Spain is celebrated all around the world for its bold, colourful food. From tapas and rustic rice dishes to sun-ripened vegetables, fresh seafood, and cured meats – this cuisine has it all. And its unmistakable flavours can instantly transport you to whitewashed seaside towns or sun-drenched cities.
While some dishes, like paella, are a labour of love, there are many simple Spanish recipes that are just as irresistible, yet are quick and easy to knock up.
So, if you’re looking to chase away the winter blues – or just enjoy some quick yet tasty food – look no further. Here are 10 simple Spanish recipes that are packed with flavour.
1. Gambas pil pil
Another dish that’s a favourite in tapas bars throughout Spain is gambas pil pil – garlic and chilli prawns. This dish takes less than 10 minutes to make, and is delicious as a quick snack if you’re looking to impress your friends!
Traditionally served in a clay ramekin, the dish is brought out while the oil is still sizzling – though the mouthwatering smell will tempt you to dig in right away!
Because gambas pil pil only contains four key ingredients, good quality ingredients are a must. In this case, this means using fresh king prawns (the bigger the prawn, the juicier they’ll be!). The pil pil sauce provides this dish with its unmistakable flavour, so it’s also important to use good quality extra virgin olive oil and pimentón de la vera – sweet smoked paprika.
Making gambas pil pil is easy: clean and peel the prawns, heat the oil until sizzling, and then fry the garlic until golden. Drain the garlic and set aside. Then, in the same pan, fry the prawns for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chilli, paprika, and garlic; sprinkle with chopped parsley; toss; and serve immediately. Serve with wine and crusty bread – and be careful you don’t burn your tongue!
To make gambas pil pil, try this recipe from Basco Fine Foods.
2. Arroz con pollo
If you’re looking for an easy yet delicious dinner that’s packed with bold Spanish flavours, this next recipe is ideal.
Arroz con pollo – rice with chicken – is a staple throughout Spain, but especially on the Mediterranean Coast. It’s the perfect weeknight dinner because it’s simple, filling, healthy, and seriously tasty. Plus, it’s a one-pot recipe, so saves on washing up!
To make arroz con pollo, the essential ingredients are paella rice; bone-in chicken thighs; chicken broth; canned tomatoes; herbs and spices; and onions, garlic, and peppers for the soffrito. However, there are many ways to elevate this classic dish – and this version amps up the Spanish flavours with some generous chunks of chorizo, white beans, smoked paprika, and sherry vinegar.
If you can’t get hold of paella rice, arborio rice is a good substitute, though short-grain rice also works. You can use chickpeas, cannellini, or haricot beans, and if you’re using chorizo, it’s best to use uncooked chorizo, not cured. This is softer to the touch than the usual, ready-to-eat chorizo that many of us are used to, and when it’s cooked, it produces a spicy red oil that’s packed with flavour.
To get cooking, first marinade the chicken, fry the chorizo in paprika and oil, and then add the chicken and beans. Cook the sofrito and build your sauce before adding the rice, meat, and stock – and cook until tender!
To make Spanish rice and chicken with chorizo and beans, try this recipe by The Spanish Radish.
3. Tortilla Española
Another one of Spain’s most beloved tapas dishes is the Spanish omelette, or the tortilla Española, to use its correct name.
While this dish is incredibly simple – it contains just potatoes, eggs, onions, olive oil, and salt – it’s astonishingly diverse. It can be eaten hot or cold, as a snack or a main, early in the morning, or late at night. There are also endless variations and adaptations!
Because Spanish omelette is so simple, again, it’s really important to use high-quality ingredients. According to Spanish chefs, organic eggs and top-quality olive oil make a real difference here. Once you’ve got your ingredients, everything else is simple – after all, it’s difficult to go wrong with what’s essentially fluffy scrambled eggs stuffed with tender fried potatoes!
Seasoning the potato and egg mixture with salt before cooking helps it retain moisture, and makes sure your tortilla isn’t dry. Cooking the mix slowly in plenty of olive oil helps create a silky-smooth texture, and flipping the tortilla will create a centre that’s creamy yet dense. If you want to amp up your tortilla, why not add chunks of chorizo for extra colour, texture, and Spanish flavour?
To make authentic tortilla Española, try this recipe from Spain on a Fork.
