With plenty of fresh fish, a traditional lobster stew, an abundance of dairy farms producing delicious cheese plus a passion for sweet pastries, it’s not hard to find something tasty to eat in Menorca. From local cured sausages to more unusual soups and desserts, here’s a selection of the traditional dishes you need to try when you’re visiting this Balearic isle.
Mahón cheese is a local white cheese made from cow’s milk, produced by various dairy farms on the island. Salty in flavour due to the sea salt on the grass that the cows eat, the cheese is also rubbed with butter and paprika during the maturation process, which gives it its distinctive orange rind. The texture varies depending on age, with the younger cheese being soft and mild, and the aged Mahón having a harder, crumblier texture.
In Menorca, fish and other seafood is often eaten in the form of meatballs. A popular example of this is bacalao ab burrida (cod meatballs), which are served in a garlicky white sauce similar to aioli, or albondigas de cabracho (scorpion fish meatballs), which are sometimes accompanied by a rich tomato sauce.
Arroz de la Tierra literally translates as ‘rice of the land’, but it doesn’t contain any rice. It is made with wheat, ground down in a pestle and mortar and baked with sausages.
The most common cured sausage on the island is sobrassada, a bizarre-looking spreadable pork sausage seasoned with paprika and popular throughout the Balearics. Also worth trying is carnixulla – dating back to Roman times, it’s one of Menorca’s oldest-known sausages, and is a long, thin, cured pork sausage also containing pieces of bacon.
A popular side dish, tumbet consists of diced potatoes, aubergine, peppers, onions and garlic, fried together with oil until they are crispy. It’s delicious with fresh grilled fish or meat.
Menorca’s most famous dish is caldereta de langosta (lobster stew), and it is served in most restaurants throughout the island. The lobster is the local spiny lobster, and it is cooked in a tomato, onion and garlic sauce, almost like a soup. It’s delicious eaten with chunks of fresh bread, preferably with a view of the sea.
A typical summer peasant food, oliaigu is a simple, cold tomato soup that was traditionally eaten for breakfast but is now usually consumed at lunchtime. This light soup consists of water, oil, tomatoes, green pepper and garlic, and is usually served in a bowl lined with thin slices of toasted bead with fresh figs on the side.
Arroz caldos amb peix can be made with any fresh and locally caught fish (although generally comber) and is basically a hearty seafood and rice stew. It’s a particularly popular local dish, being both delicious and filling.
Cabrit o lechona es forn (roasted kid or suckling pig) is cooked for a long time in a wood-fired oven until the meat is falling off the bone. It’s a popular meal on holidays, and is usually served with roasted potatoes – it’s the Menorcan equivalent of a Sunday roast.
Buñuelos are ball-shaped fritters similar to profiteroles and stuffed with a variety of sweet fillings. For All Saints Day (November 1) they are traditionally stuffed with a sweetened soft Mahón cheese and known as buñuelos de todos las santos (‘all saints fritters’).
Pudin de requesón Menorquín is a baked cottage-cheese pudding, served hot and traditionally topped with locally produced raisins and pine nuts; a must-try for dessert fans.