Barcelona is a spectacular city on the coast of northeastern Spain, known for its sandy beaches, good weather, architecture (check out Sagrada Familia), and sports. Besides its natural beauty and overall atmosphere, you’ll also love its food. No matter which part of the city you go to, you won’t have to wonder what to eat in Barcelona. While it has many tasty treats to offer meat lovers, the best vegetarian restaurants in Barcelona will give you a different culinary experience.
The food scene in Catalonia’s bustling capital is rich, diverse, and full of flavors. Not only is it a gorgeous city, but it also boasts some of the country’s best gourmet delicacies. You’re probably familiar with the delicious tapas you can pair with Spanish sparkling wine, Cava, but the Catalan dishes are much more creative and imaginative.
Catalan cuisine is greatly influenced by seasonal ingredients that reflect Catalonia’s unique landscape: the mountains, ocean, woodland, and vegetable gardens. So every bite of Barcelona’s traditional food is a product of a mouthwatering blend of innovation, tradition, creativity, and heritage. But you don’t have to eat at fancy eateries or Michelin-starred restaurants to enjoy a tasty dish. You must try the best street food in Barcelona for a delightful gastronomic experience.
Before taking a food tour, drop off your bags at Barcelona luggage storage. The last thing you’d want is to drag your bags around during your culinary adventure.
Barcelona Food: Seafood Paella
If there’s one dish that symbolizes Spanish gastronomy, it has to be paella. While this dish is commonly associated with the Valencia region, it remains one of the must-try foods in Barcelona. It’s highly recognized in the world that we now have World Paella Day, an annual event to celebrate this stunning culinary creation.
The traditional Paella Valenciana, which originated in Valencia, is made of rabbit, chicken, and green beans. But other areas in the country put their creative spin on this Spanish cuisine. In Barcelona, the classic paella is made with fresh seafood.
Seafood paella has become a much-loved Catalan dish with mussels, shrimp, and crayfish as the most common ingredient. No matter where you go in the city, numerous Barcelona restaurants offer delicious and nutritious paella on their menu. Some use black rice with artichokes, fresh vegetables, squid, and other seafood delights.
Paella is best eaten for lunch instead of dinner. For veggie-eaters, don’t feel left out. As a vegetarian-friendly city, Barcelona has plenty of dining spots offering vegan and vegetarian paella you should try.
Barcelona Food: Crema Catalana
After the main Spanish dish, let’s explore a tasty dessert that Catalonia is proud of, the crema Catalana. It’s a famed Spanish sweet you can make by baking a custard, which consists of a mixture of milk, eggs, and cornstarch. Once ready and cooled, sprinkle it with sugar. Then burn it with a torch or broil to create a crispy caramel on top.
Crema Catalana is easy to make and doesn’t require lots of ingredients. That’s why it’s not surprising to find it in many old recipe books. In fact, it is known as the oldest dessert in Europe that can be traced back to the 14th century. So if you want to try a food that appears in numerous medieval Catalan recipe books, finish off your authentic paella or any food with crema Catalana.
You can eat it any time of the year, but the best time to serve this yummy dessert is on a hot summer day. You can top it with fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or any of your favorite fruit available during the season.
Barcelona Food: Esqueixada
Are you looking for something light and refreshing during your foodie trip? One of the best food in Barcelona to try is esqueixada. It’s a quintessential Catalan salad with cod as the main ingredient, providing a fantastic source of protein to your meal.
It’s super easy to prepare as long as you have all ingredients. These include tomato, red and black pepper, spring onion, extra virgin olive oil, and of course, codfish. Then squeeze a fresh slice of lime to add the right touch of tang. Esqueixada goes well with toasted bread, but it’s also a great ingredient to spice up any of your favorite salads.
Barcelona Food: Patatas Bravas
If paella is a famous main dish and a favorite celebratory meal in Spain, the country’s most common and much-loved everyday dish you’ll find in nearly every tapas bar is the patatas bravas. This dish originated in Madrid after the country conquered the Inca empire in 1542. However, Barcelona is undoubtedly an excellent place to enjoy some crispy potato cubes covered with special tomato-based ‘bravas’ sauce.
Over the years, regional variations have also become available, and every home cook or chef has a unique sauce recipe. The traditional recipe has a tomato sauce mixed with a pinch of cayenne and a splash of vinegar. But in Catalonia, for instance, the signature sauce includes chili, vinegar, paprika, and olive oil.
There’s always something comforting about a plate of bite-sized fried potatoes served with a spicy tomato sauce. It is also easily accessible and so affordable. It’s a great introduction to Spanish dishes for those who are reluctant to try something new. Make this dish and then head out for an evening of wine tasting in Barcelona!
Barcelona Food: Tortilla de patatas
You can’t get wrong with potatoes and eggs. When these ingredients are combined, you’ll have delicious food that translates to ‘little cake.’ Also called tortilla Española or Spanish tortilla, tortilla de patatas is a Spanish dish that locals and visitors love to eat any time of the day. It’s an omelet with potatoes as the primary component, with onions and extra virgin olive oil.
Little is known of the exact origin of this Spanish omelet, but it’s believed to have been born in the 19th century. It was invented as a cheap and convenient way to feed people during a difficult time when vegetables and eggs were expensive in the town. As a result, the townsfolk added potatoes to their egg to make a more affordable and substantial food. Since then, this simple yet filling and rich meal has been a must-try dish in Barcelona and throughout the country.
