Hungry? Welcome to my post with the top 20 foods in Madrid! The 10 best appetizers and the 10 most popular main dishes!
Visiting the capital of Spain will not just allow you to try the best Madrid foods but all the culinary specialties from other regions of Spain.
If you are visiting Spain on holiday or for a short trip you will probably be eating out most days. This way you will discover what this country has to offer in terms of culinary delights.
You will probably know that Spanish gastronomy is one of the best and healthiest in the world due to the quality and variety of the products used.
In fact, olive oil, the pillar of the Mediterranean diet, has been studied as a potential health factor for reducing all-cause mortality and the risk of chronic diseases.
Spanish cuisine is internationally recognized due to a perfect blend of classic and avant-garde cuisine. Over 200 restaurants have been awarded one or more Michelin Stars.
You will also have heard about some Spanish chefs such as Dabiz Muñoz, Ferran Adriá, Juan Mari Arzak, Martin Berasategui, Angel León, Joan Roca, and Quique Dacosta. They are just a few examples of the top Spanish chefs, which have revolutionized the gastronomy worldwide
My list of the must-try foods in Madrid is not just about paella and Iberic ham. But it covers the most traditional and popular dishes from all the regional cuisines in Spain.
For your convenience, I have divided the best foods of Madrid into 2 sections: the best 10 appetizers and 10 main dishes. I will write a specific post on the most mouthwatering desserts, sweets, and pastries in Madrid.
Keep on reading to find out what to eat in Madrid, Spain.
Typical Appetizers to try in Madrid | Best Madrid foods
Tapas and raciones
“Tapas” is one of the most historic, traditional, and famous ways to try the best Madrid foods.
Originally, “tapas” were small-sized food portions usually served as an appetizer while taking a drink before lunch.
Depending on the type of food and the restaurant you could get “tapas” for free when ordering a drink. Some examples are olives, chips, and a slice of bread with a cold cut on top.
But the concept has evolved and nowadays you can find more sophisticated tapas. It is also true that most times these are not complimentary.
Larger size “tapas” are called “raciones” which are an excellent option for sharing in a group while standing at a bar. Some of the most traditional “tapas” and “raciones” are:
1. Iberian Ham
It should be illegal to visit Madrid without trying the authentic Iberian Ham.
Iberian Ham is a type of cured hind leg from Iberian pigs (of the Iberian breed). This delightful gastronomic jewel can only be produced in Spain and Portugal due to the special weather conditions required.
Besides, the Iberian pig is a unique species with the capacity to infiltrate fat into the muscle. As a result, its meat is very juicy and tasty, it is one of the top Spanish foods to try in Madrid.
The Iberian Ham is a National treasure and the heritage of the country. While Serrano ham only needs nearly fifteen months to be ready, an Iberian Ham can take between 24 and 36 months or longer.
You can try this food in Madrid´s bars and restaurants. But if you want to purchase the whole ham you need to know that there are several types of Iberian Ham you can distinguish by a tag and by the price:
- Black tag: ham from a pig that is 100% genetically Iberian and has eaten an acorn-based diet. Cured for a minimum of 36 months.
- Red tag: The pig that is not 100% genetically Iberian.
- Green tag: The pig that has eaten a mixed diet of acorns and cereals.
- White tag: The pig has eaten a grain-based diet and the leg has been cured for 24 months.
Known the world over, this gourmet Spanish food should be a must-try for any foodie visiting Madrid.
Believe me, there is nothing like a plate of recently-cut, high-quality Iberian ham and a glass of wine enjoying the Spanish nice weather on a terrace.
2. Spanish omelet
There’s nothing that says ‘Spanish Food’ like the Spanish omelet.
It is an omelet made with olive oil, eggs, and potatoes. There is a never-ending national discussion in Spain if the best Spanish omelet should include onion. So, try both and decide!
A “tapa” of Spanish omelet is the best option to eat food in Madrid like a local. And if you like this delicious Spanish dish, it is quite easy to prepare at home.
Spanish omelet is one of my favorite meals for dinner.
3. Croquetas (Croquettes)
Croquettes are one the best things to try in Madrid.
These small bites are prepared with a creamy bechamel sauce mixed with another filling such as ham, cheese, or chicken.
This binder is later breaded and deep fried to create the perfect croquette.
