During our three years living in Spain, our goal was to travel to every region in the country looking for the best food and drink. After visiting Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands we became a little infatuated with the cuisine of the Canary Islands. Even within the islands, each island has its own specialties. This Tenerife food guide focuses on what to eat in Tenerife, one of the most popular destinations for travelers to the Canary Islands.
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Check out our Spain Food Guide – What To Eat In Spain for more details on regional must-try dishes in Spain.
What The Tourists Eat In Tenerife
Being half Irish and spending much of the last 20 years traveling to Ireland and visiting Irish family, who I love, let me start with a possibly controversial topic. I know that Brits and Irish flock to the Canary Islands for warm holidays during cold months in the north of Europe.
They hop cheap flights to Tenerife and Lanzarote on package holidays in built-up beach resorts. I have no problem with this sort of travel. What happens, though, is that many of these travelers don’t end up eating Tenerife traditional food. This is why I wanted to create this Tenerife travel blog.
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What The Locals Eat In Tenerife
So, after all, that, what is typical Canarian food? How do you find this cuisine at Tenerife restaurants and places to eat?
If travelers to Tenerife are looking to avoid generic tapas, paella, and sangria it is necessary to do a little more research into what to eat in Tenerife and where to find it. That means looking outside of the big resorts, in the smaller cities and towns, and near the local markets.
Traditional Canarian dishes focus on fish and seafood as well as local meats. Don’t expect to see a ton of beef on the menu because there isn’t a lot of flat land for cows to graze. Instead, expect to see pork, goat, and rabbit, some of the tastiest meats.
Also look for fabulous locally grown produce, like bananas, mangos, and avocados as well as fish and seafood. There is so much great food in the Canary Islands if you know where to look for it.
Canarian Food And Its Influences
One of the main reasons why the food in the Canary Islands is so different from elsewhere in Spain comes from its location on the map. Tenerife and its neighboring islands are closer to Africa than to Spain. It took us almost four hours to fly there from Barcelona. The climate in Tenerife is also unique, with black sand beaches, tree-lined mountains, and even the highest volcano in Spain.
Even on the island of Tenerife, there are unique micro-climates. When we visited it was almost cold in the north and much warmer in the south. I was wearing a jacket in the north and got a little sunburn in the south – all in the same week.
The Canary Islands also played a key role in the trade route between Europe, Africa, and the New World. It was a key stopping point in the Atlantic Ocean, which means that there was a great deal of influence on the cuisine from around the world.
This also means that explorers introduced crops to the Canary Islands before the rest of the continent. Even among the Canary Islands, there are dishes that are found on one island that might not be found on the other. For example, the food in Gran Canaria is more influenced by Cuba whereas Tenerife cuisine is more influenced by Venezuela.
What To Eat In Tenerife – Typical Canarian Food
Here are our must-eat dishes in Tenerife. These are dishes that are either typical of the Canary Islands or dishes that are more local to Tenerife.
Even if you don’t have a chance to rent a car to explore the island, look for tapas bars, and other places to eat in Tenerife that might offer some of these dishes.
Or, even look for them at your hotel. You would be surprised at how many hotel buffets actually incorporate much of the local cuisine. You just need to know what to look for.
Mojo – Sauces
I fell in love with mojo of all kinds when we traveled to Gran Canaria for food. I now have a mojo recipe book, make mojo at home, and was excited to return to the Canary Islands to eat more mojo! Maybe it’s just because I like saying the word mojo.
Mojo is the word used to describe the various sauces eaten in Tenerife. Some of the best food in Tenerife will come with mojo on the side. Every mojo has pepper, olive oil, vinegar, and garlic as its base along with salt and a little hard bread to thicken it up.
It is traditionally made by hand with mortar and pestle. The most popular sauces include mojo verde (green mojo) and mojo picon (red mojo with chili). Even at typical tapas bars in Tenerife, it’s common to find mojo served alongside potatoes and grilled meat and fish dishes.
Want to learn how to make mojo while in Tenerife? Check out this mojo workshop at Bodegas Monje in El Sauzal.
