Spanish Cuisine: 10 Spanish Dishes To Try + Spanish Food Vocabulary

Spanish cuisine. Isn’t it wonderful?

And it’s not just about the food in Spain but also about other Spanish-speaking countries. Like Mexico! Spring Spanish made a great lesson on this topic.

Now, it’s time to explore different Spanish national dishes – from all around the world!

What is a typical, traditional Spanish cuisine like?

When we talk about Spanish cuisine and explore Spanish food vocabulary, we have to say this: Spanish cuisine extends far beyond the borders of Spain.

So, this time, let’s go on an imaginary journey – not a language learning one but a cultural one!

Spanish cuisine is perhaps best known for its tapas culture – small, flavorful dishes perfect for sharing. It has all the important and famous ingredients: patatas bravas, gambas al ajillo, albóndigas that you can mix with ripened tomatoes, fragrant olive oils.

Here’s an overview of what you can expect in different Spanish-speaking countries:

CountryTraditional Dish
MexicoTacos al pastor [shepherd-style tacos]
El SalvadorPupusas [thick stuffed corn tortillas]
Costa RicaGallo pinto [rice and beans]
CubaRopa vieja [shredded beef stew]
Puerto RicoMofongo [mashed plantains with garlic and pork cracklings]
ColombiaAjiaco [potato and chicken soup]
Argentina/UruguayAsado [barbecue]
PeruCeviche [marinated raw fish]
VenezuelaArepas [cornmeal patties]
EcuadorLocro de papa [cheese and potato soup]
BoliviaSalteñas [savory pastries]
Equatorial GuineaPepesup [spicy fish soup]
ChileDifferent seafood dishes (not specified)

And now, it’s time to explore everything related to these delicious Spanish dishes – not just their recipes, but also the easy Spanish sentences and words connected to them.

1. Paella (Spain)

Imagine a wide, shallow pan filled with saffron-infused rice, creating a canvas of golden yellow.

To prepare this iconic Spanish dish, sauté chorizo, chicken, and vegetables in olive oil.

spanish cuisine - paella

Add rice and broth, then arrange seafood on top. As it simmers, the rice absorbs the flavors, forming a crispy bottom layer called “socarrat.”

The result is a feast for both eyes and palate.

Learn to make paella with these Spanish words.

socarratcrispy bottom layer of paella

2. Tacos al Pastor (Mexico)

Picture a vertical spit, similar to the Middle Eastern shawarma, but loaded with marinated pork that’s been bathed in achiote, chilies, and pineapple.

spanish cuisine - tacos al pastor

To make tacos al pastor, slice the caramelized meat thinly and serve it on small corn tortillas with diced onions, cilantro, and a slice of pineapple. It’s a perfect blend of savory, sweet, and tangy flavors.

The vocabulary you have to know to prepare tacos al pastor:

trompovertical spit

3. Ceviche (Peru)

Cubes of fresh fish “cooked” not with heat, but with citrus juices!

To prepare ceviche, marinate diced fish (such as sea bass) in lime juice with red onions, cilantro, and aji peppers. The acid in the lime juice denatures the proteins in the fish, resulting in a dish that’s refreshing, tangy, and bursting with the flavors of the sea.

spanish cuisine - ceviche

To make ceviche, you need:

pescado crudoraw fish
ajíchili pepper
leche de tigreceviche marinade

4. Asado (Argentina)

Picture a gathering of friends around a grill laden with various cuts of meat.

Preparing asado is an art: slow-cook high-quality beef cuts over wood embers, season simply with salt, and serve with chimichurri sauce.

It’s more than just a meal!

Essential ingredients and tools for asado:

carne de resbeef
chimichurriherb sauce for grilled meat
matetraditional Argentine drink

5. Mofongo (Puerto Rico)

Imagine a mountain of mashed plantains, crispy pork cracklings, and garlic.

