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Spanish Cuisine 101: 5 Common Myths Debunked

by Sara Williams

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One of the main reasons why travelers (including me) keep returning to Spain is because we ended up falling in love with Spanish food. So it comes to no surprise that Spanish cuisine has been thriving in terms of popularity – especially in the past decade or so.

Thanks to the increasing demand for it across the globe, it’s inevitable that some myths appeared and ultimately, mistaken as facts. On this post, I set out to debunk them.

Without further ado, here are 5 common myths about Spanish cuisine:


1. Spanish Food is Usually Spicy


Let’s get this straight – Spanish food is typically not spicy. Though it can definitely be made to be spicy, this myth appeared because people have a tendency to associate Spanish cuisine with Mexican cuisine. However, the similarities between these two countries start and stop at their common language.

Though Spanish food does contain spices like paprika, saffron, and garlic, none of these ingredients are going to actually set your mouth on fire like most types of chilies would. That said, there is one dish that is considered spicy and that is Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp with garlic). I think we can all agree that we can’t generalize a whole cuisine based on just one dish.


2. The Paella is Spain’s National Dish


seafood paella


The Paella, as you may already know, is a popular Spanish rice dish. Thanks to its widespread popularity, some people mistakenly thought that the paella is actually one of Spain’s national dishes! Though it does originate from Spain (Valencia to be exact), it is not one of the nation’s ‘official’ dishes.

When traveling around Spain, you’ll notice that you won’t easily find Paella in restaurants outside the East coast of Spain. Moreover, there are many people who believe that is a dish based on seafood and this also happens to be false. The Paella is originally prepared with vegetables and meats (chicken, rabbit, or duck) – not seafood. 


3. The Sangria is Spaniards’ Favorite Drink


Image credit:bottiglialv.com


The truth is though Sangria is surely many people’s (alcoholic) drink of choice, it’s unlikely that they are Spaniards. Though the Sangria’s recipe is pretty complicated, in a nutshell, it is a delicious alcoholic drink based on red wine, adored for its fruity taste (as it contains chopped or sliced fruits).

Foreigners usually enjoy this beverage and, for this reason, you’ll find it exclusively in restaurants and lounges located within Spain’s ‘tourist’ zones. When you explore areas far off from the tourist-populated areas around Spain, you’ll notice that Sangria can be a bit challenging to find.

So if not the Sangria, what would be considered the typical Spaniard’s favorite drinks? The answer –  calimocho & tinto de verano, which are both alcoholic drinks that reflect a simplified version of Sangria.


4. Tapas is a Type of Food


Perhaps one of the most popular Spanish dishes, Tapas, actually refers to any Spanish food that is served in a small portion. When you “go for a tapa” at a restaurant or a cafe, this basically means that you’ll be sharing food with others (in your party). As Sarah Deans from AssignmentMasters who is also a lover of Spanish cuisine said, “Tapa is not a type of food, so it is a mystery as to how the myth came about.”

There are regions in Spain where it’s pretty popular to go out for tapas but there are other regions where people rather share larger dishes known as raciones. Spanish people are also not used to preparing tapas in their own homes. They usually do so only on holidays, and even if they do, tapas are considered as aperitivos (appetizers).


5. The Churro is a Popular Dessert


Image credit: Justataste.com


Even though the Churro is a popular dish in Spanish cuisine, it is not considered a dessert.

Don’t believe me? You can ask any Spaniard to name several popular desserts from Spanish cuisine and you’ll realize that churro isn’t among them and is never going to be.

In reality, the Spaniards usually serve churros for breakfast or as a morning/afternoon tea snack – not as something you can serve after dinner. The Churro is typically served by dunking it in (melted) chocolate or coffee.




Like any other cuisine around the world, there is quite a bit of misconception out there about Spanish cuisine.

That said, I hope that this post helped you to set the records straight and understand authentic Spanish cuisine a bit better. May these insights ignite your interest in tasting more of its delightful dishes! 


Want to learn how to cook authentic Spanish food without breaking the bank? Book yourself a spot on a budget culinary vacations in Spain! Your taste buds and wallet will definitely thank you for it. 

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