Barcelonan or Catalonian cuisine is distinctive despite having been strongly influenced by Roman, Greek, Arabian, Jewish and French cuisines. Its Mediterranean slant comes from the olive oil which is the medium of all cooking. Barcelona lies between the mountain and the sea and its geographical diversity ensures an abundant supply of fresh seafood, meat, fruits and vegetables and exotic wines. It also ensures that Catalonian cuisine is healthy!
Barcelona is quite a storehouse of gastronomic pleasures!
For details on some mouth-watering food and desserts read our Barcelona food and cuisine guide below. More general information on food and cuisine in Spain is also available. For shopping enthusiasts make sure you visit our Barcelona shopping guide.
Food & Cuisine in Barcelona
Barcelona food and cuisine uses five basic sauces for its meat, fish and vegetable dishes. Sofregit is a sauce made from garlic, tomato and fried onion. Aubergine and red pepper are combined with sofregit to make another sauce called chanfaina. Picada is made by grinding almonds, garlic, parsley and pine or hazelnuts. Allioli is Barcelonian mayonnaise made with egg yolk, pounded garlic and oil, while romesco is a salad dressing made with almonds, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and vinegar.
These five sauces throw up a delectable range of dishes like escalivada – a dish made with red pepper and eggplant mixed with salt, olive oil and vinegar. Faves a la Catalana is another masterpiece in which the vegetables of the region are cooked in a pot with black sausage, bolets (mushrooms) and ham. Pa amb tomaquet is bread slathered with tomato, garlic, olive oil and salt, making Catalans wonder as to why people need butter!
Catalan desserts are rich and sweet. La crema catalana is Barcelona’s signature dessert – a creamy pastry covered in crunchy caramel. Mel i mato, fresh cheese (mato) served with honey and cream and dried fruits, is another popular dessert. If you want something less expensive, then try the ice cream (gelats), fresh fruit and flans.
Breakfast, for most Catalans, is a meal on the move. It consists mostly of a torrada (an open toasted sandwich with a topping of your choice) or a xurros amb xolocata (a stick of pastry deep fried and soaked in thick hot chocolate sauce) or a bikini, which is just toasted ham and cheese! Most of this is eaten in Barcelona restaurants on the way to work.
Lunch is the main meal of the day. When eating out in Barcelona, you can opt for a simple straightforward meal like the plato combinado (a one course meal with a meat and three vegetables) or the menu del dia, a fixed priced meal of three courses and a drink. An à la carte lunch is more expensive but the fare is better with a wide range of starters, an extensive second course with meat and vegetables, and dessert.
Dinner is always after 9.00 p.m. Most Barcelona restaurants stay open till 1.00 a.m though their kitchens close by 11.30 p.m. For those early-evening hunger pangs, head for a tapas bar, a typically Catalonian concept which serves small bite snacks (tapas) which are tasty and nourishing.
Most Barcelonans prefer coffee and they like it strong and bitter. Tea is had without milk and it is not very popular; but you do get different types of teas and herbal infusions. Ask for milk to be served separately or else you will be served a cup of tea flavoured milk! Health freaks can insist on freshly squeezed orange juice while the adventurous can try Orxata, a Valencian drink made from the extract of tiger nuts, sugar and water. A scoop of chocolate ice cream turns the Orxata into a cubanito!
Vino (wine) is a constant presence on the Barcelonan table and served with every meal. Cava is the not-to-be-missed local drink. Sangria (a wine and fruit punch, spiced up with a dash of brandy) is another favourite. Tisana, made by mixing the sangria with cava, is less of an assault on the nerves. And finally, there is a wide range of good old beer!