Catalonia is a Mediterranean foodie destination. With just a population of 7.5 million, its one of the top tourist areas in Europe, with around 30 million tourists visiting a year. It's such a popular destination that 12% of its GSP is from tourism.
Catalonian cuisine features seasonal produce and ancient, time honored recipes. Catalonia boasts 65 michelin stars and is the ultimate enogastronomic (food and wine tourism) destination. Everyone in Catalonia is passionate about food and it shows. Not only are there the whopping number of Michelin starred restaurants but you can enjoy stellar meals at simple family restaurants.
If you're based in Los Angeles, Norwegian airlines is launching a new route on June 5th from Los Angeles direct to Barcelona! Keep your eyes peeled as there are often teaser deals, with tickets sometimes as low as $65 for a one way ticket! You can use all the money that you saved on your plane ticket to spend on trying all those Michelin starred restaurants in Catalonia!
Read on for 25 most unforgettable dishes that you must try when you are in Catalonia!
1. Pa amb tomàquet
The direct translation for this Catalonian treat is "Bread with Tomato". This is basically Catalan cuisine's version of garlic and it is incredibly simple. Usually the bread is toasted and its just rubbed with tomato and seasoned to taste with olive oil and salt. Often garlic is rubbed on for extra flavor. This is the perfect snack or tapa and can be eaten at any time during the day. At some restaurants the Pa amb tomàquet is served pre-made but often restaurants leave customers with all the ingredients so that they can season the bread exactly to their liking. It's also commonly paired with sausages, cheeses, cured meats, anchovies, grilled veggies and more.
Can Pa Amb Tomaquet | Address: Carrer Santa Isabel, 20, 08340 Vilassar de Mar, Spain | Phone: +34 937 59 28 04
2. The Bikini
The origins of the "Bikini" sandwich are in Barcelona as it was first served in the Bikini concert hall in Barcelona. It's essentially an adaptation of the croque-monisier and is a delicious rendition of the ham and cheese sandwich. While this popular toasted sandwich is ubiquitous in Catalonia if you try asking for it in Madrid, you might encounter quite a bit of confusion, its called something else there entirely: a combinado. Whatever its called, its savory deliciousness and always hits the spot. Oh, and if you live in West Hollywood, you can try one out at BCN.
Tapas 24| Address: Carrer de la Diputacio, 269, 08007 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 934 88 09 77
3. Bacalla a la llauna
Bacalla a la llauna or "cod in a tin" is salt cod that makes for a great winter dish. It was born out of necessity in times when refrigerators and freezers did not exist. The fish was coated in salt to preserve it for longer periods of time but the side effect is that it adds a huge boost of flavor to the fish! This is a very popular fish dish in Catalan and was originally a meal for the poor, codfish being a cheap fish. It's now become one of the most beloved traditional recipes in in Catalan.
Mussol Pedralbes | Address: Av. Diagonal 611-613 | Local 51, 08028 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 934 10 13 17
Calçots are a type of green onion although milder and much less bulbous. They are most commonly served grilled and wrapped up in newspaper to keep them warm. They are served on terra cotta tiles instead of regular plates, which works with the newspaper to keep them heated. Served as an appetizer, you can just eat them with your bare hands along with some dipping sauce and maybe some pa amb tomàquet. It reminds me a lot of cebollittas which is a Mexican grilled onion, also eaten hot from the grill with your hands. This is a rustic, fun, bonding kind of food.
Cal Ganxo | Address: Carrer de la Font F, 9, 43813, Valls, Spain | Phone: +34 977 60 59 60
Fideuá reminds me of paella and is derived from a word meaning "large amount of noodles". It usually consists of hollow noodles, fish, squid, shrimp and crayfish. It's cooked in a large pan designed specifically for fideuá. The pasta noodles aren't boiled in the traditional fashion but they are simmered in the pan, similar to risotto or paella. It's an impressive showpiece, usually brought to the table in the entire pan and seasoned with lemon and often served with aioli. You can't leave catalan without trying this fresh seafood dish!
Restaurant Els Valencians| Address: Carrer Montgo, 29, 17258 L'Estartit, Spain | Phone: +34 972 75 18 07
6. Cap i Pota
Cap i pota is a very popular dish in catalan made of tripe. Red meat and chicken used to be a luxury reserved just for the very rich. For most of the population all they could afford was the offals. It's also made these days with the addition of ham hocks and veal head. After simmering the meat for a long period of time, it becomes meltingly soft and savory. It's amazing how many cultures have transformed these humble meats into delicious foods that are now served at 5-star restaurants.
