The delicious range of local dishes from Barcelona is as varied and alluring as the many fabulous sights the Catalan capital is famous for. The fertile region of Catalonia is richly stocked with nutritious ingredients, including fresh fruits and vegetables, premium meats, cheeses, herbs, and spices.

    Naturally, the sun-soaked coastal city offers a dizzying selection of seafood specialities. Seasonal variety is a key factor when it comes to Catalonian cuisine, with hearty winter warmers making way for light and refreshing bites in the summer months. Check out our guide to the finest food locals love to eat in Barcelona.

    1

    Fideua

    Catalan’s pasta-based version of paella

    Fideua is the Catalonian take on the famed paella of Spain. This dish substitutes rice with a type of short, spaghetti-like pasta called fideos. It’s prepared in the same way as paella, though ingredients vary from one restaurant to another.

    Fideos are lightly toasted in a pan before being added to the remaining ingredients – generally seafood, tomatoes, and bell peppers, with aromatics like onion and garlic. It's common to finish a fideua with a short blast in the oven, giving the colourful meal a deliciously crispy texture.

    2

    Escalivada

    A vegetable salad with a smoky twist

    Escalivada is a quintessentially Catalan tapas option that remains a firm favourite among locals. Its name is derived from escalivar, which means to 'roast on ashes' – it's this roasting process that gives the dish a deliciously smoky flavour.

    The vegetarian-friendly dish mainly consists of finely sliced eggplant and bell peppers, but is often accompanied by onions and tomatoes. The charred vegetable skin is carefully removed to leave behind the succulent flesh. The dish is served with a healthy dose of olive oil and sometimes with garlic for an extra kick. Some restaurants serve escalivada as a relish for meat and fish dishes.

    3

    Escudella d’Olla

    A winter stew made with meatballs and local sausage

    Escudella d’Olla is a wholesome winter stew that’s generally served in the Catalan region between October and May. The hearty dish traditionally has pilota (oblong meatball) and botifarra (white sausage), as well as various vegetables and pasta or rice. Exact ingredients vary depending on the season and what's available to the chef.

    Escudella d’Olla is a great example of Catalan comfort food that’s best enjoyed in winter. If you're in Barcelona around Christmas time, look out for the special escudella de Nadal – this festive version contains galet pasta shells instead of the usual rice.

    4

    Arròs negre

    Seafood and rice dish coloured with black squid ink

    Arròs negre is a traditional dish famous in both Catalonia and the Valencia region. It’s prepared in a similar way to paella, with the main difference being the use of squid ink, which both blackens the rice and adds a distinctive seafood flavour. Along with the ink, rice and squid or cuttlefish, garlic, peppers, olive oil and paprika are carefully cooked in a wide and flat pan.

    Due to its distinctive colour, arròs negre is sometimes colloquially referred to as paella negra (black paella). Enjoy this dish with a generous helping of aioli for an extra tangy flavour.

    5

    Mandonguilles amb sípia

    Tasty meatballs and cuttlefish in a rich sauce

    Mandonguilles amb sípia is a delicious Catalan speciality combining meatballs and cuttlefish in a rich sauce. Barcelona sits neatly between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees Mountain, so it should be no surprise that the hugely popular local version of surf and turf combines the best of both worlds in the form of mar i muntanya – literally 'sea and mountain'.

    The meatballs are prepared with egg, breadcrumbs, garlic and parsley before being fried in olive oil. The same oil is used to fry the cuttlefish along with onions and a dash of white wine. Mandonguilles amb sípia is a winter favourite in the region, with locals considering it a soul-enriching comfort dish.

    6

    Botifarra amb mongetes

    A simple dish combining succulent local sausages with haricot bean

    Botifarra amb mongetes is a delightfully simple dish combining succulent botifarra (white sausage) with braised haricot beans. This is to the Catalans what bangers and mash is to the English. This traditional Spanish meal is very flavoursome and can be enjoyed any time of the year.

    Botifarra amb mongetes is available in many local restaurants throughout Barcelona and the surrounding countryside. In fact, this rustic dish is so popular, there's even a festival honouring it.

    7

    Bombas

    Breaded potato balls with octopus or meat filling

    Bombas are deep-fried potato balls that usually contain octopus or minced meat. This tapas’ origins have caused plenty of friendly controversy around Spanish tables. Many cities claim this treat as their own creation, including Barcelona.

    The primary ingredient is mashed potatoes coating a meaty filling. The bombas are then coated in breadcrumbs and fried until golden. You can enjoy it with a selection of dipping sauces, along with a glass of cava or 2.

    8

    Esquiexada

    Catalan salad with bacalao codfish that’s popular in summer

    Esquiexada is a light salad that’s usually enjoyed in summer. It generally contains bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and olives, all of which are combined with the key ingredient – bacalao (salted cod).

    While bacalao originated in Portugal, it’s also a staple in Spanish cuisine. Esquiexada is served in many restaurants throughout the Catalan region during the warmer months. For added flavour, try adding a drizzle of romesco sauce to your salad.

    photo by Birding In Spain (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    9

    Pamtomaquet

    Catalan’s version of bruschetta

    Pamtomaquet is a classic Catalan example of traditional food that uses readily available ingredients. Instead of discarding stale bread, this dish’s thrifty inventors opted to resurrect it with a little heat and a helping of fresh tomatoes.

    Like Italy’s bruschetta, pamtomaquet is prepared by rubbing tomatoes onto lightly toasted bread and topping it with a healthy dose of extra virgin olive oil. Salt is added to taste, but those who want an extra kick can add some fresh garlic to the ensemble.

    photo by Emi Yañez (CC BY 2.0) modified

    10

    Canelones Rossini

    Enjoy festive cheer with this Catalan take on an Italian classic

    Canelones Rossini is one of Barcelona’s Christmas specialities that comes from Italy. Celebrated composer Gioachino Rossini was said to have brought the dish to Spain in the middle of the 19th century. It’s traditionally served on the day of Sant Esteve (26 December) and uses leftover meat from Christmas stews.

    Canelones Rossini is closely related to the much-loved cannelloni. The dish comprises oven-baked pasta tubes filled with meat and coated in bechamel sauce. You can find a vegetarian version as some restaurants substitute the meat with mushrooms or spinach.

    11

    Crema Catalana

    Enjoy this zesty pudding for dessert

    Crema Catalana is a zesty pudding that’s commonly found in Barcelona. This sweet custard dish has a creamy consistency, with an outer shell made of crispy caramel. While it’s often compared to the famous crème brûlée, its recipe actually appeared around 2 centuries before its French counterpart.

    The main difference between the 2 is that crema Catalana is made with milk and thickened with cornflour. The dessert is typically flavoured with cinnamon and lemon zest, which results in a light and refreshing flavour.

    Patrizio Cavaliere | Contributing Writer

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