4. Espinacas con garbanzos
Spanish food might be best known for seafood and cured meats like chorizo, but it has plenty of tasty vegetable-based dishes too.
Espinacas con garbanzos – spinach and chickpeas – is an Andalusian stew that’s especially popular in the tapas bars of Seville. Ready in under half an hour, it’s another great weeknight winter dinner.
Spain’s Moorish history is evident in this dish, as chickpeas first came to Spain from the Middle East, as did spinach. The warming notes of cumin and smoked paprika, and crunchy toasted almonds and croutons really help elevate this classic dish – and though it’s simple, you’ll be surprised how long you go on thinking about it once you’ve finished!
After sauteing the spinach in olive oil, fry your bread cubes, garlic, spices, and almonds until brown. Then blend with sherry vinegar until you have a thick, crumbly paste. Next, fry some chopped onions and peppers; add chickpeas, tomato sauce, and spices; and cook until fragrant.
Add the spinach and almond-bread mix, and cook for another few minutes, until it’s thickened. Serve topped with more almonds and a scattering of parsley or coriander!
To make espinacas con garbanzos, try this recipe from The Mediterranean Plate.
If you’re dreaming of warm, summer days – or perhaps reminiscing about your last Spanish holiday – then one of the best ways to recreate that experience is to make a bowl of gazpacho.
Originating in Andalusia in southern Spain, gazpacho is a chilled soup that’s traditionally eaten on a hot summer day. But it’s delicious enough to warrant being eaten throughout the year!
Gazpacho is made with fresh, ripe vegetables, and to make your soup as flavoursome as possible, it’s worth looking for the ripest tomatoes you can find (vine-ripened Roma tomatoes are best). Using long green Italian peppers will make your gazpacho taste more authentic too. Though, green bell peppers will work if not.
Making gazpacho is easy: just blend the tomatoes, peppers, and cucumber with garlic and olive oil. Then bulk it out with pieces of stale bread that have been soaked in water until soft. Add salt and a dash of sherry vinegar to taste, blend again, and pass through a sieve to make sure there are no chunks. Chill until cold, then serve topped with diced onion, green pepper, and a glug of olive oil.
To make your own Andalusian gazpacho, try this recipe from Spanish Sabores.
6. Patatas bravas
Patatas bravas is one of the most popular tapas dishes in Spain and it’s not difficult to work out why.
There are few people who don’t like potatoes, especially when they’re perfectly fried in olive oil – golden, crisp, and textured on the outside, and tender and fluffy on the inside. Wherever you are in Spain, it’s almost impossible to find a tapas bar that doesn’t serve patatas bravas.
What sets patatas bravas apart from other fried potato dishes is the bravas sauce – a vibrant tomato sauce that’s rich and smoky, with an invigorating, punchy kick. Some versions are served with aioli, a light, garlicky mayonnaise, but the bravas sauce is so flavoursome that this dish is just as tasty in its simplest, purest form.
Chop your potatoes into chunks and then soak them in cold water. While they’re soaking, whip up your smoky bravas sauce; and when it’s done, fry the potatoes in olive oil until they’re golden and crispy. Then, sprinkle with salt, and smother the potatoes with the bravas sauce. Serve immediately!
To make authentic patatas bravas, try this recipe by Spain on a Fork.
7. Berenjenas rellenas
This next recipe is rarely found on menus in Spanish restaurants, but it’s a very common meal to have at home – and it’s another dish that makes an ideal weeknight dinner.
Berenjenas rellenas (or stuffed aubergine) is simple, healthy, and appetising, and it’s also very versatile. You can make meat versions, veggie versions, and even vegan versions.
The aubergines are first cut along the middle, scored, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned. They’re then baked until tender – usually for about an hour. While the aubergines are baking, you can make your filling. Fry chopped onion, green pepper, and garlic until tender, then add minced pork or beef. Or to keep it vegetarian, you can swap the meat for veggie mince or lentils.
Scoop out the aubergine pulp, add it to the pan with your chopped tomatoes, and season with whatever herbs you like: oregano, thyme, rosemary, or parsley all work well. Then, add scoops of the filling into the empty aubergine shells until they’re full. Top with a béchamel sauce or grated cheese (just use plant-based alternatives if you want to make it vegan) and bake until browned!
