When you think about Spanish food, what comes to mind first? Is it an assortment of cured meats? Maybe it's seafood Spain is so well-known for? Or perhaps it's a plate of steaming paella?
Either way, Spain is well-known for beautiful gourmet ingredients in their simplicity and distinct flavors that put it on the gastro-map long ago.
Here are 13 items anyone interested in authentic Spanish food should pay attention to at a Spanish grocery store.
Spanish Cured Meats
Spanish cured meats are, unsurprisingly, the first on the list. While curing tradition has a long history in Spain, the country is well-known for two products specifically: jamón and chorizo.
Jamón is a dry-cured ham made out of a pig's hind leg. It's traditionally sliced very thinly and served as an element of Spanish tapas. It's separated into two varieties depending on the pig breed.
Jamón Iberico is considered a delicacy, made only from black Iberian pigs.
Jamón Serrano is an umbrella term for most other jamón varieties made with different pig breeds.
Chorizo is made with chopped pork and pork fat, generously seasoned with Spanish paprika, garlic, and salt, and formed into a sausage. Spanish chorizo can be either mild or very spicy, depending on the pepper used. Regional varieties often contain different herbs and can be either smoked or unsmoked.
Not paying attention to seafood at a Spanish grocery store might be akin to a crime. Spanish seafood, particularly Spanish tuna canned in olive oil, is known for its quality and robust flavors. Other seafood to pay attention to would be Spanish anchovies and Spanish sardines, both boasting stronger and sharper flavors than their counterparts from other countries.
And, if you're looking for something truly unique, pay attention to Angulas. Angulas are baby eels, typically only 2-3 inches in length, and are considered a Basque delicacy. They're traditionally cooked with olive oil and garlic and served as tapas.
Spanish manufacturer Matiz has a great selection of Spanish seafood, among multiple other flavorful ingredients widely used in Spanish cuisine (some of them you'll find on this list!)
Stocking a Spanish pantry is impossible without adding a few popular Spanish seasonings, as they play a pivotal role in Spanish cooking. Pimentón de la Vera is a popular Spanish smoked paprika seasoning used to flavor chorizo, most paella and fideua ("noodle" paella) varieties, soups, and stews.
Pimentón is traditionally made with Nora pepper, a popular local cultivar. A short "ball" pepper, Nora pepper, and the smoked paprika made out of it can both be either dulce (sweet, with mild heat) or picante (very hot, to be used sparingly) so check which variety you're using before seasoning your dish.
Peppers are a prevalent ingredient in Spain, with a few iconic local varieties. Piquillo pepper is another popular local cultivar, a sweet chili pepper, often pickled, stuffed, or fried.
Another Spanish spice that deserves special attention is saffron.
Spanish condiments are another essential element of Spanish cuisine that deserves attention.
Authentic Spanish aioli, for example, isn't a mayo-based sauce. Garlic is emulsified with olive oil to make a stark yellow, pungent paste with a robust and sharp flavor.
Spanish sherry vinegar is another classic. It's gourmet wine vinegar made primarily in Cadiz. Sherry vinegar is aged in wood, taking between 6 months and ten years. Sherry vinegar is often a flavoring ingredient in soups, stews, dressings, sauces, and marinades (particularly for lamb).
Another iconic Spanish sauce to pay attention to would be Brava sauce. Have you heard of Patatas bravas? These iconic Spanish tapas cannot be made without Brava sauce: a thick, spicy, bright orange sauce made with spicy pimenton, olive oil, stock, a bit of flour, and sometimes tomatoes (though it's not traditional). While Patatas bravas are the most iconic dish that uses the sauce, it can be used in various ways (like any other hot sauce) to give a distinctly Spanish flair to the dishes!).
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Spanish olive oil is some of the best in the world and can easily rival the more iconic Italian olive oil in taste and quality.
If shopping at a Spanish grocery store, you should pay particular attention to two types of extra virgin olive oils. There's a debate whether Picual olive oil or Arbequina olive oil is better. The reality is that they're each distinct and best used in different capacities.
Picual olive oil is made with Picual olives, is exceptionally high in oleic acid, has a more mellow flavor, and is better suited for cooking. It's excellent for frying at high temperatures, adding to stews, and conserving different products.
Arbequina olive oil is made with Arbequina olives and has a more potent (but also better-balanced) flavor and aroma with distinct spicy and fruity notes. It's best suited for using raw, as a garnish, or as an ingredient in sauces, dressings, and marinades.
Both would be excellent additions to your pantry if used to their advantage.
Quince paste (also called quince cheese) or Dulce de Membrillo is a classic Spanish dessert. Rather than paste, it looks like a block of deep reddish-orange jelly. Traditionally it's cut into thin slices and smeared on top of toast or crackers. It can be eaten independently but is popularly paired with aged cheeses. In Spain, quince paste pairing with manchego cheese is a particular favorite.
Manchego is a semi-hard cheese traditionally made in the Spanish region of La Mancha with sheep's milk. High-quality gourmet manchego cheese is supposed to have a hard rind but a rich buttery texture and a savory nutty flavor with fruity undertones.
The cheese can be aged anywhere from 60 days to 2 years, and the visuals and flavors change the more it is aged. The color can vary from white with a deep yellow rind to dark yellow with a brownish rind. The more manchego ages, the sharper the flavors become.
