and with good reason.
The varied climate in Spain means a great variety in national cheeses, from the nibbly mild manchego or Zamorano cheeses to the salty Mahon or tetilla, there will be something for all cheese-lovers.
Where to enjoy cheese in Barcelona: Cheese’s Art in the charming, pedestrianized Carrer d’Enric Granados is a dedicated cheese joint.
Learn about the Food of Barcelona on a Food Tour
If you want a learn more about food in Barcelona you could join one of the great food tours that will help you uncover the best Barcelona food without needing a map!
This article may contain compensated links. Please read the disclaimer for more info.
Here are three Barcelona Food tours we think do a fantastic job of introducing you to the city’s best food.
Barcelona: Evening Tapas and Wine Tasting Tour by Devour Tours
Devour Tours operate some of the most popular and highly reviewed food tours in Spain. This tour will give you a crash couse on Cava and help you discover the hidden streets of El Born.
- Taste different Spanish wines, including reds, whites, sparkling and fortified wines
- Visit 3 different types of Barcelona wine and tapas bars
- Sample some of Barcelona’s best traditional and modern tapas
Devour Tours also offer a Tastes and Traditions Tour that is offered in the mornings.
Old Town Evening Tapas & Sightseeing Tour – Interpid Urban Adventures
This tour offered by eco certified operator Interpid Urban Adventures Europe, will take you to El Ravel and Barcino where you will taste tradional Catalan tapas in some of the city’s oldest streets including a stop at a bar in a UNESCO listed building!
The tour includes:
- 5 plates of traditional Catalan tapas
- 4 drinks – either wine or soft drink
- Available as a shared or private tour
- Explore historic buildings, bars and cafes
Barcelona: Real Local Market Visit with Tapas Lunch by Food Lovers Tours
The perfect tour for anyone with a big appetite! This middle of the day tour features up to a dozen different tapas tastings saving you money on lunch. You will visit local market, explore the Eixample area and finish up with lunch in a local restaurant.
- Enjoy a fantastic day-time adventure for foodies of all ages (kids welcome)
- Experience an authentic market tapas tasting
Taste the best offerings at the market and learn more about what to look for while you are visiting. Food Lovers also offer a night time tour if you prefer.
We hope you enjoy discovering these local dishes when you visit Barcelona. Try to explore beyond the La Boqueria market and the Gothic quarter sees how many typical food types you can taste on your visit.