One of the pleasures of visiting Madrid is exploring the city’s incredible food culture and there are certain traditional dishes that are well-worth sampling during your stay. From popular favourites like tortilla de patatas and churros and chocolate, to a few slightly more surprising additions (pig’s ear anyone?) we count down the delicious dishes you shouldn’t leave Madrid without trying.
This hearty meat stew is typically made from chickpeas, vegetables, pork and chorizo. It is usually served during the winter but many restaurants will serve this Madrid classic all year round. Eat it for lunch as the locals do to give you time to digest the heavy dish.
Gambas al ajillo
Prawns fried in oil, garlic, chilli and parsley is a favourite in Madrid and features on many tapas menus. Casa del Abuelo has been making the dish since 1906 and serves prawns and prawns only washed down with a sweet red wine.
Callos a la Madrileña
This dish of stewed tripe may not sound like the most appetising lunch but it is one of the Spanish capital’s most typical winter warmers. The tripe is accompanied by chorizo and morcilla (black pudding) and spiced with paprika.
Bocadillo de Calamares
Eating on Madrid’s Plaza Mayor is generally to be avoided; most of the restaurants are tourist traps. But one food that is associated with the area around Plaza Mayor that locals can’t get enough of is the calamari sandwich, a soft baguette packed with battered and fried squid rings. Get your fix from one of the bars in the side streets off Madrid’s central square.
Oreja a la Plancha
Not for the faint-hearted, pan-seared pig’s ear is a traditional Madrid dish. It’s not available in all tapas bars, but traditional places will definitely have this dish on the menu. It is usually served in a sharing-plate sized ración and eaten with dainty toothpicks.
A summer favourite and a great choice to help cool you down on one of Madrid’s sweltering summer days, Gazpacho is a cold tomato soup made from tomatoes, onion, peppers, garlic, cucumber and olive oil and thickened with bread.
Pincho de Tortilla
A classic go-to tapas dish at any time of day, a pincho (slice) of Spanish potato omelette is a great accompaniment to a cold glass of beer. There is some debate over whether the ideal tortilla should contain only potato and eggs or potato, eggs and onion, and some locals prefer it runny while others like it solid. Sample as many of the city’s tortillas as you can to find your favourite style.
Pimientos de Padrón
These little green peppers from Galicia, north-west Spain, are typically served fried and covered in rock salt. They are fresh and delicious but be warned: eating a ración, or sharing plate, of these peppers can end up like a game of Russian roulette. While most of the peppers are mild, it is said that around 10 percent of them are very hot, so one unlucky diner might get the hot pepper of the batch.
Huevos rotos or ‘broken eggs’ is a traditional Spanish dish of scrambled eggs over fried potatoes, that is a good vegetarian tapas option in Madrid. Make sure you read the menu carefully, though, because the eggs sometimes come with other ingredients like jamón running through it.
If you notice a queue snaking its way down a side street just off the Puerta del Sol, chances are it’s people waiting in line at Casa Labra, which has been serving melt-in-the-mouth battered pieces of cod since 1860. Order a tajada de bacalao, or deep fried cod. Just near Plaza Mayor is Casa Revuelta, another little bar famed for its tajadas de bacalao.
Caracoles a la Madrileña
Another slightly unusual dish is Madrid-style snails. This is definitely not a widespread tapa in the city, but some old school tapas bars serve this traditional dish. The Madrid style is to cook the snails slowly in a rich, meaty broth that is spiced with a guindilla pepper.
It’s not typical of Madrid, but you can’t leave the city, or Spain, without trying Spaniards’ most beloved food – Iberian ham. This ham comes from black-hoofed Iberian pigs that feed exclusively on acorns and is the best quality of Spain’s different hams.
Napolitana de Chocolate
One of Madrid’s most famous bakeries, La Mallorquina, is famed for its napolitanas, a pastry filled with either chocolate or custard cream. Cram into the shop alongside locals all eager to take away their sweet treats wrapped in La Mallorquina’s signature bright pink wrapping and tied with string.
Torrijas, a French toast-style sweet popular at Easter time are bread soaked in milk, egg and then fried. Sugar is then sprinkled over the top to turn it into Spain’s version of French toast. The recipe dates back to the Middle Ages.
Churros and Chocolate
You definitely shouldn’t leave Madrid without experiencing the ultimate enjoyment that comes from dipping a churro (a deep-fried, donut-like snack) into a cup of thick hot chocolate. Chocolatería San Ginés is the city’s most famous chocolate and churros place and is open 24 hours a day so is ideal for a midnight feast.
This typical Spanish sweet is most popular at Christmastime. It is a nougat-style slab made from sugar, egg white and almonds. Nowadays there are all kinds of different flavours but the two traditional kind of turrón are hard – using whole almonds, eggs honey and sugar, and soft – using almonds that have been ground to a paste and added oil to make a chewier consistency.
Violets are the flowers of Madrid and no sweet is more synonymous with the city than Violetas. The small violet-coloured sweets are sold at La Violeta, near the Puerta del Sol. The beautifully wrapped sweets are a popular gift with locals.