This potato-based dish is often eaten as a light dinner, but it also makes an excellent option for a tapa. It is often cut into small squares and served with a cocktail stick. If you want to try this on your trip to the city, check out a bar and restaurant or a tapas bar. If you are looking for a view, Barcelona has several rooftop bars!
Barcelona Food: Escalivada
For vegetarians wondering what to eat in Barcelona, try this roasted vegetable dish that originated from the Catalonia region. Escalivada is one of the famous Catalan dishes you shouldn’t miss for many reasons – it’s simple, easy to prepare, healthy, and rich in flavors.
The main ingredients for making this dish are bell peppers, eggplants, onions, and tomatoes. Peel and remove the seeds, season them, and serve with appetizers or as an accompaniment to fresh fish dishes or a warm salad. You can also prepare it as a side dish to accompany numerous grilled or roasted meat dishes to complement each other.
The dish’s name, escalivada, comes from the word escalivar, which means to cook in ashes. Many believe that the farmers from the Pyrenees mountains prepared the first escalivada while their cattle were out on the pastures.
Barcelona Food: Escudella i Carn d’Olla
Warm, flavorful, and mouthwatering, Escudella i Carn d’Olla is a traditional Catalan cuisine that will remind you of home or your grandma’s warm embrace on a cold night. It’s a combination of soup and stew dating back to the 14th century. It’s often made during the cold winter, with more elaborate versions prepared on Christmas.
The traditional recipe is filled with meat: lamb or chicken, pasta, ground pork, sausage, prosciutto pieces, and vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and a handful of legumes. Any cold day is perfect for enjoying this versatile and restorative soup that will warm your body and soul.
Escudella comes from the rural areas of Catalonia. It was first made by farmers who added seasonal vegetables to the pot and any meats they had available in their pantries. You’ll find similar dishes in some countries and regions in Europe and the Mediterranean.
But the distinguishing component of Escudella i Carn d’Olla in Catalonia are the meatballs or the pilota. It’s a sizeable egg-shaped meatball made from four different types of meat: lamb, veal, pork, and poultry.
Barcelona Food: Suquet de peix
You’ve probably realized by now that seafood is quintessential to Catalan cuisine, so don’t be surprised that this nourishing dish is made with fish. Suquet de peix is a flavorsome fish stew from the Catalan, Valencian, and Balearic coastline. Whether you’re a fan of seafood or not, you undoubtedly love this soup, especially in cold weather.
Like other traditional dishes, the Catalan fish stew has evolved from a much simpler version to something more elaborate over the years. Before, the fish stock was prepared using fish that were either too small and with little meat or damaged. Then they added potatoes and starch to thicken the stock.
Now it’s all up to the cook in charge of the kitchen. With the simple main ingredients, such as potatoes, tomatoes, and seafood, you can make your version that matches your taste. You can also elevate the dish by adding the Catalan sauce made from a blend of chili powder, fried bread, roasted nuts, and garlic.
Barcelona Food: Pa amb Tomàquet
Another dish you must try when visiting Barcelona is the classic pa amb Tomàquet. It’s a typical breakfast food, but it’s incredibly versatile in that you can serve it as an appetizer for dinner and lunch. You don’t even need to make a special trip to the grocery store to make this tomato bread. Simply grab a rustic toasted bread, bring out those fresh ripe tomatoes, raw garlic, and olive oil, and you won’t ever think about buttering up your bread next time.
You’ll often find it served as a side dish and a starter, accompanied by roasted vegetables, cold meats, a Spanish omelet, and cheese. In some areas of Barcelona, you can taste it in Spanish sandwiches with Iberian ham.
The first written record of the Pa amb Tomàquet recipe dates back to 1884. It became a part of daily cooking in farmhouses when people had to look for ways to use their leftovers and avoid throwing them away.
Barcelona Food: Mandonguilles amb sèpia
If you’re both a meat-eater and seafood lover, the Mandonguilles amb sepia is one of the local treats you should eat in Barcelona. It’s basically a meatball with a cuttlefish dish combined in a rich sauce. The meatballs are made from a combination of egg, garlic, parsley, and breadcrumbs and fried in olive oil. You need to use sesame oil to fry the cuttlefish and season it with onions and white wine.
The Mandonguilles amb sepia is a typical food in Barcelona where the sea meets the mountains due to its two primary ingredients: meats and fish. The capital sits between the Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. That’s why it’s not surprising that its food combines the best ingredients of both worlds.
This dish is a winter favorite throughout the region. So if you come in winter, you’ll find local restaurants serving delicate meatballs with cuttlefish dishes. It’s a soul-enriching comfort dish with intense flavors that many tourists have come to enjoy.
Food to Try in Barcelona
Barcelona is, without a doubt, a dream destination for food lovers. There’s always something here that will please your palate, from its iconic rice and seafood dishes to the most authentic Catalan salad you can get. Most of the dishes are easy to prepare and don’t require special skills or techniques to make.
Then after a hearty meal, you’ll have more energy to explore the city and marvel at its natural beauty. It’s a great time to discover the best hikes in Barcelona to recover after a feast. Or you can pack some refreshing Catalan treats to refuel your energy after conquering the challenging hikes and trails within the region.