Valencia is a city on the beach, with stunning classical architecture, and modern museums. For any food traveler, though, it’s all about the Valencia food. We lived just up the coast in Girona, but couldn’t believe how different Valencia Spain food was from the more Catalan dishes we ate in Girona and Barcelona.
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How To Find The Best Food In Valencia Spain
Our first trip to Valencia was light years ago. Before we moved to Spain and before we really started to travel around the country to learn about Spanish cuisine. On our first visit, we were amazed by the architecture of the city and loved being near the water. During our more recent visit, we wanted to learn more and understand what is Valenciana food, beyond paella.
In this Valencia Spain Food Guide, I talk about paella and rice dishes in general. But, I also talk about what else to eat in Valencia. After all, some of the best places to eat in Valencia Spain don’t even serve paella. And, for people who travel for food, you can’t eat paella at every meal.
Check out our Spain Food Guide – What To Eat In Spain for more details on regional must-try dishes in Spain.
What You Will Learn In This Valencia Food Guide:
- What is Valenciana food and how it differs from other regional cuisines in Spain
- What to expect when eating out in Valencia
- Places to visit in Valencia Spain for food and drink
How To Find The Best Tapas in Valencia
Travelers to Spain, and to Valencia, in particular, ask us about two things. Valencia tapas and paella. Let’s start first with tapas. Yes, there are tapas in Valencia, as there are throughout most of Spain.
Tapas didn’t originate in the area though. Part of what we want to do as food and travel writers is not to just offer a list of must-eat dishes in Valencia, but to help educate travelers about why they are eating what they are eating in a particular country or city.
Spain’s Regional Cuisine
Spain has a regional cuisine, meaning the food in Catalonia is different from the Basque Country, which is different from Andalusia. Tapas are really from Andalusia, in particular, Granada, Seville, and Malaga. That is the area where the tapas culture is strong.
This is different from San Sebastian and the Basque Country, where the pintxos culture is strong. So, yes, there are tapas in Valencia, and you will find small plates on many Valencia restaurant menus, but tapas do not form the backbone of Valencian cuisine.
How To Find The Best Paella In Valencia Spain
Only one word can answer the question “What is Valencia famous for?” Paella! In fact, Spain in general is famous for paella even though the dish is from Valencia.
We often get asked the question from culinary travelers to Spain “where can I find the best paella in…” I struggle with answering this question because sure, you can eat rice all over Spain. And, yes, you can find paella in Seville or Malaga, but to eat proper paella, the best paella should be eaten in Valencia.
Also, there are so many different Valencian rice dishes that aren’t considered paella. Most of the best places to eat in Valencia will have a dozen or more different rice dishes on their menus. I talk more below about Paella Valenciana and other rice dishes to try in Valencia.
Where To Eat Paella In Valencia
But, if looking for some of the best paella restaurants in Valencia, try Palace Fesol on Calle Hernan Cortes for an authentic experience. They have Paella Valenciana and about a dozen other rice varieties. Or, check out Casa Carmela close to the Valencia beach or L’Estimat near the port. The important thing with both is to make a booking ahead of time, particularly on the weekends.
Looking to learn how to cook Spanish cuisine at home? Check out our recommendations for the best paella pan for your home.
What To Eat In Valencia Spain
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain. That means it’s pretty international. There are American burger chains and all sorts of international cuisine available. Similar to Barcelona and Madrid, though, it also means you can eat Spanish cuisine that is not necessarily Valencian cuisine.
In this Valencia food blog, we share our recommendations for traditional Valencian dishes, ones you won’t find elsewhere in Spain. But, we also share some other Spanish dishes that are worth eating in Valencia. These are the best Valencia dishes to eat while visiting Valencia Spain. To buck the traditional trend, I am starting with things to eat in Valencia other than rice, and then will share the history of paella in Valencia and around Spain.
Stewed Broad Beans
When people ask about tapas in Valencia, they are probably not assuming that one of the most popular tapas in Valencias is a plate of not-so-attractive stewed beans. This is definitely one of the most typical Valencian dishes and not one we’ve tried elsewhere in Spain.
This traditional Valencian food is a plate of stewed broad beans, a reddish-colored fava bean. They are cooked slowly in a sauce, normally flavored with ham or chorizo. No, they are not Instagram ready and can seem a little strange to eat at first. But they became slightly addictive. I kept stabbing my fork at the small plate eating another and another.
All i Pebre
This was one of the most surprising dishes when it comes to the food in Valencia. Again, we lived fairly close to Valencia, only a few hours up the coast in Girona. Girona is a very Catalan city. Although Valencia has Catalan roots, it is a city that doesn’t identify with Catalan heritage as much as Girona and even Barcelona.
