Ensaimada and sobrasada are among the many traditional foods on the Balearic Islands – a toothsome combination of dishes, some inspired by mainland Spain, others by what’s available locally, such as lobster in Menorca. Join us on a tour of the foods worth trying on your next trip, and discover the best places to enjoy them.
The Mediterranean diet tends to be low in fat, and that’s true here, too. There’s a good supply of fresh natural ingredients, from homegrown vegetables to seafood caught straight from the sea every morning, and you’ll find these used in all the best dishes. The islands are home to a diverse range of restaurants, including award-winning venues that are among the best in the world. Let’s find out why a gastronomic trip to the Balearics should be on your mind this year.
The best dishes to try on the Balearic Islands
While they are popular throughout the islands, the home of these tasty pastry treats is Mallorca. The unique texture of the dough is what separates the classic ensaimada from other dishes, with saïm (pork lard) being added early in the process. You will find cafes dedicated to the dish, which can be either a light breakfast snack on the go or a teatime treat. Ease yourself in with the plain variety (llisa) before moving onto the filled types containing fresh cream, chocolate or pumpkin.
Menorca‘s most famous dish, lobster stew, is so good that it even has a royal seal of approval: King Juan Carlos I would often visit the island especially to eat this dish. The base ingredients – tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic – are important, but it’s the local lobster that really sets it apart. This is a seasonal dish, though, so you will need to plan a trip in spring or summer to enjoy it.
Cheese is very popular throughout Spain, and the Menorcan capital, Mahon, is the birthplace of maó, a soft, buttery cheese that’s packed with flavour. It has a distinctive look and shape – not many cheeses are orange and oblong – but served with some fresh crusty bread and a glass of red wine, it makes an excellent snack.
The Balearic take on the classic Spanish spicy sausage is made from the local black pig. You can eat sobrasada raw, as it is aged in a similar way to chorizo, but the climate here means it’s thicker in texture. If you’re feeling experimental, see if you can find sweet sobrasada, which is a fascinating mix of strong flavours that somehow works.
On the other end of the culinary spectrum is this vegetarian side dish, a speciality from Mallorca that goes well with everything. Lightly fried peppers, potatoes and onions are placed in a baking tray and topped off with a local favourite, the humble aubergine. Expect to find this on the menu as a staple starter throughout the year.
It’s all about the local go-to favourite here at this relaxed and informal restaurant in the picturesque town of Ciutadella, on Menorca. Famous for its seafood, and in particular the Menorcan caldereta de langosta, this popular place has been running since the 1970s – the terrace on the waterfront is a great spot for a casual dinner.
Michelin-starred chef Marc Fosh may be from Britain, but his spectacular restaurant strives to serve the best local dishes sourced from the Balearic Islands. The menu is classic with a modern twist, with influences from the wider Mediterranean region. This is a delightful dining option if you want a special experience to rave about when you get back home.
One for meat lovers, this outstanding restaurant could be your best option if you want to sample as many local delicacies as possible. Here, you can find pastries topped with braised lamb, healthy servings of sobrasada and maó coquettes. Many of the dishes come with a side of mayonnaise, a condiment that, just like the local cheese, is thought to get its name from the capital, Mahon.
Ibiza’s dining options tend to cater more to the casual traveller, but this converted monastery in San Antonio, on the west coast, is a wonderful example of what the other side of the island is like. The relaxed atmosphere is a great way to ease into some fine Spanish cuisine.