18 Must-Try Spanish Dishes You'll Want To Get To Know

From garlicky seafood to classic pans of paella steaming with yellow rice and chorizo, Spanish food embraces all the richness of its local cuisines. Recipes from this part of the world celebrate flavorful ingredients such as tomatoes, shrimp, olives, and firm, tangy cheeses like Manchego. In Spain, many dishes are served together at the same time, and are intended to share. This way of eating, known as tapas, varies in style depending on where in Spain you are, but generally always serves up a range of flavors to try that are different, yet complement each other. Why have one meal when you can have several all in one delicious sitting? 

Most of these recipes aren't spicy either, but there's always the option to add a little heat if you prefer. And if you enjoy cooking one-pot wonders such as hearty beef and fish stews, you'll have a lot to love about these dishes. Set off on your own exploration of Spain's culinary dishes with this selection of recipes and enjoy a taste of Europe that you'll most definitely want to say "hola" to.

1. Spanish Garlic Shrimp

What is it about the combo of sizzling garlic and shrimp with olive oil and spices that's so fantastic? Here's a dish that makes any foodie want to grab a hunk of bread and soak up those marvelous Mediterranean flavors. Cook the deveined shrimp in a chili and smoked paprika-infused oil and serve in a cast iron skillet or a Spanish ceramic dish. When the seafood turns pink, it's ready. A great sharing dish, serve with plenty of crusty bread and other tapas delights such as Spanish tortilla.

Recipe: Spanish Garlic Shrimp

2. Spanish Style Sofrito

A veggie, tomatoey sauce, the addition of smoked paprika gives this Spanish version of sofrito real depth. While this recipe uses tomato paste to give a really concentrated flavor, you can also use fresh tomatoes if you prefer. Simple to make, the key is to keep stirring the tomatoes or paste in as you sauté the onion and bell pepper so that it mixes in properly. This staple acts as a rich base for many other delicious dishes, such as Spanish soups and braises. You can also add it to rice and beans.

Recipe: Spanish Style Sofrito

3. Sara Hauman's Mussels En Escabeche

Fresh mussels cooked in white wine and served cold with a peppery kick conjure up visions of sensational seaside dining on the Costa del Sol. The combination of sweet paprika, sherry vinegar, and crushed Szechuan peppercorns elevates the seafood with sweetness, tartness, and spice. Only use mussels from shells that have opened after steaming, and once you've poured the cold escabeche on the seafood, you need a few hours of fridge time before serving so those flavors can really combine. Once it's chilled, voila: A terrific tapas dish.

Recipe: Sara Hauman's Mussels En Escabeche 

4. Easy Fried Calamari

Crispy squid rings are ridiculously snackable, and make a great appetizer or tapas dish. Coating the thawed fish in buttermilk really tenderizes it and also helps get rid of any fishy odors. Once you've dipped them in seasoned flour, make sure you fry them straight away. To make great calamari, plunge the rings in hot oil in batches for a few minutes so the pan's not overcrowded and they cook evenly. Using a deep pan, top up the oil between batches to make frying easier. Serve with fresh basil, lemon, and marinara sauce. 

Recipe: Easy Fried Calamari 

5. Easy Roasted Garlic Alioli

The absolute must-have condiment on any Spanish dining table is garlic aioli. Traditionally it's egg-free and made with oil and garlic, but as with this recipe, it's often made using mayo. The only effort is roasting the garlic — just cut the bulbs in half, drizzle with oil, and bake. Once cooked, the cloves easily come away from the peel. In Spain, aioli is often eaten with potatoes or rice, or try it with fries, crab cakes, roasted veggies, or steamed artichokes. Use it instead of ketchup on burgers or serve it with roasted meats. 

Recipe: Easy Roasted Garlic Aioli

6. Air-Fried Artichokes

Great produce cooked fabulously with the right dipping sauce can create a memorable dish that's both sublime and simple. Artichokes baked until they're crunchy in the air fryer go really well with melted butter, or try them with a ranch or blue cheese dressing. Sour cream, Greek yogurt with lemon and dill, or olive oil with lemon and Dijon mustard also complement the distinct taste of this stunning-looking vegetable. If you want to take out the fuzzy core before cooking you can, or just leave it in and discard at the table.

Recipe: Air-Fried Artichokes

7. Simple Frittata

A one-skillet meal, a frittata is definitely a tasty sharing dish that you can serve for breakfast or brunch. While you mostly make it on the hob, the dish sets in the oven. There's pan-fried, omelette-y egg with veggies and meat, plus salty feta cheese and a serving of carbs thanks to the addition of sliced fried potatoes. When cooking, make sure you flip the frittata so it's brown and cooked through on both sides. Instead of the requested bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach, and cherry tomatoes, feel free to experiment with different vegetables.

Recipe: Simple Frittata

8. Paella

A traditional paella served in a special cast iron dish is the epitome of Spanish cuisine and a much-loved classic. Made with arborio rice, the signature yellow coloring comes from saffron, although you can use turmeric instead if you want to save some cash. Shrimp are shelled and sautéed, but the shells are kept and cooked in a stockpot separately. If you haven't got any shell-on shrimp, use fish stock to boost the seafood flavor. Chorizo also adds a spicy, meaty taste. Just make sure your pan is large enough for your final culinary masterpiece.

