The Food in Spain – What to Expect When You Move There

by | Wednesday 26th June 2024

Moving to Spain is an exciting adventure, one that’s filled with culture, stunning landscapes, and incredible food. The culinary scene in Spain is as diverse as its geography, offering an array of flavours, textures and traditions. As an expat, you’ll soon discover that food plays a key role in Spanish culture and it won’t be long before you’re tucking into some of the most popular dishes. To help you prepare, we have taken a look at what you can expect from Spanish cuisine.

An Introduction to Spanish Food

Spanish cuisine is made up of a selection of strong flavours, ingredients and traditions that reflect the country’s history and diverse regions. From the sunny coasts of Andalusia to the greenery of Galicia, Spain’s heritage offers a vast array of dishes that celebrate local produce, seafood, meats and culinary techniques. The food in Spain relies heavily on fresh, high quality ingredients, often sourced locally and seasonally. Olive oil is a key part of Spanish cooking, used generously in everything, from frying to dressing salads. Garlic, tomatoes, peppers and onions form the base of many traditional dishes. Seafood is also a major component, particularly in coastal regions of the country.

What to Expect From Spanish Cuisine

As an expat moving to Spain, you’re likely to find that Spanish cuisine is very different to what you are used to in the UK. There’s a big focus on the social aspect of dining with friends and family, and meals are seen as a way to spend quality time together.


Tapas have an interesting history, and are one the most iconic aspects of Spanish cuisine. These small dishes are designed to be shared and savoured slowly, often accompanied by a glass of wine or beer. There’s a huge variety of tapas to choose from in Spain, ranging from olives and patatas bravas, to gambas al ajillo and jamón ibérico. Tapas bars are part of the social scene in Spain, with locals choosing to hop from one bar to another, sampling different tapas along the way.

Popular Spanish food Tapas

Regional Specialties

Spain’s culinary landscape is hugely influenced by its regions, each boasting unique dishes and ingredients. In Andalusia, you will find dishes such as gazpacho and pescaito frito, which is a type of fried fish. In Catalonia, pa amb tomàquet – bread rubbed with tomato and olive oil – is hugely popular. Galicia is famous for its seafood, particularly pulpo a la gallega, a Galician style octopus and empanada gallega, a Galician pie. If paella is more your thing, head to Valencia, the area of Spain that it’s from.

Siestas and Late Dining

One cultural aspect that might take some getting used to in Spain is the timing of meals. Spaniards typically eat lunch between 2 pm and 4 pm, which they follow with a siesta. Dinner is usually served late, often not starting until 9 pm or 10 pm. They tend to eat a lot later than we do in the UK, which allows for leisurely meals enjoyed with family and friends. This is because there’s a huge emphasis on the social aspect of dining in all areas of Spain.

Wine and Alcoholic Beverages

Spain is well known for its wine, with each region producing its own varieties. Rioja and Ribera del Duero are famous for their reds, while Rías Baixas is known for its crisp white Albariño. Cava is Spain’s sparkling wine and is often enjoyed during celebrations. In addition to wine, sangría – a punch made with red wine and fruit – is also a popular summer beverage. You’ll also find locals enjoying tinto de verano, which is red wine mixed with a lemon soda.

Markets and Fresh Produce

Spanish markets are full of fresh produce, meats and seafood. Visiting local markets is not just about shopping, it’s part of the foodie experience. It’s where you’ll find a wide array of seasonal fruits, vegetables and local delicacies to try, some of which you won’t be able to find with the same freshness in supermarkets.

‘Must Try’ Dishes in Spain

There are a lot of places to live in Spain, each of which has something slightly different to offer. But, regardless of where you head, you are sure to find these must try Spanish dishes.


Spanish Paella dish

Originating from Valencia, paella is one of Spain’s most famous dishes. This iconic saffron infused rice dish is traditionally made with a combination of rabbit, chicken and sometimes snails. Seafood paella, made with a variety of shellfish, is also very popular.

