From morning to night, you are going to find great food in Spain. While most concentrate on tapas and Michelin Star dining, Spanish breakfast is often overlooked. After three years of living in Spain, we’ve learned a few things about how the Spanish do breakfast. In this post, we will share our insider tips on what to eat for breakfast in Spain.
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What Do Spanish People Eat For Breakfast?
Growing up in the United States, we were told breakfast is the most important meal of the day. During our three years living in Spain, I can attest that breakfast in Spain is more of an afterthought. You won’t find pancakes, waffles, or bacon and eggs in a typical Spanish breakfast. Rather, for many Spanish, breakfast is nothing more than a coffee and a small pastry.
In Spain, lunch is often considered the important meal of the day. It’s usually a multicourse affair, eaten later in the day, around 2 or 3 PM. To bridge the time between their light breakfast and lunch, many Spanish enjoy a “second breakfast” or elevenses.
Put simply, elevenses is a mid-morning snack. The snack is usually a small sandwich with Jamon, cheese, or both. Other snacks to have during elevenses are tortillas, pastries, or perhaps a tapa of some sort. While most Spanish enjoy a small coffee with their elevenses, don’t be surprised to see someone enjoying a small beer (caña) or glass of wine. Elevenses was a practice Amber and I were all too happy to participate in during our time in Spain.
Spanish Breakfast Foods To Look Out For
Spain’s cuisine is highly regionalized meaning what you find in Sevilla, you might not find in San Sebastian. This is one of the many things we love about eating in Spain. This regionality of food extends to Spanish breakfast dishes. Our list of Spanish breakfast foods only scratches the surface of things every traveler to Spain must try. That said, here are some of our all-time favorite Spanish breakfast dishes.
Pan Con Tomate
A simple but very popular choice is pan con tomate, which translates literally to bread with tomatoes. It is also known as pan a la Catalana (Catalan bread). While this might sound a little dull, the result is far greater than its constituent ingredients.
Super easy to make, pan con tomate is simply Spanish olive oil, garlic cloves, and perfectly-ripe tomatoes rubbed over the toast. Other options include tostada con Jamon topped with dry-cured ham, and tostada con mantequilla y mermelada, or bread with butter and jelly.
Tortilla De Patatas
A constant inclusion on tapas menus, tortilla de patatas is enjoyed throughout the day across Spain. In northern Spain, don’t be surprised to find them on a Spanish breakfast menu. During one trip to Pamplona, we fell in love with the tortilla de patatas found in the city. We could never quite tell what made them so good, but trust us, they were.
Often referred to as Spanish omelets, tortilla de patatas are deep-pan omelets packed with starchy sliced potatoes. Enjoyed warm or cold, the potatoes’ starchiness helps the omelet to set giving the tortilla de patatas its unmistakable appearance. Because Spanish chefs love to be creative, you’ll find versions of tortilla de patatas with caramelized onions for a hint of sweetness.
Churros Con Chocolate
Anyone with a sweet tooth won’t want to miss the chance to indulge it at breakfast with churros con chocolate. A relative of the donut, churros usually come in a looped or knotted shape. But they can also be served as straight fingers, in which case they can take the alternative name of Porras.
Either way, churros, and Porras are deep-fried until their ridged exterior is golden brown. Crisp to the touch, but with a soft interior, churros are served alongside tasty Spanish hot chocolate for dipping.
Similar in consistency to crème anglaise, it is much thicker than hot chocolates elsewhere in the world. The best are made from pieces of chocolate melted into hot milk. Besides chocolate, churros can also be served sprinkled in cinnamon sugar or with dulce de leche, a type of thick caramel.
One of Spain’s answers to the sandwich (although there are differences between the two), bocadillos are made using a baguette-style bread. While they can be filled with pretty much anything, staple fillings include Jamon, cheeses, and even tuna or tortillas.
Butter and other sauces don’t usually feature. Instead, the bread is generally rubbed with tomato and olive oil, like in pan con tomate. Don’t worry if you can’t find bocadillos on a breakfast menu, they also go by the name of bocatas.
An increasingly popular Spanish food for breakfast, huevos rotos have more traditionally been a quick and cheap evening meal. Meaning ‘broken eggs’, huevos rotos are made up of some of Spain’s most popular ingredients – eggs and potatoes. This humble dish can be brought to new heights by the addition of hams, chorizo, or blood sausage (morcilla).
The eggs are fried in a shallow pan sunny side up. The yolks are then ‘broken’ with a knife immediately before serving, allowing the runny middle to run over the bed of potatoes fried in olive oil. The remains can be soaked up with a thick slice of bread.
Café Con Leche
No authentic Spanish breakfast is complete without at least one cup of café con leche. Although it means nothing more than ‘coffee with milk’, café con leche isn’t simply a milky coffee.
Instead, it requires a blend of roughly equal parts of strong espresso-like coffee and very hot milk. Generally speaking, the edge is taken off the coffee by adding some sugar to the milk while it is brought towards boiling point.
If you’re a fan of cookery shows, it’s possible you’ve already come across magdalenas. Light and fluffy in texture, these irresistible Spanish muffins go perfectly with café con leche. Much of their lightness comes from the fact that they are traditionally prepared using olive oil rather than solid fats such as butter or lard.
They are then flavored with lemons to create that moreish just-one-more-mouthful taste. Almost every neighborhood bakery will have its own recipe, often handed down from generation to generation without change, so it’s well worth trying a few different places to find the perfect magdalenas for you!
Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
With Spain’s Seville known for the quality of its oranges, it’s perhaps no surprise that freshly squeezed orange juice rounds up our pick of unmissable Spanish breakfast foods. Zumo de Naranja is widely available year-round for around 1 euro (just over a dollar) per glass, with the freshest and tangiest served during the harvest of the winter months.