To make Spanish stuffed aubergines, try this recipe by Spanish Food Guide.
8. Calamares fritos
Another super popular tapas dish that’s also surprisingly simple and quick to knock up is calamares fritos – fried squid!
All you need to make this dish is squid, flour, lemon, and seasoning. Though some Spanish recipes add a dash of milk to tenderise the squid. Calamares fritos are great as a snack or starter, as part of a tapas-style spread, or even as a main, served with chips and a big salad.
The trick to this recipe is to get high-quality ingredients (you’re probably seeing a pattern here!). While fresh calamari is best, you can always use frozen squid rings that have been thawed out – just make sure they’re up to the job! If you’re using fresh squid, slice it into rings and marinate it in milk or lemon juice. If you’re using frozen squid, do the same once the rings have thawed.
Start by drying each ring carefully and covering it in the flour mix, which should contain salt, black pepper, and paprika. Quickly dip each ring in milk, dredge through the flour mix again, and add to a pan of very hot olive oil. Deep fry for two to three minutes – then remove with a slotted spoon and drain excess oil off on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with salt, add a squeeze of lemon, and serve with aioli!
To make authentic Spanish calamari, try this recipe by Spanish Sabores.
If you’re a fan of French ratatouille or Italian caponata, you should definitely have a go at making the Spanish version, pisto.
Hearty, healthy, and incredibly tasty, this is a naturally vegan dish, though in Spain it’s sometimes served topped with an egg (pisto con huevos), with crusty bread and manchego cheese, or served as a side with meat or fish.
However you want to enjoy this mouthwatering dish, it’s a great way to get plenty of veg and vitamins down you. Though if you want to make an authentic version of this dish, there are two key rules…
The first is – of course! – to use top-quality produce and olive oil, and the second is to take your time. While this recipe is easy to cook, cooking the vegetables separately makes a big difference.
Frying the aubergine and courgette separately allows them to caramelise, and pre-cooking the onion, pepper and tomatoes helps the flavours to really infuse. Pisto lasts for five days in the fridge and is enjoyable cold, too, so you may want to make a big batch to enjoy throughout the week. Season with thyme, cumin, and cayenne pepper (if you like heat), and serve with crusty bread and a glass of red!
To make pisto, try this recipe from Spanish Sabores.
If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll definitely want to make Spain’s national dessert – the wonderfully wobbly, creamy flan.
Spanish flan is essentially a crème caramel; not an open pastry, as the name suggests over here. There are many variations and ways you can spice up this dessert, but the classic recipe uses only four main ingredients: eggs, sugar, milk, and vanilla.
Flan is an incredibly indulgent pudding, and every bite is a joy. The creamy texture is like firm custard, though it should still wobble temptingly on your spoon, and the flavours of vanilla and caramel are incredibly moreish. The sticky sauce on top gives way to a silky texture that’s so smooth it seems to melt away on your tongue.
Flan isn’t a difficult dish to make, but it does require some focus. First, you make the caramel syrup and pour it into ramekins, and then you whisk up the eggs, milk, and vanilla into a custard. Add the custard to the ramekins, put them all into a baking tray, and bake them in a water bath in the oven (bain-marie). Cook for 30-40 minutes until the flans are set. It will be love at first bite!
To make authentic Spanish flan, try this recipe from The Spanish Chef.
From shareable small plates like patatas bravas and gambas pil pil to hearty dinners like arroz con pollo and espinacas con garbanzos, Spanish food is delicious and diverse, and offers something for every taste preference and dietary requirement.
As you’ll no doubt have seen, the secret to cooking great Spanish food lies in the quality of your ingredients. If you can, it’s worth paying a bit extra for some good quality olive oil and fresh, ripe produce.
The good news is that most of the ingredients used in Spanish cooking aren’t expensive, and veggies, rice, eggs, potatoes, and olive oil form the backbone of many dishes – which keeps things nice and simple.
If you’re tempted by these recipes but aren’t sure which ones you want to try most, why not host a tapas night and make a selection? You could even ask each guest to bring a dish themselves, so you can focus less on cooking, and more on eating!
For more cuisines from around the world, head over to the food and drink section of our website.