Any local will tell you that the best croquettes are the ones prepared by his or her grandma. But you will find excellent alternatives to this iconic meal in Madrid´s bars and restaurants.
4. Huevos rotos
The next of the most popular Madrid food is the “huevos rotos”. The direct translation to English would be “broken eggs”.
It is a simple but delicious dish of fried eggs over fries which is usually served with some strips of ham.
It is quite a famous food of Madrid and you will see many groups sharing a “racion” of “huevos rotos” while having a beer on a terrace.
5. Patatas Bravas
Everyone will agree that “Patatas Bravas” or just “Bravas” is one of the most typical Madrid foods.
Although it is a popular dish native to Madrid, every restaurant uses its own recipe. It usually consists of potatoes that have been cut into medium-sized cubes, then fried in oil and served warm with a slightly spicy tomato sauce.
“Patatas Bravas” is one of the cheapest but most delicious foods of Madrid. Be sure to include it in your foodie bucket list when visiting Spain!
“Torreznos” could not be the healthiest food to try in Madrid but for sure it is one of the most popular and authentic.
A “torrezno” is a tasty fried bacon snack produced in Spain. It is obtained from the pork belly, marinated, and once dried, cut into strips and fried in olive oil until they are crispy on the skin side.
The result is an amazing crunchy “torrezno”, one of the tastiest and most affordable appetizers in Madrid Spain.
In Soria, close to Madrid, they have achieved a quality certification mark. The Torreznos from Soria guarantee that the pork belly is obtained and treated according to traditional standards to offer its best flavor and taste.
Take my advice, if you are visiting the best attractions in Madrid, take a break and enjoy a succulent “torrezno” with a fresh drink. Yummy!
Olives are probably the most traditional and iconic things to eat in Madrid.
The production of olives in Spain dates back to more than 3,000 years, and they have become the cornerstone of the healthy and unique Mediterranean diet.
Olives are not just a delicious appetizer in Madrid but they are also an excellent blend of vitamins, minerals, and good fats.
A typical Spanish tradition is to get a free “tapa” of olives along with your glass of wine or beer. Olives are one of the most renowned foods of Madrid and the perfect snack to eat before lunch.
And if you are traveling to Madrid with children, olives are a must-try food in Madrid, they will love them!
There are few things I love more than a “tapa” of Spanish cheese.
Spain produces a great variety of high-quality cheeses, many of them protected by the designation of origin with their own unique recipe and heritage. Some of them are internationally renowned, such as the Manchego cheese of La Mancha.
Because of the variations in climate and geography, each region of Spain produces excellent varieties of quality tasting cheese.
Generally speaking, the northern Atlantic regions use more cow’s milk in their cheeses while the provinces of the interior of the country use a lot more sheep’s milk.
Depending on the time cheeses are cured they can be fresh, semi-cured, and cured, my favorite, when they have been cured for over 4 months.
This could be an endless list of Spanish cheeses. But for your convenience, I will just mention my personal top 3 on this list of best foods to try in Madrid:
- Manchego cheese is probably the most famous one. It is made with sheep milk and identified by its distinctive herringbone rind. It is especially popular in tapas restaurants and goes very well with a Rioja red wine. Manchego lingers on your palate longer than it stays on your plate.
- Cabrales is one of the most recognized Spanish cheeses. This blue cheese is easily identified by its strong smell and taste. All of the milk used in its production comes exclusively from herds raised in a small zone of production in Asturias, in the Picos de Europa mountains.
- Idiazabal is a pressed cheese made from milk of the Latxa and Carranzana breeds of sheep in the Basque Country and Navarre. Its intense, well-balanced, and kind of smokey flavor makes a tapa of Idiazabal one of the most delicious foods to try in Madrid.
9. Gazpacho | Salmorejo
Although “gazpacho” and “salmorejo” are best eaten in Andalusia, it is possible to try these foods in Madrid restaurants.
Both of them are tomato-based refreshing cold soups which are more than welcome in Summer. Light and healthy, they are two of the most famous Spanish culinary specialties.
Gazpacho is made with raw tomato and a little cucumber, pepper, onion, some garlic, and olive oil, concentrating all the flavors of Andalusia in a single delightful dish.
Salmorejo is a thick cold cream made with tomato, bread, olive oil, and garlic. It is usually garnished with diced Spanish ham and hard-boiled eggs. At home, I usually add some vinegar too and I take it very cold together with a piece of good bread.
