The northern Spanish regions of Cantabria and Asturias are two of the least known and least visited regions by international tourists. Like many areas in Spain, they have their own unique cuisine and are particularly well known for their excellent seafood and dairy produce. Here are some of the best food experiences to have in Cantabria and Asturias, from discovering a cheese caves to visiting an Asturian cider house.
Asturias is famous for its cider production, and there are many cider houses, called sidrerías, dotted around the region. The cider here is more natural than what you may be used to – it’s slightly cloudy, not very sweet and not sparkling either. It can be found on tap or from a bottle. It’s traditionally poured from a great height to create bubbles and oxidisation. Read our article on the best cider bars in the Asturian capital of Oviedo to discover where to go.
Cantabria is said to be home to some of the best anchovies in the whole of the country, so you have to try some while you’re here. The best place to go is the small coastal town of Santoña, around 50km (31 miles) west of Santander, which is said to have the tastiest anchovies around.
You can’t visit Asturias without trying its most famous and traditional dish – fabada Asturiana. It’s a type of hearty stew made from white beans, chunks of bacon, blood sausage and chorizo, flavoured with saffron strands. It’s typically eaten in winter, but you can find it in some traditional restaurants in summer too.
Going on a food tour of the Cantabrian capital of Santander is one of the best ways to get yourself acquainted with Cantabrian cuisine. Eat Northern Spain offers a great foodie tour – visiting the central market, before touring the pintxos bars, and following up with a visit to the cultural Centro Botín and a relax on the beach.
As well as its cider, Asturias is particularly well known for its quality dairy produce and tasty cheeses. One of the most famous cheeses here is cabrales – a type of blue cheese, which can be made from a mixture of cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk. The cheese is aged for two to three months in underground cheese caves in the Picos de Europa Natural Park. Visit one of these cheese caves in Las Arenas (Cabrales), for a guided tour, exploring the cave, learning how the cheese is made and then enjoying a tasting.
Cocido Montañes is a traditional dish, found mostly in the mountainous Cantabrian regions. Like fabada Asturiana, it’s a thick stew. This one features white beans, berza (collard greens similar to cabbage), pork ribs, pork belly fat, black pudding, chorizo, ham and bones. Potatoes, carrots and onions finish this meaty mix, which is flavoured with paprika, parsley and thyme.
Another famous Asturian cheese is Gamoneu del Puerto. It’s a semi-hard crumbly cheese with a distinct smoky aroma and a nutty or buttery taste, which is made from a blend of sheep’s, cow’s and goat’s milk. It’s an artisan cheese, produced only in cabins in the mountains of the Picos de Europa, near the small town of Cangas de Onís.
One of the most typical desserts to have in Cantabria is quesada pasiega, a type of light and fluffy cheesecake. It’s made from ricotta cheese and has no biscuit base. It’s quite rich and is flavoured with lemon and vanilla. You can order this at many of the traditional restaurants in Santander, or in the rest of Cantabria.