There’s something about Spanish cuisine and its ability to take rustic, simple ingredients and make something special. This is especially true when it comes to desserts in Spain. Here, we share our recommendations for the best Spanish dessert recipes.
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After living in Spain for three years and taking countless trips around the country, I can honestly say that Spanish food is my second favorite cuisine. Italian food is still my favorite. For a relatively small country, the depth and diversity of Spanish food, including desserts, is astonishing.
In this post, we share the best Spanish dessert recipes. Some are traditional recipes, while others are modern variations. We’ve tried to include recipes from different regions of Spain including Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Andalucia.
Spanish Food 101
Spain is world-renowned for its mouthwatering cuisine. Spain’s cuisine ranges from high-end 3 Michelin Star restaurants like El Celler Can Roca and Arzak to simple, traditional dishes cooked by Spanish grandmothers (abuelas). The cuisine of Spain is also one of the healthiest. Grouped into the “Mediterranean Diet,” many Spanish recipes feature heart-healthy ingredients like olive oil, fish, and garlic. Then there are the Spanish desserts.
For three years we lived in Girona. Located 100 km north of Barcelona, in the region of Catalonia, it was our jumping-off point to explore the rest of Spain. In our three years, we managed to see a lot of Spain. This means we managed to sample a lot of dishes from cities like San Sebastian, Sevilla, Malaga, and Valencia. If there’s one thing we learned about Spanish food, it’s that you can’t simply label it as Spanish.
Spain’s Regional Cuisine
The food of Spain is highly regionalized. What’s eaten in Catalonia isn’t necessarily eaten in San Sebastian in the Basque Country. And vice versa. There are several reasons for this including climate, geography, and outside influences.
Southern Spanish regions like Andalucia and Murcia are much warmer and grow very different crops compared to northern regions like Catalonia and the Basque Country. This diversity of cuisines across Spain is great for anyone who loves food, especially desserts.
Check out some of our Spanish recipes:
What Are Spanish Desserts?
Along with tapas, mains, and side dishes, desserts in Spain vary from one region to the next. Over its long history, numerous outside forces have left their mark on the cuisine of Spain, including desserts. The range and variety of Spanish desserts are out of control. You’ll find everything from cream or chocolate filled pastries to desserts made using olive oil. And they are all regional.
In Southern Spain especially around Cordoba and Granada, almond-based desserts like Soplillos de la Alpujarra link back to when the Moors ruled. If you head north to Catalonia along the border with France, you’ll find Crema Catalana. This dessert is a cousin of the more famous, French creme brulee. Examples like these can be found in nearly every region of Spain.
Postres is dessert in Spanish. This is important to learn if you are traveling to Spain. No meal in Spain is complete with having your postres. As somebody who can easily pass on dessert, this was something I had to adjust. There were times I felt like I was insulting the restaurant by not ending my meal with dessert. It’s also very difficult after a typical two-hour meal to willingly agree to one more course.
Traditional Spanish Desserts
Spanish Rice Pudding (Arroz con Leche)
In our travels for food, we’ve discovered that you either love rice pudding or hate it. We love it. We love it to a point bordering on unhealthy. It’s a light dessert which is a big plus as we generally don’t like desserts. When served cold, it’s a refreshing dessert to enjoy especially during the long hot Spanish summer. Best of all it’s fairly simple to make.
Using only five ingredients (short grain rice, lemon peel, whole milk, cinnamon, and sea salt) it’s a fairly easy recipe to make. We’ve been told there are two secrets to making Arroz con Leche. One, add a pinch of good quality sea salt. Most recipes don’t call for it but it makes the difference. Two, adding the milk slowly while constantly stirring will create an unbeatable creaminess.
Crema Catalana Recipe
In the three years we lived in Girona, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve eaten Crema Catalana. First, it’s on every menu del dia (menu of the day) and dinner menu. Much like Arroz con Leche, it’s a lighter dessert that is perfect after eating big plates of meat and cheese typically associated with a Catalan dinner.
So what is Crema Catalana? If you are familiar with French creme brulee, then you know what Crema Catalana is. The two dishes are virtually identical, each being made with whole milk, eggs, lemon peel, sugar, and cinnamon. The similarities should come as no surprise given the proximity of France and the Spanish region of Catalonia. The influence on both cuisines can be seen in a wide variety of dishes.
There’s no mistaking Crema Catalan. It’s signature caramelized sugar top is easy to spot and impossible to resist. Underneath, a creamy and sweet custard-like pudding awaits. During our time in Girona, it was always fun to watch both young and older dinners enjoying this simple dessert.
Spanish Flan Recipe
This has to be the most recognizable of all the traditional Spanish desserts. When we lived in the US, we’d find flan on dessert menus at every Mexican restaurant. I’ll admit that I used to think it was a Mexican, not a Spanish dessert. When we started traveling to Spain, I was surprised to see it on menus and more surprised at how many Spaniards were eating it.
What’s great about flan is it continues the Spanish tradition of using only a few ingredients to create something so delicious. To make flan all you need is whole milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Granted there are a few steps between gathering your ingredients and enjoying the final product. But, flan is another example of the simple creativity of Spanish cooking.
Spanish Bread Pudding (Torrijas)
This is a personal favorite. I can’t recall the first time we enjoyed torrijas, but I was immediately hooked. I love torrijas for three reasons. One, it’s a warm dessert and those are the best desserts. Two, it’s another Spanish dessert that uses a handful of ingredients. Three, one of those ingredients is stale bread and wasting food is a pet-peeve of mine.
Living in Spain we bought fresh bread 2-3 times per day. It’s just what you do. Instead of wasting any leftover bread by throwing it in the trash, you can make torrijas. The recipe for torrijas calls for day-old, stale bread to be soaked in warm milk that’s been infused with lemon peel and cinnamon. Are you drooling yet? Baked in the oven, torrijas comes out warm and gooey. It’s very similar to a bread pudding or even a French toast recipe.
For me, dessert begins and ends with cheesecake. Growing up in New Jersey and eating a lot of New York-style cheesecake might have something to do with this. Imagine my skepticism when we traveled to San Sebastian years ago and were told we had to try their take on my beloved cheesecake.
San Sebastian is world-renowned for its pintxos bars. While each pintxos bar serves up a wide range of bite-sized snacks, there’s only one known for its dessert pintxos, tarta de queso, or cheesecake. As a lover of cheesecake, La Vina easily has the best cheesecake in the World, outside of New York. La Vina’s cheesecake is lighter and fluffier than a typical New York-style cheesecake. Which is nice after filling up on pintxos. It also has a signature “burnt” top.
In classic Spanish style, the recipe for making tarta de queso is fairly simple, calling for only five ingredients. While there are other dessert tapas recipes out there, this by far is my favorite.
Dessert Recipes from Spain
Our list of dessert recipes includes traditional Spanish dessert recipes as well as recipes modified for those keeping to specific diets like gluten-free and Keto. Some of these also include recipes for Spanish desserts that are modern or contemporary versions of classic Spanish dishes or snacks, like churros.
We’ve tried our best to include easy Spanish dessert recipes. From experience, we’ve come across numerous Spanish recipes involving many steps. These aren’t those. As we find and test out new recipes, we will continue to update.
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