Papas Arrugadas – Wrinkled Potatoes
In Catalonia, one of the most popular dishes is patatas bravas, or fried potatoes with a creamy, spicy sauce. In Andalusia, there are more cold potato salad-style dishes, like papas alinas made with green peppers and vinegar. On the Canary Islands, you find papas arrugadas or wrinkled potatoes. This is another dish I’ve learned to cook at home.
Explorers and traders introduced potatoes to the Canary Islands in the 1500s before they made it to the mainland. Currently, there are almost 30 different kinds of potatoes grown in the Canary Islands.
Papas Arrugadas are smaller potatoes that are boiled in heavily salted water. Once done, the water is removed and they are dry steamed until the skins are wrinkled and still a little salty. Served warm with a bowl of mojo on the side – let’s just say I am in heaven.
Where To Find Papas Arrugadas
Look for papas arrugadas and mojo on tapas menus in Tenerife or as a side dish to meat and fish dishes. On a warm day, they are perfect on their own as a snack with a cold Tenerife beer or a glass of Tenerife white wine. Just don’t pair it with Sangria – it’s a drink invented in New York!
It’s no surprise that on an island with a lot of goats, they serve some amazing goat cheese. Look for cheese platters as a starter on many Tenerife restaurant menus.
Or, visit the shop at Queseria Artisana Montesdeoca or other similar shops to pick up some vacuum-packed cheese to bring home. Montesdeoca is an award-winning goat cheese producer. They also make a pretty amazing goat butter – yes, goat butter. It was so creamy and delicious and lower in fat!
Queso A La Plancha Con Miel de Palma – Grilled Cheese With Honey
There is nothing wrong with a single word in this description. This is a local, smoked goat cheese that is breaded and either deep-fried or baked. It is then topped with honey, or possibly red and green mojo.
Every time we ate queso a la plancha, the plate included three pieces with honey, red mojo, and green mojo. The cheese had a smoky flavor to it, which was offset by the sweetness of the honey and the tanginess of the mojo. They were easily one of our favorite Spanish snack foods, especially with a nice glass of Tenerife wine.
Almagrote – Cheese Spread
Almagrote is a cheese spread made from tomato, garlic, olive oil, and hard-cured goat cheese. Normally it is made with paprika, which gives it a reddish color.
The version we had included coriander making it light green in color. It is spread on bread or toast and makes a great starter to a meal.
Croquetas are deep-fried balls of tastiness, generally filled with potato and Jamon, or cured ham. They are one of the most commonly found tapas on menus all across the country.
To find proper croquetas, though, look for croquetas caseras, which means they are made in-house.
You can’t talk about food in Tenerife and not mention fresh, local fish. It is an island after all. While a fair amount of fish is exported, the locals in Tenerife certainly enjoy their fish. Some of the more common fish you’ll see in dishes and on menus include grouper (mero in Spanish), parrotfish (pez loro), and mackerel (caballa). You’ll find fish prepared in several ways including fried, stewed, and grilled whole.
Arvejas Con Huevo Duro – Peas With Egg
This is a lovely starter of peas cooked in a tomato and onion broth. It is normally garnished with crumbled hard-boiled egg (huevo duro or hard egg) and crunchy breadcrumbs. Sometimes the dense soup also comes with bits of Jamon.
Carne Con Papas – Meat And Potatoes
You don’t need to be an adventurous eater to try carne con papas in Tenerife. We found a great version outside the market in Santa Cruz. It’s a simple dish of cubes of beef and potato in a tasty sauce made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, vegetables, and white wine.
Cochino Negro – Canarian Black Pig
When it comes to traditional Canarian food you must eat in Tenerife, cochino negro is at the top of the list. Cochino negro is a special breed of Canarian black pig that has a protected status. Only certain breeders are registered to breed proper cochino negro and only certain restaurants can serve it. It’s normally slow-cooked over an open flame until tender and juicy.
Eating In Tenerife Pro Tip:
It’s not easy to find cochino negro on menus. In fact, some places that say they have cochino negro are not selling the real thing. Check out the restaurant at Bodegas Monje, where you can not only eat the Canarian black pig but see them cooking it in their oven just inside the restaurant doors.
Carne de Cabra – Goat
This might be a type of meat that puts off travelers to Tenerife, but there are goats all over the island. It’s one way to ensure you are eating local. When well prepared, the goat can be incredibly tender and flavorful.