Cap i Pota| Address: Calle Vilafant, 35, 17600, Figueres, Spain | Phone: +34 972 50 34 73
Escalivada is a traditional grilled vegetable dish from Catalonia. It's mostly commonly made up of eggplant and bellpepper and seasoned liberally with olive oil. The vegetables are grilled and charred until soft and peeled. This is a popular tapa, or a side dish for meat dishes or fish, served in a salad or as a topping for bread. It's soft and tender with a rich and smoky taste. Also its just so much fun to say "escalivada". It's reminiscent of a charred ratatouille - delicious!
Set de Born| Address: C/ Esparteria 7 | C/ Esparteria 7, 08003 Barcelona Spain | Phone: +34 933 19 35 31
8. La Bomba
La Bomba is a popular tapas dish made of potato and often served with chorizo. It's a potato and meat bomb and super filling. The mashed potato has a meatastic center and is breaded and fried. It's usually served with a delicious aioli or tomato based sauce. This is one of the signature dishes of Catalonia.
La Cova Fumada| Address: Calle Baluard, 56, 08003 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 932 21 40 61
Canelons are often served by the family on special occasions. It is was introduced to the region by Italian restaurateurs in the 1900s and is flavored with plenty of lard and olive oil - keeping with the traditional Catalan style of cooking.
Portal Dinou| Address: Societat, 19, 43422 Barbera de la Conca, Spain | Phone: +34 696 95 38 37
Botifarra is an iconic Catalan dish and is a type of sausage. It dates back to ancient times and combines spices with raw pork. It's served in many different ways: grilled, boirled, with truffles, combined with rice, and more.
La Botifarreria| Address: Carrer de Santa Maria, 4, 08032 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 933 19 91 23
11. Sopa de Galets
Sopa de Galets is typical served on Christmas day in Catalonia and it is served at the start of the meal. It's a soup consisting of galet pasta, which has a conch shell shape. Its served with meatballs for a hearty winter dish. You can't celebrate a Catalan Christmas without this dish!
Parador de Cardona. Restaurante Abad| Address: Castell de Cardona s/n, 08261 Cardona, Spain | Phone: +34 938 69 12 75
12. Catalan Style Grilled Artichokes
These grilled artichokes are doused with generous amounts of butter and lard. Spanish artichokes are way more flavorful than the ones that are grown in the states and they are often grilled until they are roasted brown. You can also order them fried!
Bar Cañete | Address: Carrer de la Unió, 17, 08001 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 932 70 34 58
13. Faves a la Catalana
Faves a la Catalana is a traditional bean dish that is often cooked at home. It seasonal and is best served using fresh beans during the winter or the spring, when the beans are still green. They are often made with sausage also. It's delicious seasoned with chives, garlic, peppermint and marjoram. These beans are truly a delicacy when in season. If you are lucky enough to be in Catalonia during the bean season, make a rush to the nearest restaurant for faves a la catalana!
La Falda del Montseny SL.| Address: Carretera de Sant Celoni a Santa Fe, KM 5,3 | Phone: +34 938 47 50 54
14. Crema Catalana
There are some that say that creme brulee might have actually originated in Cataluna, which is super close to France! It's traditionally served on St. Joseph's Day, which is the Father's Day of Spain. It's usually made in a water bath and is made with milk instead of cream, often featuring cinnamon and lemon peel.
Cafe Granja Viader| Address: Xucla 4-6, 08001 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 660 24 09 04
15. Spinach Catalan
Spinach Catalan is also known as Espinacs amb panses i pinyons which translates into spinach with raisons and pine nuts. It's been popular since the medieval times . This is a super popular dish and has been documented in Catalonia since the fourteenth century. For an even healthier version you can serve it without bacon or ham and you can also replace the spinach with chard.
7 Portes| Address: Passeig Isabel II 14 | Pla del Palau, 08003 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 933 19 30 33
16. Mar i muntanya
Mar i muntanya in Catalan is an expression for Sea and Mountain as it includes ingredients from the sea and the mountain. Its a traditional chicken and shrimp, surf and turf recipe. It slow cooked under tender and marinated in a rich sauce. It's delicious served with a side of fried potatoes. The base of the dish is sofregit, which is a common Catalan base featured onions and tomatoes, cooked until slow and tender.