Gazpacho has a fine texture which enables it to be drunk from a glass, and Salmorejo is thicker, like a cream.
These culinary delights are essential dishes in Spanish gastronomy, include them in your must-try foods to try in Madrid.
Spain is mostly surrounded by water, which makes fresh seafood one of the jewels of Spanish cuisine.
The country offers a wide variety of top-quality seafood and an efficient transport system that allows you to enjoy the freshest seafood in Madrid.
Prawns, oysters, scallops, clams, lobster, mussels, and goose barnacles (“percebes”) are just a few examples of the wide diversity of seafood you should try in Madrid.
Due to its price, seafood can be considered a gourmet food in Madrid, so locals usually share some “raciones” as appetizers previous to the main dish.
Besides, consider that seafood is low in calories and saturated fat, especially with the Spanish way of cooking. Most seafood is just boiled or grilled, and just sprinkled with a bit of salt or olive oil.
My advice, you will not find a better experience than eating the best Spanish seafood together with a glass of cold white wine and enjoying the Madrid nice weather on a terrace.
Popular Main Dishes to try in Madrid | Best Madrid foods
11. Cocido Madrileño (Madrid-style stew)
The “Cocido Madrileño” is one of the most traditional and iconic Madrid foods.
The main ingredient of this local specialty is chickpea, but also includes potatoes, vegetables, pork, beef, and chicken meats. It can be quite a heavy meal so it is most popular during winter.
“Cocido” is one of the most representative foods of Madrid’s cuisine. Initially, it was a dish for humble people, but it started to climb in society thanks to its inclusion in restaurant menus.
This Madrid stew is eaten in three stages. The first is the soup with the noodles, the second is made up of the chickpeas together with the vegetables and the bacon, and finally the meats.
Traditionally, the leftovers of the stew are used for other tasty and typical Madrid foods.
If you are visiting Madrid in winter, be sure you include “cocido madrleño” on your bucket list.
12. Spanish Rice (Valencian Paella and more)
Spanish rice is one of the most famous foods to try in Madrid.
Although this typical Spanish meal is best eaten at the seaside, especially in Valencia, it is possible to eat a delicious dish of rice in Madrid.
Rice was first brought to Spain by the Moors in the eighth century and it became one of the most traditional specialties in Spanish gastronomy.
Valencian Paella is probably the best-known Spanish food to try in Madrid and is a must on every visitor`s bucket list.
But Paella is just the beginning of an outstanding diversity of rice dishes. In this post, I will mention my top 3 favorite rice dishes: Valencian Paella, Rice with lobster, and Rice del Senyoret.
- Valencian Paella. Known the world over, this historic Spanish dish is on the top of any foodie list for visitors to Madrid. There are many paella recipes, but the most traditional one sets that there should be a thin layer of rice and include the following fresh ingredients: rabbit, chicken, green beans, tomatoes, artichokes, olive oil, salt, and saffron. And the best of this internationally renowned dish in Spanish cuisine is the “socarrat”. The “socarrat” is the crusty layer at the bottom of the paella that becomes caramelized and toasted when it is cooking.
- Most of the rice foods to try in Madrid are typical of the Levante region, but the rice with lobster is usually prepared in Asturias and Galicia. It can be considered a luxury and gourmet dish due to its price but it is a delicious dining experience.
- Rice “del Senyoret” is so named because wealthier families in Valencia would have their seafood peeled before cooking seafood rice. Like other rice dishes, it is made on a base of fish, and in this case squid, prawns, and mussels are added to the rice.
If you like meat, there is a wide range of excellent foods to try in Madrid.
The excellent quality of the products allows that veal cuts like T-bone are best ordered with nothing to accompany them, just some salt.
There are internationally renowned roast meats in Spain too, such as the suckling lamb and suckling pig.
13. Suckling lamb (“Lechazo”)
Suckling lamb is a typical dish of Spanish cuisine to try in Madrid. Its simple recipe in a clay oven with wood has endured the passage of time without major changes.
I have no doubt this is one of my favorite foods to try in Madrid, it is delicious and it is healthy, what else could you ask for?
This mouthwatering dish is at its best cooked slowly in a clay oven with wood. You will be surprised by the crispiness of the skin and the tender juicy meat.