This is why I expected the traditional Valencian food to be more in line with Catalan. This dish proves I was way wrong. We had nothing like this in Catalonia, at least that I’ve tasted.
All i pebre might not be the most famous Spanish food, but this eel and potato stew is a point of pride for Valencianos. The eel and potatoes are stewed in tomatoes, garlic, and paprika. The stew itself is tasty and the eel is moist and tender. In the end, it’s nothing to be scared about at all. It’s definitely the must eat of Valencian dishes.
One of the more unique Spanish foods is mojama, a salt-cured tuna that is typical in Andalusia. Traditionally, fishermen would cure fish to help them last longer. When ready to eat it’s sliced and drizzled with a little local olive oil.
I wouldn’t add this to a list of the most common tapas in Spain, but it is pretty common in Andalusia, particularly at seafood restaurants. It also can be found in Valencia due to the history of fish and seafood in Valencia. This mojama is from Casa Montana, where it was drizzled in olive oil and mustard seeds, giving it a nice little tang.
This dish threw me off a little bit. Bacalao is a salted codfish that is popular throughout Spain and Portugal. In Valencia, the bacalao is layered with roasted red peppers and drizzled with olive oil. It’s often topped with mojama, the cured tuna. It’s an amalgamation of ingredients that are commonly found elsewhere in Spain to make a true Valencia food.
Horchata And Fartons
This was one of the drinks I was most interested in trying in Valencia because it is truly a Valencian specialty. Horchata is a typical drink for the warm weather in Valencia during the summer.
It’s a milk-like substance but made from tiger nuts instead of cow milk. That makes it a vegan-friendly Spanish drink. It’s milky, creamy, and sweet. There is a little more texture than typical milk, almost with a chalkiness to it. Although you can find horchata year-round, it’s most commonly served with fartons, which are long, thin, sweet bread sprinkled with sugar or frosting. Try it as part of your breakfast in Spain.
Is Paella Spain’s National Dish?
Now, let’s talk about what every traveler to Spain wants to know about – paella. Paella is easily the most famous Spanish dish. Many people say it is Spain’s national dish, even the Spanish tourism board has said that in the past. I, respectfully, disagree. Here is why. Similar to many people from Valencia, I think paella should only be eaten in Valencia and the surrounding area. Yep, that means I don’t think paella is the national dish of Spain.
Brief History of Paella
Why is paella associated with Valencia? First, rice grows well in the Albufera wetlands that surround Valencia. Second, traditional Paella Valenciana should be cooked on a wood fire made from the wood of the orange trees that grow around Valencia. So, paella is a dish that is local to the area. But, the Spanish tourism board started a marketing campaign in the 1980s to create a national dish of Spain in order to increase incoming tourists.
Not only did they try to create a national dish, but they choose a “paella” that would look good in photos. One with more red-colored rice, with strips of red peppers, green peas, and bright red prawns. Spoiler alert – this is not Paella Valenciana. It is, however, what you will find on tourist menus around the country. This is why I am so skeptical of so-called paella in cities outside of the region of Valencia.
What Is Paella Valenciana
If traditional paella doesn’t include red peppers, prawns, and peas, what does it include? Traditional Paella Valenciana includes chicken, rabbit, local white beans, and wide green beans. Some include snails.
The best paella also includes a layer of crispy rice along the bottom called a socarrat, caramelized grains of rice. And, Paella Valenciana is not a glowing yellow. It’s browner in color, due to the meat cooking down in olive oil, tomato, and a pinch of saffron. As mentioned above, Paella Valenciana is only one type of Valencia rice dish. There are dozens of other dishes that use rice, or even noodles, as a base in Valencia.
That means that when searching for the best paella restaurants in Valencia you can do one thing to find more quality rice dishes. Avoid the restaurants in Valencia (or elsewhere in Spain) with the sandwich boards outside with pictures of paella. Most of these, particularly outside of Valencia, are advertisements for pre-packaged, and often frozen, commercially-produced paella. It’s not the real thing! Avoid these restaurants like the plague!
See related Spain food and drink posts here:
FAQs – WHAT TO EAT IN VALENCIA
Valencia is famous for its ideal climate, stunning classic and modern architecture, and most of all for being the home of paella.
Valencia is located on Spain’s eastern coastline. Valencia is nearly equidistant from both Madrid and Barcelona. A port city, Valencia is a jumping-off point to visit Spain’s Balaeric Islands.
Valencia is famous as a summer holiday destination that’s to its location on the Mediterranean Sea. However, it can very warm in Valencia from June to September. Spring and Fall both feature more mild temperatures making this best time to visit.