Madrid Food Guide – What To Eat In Madrid Spain

Madrid Food Guide

We took our first trip to Spain in 2006 and our first trip to Madrid in 2012. Since moving to Spain, though, we’ve started to research a lot more about Spanish cuisine and food culture. During a recent trip to Madrid, we decided to share the results of our research in our Madrid Food Guide.

Eating Tapas In Madrid

Madrid Food Guide – What To Eat In Madrid Spain

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What To Eat In Madrid Spain

In this Madrid Food Blog, we share our insider tips on what is Madrid traditional food and what to eat when visiting this amazing city. This also includes some tips about Spanish food in general, including when to eat in Spain.

The first thing to know about Madrid, like its neighbor to the south, Barcelona, is that it is an international city. That means you can find international cuisine from Italy to Turkey to Korea. It also is a Spanish melting pot, meaning you can find cuisine influenced by every corner of Spain.

Spain’s cuisine is regional. This means that the food in the Basque Country is different from the that in Catalonia and different from the food in Andalusia. The good news about traveling to Madrid for food is that you can try all these Spanish cuisines in one place. That also, though, makes it a little harder to identify what are true Madrid dishes. As a result, some of our recommended foods to try in Madrid you can find all over Spain, some are regional dishes, and a few are Madrid specialities.

What You Will Learn In This Madrid Food Guide:

  1. What are the top things to eat in Madrid

  2. What are Spanish tapas

  3. How to find the best tapas in Madrid Spain

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What Are Spanish Tapas In Madrid

Evenings in Madrid generally involves friends or groups eating tapas. Tapas are popular through much of Spain, but the culture of eating tapas is a little different depending on the region. In Granada, tapas come free with a beverage. Every new drink comes along with a small plate of food. In San Sebastian, Pamplona, and the Basque Country they eat pintxos, which are small bites of food, sometimes served on a skewer or stick.

In Madrid, tapas do not come free with a drink. Instead, they are served similarly to how they are in Sevilla and other areas of Andalusia. Generally, the tapas on offer are listed on a menu, or sometimes a chalkboard behind the bar. They come in two or three sizes, including a small tapas size, a larger racion size, and a size in the middle, a media racion. For two people, order two to three tapas at one bar, and then move onto the other. Make a night of it. And, don’t expect to sit down. More often than not, there is standing room only.

tapas restaurant madrid

10 Dishes You Must Eat In Madrid

Here’s our list of dishes you must eat in Madrid. This includes some good tapas in Madrid, some larger dishes, as well as some desserts and snacks.

eating tostada con tomate in Madrid

Tostada Con Tomate – Breakfast In Madrid

Unlike in the US, breakfast is normally a lighter meal in Spain, often involving a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) and a pastry. To eat breakfast like a local in Madrid, start your day with a tostada con tomate, a toasted piece of bread slathered in a bit of tomato puree. If staying at a hotel in Madrid, chances are this will be on the breakfast buffet. It also might come on the side of a tapa of tortilla as well.

cheap tapas in Madrid - tortilla

Tortilla De Patatas

Tortilla is a Spanish omelet made of eggs and potatoes. Sometimes it includes onion, jamon, or peppers as well. Tortilla is common throughout much of Spain, and is one of our favorite things to eat, particularly with a bit of warm bread and olive oil. Each Madrid tapas bar has its own recipe. Some are more firm and others are runny. I like the tortillas that are somewhere in between, a little firm on the outside and a little runny on the inside.

Huevos Rotos

A seemingly simple dish that we simply love, and often make at home as well. Huevos Rotos or Huevos Estrellados are somewhat runny fried eggs topped with jamon and potatoes. Rotos translates to broken eggs, so the eggs are sliced up a bit so that the yolk runs over the jamon and potatoes. We’ve eaten this dish in Madrid as a breakfast tapa, the first of the day, around 11 am with a cold beer. A great way to start an afternoon hopping around the best tapas bars in Madrid.

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Gazpacho And Salmorejo

Gazpacho is a classic Spanish dish of cold tomato soup, mostly served during spring and summer months. Salmorejo is an Andalusian version that is a little more thick. Both are commonly found at many Madrid tapas bars. It’s also a refreshing cheap food in Madrid in the summer, where a small bowl only costs a few Euros.

Cocido Madrileño

The complete opposite end of the spectrum from a summery, cold soup is Cocido Madrileño, a dense pork stew made with vegetables and garbanzo beans. It’s similar to cocido in Portugal and puchero, which is common in the Canary Islands. It’s hearty fare so be prepared! It’s most common to find this as a dish for lunch in Madrid because it is too heavy to eat at night.

