Most first-time visitors to Spain have never heard of it, but sobrasada is a Balearic island delicacy loved across the whole country. It’s a distinctive, paprika-spiked, raw, cured sausage that’s eaten like pâté, and we really think you should try it next time you’re in Spain. So what exactly is it?
The sausages are made by seasoning chopped pork with paprika, made on the islands (Mallorca in particular) using locally-grown red peppers. Once seasoned, the meat is stuffed into casings and hung up to cure in the open air, usually for between one and eight months depending on the size and shape of the casing; they range from very long and thin to short and fat, depending on which part of the pig is used.
Although the final result looks like a sausage, with a color not unlike that of chorizo, it has a softer texture that means it’s better spread onto toast rather than cut up into slices. It’s also used to give a rich flavor to other dishes such as stews, and is a popular topping for cocas, a type of flatbread common on the islands and in parts of mainland Spain like Valencia.
Charcuteries in towns and cities across Spain usually stock some type of sobrasada, and at bars and cafés in many parts of the country you’ll be able to order a baguette filled with sobrasada and, often, some kind of soft cheese such as brie, and maybe a drizzle of honey. In the Balearics, of course, you’ll find it absolutely everywhere and in an endless variety of recipes.
If at all possible, make sure you get the real deal made on the Balearic islands. The humid, salty air there is no good for curing the hams so famously enjoyed across Spain, but it’s perfect for curing sobrasada. Plus, sobrasada is traditionally made with pork from the black pig, or porc negre, local to the islands and related to the ibérico pig of the mainland. You can find a cheaper version of sobrasada, which is made anywhere in Spain using the meat of other breeds of pig, but it’s just not quite the same. A black pig symbol on the packaging indicates authenticity.
Despite lagging far behind things like chorizo and jamon ibérico in terms of famous Spanish charcuterie, this lesser-known delicacy is just as popular in some parts of Spain, and well worth trying. In fact, one Spanish gastronomist, Néstor Luján, declared sobrasada to be the best pâté in the world. Was he right? To find out you’ll just have to track some down on your next trip to Spain.