Recipe: Paella

9. Spanish-Style Fish Stew

A sweet, peppery tomato sauce with flakes of white fish such as cod, basa, or hake make this one-pot Spanish stew a success. Make sure you use Spanish chorizo in this recipe, and feel free to leave out the cayenne pepper if you want a spice-free dish. Don't worry if your cans of chickpeas and chopped tomatoes are larger than suggested, as there's room for a little extra. Once your fish is cooked, sprinkle with fresh parsley and black pepper, and serve with bread, rice, or couscous. 

Recipe: Spanish-Style Fish Stew

10. Spanish Yellow Rice And Chicken

Sometimes there's nothing more comforting than throwing ingredients into a pot and creating a whole dish that doesn't need to be served with any sides or even any condiments. This Spanish chicken and rice recipe promises just that, and it's super simple to make too, as once you've added everything in you just need to let it simmer. Use packet yellow rice, rather than adding saffron and turmeric. Once your onion has turned translucent, and your chicken pieces browned, add the broth and other flavorsome goodies to cook together. 

Recipe: Spanish Yellow Rice And Chicken

11. Mussels In White Wine Broth

While moules mariniere is most definitely a French dish, it's served up just as much in neighboring countries such as Spain. Give these classic steamed mussels in a white wine broth a flavor boost by adding in some clam juice. Use dry white wine and opt for shallot instead of onion, as it has a more delicate taste. Rinse away any sandy dirt and remove any beards, and make sure the shells are all closed before cooking. Serve with fresh crusty bread, fries, and mayonnaise. 

Recipe: Mussels In White Wine Broth

12. Healthy Quinoa Spanish Rice

Quinoa is an on-trend, feel-good, taste-good carb and the Spanish flavors in this dish really enhance it. Rinse the grains thoroughly as they're coated in a mild toxin that gives them a bitter taste. Cook long enough so that most of the liquid is absorbed. Serve with cilantro and lime slices. You could also incorporate it into other dishes, such as a Buddha bowl, or use this rice as part of a do-it-yourself burrito bowl alongside Mexican ingredients such as black beans, guac, salsa verde, and more. 

Recipe: Healthy Quinoa Spanish Rice

13. Slow Cooker Seafood Paella

If you've ever seen one of those large paella dishes sizzling in a restaurant, you may think it's a complex dish to make at home. It really isn't, and it's even easier if you use a slow cooker. Only add the peas after several hours, and cook the shrimp and whatever type of scallops you like on top of the rice, rather than mixing them in. Serve with a sprinkling of scallions and cilantro, with a lemon wedge and buttered crusty bread. 

Recipe: Slow Cooker Seafood Paella

14. Authentic Ropa Vieja

Create this rich and meaty Spanish stew by searing chuck roast and simmering it with veggies in a tomato-based broth. You can also use an Instant Pot or pressure cooker if you're short on time. Use two forks to shred the cooked meat, and mash and stir in the cooked carrot to add some thickness and sweetness to the sauce if you like, instead of discarding it. White vinegar and pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives up the flavor. Sprinkle on parsley or cilantro and serve with rice, mashed potatoes, black beans, or fried plantains.

Recipe: Authentic Ropa Vieja

15. Instant Pot Spanish Rice

Vary the type of salsa you use and the amount of jalapeños you add to customize the spiciness of this Spanish rice side. It's yummy with Mexican dishes, and using an Instant Pot means it's quick to cook too, making it ideal for Taco Tuesdays. Chunky salsa works best with this recipe, and you can use a high-quality olive oil if you don't have any avocado oil. Stir the ingredients before adding, rather than after, so that the burn setting that detects thick liquids stuck to the bottom isn't activated.

Recipe: Instant Pot Spanish Rice

16. Authentic Spanish Buñuelos De Viento

These Spanish fried dough balls are beyond delicious. Fry in oil that's deep enough so the pieces of dough won't touch the bottom, and make sure the oil's temperature doesn't dip below 300 F. When they're crispy on the outside and soft inside, roll them in sugar with a little cinnamon. You could also top them with a spiced syrup. Whether you eat them warm or cooled down, these buñuelos are insanely good. Try them with coffee or a cup of spiced hot chocolate. 

Recipe: Authentic Spanish Buñuelos De Viento

17. Classic Spanish Flan

A custardy classic with a sweet, caramel syrup topping is the perfect dessert to serve after tapas. Give your Spanish flan the edge by running a sharp, non-serrated knife under warm water so that it cuts without any rough edges. Don't leave out the cinnamon, as it adds balance to the creamy ingredients, and it's important to strain the uncooked custard to dispel air bubbles so that it's deliciously smooth. Give yourself plenty of time to chill, then it's ready to flip and serve either as is or with fresh berries or cream.  

Recipe: Classic Spanish Flan

18. Churros

Is there anybody in the world, let alone Spain, who doesn't adore fried pastry dough sticks? To make churros, fill a piping bag with dough easily by putting it inside a glass and turning the sides down to open it up. Add your own touches of sweetness to these Spanish delights, such as a maple glaze and chocolate syrup with chopped pecans sprinkled on. Try other variations such as covering them with cinnamon sugar and dipping them in sweetened condensed milk. For a colorful candy effect, try using melted white chocolate or candy melts and adding sprinkles. 

Recipe: Churros