Food in Galicia is not just food, it’s part of the local culture. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not the paella-style food you might have seen at Travel shows nor the fritters and the haute-cuisine (although there is a lot of that too); if there is something that sets Galician food apart is the simplicity and the focus on fresh produce.
There is amazing fish and seafood (we have an ocean at the door), great meats (pork and veal and many other things), tasty cheeses (with three designations of origin: Tetilla, Arzúa and San Simón), all sorts of greens (have you heard of kale? well, they’ve been eating it for ages)…
But today we will focus on the basics: what to order when you are heading to dinner or lunch on a tapas-style place (almost any place that doesn’t have a fabric tablecloth) or someone invites you to tapear or to pinchar algo (synonyms of going to dine tapas-style: sharing different dishes instead of ordering something for each).
What to order on your trip to Galicia for a perfect foodie experience
Galicia is one of the places to be in terms of seafood in Spain. Not that there isn’t good seafood elsewhere, but here you have some of the most amazing options and it’s not as expensive as you may think.
In terms of cooking, Galician people prefer to stick to basic recipes where you can taste the strong flavours of the pieces that are catched here, so either raw (like oysters and some clams), steamed or boiled most times. Sometimes grilled too.
For tapas-like eating, seafood best options (and most popular ones) are:
- Periwinkles (caramuxos or bígaros)
- Grilled razor clams (navajas)
- Slipper lobster (santiaguiños)
- Small crabs (nécoras)
- Barnacles (percebes) – mostly at restaurants, although you could find them at other places too
- Mussels (mejillones)
- Oysters (ostras) – a specialty of Vigo city
Don’t mistake Galician empanada with Chilean/Argentinian/Venezuelan empanadas: there is a common base to it (both are pies with different fillings) but they differ in shape, contents and many other ways.
There are many ways of cooking it, but the two biggest options you will find is: bread-like crust vs. corn-bread crust. Corn-bread crust is harder to find and the empanada is usually made of scallops (vieiras) or queen scallops (zamburiñas).
The bread-like crust can be found almost everywhere in Spain with Tuna filling, but it’s not the best option if you ask me. Try the little sardines (xoubas) ones, the cod with raisins (bacalao con pasas) ones or the cuttlefish one (chocos). Or whatever is on the menu that day.
Octopus (pulpo or polbo) is one of the most iconic dishes in Galicia. Specially on a very traditional serving called pulpo á feira, literally “octopus to the party” (or to the cattle fair).
This famous dish was commonly eaten at local fairs (traditionally cattle and produce fairs) and now can be found in many restaurants and even at local bars on weekends, when the pulpeira attends to cook it for their guests (usually on the same terrace where you are sitting.)
The á feira style is boiled octopus with paprika and olive oil served on a wooden platter; but you will also find it with boiled potatoes (con cachelos), grilled and sometimes on a stew.
Herbón peppers (pimientos de Herbón) are the Galician version of the Russian Roulette. These tasty and sweet peppers are sometimes spicy (like wild beasts) and sometimes not, and there is no easy way to tell them apart.
They are also known as pimientos de Padrón, as Padrón is the closest village where they come from, but the Designation of Origin is officially Herbón. People send it indistinctly but when they say Herbón, you will be sure they are the true kind made in Galicia.
They are always cooked the same way: fried on olive oil with a pinch of salt. And eaten with your hands. Best tip: they come on a bite size but don’t eat the whole at once, bite a bit just in case it stings.
There are fritters in Galicia too, like croquettes. But here we tend to give it a twist with the ingredients: seafood (marisco), cuttlefish (chocos), Galician stew (cocido) or even San Simón cheese are among the most common ones now.
Other things you could order are Spanish Omelette (tortilla de patatas). The recipe belongs to the whole country, but they say the best ones are from the small city of Betanzos.
Food in Galicia is also flexible. You can have a tapa or small portion of traditional main courses like callos (tripe with chickpeas), zorza (marinated pork), lacón con grelos (shoulder ham with turnip greens)…
Some extra info
Galician food is known in Spain for its quality and flavours. You will find many Galician restaurants worldwide and, also, many restaurants in Spain serve traditional Galician dishes on their menu.
But, don’t get us wrong, while you can find amazing Galician food outside, you will only feel the experience of a good meal here. And it’s cheaper! (yes, seafood too.)
How to get there
By train: Renfe operates direct trains to Vigo, Santiago de Compostela and Pontevedra from Madrid and Barcelona on a daily basis. Connecting trains with Portugal, Ponferrada or Irun are also available
By plane: There are three airports connecting international destinations to Galicia: Vigo (VGO), Santiago de Compostela (SCQ) and A Coruña (LCG). Porto airport in Portugal is also fairly close (OPO).