Suckling lamb is undoubtedly one of the Spanish dishes per excellence.
14. Suckling pig (“Cochinillo”)
Segovia’s roast suckling pig has become an icon in Spanish gastronomy since the invasion of the Roman Empire.
This traditional food to try in Madrid`s best restaurants has only 3 ingredients: a suckling pig, salt, and water cooked in a traditional wood-fired oven. Simplicity prevails.
The water provides steam to the meat to ensure all the moisture is kept, but the meat should never be in contact with the water.
This tasty and typical dish is traditionally served in Madrid together with a salad of lettuce and onion dressed with cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
The suckling pig’s skin should be toasted and crunchy. And to show the tenderness of the meat, the piglet is chopped with a plate in front of the diners.
This food to try in Madrid has become a worldwide-famous delicatessen.
15. T-bone (“Chuletón”)
Another of the cornerstones of Spanish cuisine is the juicy and flavorful “Chuletón” (T-Bone).
It is a large and thick veal steak prepared on the grill and generally served rare or medium-rare, the most traditional way of preparing it in Spain.
Spanish T-bone is one of the best Madrid foods and every steak lover’s dream come true. It can weigh more than 1 kg (2.2 lb) with crystal salt flakes, a side of chips, roast peppers, and salad.
Due to its large size, this succulent meal is often served on a wooden board.
Spain is mostly surrounded by sea. That is why fish is an essential part of the local cuisine and one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet.
Spanish fish is renowned for its great quality and most of the locals eat fish two or three times a week.
You can eat top-quality sea food in Madrid, choosing among a huge variety of culinary delights such as tuna, sea bass, hake, cod, sea bream, turbot, and monkfish.
Due to the excellent quality of the ingredients, the simpler the recipe, the tastier the result.
You will be able to try this wonderful and healthy food in Madrid`s best restaurants.
17. Fabada Asturiana
“Fabada Asturiana”, or just “Fabada”, is a rich Spanish bean stew.
It is the signature dish of the Asturias autonomous community on the North coast of Spain, but this food is widely available in Madrid restaurants.
This traditional and heavy dish is most commonly eaten during winter as the main course of the meal. It is typically served with Asturian cider or Spanish red wine.
Fabada is a hearty and warming stew made with “fabes” (large white beans), bacon, Spanish sausages, olive oil, sweet paprika, garlic, and salt.
A lighter variation of Fabada is the famous “fabes with clams” dish. Fewer calories with an unbeatable taste, I love it!
Be sure to include it in your bucket list with the best Madrid foods.
18. Callos a la Madrileña (Madrid-Style Tripe)
“Callos a la Madrileña” (or just “Callos”) is one of the most typical and traditional specialties of the Madrid foods.
Like most traditional dishes in Madrid, there are many variations. But the most typical recipe includes tripe, ham, and Spanish sausages slowly cooked in a broth with onions, tomato sauce, garlic, and paprika.
Although the recipe is quite simple, Callos require a very long cooking time at medium to low heat. This way, the broth develops a thick consistency and the tripe becomes very tender.
This heavy meal has been served in Madrid for centuries, especially in winter as it is a hearty meal perfect for colder days.
You will find this food in Madrid bars and restaurants, either as a “tapa” or as part of a menu.
If you want to eat in Madrid like a local, try the famous Callos!
19. Bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich)
Calamari sandwich is the most iconic and affordable Madrid food.
Battered squid rings are deep fried in Spanish olive oil and served in a crusty baguette opened only on one side. And that´s it, some people add some mayonnaise or alioli sauce, and ice-cold beer is always very welcome.
It is one of the most famous food specialties in Madrid and it is the perfect meal if you don´t have much time for lunch. Tasty, fast, and cheap!
If you are visiting the Plaza Mayor, one of the most popular attractions in Madrid, you can take a rest and try the calamari sandwich. Most of the bars in Plaza Mayor offer this traditional Madrid food.
20. Pisto Manchego
The last dish on my list of the best foods to try in Madrid is the “Pisto Manchego”.
This traditional Spanish dish is made of tomatoes, onions, eggplant, zucchini, green and red peppers, and olive oil.
It can be served as a starter or a side, but I usually serve it with a fried egg on top and a crusty piece of bread as a main meal.
It is one of the healthiest foods to try in Madrid, and it is delicious due to the high quality of Spanish vegetables. Yummy!