Bocadillo de Calamares

The first time we had Bocadillo de Calamares was in San Sebastian and I just fell in love. We’ve tried to make it at home, but really it needs to be a dish to eat in Madrid and made by professionals to get it just right. Bocadillo means sandwich, and in this case, it is filled with crispy pieces of fried calamari. Sometimes it is topped with the same spicy sauce used on patatas bravas, or it is topped with a fresh aioli, a garlic and olive oil spread with the consistency of a good mayonnaise.  Try it at La Campana but be prepared for a line. 

churreria madrid - eating churros in Madrid

Churros Con Chocolate

A classic Spanish snack that is often eaten at the end of a long night of hopping between Madrid tapas bars. But, it is also common to enjoy as an afternoon snack, called a merienda. We often eat a big tray of churros, topped with sugar, and dipped into fresh, hot chocolate as a breakfast when traveling Spain. We usually head out for churros rather than opting for the breakfast buffet at the hotel. In Madrid, also look for porras, which are thicker churros and commonly found in the city.

Other Classic Madrid Dishes

There are a few more traditional dishes to eat in Madrid for more adventurous food travelers. The first Callos a la Madrilena, which is a common winter dish of beef tripe, chorizo, and morcilla, which is blood sausage. When looking at Madrid tapas menus, callos is the word for tripe if you want to seek it out (or avoid it). Another dish for more adventurous eaters is oreja a la plancha, or pan-seared ears often seasoned with salt, paprika, and lemon.

famous food in Madrid

Other Madrid Local Food Tips – When To Eat In Spain

It’s important when eating in Spain to not only know what to eat in Madrid, but when to eat in Madrid. Spanish eat and snack all day long. Most locals in Madrid start the morning with a coffee and maybe a pastry or tostada con tomate. Then, they will eat a snack around 11 am, often a coffee or a small beer or glass of cava with a pastry or small bocadillo.

Lunch in Madrid is normally eaten late. Most restaurants in Madrid don’t open until 1pm at the earliest. Prime lunch time is usually around 2 or 3 pm. It’s the biggest meal of the day and might last for a few hours particularly on the weekend. The afternoon snack, called a merienda, is normally eaten around 6 pm to tie you over until dinner, which is not until very late.

Dinner in Madrid, and through much of Spain, is much later than almost anywhere else in the world. This is the one thing about living Spain that we haven’t really adjusted to. We live in Catalonia, which is not really a tapas culture. So we generally eat dinner earlier at home. In Madrid, dinner can mean eating some of the top tapas in Madrid, or it could mean a dinner of typical food in Madrid. Either way, dinner in Madrid is not served until 9 or 10 pm. Restaurants won’t open until 8 pm or later, but some Madrid tapas bars will open earlier.

The Best Lunch In Madrid – Menu Del Dia

One of the be things about eating in Madrid is that it is possible to eat well for less than in other similar cities of its size in Europe. Madrid food prices vary. You can find tapas for as little as €4-5 or you can eat at Michelin Star Restaurants where meals could cost €200 a person or more. Of course, you can find meals and tapas at every price point in between.

One way to find some great cheap eats in Madrid is to look for the Menu del Dia for lunch in Madrid. The menu del dia is a set lunch menu served at most restaurants in Madrid during weekdays. Some restaurants offer a set menu on the weekend as well, often for a few Euros more. It’s normally a three course meal with starter, main, and dessert, along with beer or wine. Prices vary, but hover around €10-15 per person. It’s a great way to eat local in Madrid at a good value.

where do the locals eat in madrid

The Tradition of Aperitivo In Madrid

Another Spanish tradition, which is common in Italy as well, is the aperitivo. Before lunch or dinner, many locals will enjoy a glass of vermouth, along with a tapas or pincho. Vermouth is a fortified wine, flavored with herbs and spices. It can be a white or red vermouth and is often a blend of bitter and sweet flavors. It’s one of our favorite traditions in Spain. In Girona, we often have a vermouth before lunch on Saturday or Sunday. It’s a way to help open up the appetite to prepare for a big meal.

Madrid Food Markets

I love visiting markets in Europe. Of course, my favorite local market is where we live in Girona, Spain. There are also some great food markets in Madrid to visit as well. This is a great way to learn about the local food culture. And, many of the markets also have bars with some great local tapas. Each neighborhood has its own market selling meat, fish, and produce. Try the Mercado de la Paz near Retiro Park. Or, check out San Miguel Market close to the Opera Metro stop. San Miguel is more of a gastronomic market, with more prepared food stalls than a traditional market.

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Madrid Food Guide - What To Eat In Madrid Spain

Madrid Food Guide – What To Eat In Madrid Spain

There is so much good food in Madrid, this only scratches the surface. Feel free to save this guide to your favorite Pinterest board to help you plan your food and drink trip to Madrid.

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