Tortilla Española

Known as Spanish omelette in the UK, tortilla española is a simple, yet delicious, dish made with eggs, potatoes and onions. It can be enjoyed hot or cold, as a main course or as part of tapas. You’ll find it almost anywhere in Spain, with many locals choosing to enjoy it at home.


This refreshing cold tomato soup is perfect for hot summer days. Made from ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil and vinegar, gazpacho is a staple in Spanish cuisine. Andalusia is famous for gazpacho, particularly in Seville and Córdoba.

Gazpacho in Spain

Jamón Ibérico

Spain’s renowned cured ham, jamón ibérico, is made from the Iberian pig and it’s often enjoyed as a tapa. The most prized variety is jamón ibérico de bellota, from pigs that have been fed on acorns. The rich, nutty flavour and delicate texture make it hugely popular with locals.

Pulpo a la Gallega

A Galician specialty, pulpo a la gallega features boiled octopus seasoned with olive oil, sea salt and paprika, which is then served over a bed of sliced potatoes. You will find it in Galicia, particularly in coastal towns like Santiago de Compostela.

Patatas Bravas

A popular tapa, patatas bravas are crispy fried potato chunks served with a spicy tomato sauce and sometimes aioli. This dish is a staple in Spanish tapas bars and you’ll find it throughout the country.

Churros con Chocolate

A favourite breakfast or late night snack, churros are fried dough pastries dusted with sugar. These are often dipped in a thick, rich hot chocolate, making churros con chocolate.

Pimientos de Padrón

These small green peppers from the Padrón region in Galicia, which are fried until blistered and sprinkled with sea salt. Like patatas bravas, they are a popular tapa throughout Spain.

Fabada Asturiana

A hearty bean stew from Asturias, fabada asturiana is made with large white beans, chorizo, blood sausage and pork. It’s a comforting and filling dish, perfect for cooler weather.


Croquettes are small, breaded and fried rolls filled with béchamel sauce mixed with various ingredients such as ham, chicken, or mushrooms. They are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. They are another example of tapas.

Bocadillo de Calamares

A specialty in Madrid, this sandwich consists of fried calamari rings in a crusty baguette. It’s a simple, yet delicious street food found throughout the city.

Spanish market in Seville

Where to Find Your Favourite UK Food in Spain

Moving to Spain is an exciting adventure, but it’s natural to crave the comforting flavours of home. Fortunately, the diverse and cosmopolitan culture in Spain means that finding your favourite food from the UK is often easier than you think. British pubs and restaurants are scattered throughout Spain, particularly in areas with large expat communities such as the Costa del Sol, Alicante and the Balearic Islands. You will often find full English breakfasts and Sunday roasts, complete with all the trimmings.

If you enjoy cooking at home, several supermarkets and specialty shops across Spain stock food from the UK. Chains like Iceland and Tesco have stores in Spain where you can find familiar brands such as Marmite, Heinz, PG Tips and McVitie’s. There are also specialty shops aimed at the expat community that offer a wide range of British groceries, from cereals and sauces, to frozen goods and sweets. Local markets are another way to find British food in Spain. Many of these markets, especially in touristy areas, have stalls run by expats selling homemade pies, pasties and sausage rolls.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for locally, online shopping is another option. There are various websites boasting selections of UK food products that can be delivered straight to your door in Spain.

Enjoy Spain’s Food as an Expat

food and cuisine in Spain

Moving to Spain gives you access to a world of vibrant and diverse culinary experiences, from authentic tapas in bustling local markets, to indulging in rich paellas by the seaside. We can all agree that the idea of moving to Spain and enjoying the food is enticing, but doing so requires  more than just a plane ticket. To ensure a smooth and stress-free transition to Spain, you need to hire an expert removals company.

At United International Removals, our experts handle the logistics of your move to Spain, from packing and transporting your belongings, to navigating the complexities of international relocation. With our professionals working hard behind the scenes, you can focus on settling into your new home in Spain. Get in touch to find out more.

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