If you see it on a menu at Tenerife restaurants, give it a shot. It is normally served in a stew but might be found grilled too.
Conejo Al Salmorejo – Rabbit in Sauce
Continuing with the theme of meats that many people shy away from, rabbit is quite common to eat in Tenerife. We love rabbit and cook them at home in Spain.
We tried a few versions of conejo al salmorejo, which is a rabbit marinated and stewed in a white or red wine sauce seasoned with tomato, peppers, garlic, onion, and other flavors.
You might also see pollo al salmorejo on the menu, which is chicken in salmorejo sauce. A note for travelers, though, don’t be confused between this dish and salmorejo in Andalusia, which is a cold tomato-based soup.
Arroz A La Cubana
If we’ve said it once, then we’ve said it 100 times. The simplest dishes are the best. Arroz a la Cubana is yet another delicious example of this statement. Consisting of fried eggs, rice, ground beef, pork or sausage, and most importantly bananas. So simple, yet so good.
We ate a lot of ropa vieja in Gran Canaria, where there is more of an influence from Cuban cuisine. It’s a little less common to find on menus in Tenerife. If you see it, though, order it. It’s one of my favorite Canary Islands foods, so much so that we found a ropa vieja recipe to make at home.
Ropa Vieja technically translates to old clothes, but it is a meat-based stew made with chickpeas, potatoes, and vegetables, generally with a touch of vinegar to give it a nice acidic kick.
Puchero – Meat And Vegetable Stew
Puchero is an entirely different kind of meat and vegetable stew, which kind of reminded me of cozido in Lisbon. This is almost a kitchen sink kind of stew, traditionally prepared at home by families trying to stretch resources.
It includes all sorts of meat cuts, including lesser-used cuts like offal, along with corn cobs, cabbage, and other vegetables. I loved the version we ate at El Calderito de La Abuela and wanted to take it home with me. Very traditional Canarian cuisine and oh so good.
If you are a fan of stews or soups with beans, try to find this Spanish bean soup. While more popular on the Spanish mainland, particularly Andalusia, it’s super tasty, healthy, and filling.
Carne Fiesta Iberico
I will admit I kind of wanted to try this dish solely because of the name, which translates to meat party. It’s a marinated Iberico pork, which is fried and normally served with fried potatoes. Totally tasty.
Sure, it’s kind of like a party in your mouth when eating it, but the name really comes from carne fiesta being a typical dish at village parties and fiestas.
This is a very typical Spanish dish, with variations on offer across the country. At its most basic it includes fried eggs mixed with potato and sausage. It is sometimes referred to as huevos roto or huevos estrallados.
In the Canary Islands, it is called huevos estampidos. This is a more contemporary version with eggs on the bottom, a layer of Canarian morcilla (blood sausage) and then fried potatoes on top.
Cherne – Wreckfish
We ate cherne for the first time in Gran Canaria. We’ve heard cherne translated to both wreckfish and grouper. It’s a mild white fish that is most often served grilled at seafood restaurants in Tenerife. Sometimes you can find it as a ceviche at more contemporary restaurants.
Chopitos are tiny squid that is normally breaded and fried. It’s sort of a Canarian version of calamari, but with loads of small, fried tasty bits. It is often served with mojo for dunking. It’s a perfect way to start a meal.
Calamares Rellenos – Stuffed Squid
Calamares rellenos are stuffed squid, normally stuffed with a meat mixture. The version we ate was then coated in a black squid ink sauce making it super rich.
Pulpo – Octopus
Octopus, or pulpo, is popular all over Spain. In the Canary Islands, the locals tend to eat it more simply, boiled, drizzled with olive oil. Or grilled and covered in a tomato and onion-based sauce.
In addition to the individual dishes above, there are a few food products you must eat in Tenerife. Tenerife produces DOP honey, meaning it’s a protected product under European Union rules.
There are loads of different varieties on the island. Look for honey on your hotel’s breakfast buffet, particularly if it is labeled as DOP honey. It also makes a great souvenir. Just make sure to buy a bottle with the DOP-certified label on the bottle.
I tasted a little bit of gofio while in Gran Canaria. It was available on our hotel breakfast buffet. But, we dove in feet first while eating in Tenerife. Gofio is sort of like a super-fine flour but traditionally made from toasted cereals, including corn and barley.