If you want to cook authentic Spanish paella (where most home cooks interested in Spanish cuisine start with), then you need traditional paella rice. The key is to choose a variety of short-grain rice that can absorb more moisture than standard white rice so that paella doesn't turn to mush during the cooking process.
Several varieties are commonly used in paella (and the packages are often labeled with paella rice). But fittingly, a cultivar native to Valencia (like paella itself) works best. Bomba rice is often called the king of paella rice as it fits the requirements perfectly. Bomba rice is short-grain starkly white rice with high amylose content. It can absorb around three times more moisture than standard white rice, while high amylose content ensures the rice grains don't stick to each other and turn to mush while cooking. These characteristics make cooking a perfect plate of paella much easier, especially for newbies.
At first glance, potato chips may not seem like a product you should check out at a Spanish grocery store of all places, where you're looking for authentic Spanish flavors and not an everyday snack.
Not so fast!
Spanish potato chips deserve extra attention because they often come in unusual and uniquely Spanish flavors you won't find anywhere else.
Torres chips, for example, come in flavors such as black and white truffles, Spanish smoked paprika, Mediterranean herbs, cured cheese, and jamón Iberico. Jamón Iberico is by far one of the most beloved potato chip flavors in Spain, with many local manufacturers (el Valle, Los Leones) carrying it in their selections. Even international manufacturers like Lay's add to the collection, even though you're unlikely to encounter the variety anywhere but in a Spanish grocery store.
Tortas de Aceite and Picos
If you want a more original Spanish snack and not just an old classic with a Spanish twist, you should check your Spanish grocery store for Tortas de Aceite or Picos instead of potato chips.
Tortas de Aceite, or olive oil tortas date to the 16th century. They're crisp, flaky, and crunchy biscuits. One of the most popular and versatile Spanish snacks, they come in various flavors and can be either sweet (which is more common) or savory (which has become more prevalent in recent years). Spanish manufacturers produce both varieties with distinct Spanish flair in the flavors (orange, cinnamon, and herbs are popular).
Tortas are used as most other crackers, as a light snack on their own or paired with some toppings. Aged cheese like the manchego we mentioned above goes particularly well with them.
Picos are little breadsticks. They're not exceptionally flavorful on their own, but they're well-loved due to their buttery and crunchy texture. Picos are typically served with Spanish tapas, cured meats, cheese, and olives.
Spanish sweets have the same unique flair as Spanish snacks. Their primary attractive point (aside from consistently high quality) is a collection of original and unusual flavors you're bound to encounter when trying out sweets from Spanish manufacturers.
For example, an ice cream flavored outright called Spanish Delight: a combination of vanilla, caramel, and nut flavors, often with caramel swirl and nut pieces. The flavor has
Chocolate is another sweet staple in Spain. It has a long and exciting history, and Spanish people love incorporating it into various desserts. Suppose you're shopping at a Spanish grocery store. In that case, however, you want to pay attention to chocolate-covered delights rather than plain chocolate (though we'd also be the first to argue that gourmet Spanish chocolate can easily rival some of the most iconic Italian brands). Spanish manufacturers offer a rather lovely selection of chocolate praline candy, chocolate-covered fruits, and nuts (most often almonds). Almonds are one of the staple products in Spanish desserts, with almond cream frequently popping up among candies and Spanish marzipan being one of the most popular desserts.
Oh, and if you want to have a breakfast like a real chocolate-loving Spaniard, you need a cup of ColaCao chocolate drink!
Turron (Spanish Nougat)
Arguably the most famous Spanish dessert (some would argue it's marzipan, but we're voting for turron!), Spanish nougat is deceptively simple in theory but complex and exciting in flavors. Made with honey, sugar, and egg whites, it's traditionally packed with roasted nuts (again, primarily almonds). Newer varieties often flavor turron with chocolate and use various other nuts (pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts) for a modern twist on the classic.
Spanish turron can be divided into two major types.
Duro Turron: hard nougat from Alicant. Turron Alicant is usually a white (unless flavored with chocolate) compact block containing whole roasted almonds (around 60% of overall turron mass).
Blando Turron: soft nougat from Jijon. Turron Jijona is considered the oldest Spanish nougat candy variety, with the original recipe dating to the 15th century. Almonds are turned to paste and combined with turron mix. About 64-65% of the overall mass is almonds. This turron is soft, crumbly, and often caramel-colored instead of white.
Marcona almonds are a gourmet almond variety from Spain with a distinct flavor and texture that quickly sets them apart from other almond cultivars.
Visually and texture-wise Marcona almonds are closer to Macadamia nuts than to other almonds. They're almost round in shape, shorter, and plumper than we imagine when we think of almonds. Marcona almonds are softer and moister than other almonds (despite often having lower fat content), and their natural taste is distinctly sweeter.
They're often used in gourmet pastries, as a garnish at high-end eating establishments, or as a snack, roasted in olive oil and seasoned with either Spanish pepper, herbs, or sea salt.
Check Out Our Online Spanish Grocery Store!
Here at Yummy Bazaar, we host one of the best-stocked selections of specialty and gourmet Spanish ingredients, seasonings, condiments, snacks, and sweets! Visit our online Spanish grocery store and explore the thrilling world of unique Spanish flavors. Whether you want to try new and unusual flavors or have missed authentic Spanish products in your pantry, you're bound to find something interesting and exciting worth adding to your cart among our carefully curated collection.