5 Traditional Catalan Dishes to Try in Barcelona
Located in northeastern Spain, the autonomous region of Catalonia has a distinct gastronomy and is known for producing some of the finest cuisine in the country. Boasting an impressive variety of seafood, meat, poultry, fruit, and vegetable dishes, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it’s time for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack in the culturally-rich, economic powerhouse of Barcelona.
Almost as important as sightseeing itself, sampling the traditional fare of Catalonia is such an important part of the travel experience. It’s a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and appreciate new things. So, even if you’re a fussy eater or usually prefer sticking to what you know, do try some of the local dishes at least once - you won’t be disappointed.
Here are five simple yet incredible delicious traditional Catalan dishes that we recommend trying when you visit Barcelona. There are, of course, plenty more amazing dishes on offer, so we suggest arriving with a BIG appetite and a stretchy waistband!
Pa Amb Tomàquet
Pa amb tomàquet is one of the most simple recipes you could come across, but this is what makes it so scrumptious. An iconic Catalan dish, it’s uncomplicated and modest, often served as a light snack or an accompaniment to a traditional main meal.
Slices of toasted bread are rubbed with ripe vine tomatoes and garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with a sprinkling of salt. Oh so simple, but oh so tasty - and something you could easily make when you return home after your holiday (though the tomatoes won’t be nearly as wonderful as those in Catalonia!)
A renowned Catalan winter food devoured in tremendous abundance between December and March, calçots are a type of scallion (giant spring onions). Typically served as a starter course, the scallions are chargrilled on an open fire and dipped in a rich, spicy romesco sauce, which consists of tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, almonds, and olive oil. Although found in the majority of restaurants in Barcelona, it is argued that one should travel to the Catalan countryside to experience the most authentic calçots.
The coca is a pastry dish, often described as the Catalan version of a pizza or flatbread, though it rarely includes cheese and is usually rectangular instead of round. The dough can be sweet or savoury, and the base is either open like a flatbread or closed with the toppings inside.
The dough used for sweet coca, which is the more common version, is prepared with eggs and sugar (and sometimes ground almonds). For the savoury version, the dough is prepared with yeast and salt, instead.
In Catalonia, the most popular sweet coca is topped with fruits and nuts, and the favoured savoury version is topped with tomatoes, onions, peppers and sardines. If you can’t decide between sweet of savoury, you’re in luck - you can get a coca that combines both sweet and savoury toppings, such as meat and fruit.
Using a variety of quintessentially Mediterranean vegetables, this dish is made from perfectly ripe tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines. The vegetables are cooked whole on a grill or open fire, dressed with olive oil and salt, and usually served with tuna or anchovies. A simple dish that relies on the rich, full flavours of the vegetables themselves, rather than any sauce or strong seasoning.
A delectable custard dessert that is often likened to crème brûlée, crema Catalana is made with milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, orange zest, and cinnamon. Traditionally served in a round terracotta dish with a thin, crisp layer of caramelised sugar on top. Nothing more needs to be said about this dish, other than try it, it’s amazing!