Traditionally it was used during lean times as a way to provide nutrients when other foods weren’t available. It can be sprinkled on yogurt, mixed into milk, or even added to dishes for a protein and fiber boost.
To make gofio at a mill, they take whole corn and other grains and toast them over a fire. The toasted corn smells like popcorn and was comforting to two Americans visiting a mill. Then it is ground with a touch of salt until super fine.
How To Eat Gofio
It might sound a little strange, but we purchased a kilo of gofio at Molino de Gofio El Sauzal. It has a mild flavor. We’ve been using it as part of our breakfast routine to add much-needed fiber to our diet. It’s fab and I am addicted.
Essentially, gofio is a super-food with loads of vitamins and minerals. I would not be surprised to see a gofio trend take off in the future as quinoa has.
Escaladon de Gofio
Also look for escaldón de gofio, which is scalded gofio normally mixed with fish stock and coriander sauce. It is sometimes served as a starter at super traditional Tenerife restaurants.
It’s also making a bit of a comeback at more contemporary restaurants that are making it a little more elegant. It’s super creamy, almost like the consistency of peanut butter.
Where To Eat In Tenerife
If you want to eat local and authentic, it might mean renting a car to explore the island. A lot of travelers do this in order to see some of the top sights. I would suggest using that car to find the Tenerife restaurants that are worth driving to.
This includes El Rincon de Juan Carlos, which is a Tenerife Michelin Star Restaurant. They are trying to bring traditional Tenerife foods into a more contemporary setting.
Other recommended Tenerife restaurants include:
El Calderito de La Abuela, a slightly more contemporary restaurant with a focus on traditional Tenerife dishes, set in the hills with a view over the water. This was one of our best meals in Tenerife. Run by two brothers, Fabian and Mario Torres, they have a real passion for local Canarian ingredients.
Tacoa, is a craft beer brewery and restaurant in El Sauzal, with a great tapas and snacks menu and an outdoor patio with views over the sea. They were the first craft beer brewery in Spain and make some amazing beers.
Bodegas Monje in El Sauzal is a Tenerife winery with a restaurant that can provide culinary experiences (like learning how to make mojo) and wine tours and tastings. They also make a great cochino negro.
Cofradía de Pescadores de Puerto de la Cruz, offers great fish and seafood caught by the local fishermen’s cooperative. Also offers a view of the sea.
Other Top Tenerife Restaurant Recommendations
La Vieja in La Caleta is another option for great seafood and fish for people staying in Adeje. Try the cherne and pulpo.
Bodegas Reverón in Villaflor offers traditional cuisine at their winery. This is a great place to do an easy wine tasting on the way back from a visit to Mount Tiede.
Tasca El Obispado, is a traditional restaurant with a focus on Canarian cuisine in the center of La Laguna with outdoor seating.
Nuestra Señora de África Market, visit the market in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and then walk around the backside of the market to check out some of the little Tenerife tapas bars.
Because the restaurants that we recommend in Tenerife are spread all over the island, here’s a handy map to help you with your planning. When touring around the island, just enter your hotel or location into Google Maps to plan meals ahead of time.
FAQs- Tenerife Food And Travel Tips
Tapas are not a traditional Canarian way of eating. Itu2019s more common, traditionally, to eat larger portions. But itu2019s becoming a lot more common to eat small plates than large dishes on the island. This is a great trend because it is a wonderful opportunity to try a bunch of new foods at one meal.
Beer and wine is a lot less expensive in Tenerife than it is in Northern Europe, particularly in Ireland and the UK. This is why it is such a popular holiday destination. Tenerife food prices are also less expensive. Tapas portions can range from u20ac3-6 with main courses ranging between u20ac8-15. At better fish and seafood restaurants, prices might increase.
We stayed in two different areas, one in the north and one in the south. In Adeje, we stayed at the Sheraton La Caleta, which is a great resort option with both local and international restaurant options. We also stayed at La Laguna Gran Hotel, a boutique hotel in the center of San Cristu00f3bal de la Laguna. It’s a great place for a city break and to explore all of the Tenerife wineries in the north.
* We were supported by the Tenerife tourism board during our stay, but all viewpoints are my own