Restaurant Mar i Muntanya| Address: C/ Sarajevo num. 12, 08820 El Prat de Llobregat, Spain | Phone: +34 934 78 34 23
17. Botifarra amb mongetes catalan
Botifarra amb mongetes catalan is a classic dish combining the traditional Spanish botifarra sausage with beans. Its a very simple, rustic dish but it is a symbol of Catalan culture and cuisine. It's reminiscent of the cassoulet. Sausage and beans are beloved in Catalan cuisine. Beans were first introduced to the cuisine and region in the sixteenth century. Sausages always taste delicious with beans. The beans are fried until they are buttery soft in the middle and they pair perfectly with the juicy sausage. It tastes delicious with some aioli or mustard.
Fussimanya| Address: 08519 Tavernoles, Tavernoles, Spain | Phone: +34 938 12 21 88
18. Patates Braves
This is a popular tapa made of white potatoes that are fried in oil and then served with an aioli or romesco sauce. The potatos are first boiled and then deep fried. Many variations of this dish exist in the different regions of Spain. In Catalonia they are most commonly served with a olive oil, vinegar, paprika, chili and red pepper sauce with aioli on the side. Similar to fries, they can often be ordered with a variety of topping includes Spanish sausage, fish, chicken and more.
Aguelo013 | Address: C/ Avinyo, 37, 08002 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 933 10 23 25
Fricandó is a traditional Catalonian dish made of sliced beef and mushrooms. It's one of the few dishes of traditional Catalan dish that feature beef. This dish is often made the day before and reheated for serving. The sliced beef is covered in flour and then fried in butter and/or olive oil. Unlike many of the Catalonia's other traditional dishes, this dish did not originate as a peasant dish but is more a dish with urban origins.
Bardeni el Meatbar | Address: Valencia 454, 08013 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 932 31 45 11
20. Boquerones en vinagre
Boquerones en vinagre are a Spanish tapa made from fresh anchovies. They are then seasoned with garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and/or parsley. They are great bar food though they pair much better with beer than with wine. This fresh anchovy tapa is more popular in the hot summer months and are often topped with potato chips, capers or olives. I absolutely love anchovies and wish that they weren't just the butt of pizza topping jokes here in the US.
Tapas Julia | Address: Carrer Bellavista 31 | Badaloa, 08916 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 934 24 50 91
21. Ànec amb peres
This is a traditional Catalan duck dish. The literal translation is just "duck with pears". The duck is lightly seasoned and coated with flour and pan-fried. The sauce usually consists of tomato and onion and finally the duck is simmered until tender. The pears are also simmered until tender.
Casa Marieta | Address: Plaça de la Independència, 5-6, 17001 Girona, Spain | Phone: +34 972 20 10 16
22. Pimientos de Padron
The Spanish padron peppers have a very intense flavor and some of the varieties can get extremely spicy. However, most of these peppers are super mild. The only problem is that one out of 10 of them is blisteringly hot so its kind of like a game of Russian Roulette! This dish features the Padron peppers in high heat in the pan with seasonings until the skin blisters. Pair with some ice cold beer or wine and you'll be in heaven. They kind of remind me of Japanese shishito peppers!
O' Retorno Restaurant | Address: Carrer del Comte d'Urgell, 168, 08036 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 934 53 11 04
23. Mandonguilles amb sípia
Mandonguilles amb sípia is meatball and cuttlefish stew. The cuttlefish is fried and mixed with the meatballs and tomato and onion. The combination of surf and turf or meat and seafood is very common in Catalan cuisine.
BarBas | Address: Rambla Catalunya, 7, 08007 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 933 42 75 16
24. Bacallà amb samfaina
Bacallà amb samfaina pairs cod with ratatouille. This dish truly featured traditional Mediterranean cooking which is simple and unadorned. Catalonians typically grow up with this dish which is cooked by grandmas and mothers alike.
Cafe De L'Academia | Address: Placa St Just, Lledo 1, 08002 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 933 19 82 53
25. Spanish Jamón
Jamón is Spanish for Ham, regionally its also known as pernil in Catalonia. Make sure to try out the Jamon Iberico. I first heard about this cut of ham on an episode of one of Anthony Bourdain's shows and its considered some of the best ham in the world. Its salty and sweet and similar to proscuitto its delicious with a slice of melon.
Reserva Iberica | Address: Rambla Catalunya, 61, 08007 Barcelona, Spain | Phone: +34 932 15 52 30