Madrid is full of delicious treats, gladly found in every corner, and at very affordable prices. I consider myself a proud foodie (yes, I take pictures of almost every plate I order when dining out, and flood my social media with them). And, therefore, I have devoted some time to try traditional Madrillian food, specifically. Despite how Madrid is known for housing high-rank international restaurants, its traditional delights are unbeatable, at least for my taste! After a month a half here, I have made a list of a few traditional dishes and drinks that deserve to be called my favorites.
- “Tinto de Verano”: Madrid is full of die-hard Sangria fans (which is a traditional Spanish fruity, red wine drink). However, if you are looking for something less sweet or exotic, you cannot go wrong with a “tinto de verano.” This famous, yet often underrated, Spanish drink consists of a very simple combination: red wine and carbonated lemonade or soda (usually Sprite). It is very fresh, light, and bubbly, hence its name “Verano,” which means summer in Spanish. Also, you can find it at almost every restaurant you go to, even if it is not on the menu (it is simply an all-time classic!).
- Manchego Cheese & Iberian Ham: In Madrid, you will not go a day without seeing people sitting down on a terrace, eating a ham and cheese platter with a glass of wine. Manchego is one of the most traditional Spanish cheeses of all time. This cheese, which comes from sheep, is often drizzled with light olive oil; it is very moist and has a nutty, sweet flavor. It is often paired with mouthwatering slices of Iberian ham. If you visit Spain, you will see how everyone, mostly tourists, goes crazy for Iberian ham legs in markets, as they are true Spanish delicatessens. Iberian ham is said to be cured much longer than other hams, resulting in their more intense flavor, which is sweet and salty, and simply delicious. In most coffee shops, you will find Manchego cheese and Iberian ham inside small baguettes. (Pro-tip: you can find these ham and cheese at almost every supermarket, and you can save a lot by buying them there and making your homemade version of this traditional Spanish sandwich; it is a simple and quick to-go lunch!).
- “Tortilla Española” (Spanish Omelet): This traditional Spanish lunch plate looks very similar to a regular omelet, but it is nothing like it! They found almost everywhere here, and with a lot of variations. It is simply made of eggs and potatoes, but it often comes with sausage, ham, onions, tomatoes, or peppers. They are usually crusty and golden brown on the outside and moist on the inside. They are often served as slices that make the perfect side dish in every Spanish lunch. I have noticed that every restaurant has its own way of making them, and they will serve it either hot or cold; personally, hot tortillas are best!
- “Patatas Bravas”: If you are looking for a crunchier potato variation, then this is it. “Patatas bravas” are potato chunks, usually served as “tapas” (snacks) or “to share” plates in most bars and restaurants. These small potato chunks are fried, salted, and topped with a spicy sauce (the best ones also come with a drizzle of thick, cheesy sauce). Every time I go out for lunch or dinner with a large group of friends, at least three orders of “patatas bravas” are always on the list; they are a MUST!
- Churros with Chocolate: Churros are simply a fried-dough delight. Before coming to Madrid, I had never eaten churros this way. I was used to the thick and doughy ones you would commonly have in amusement parks, but these are nothing like it. Churros in Madrid are thin and VERY crispy, glazed with cinnamon and sugar. You can also have them filled or drizzled with “dulce de leche” (which is like a thicker version of caramel). Still, the simple ones are almost everyone’s favorite here. The unique thing about Madrillian churros is that coffee shops and bakeries will almost always accompany them with a cup of thick and rich hot chocolate. But not just any hot chocolate. In Madrid, hot chocolate is more like a dense, sweet pudding, perfect for dipping in the churros. Gladly, there are “churrerías” (bakeries specifically dedicated to making “churros”) in almost every corner. Only on my way to school, I pass by at least three of them (which makes it even harder to resist!). Pro tip: If you are not into crispy, thin churros, ask for “Porras,” which are a thicker version of churros, also crispy on the outside but spongy and doughy on the inside.
- “Palmeritas:” If you are having a cup of coffee and crave a small, sweet side, then “palmeritas” are the way to go. This Spanish dessert is shaped like a small palm leaf, hence its name. “Palmeritas” are made of countless, thin layers of dough (similar to the one used for croissants), which are rolled and then caramelized. I always choose the ones that have more golden-brown edges as those are typically the crunchiest! Here in Madrid, you can find “palmeritas” in every bakery or pastry shop. And, aside from the traditional ones, you can find them glazed in vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry frosting and with various types of toppings like pistachio bits or sprinkles.
Overall, the food in Madrid is simply amazing. Hopefully, this list made you hungry and eager to try these wonderful, traditional foods. Thus, no matter how hard I describe them, no description will ever accurately represent how delicious these plates are. In only roughly two months, I have already been delighted with Madrid’s food. So, I cannot help but look forward to expanding my list of food faves a whole bunch in the following months. I believe a great way to learn about a city’s culture is by trying its traditional food and drinks. So, I genuinely hope you get the chance to get a real taste of Madrid as I do!