To make mofongo, fry green plantains, then mash them with garlic and chicharrones (pork cracklings) in a pilón (mortar).

Shape the mixture into a dome and serve with a flavorful broth or meat sauce.

For mofongo, you need:

chicharronespork cracklings
sofritoaromatic base for many Puerto Rican dishes

6. Ajiaco (Colombia)

Picture a steaming bowl of hearty soup, filled with various types of potatoes, corn, and shredded chicken.

To prepare ajiaco, simmer these ingredients with guascas (a local herb) until the potatoes begin to break down and thicken the broth.

Serve with capers, cream, and avocado on the side. It’s a comforting dish that embodies the spirit of Bogotá.

To prepare a delicious ajiaco:

guascasherb used in ajiaco

7. Gallo Pinto (Costa Rica)

A colorful plate of rice and beans, the ultimate Costa Rican comfort food.

To make gallo pinto, sauté pre-cooked rice and beans with onions, peppers, and cilantro. Season with Salsa Lizano, a popular Costa Rican condiment.

You can make gallo pinto with these ingredients:

Salsa LizanoCosta Rican condiment
pura vidaCosta Rican phrase meaning “pure life”

8. Cocido Madrileño (Spain)

Picture a three-course meal all from one pot.

To prepare cocido Madrileño, simmer chickpeas, various meats (including chorizo and beef), and vegetables in a large pot. Serve first the broth with noodles, then the vegetables, and finally the meats.

All in one pot:


9. Ropa Vieja (Cuba)

Imagine tender shreds of beef in a flavorful tomato sauce.

To make ropa vieja, slow-cook flank steak until it falls apart, then shred it and simmer in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, and onions. The name means “old clothes,” referring to the shredded appearance of the meat. Serve with rice and black beans for a classic Cuban meal.

A delicious ropa vieja can be made with:

carne deshebradashredded meat
pimientosbell peppers
frijoles negrosblack beans

10. Chivito (Uruguay)

Picture the ultimate steak sandwich.

To prepare chivito, grill a thin slice of tender beef and layer it on a soft bun with ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a fried egg.

Add bacon, olives, and mayonnaise for extra indulgence. It’s a hearty, satisfying meal that showcases Uruguay’s love for beef.

The ultimate steak sandwich needs:

churrascothin steak
huevo fritofried egg

Spanish food expressions

Although we listed the most important ingredients for you about these traditional Spanish dishes, there are other important Spanish food chunks and expressions you have to know.

So, let’s take a look together!

Spanish ExpressionEnglish Translation
¡Buen provecho!Enjoy your meal!
La cuenta, por favorThe bill, please
Estoy lleno/aI’m full
¡Qué rico!How delicious!
Tengo hambreI’m hungry
Tengo sedI’m thirsty
Salud!Cheers! (when toasting)
Está para chuparse los dedosIt’s finger-licking good
Me muero de hambreI’m starving
¿Cuál es el plato del día?What’s the dish of the day?
¿Tiene algún plato vegetariano?Do you have any vegetarian dishes?
¿A qué hora se sirve la cena?What time is dinner served?
Quisiera algo ligeroI’d like something light
¿Me puede recomendar algo?Can you recommend something?
La comida está deliciosaThe food is delicious

Tortillas, gazpacho, patatas bravas – learn about traditional Spanish food with Conversation Based Chunking

No matter which Spanish-speaking country you travel to, it’s important to know these words and expressions. And not just these, but other life-saving Spanish travel phrases.

We’ve just the method for you to quickly learn these common Spanish phrases – Conversation Based Chunking. With this approach, you can avoid memorizing long vocabulary lists and boring grammar rules. Instead, you focus on the true lexical chunks of the language – the things that are considered the natural building blocks of the language and that will help you master every expression in this beautiful language.

If you sign up now, you’ll get an essential Spanish Chunking list, access to our Full Practice Worksheet Library, and I’ll even share some top secrets (like my favorite resources) with you.

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