This month we’re celebrating National Hispanic Heritage! For us, that means commemorating the foods and cooking styles that have crossed oceans and helped turn Spain into the culinary influence it is today. If you know a bit about Spanish cuisine, or you’re just a total foodie, you’ll probably recognize these dishes from your own local restaurant experiences. These are dishes that have made it across the world, and ones you can easily try without catching a plane.
Paella is probably the most quintessential Spanish dish throughout the world, or at least what many envision when they think of Spanish cuisine. Heck, just check your phone and you’ll even find a little orange paella amongst the tacos, pizzas, and sushi emojis. With its fragrant saffron-stained rice and crispy socarrat (those close-to-burnt bits of rice), it’s no wonder why people around the globe love and attempt to replicate it.
Traditional paella comes from the Valencia region on the eastern coast of Spain. It began as many of the country’s best foods began—in the fields. Farmers would carry their pans (called paellas) into the fields and gather whatever they could find. That meant rosemary, snails, rabbit, butter beans, saffron, and a few ingredients for the sofrito like tomatoes and garlic. Though paellas have expanded to include seafood, chicken, and even other interpretations with pork or beef, Spaniards still uphold the rabbit and snail variety as the best and most authentic representation of the dish.
Not to be confused with the delicious paper-thin griddled doughs used in Latin American cooking, Spanish tortilla is like a much thicker potato omelet, or like a frittata cooked on the stovetop. It’s also one of the few dishes you will find in every single region of Spain. Olive-oil fried potatoes, caramelized onions (although there’s division on onion or no onion in Spain), and eggs are all you need to make a tortilla, which is why the idea has been easily exported all over the world.
In Spain, tortilla varies— some are thick and fluffed with potato, others are cooked well-done and sturdy, while some families like to leave them a little raw inside for ultimate creaminess. You can also customize tortilla, adding in your own ingredients like green peppers or cheese, or even a garlic sauce on top. But of course, keeping it classic is the best way to try out your skills.
Cold, refreshing, and supremely healthy, gazpacho is the ultimate summer food. Like tortilla, it requires only a few basic ingredients you can find at any supermarket: tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and possibly a few other additions depending on your recipe.
Despite Spain’s lengthy history, gazpacho didn’t exist before Spain began colonizing the Americas and bringing over tomatoes and peppers to Europe. Spaniards combine these newfound veggies with glugs of their delicious olive oil, to create what has now become an emblematic tapa. Like tortilla, gazpacho differs from region to region and family to family. Some drink it straight from a glass with ice, others slurp it like a soup and sprinkle crispy croutons and peppers on top.
Also popular throughout Latin America, churros are a fried dough eaten all throughout the country and now, around the world. In Spain, they’re made with the basic dough and fried into long tubes, or with a potato dough and shaped in that corrugated form more commonly seen in the U.S. Served with thick hot chocolate or coffee (never cinnamon), they’re a popular breakfast food or hearty late-night snack.
The smoky, paprika-flecked sausage is prepared and cooked in various forms throughout the world. You’ll see it stuffed into breakfast burritos and tacos, or stirred into hearty stews. Delicious in all its forms, it’s a beloved protein that adds bold flavor to so many dishes.
In Spain, chorizo is traditionally made by women in small towns, who prepare the sausages with spices and garlic as soon as the Iberian pig is butchered. They hang them up to dry-cure and the chorizo is then cooked or consumed at various points in the curing process. In its softer raw stages, you may see it cooked up with potatoes and eggs. But when cured, it develops a delicious chew that’s ideal for layering on baguettes and charcuterie boards.
Spain’s most famous culinary masterpiece is, of course, the jamón. Whether serrano or Ibérico, the country’s delicious cured and aged hams find their way onto menus and into homes all over the world— from the United States to Japan.
There’s no question as to why jamón has made its way across the planet. Its natural preservation properties make it easy and safe to transport. The age-old farming and curing practices create a baseline of incredible quality. And the flavors and textures are beyond any other style of cured meat in the world.
Ready to properly celebrate National Hispanic Heritage month? Order a Gourmet Box full of Ibérico Bellota Jamón, Chorizo, and more.