Spain's Strangest Foods - Percebes, Octopus, Flat Fish

Avoid the obvious and Eat Spain’s Strangest Foods on your next visit to Southern Europe

Love the thought of Paella and Tortilla, Spain’s beloved dishes? Love the Mediterranean Diet? On your next visit to Spain, be brave and try some of Spain’s strangest foods. Fall in love with the unknown!


Read time: 6 min
Strange Spanish Food - Octopus, Pulpo

Who has the best eating habits in the World? Spain of course!

Spain has a lot of mouth watering food think hefty slices of tortilla, jamon Iberico and of course Paella. The Mediterranean diet has proven to be one of the world’s healthiest and packed full of goodness with its olive oil, vegetables, fish, pulses, nuts, cheeses and glass of red wine a day (doctor’s orders!). All this healthy eating means, healthy mind and helps in the battle of depression, sleep problems and mood swings. It is no wonder that the Spanish have such a good quality of life. One of the best in the world.

However, saying all that, when visiting here on your Spanish travels, you might try some of its less well known dishes. These may not spring to mind initially on your visit, but worth trying out. They may surprise you and you might want to take home a few of these recipes.

Tortilla Spanish mainstay

What is the Strangest of Spain’s Seafood Dishes?

Percebes (Gooseneck Barnacles) – Who wouldn’t say Boo to this Goose?

Spain's Strangest Food - Percebes

The strangest one, Percebes, a great treat in Galicia which doesn’t come cheap. They are odd, odd, odd looking. Imagine, someone in dire need of a pedicure.. a gnarled up dirty baby toe is what springs to mind. Unfair perhaps, but that is what they conjure. However, when they are boiled the tasty meat that you can pluck from this barnacle is pretty good and you might reconsider your aversion.

The interesting History of the Barnacle

If you can believe it, the barnacle goose, was thought to have sprung from this barnacle (hence its name), in a time when people didn’t realize that this fowl migrated. Both have a very similar monochromatic colour scheme and this belief seemed to act as a loop hole for the pious who weren’t allowed to eat meat on certain holy days, but could partake in this “Barnacle Goose”. Though even in the 15th century, some were sceptical of this line of belief and saw it as a loop hoop.  Interesting enough, this amazing barnacle, waxed Charles Darwin lyrically, was thought until recently to have one of the biggest .. ahem.. penis’ in the animal world, so it does gain some kudos even if it is quite an ugly thing to come across.


Spain's Strangest Foods - Perecebes - Seafood

Spain’s strangest foods include many products from the Sea

Such a big coastline like Spain has, it comes naturally to have a huge seafood menu in every restaurant, bar and home. Markets in even the smallest villages and towns, quite often have a huge selection to choose from.
Spanish kitchen’s use many parts of the fish and many types of fish. Fried Calamares (Squid) is pretty tame, but the by-product often used is the squid ink to blacken rice or pasta. Delicious and salty but off putting at first.

Straight from Neptune, the beautiful Octopus

Another favourite weird but wonderful Spanish food to eat is due to an Iberian obsession with Octopus, Pulpo. Straight from Neptune, and found most wonderfully in the northern province of Galicia’s dining tables.
A tasty Galician dish that you will find everywhere up here is Pulpo a la Gallega. There is nothing better than getting off the bike on a chilly day in Galicia to sit down in a cosy bar and eat these up!
Served on a wooden plank usually, a lot of people are put off by the cute little tentacles that you have to suction up in your mouth, However, keep with it. boiled, then done up with a little paprika, olive oil and salt, you will hover these up easily.

Spain's Strangest Foods - Galician Octopus
Eating Spain's Craziest Foods - Galician Octopus
Trying Spain's Strangest Foods - Galician Octopus

Spain's Interesting Foods - Fake Angulas Baby eels - Gulas

Crazy eels on the brink of Extinction

See them in reality and they may give you a fright and make you a bit quesy.  A Basque delicacy, and filthy expensive, these grey wormlike baby eels called Angulas, are some of Spain’s most pricey products. However, what you are actually looking at more often are fake Angulas.  Due to overfishing, which Spain, has played a big part in unfortunately, real Angulas are nearing extinction. Thus, supermarkets sell pollack fish imitation look alike Angula products calling them Gulas. However, even the fakes can be satisfying. Buy a package, fry them up in olive oil, some salt, a bit of pepper and garlic, they are tasty indeed.

A delicious list to check off of Spain’s strangest food to try. Go ahead and be brave!

A surprisingly Well loved Southern European Favourite food – Snails

Caracoles – you won’t be cycling as slow as a snail to snap these up. ¡Olé Olé Caracoles!
Ooh lovely Snails, not just the domain of the French. My first sight of them was at a local Andalucian market, where an elderly woman was sitting on a stool with a huge pail of snails and tapping any errant snail trying to escape over the top, with a spoon, whilst dolling bags of them out to customers. They are done everywhere in the country and often cooked with a liberal dose of garlic oil, sometimes paprika and salt. Warning, snails are a lot bigger than you would think, when you take your tiny fork to draw them out of their shell to eat. They seem to just keep coming!

Spain's Strangest Foods - Snails - Caracoles - snails

“I love Spanish food. My diet is the Mediterranean diet, which is good food. I eat well.

Penelope Cruz, Actor

Spain's Strangest Foods - Anchovies

What is Spain’s heaviest Dish of Carbs?

Migas – Carbo loading gone mad!

Not a crazy unusual taste but it is a dish you will run into for sure and unless you are dying to eat a whole loaf of bread, soaked in olive oil and fried, then stir clear. We do like this dish, for at least the first 5 spoonful’s, then it gets a bit much. However amazing for .. cyclists who want to carbo load quickly. Based from a society that eats a lot of bread, there is a lot of stale bread leftover, so what better to do with it than make a bread crumb dinner. Similar to Paella, every region has its own take on it (In both Spain and Portugal), some adding more garlic, others, pieces of pork, or more vegetables, etc. Come any time of the year to Andalucia and you will be served this, although it is a great autumn time dish due to its heaviness.

Spain's Heaviest Carb Dish - Migas

What is Spain’s favourite Meat Dishes?

On of the favourite of Spain’s strangest Foods has got to be Callos. Do extra miles for these innards
Awful offal! No just kidding, some people love Tripe. In fact a lot of cultures worldwide have their own favourite way of doing cow’s or sheep stomach lining. In one cycle trip we made from London to Turkey, we ate it in a different way in about every single place from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria ending in a beautiful 5 star restaurant in Istanbul, where it was brought out on bone china. A firm favourite in Madrid, where beef is used, it is a nice winter dish.. if you can avoid the linings and get a yummy taste of peppers and chickpeas. It does however throw in Morcilla (blood sausage.. yes that is real blood) in there as well.

Spain's Strangest Foods - Pork Crackling

“Shocked or surprised?, a common polite way to express this in Spain is to say, “OSTRAS!” (Oysters!)

Spanish Weird Foods to Eat, Clams, Seafood
Other Famous Spanish Meat Dishes to Try
On your Spanish Trip, try Rabo de Toro (Bull’s Tail)! You don’t even have to be a Matador.

A real Andalucian treat and one you will get everywhere in Sevilla to Almeria. Perhaps the tail (rabo) is not the best part of the bull to sup on, but of course the meat off the tailbone is made most delicious in a slow cooked stew.
This is, if you are a meat eater… if not, and are pescatarian, try fish cheeks! The best part of the fish and found as “Kokotxas”, a classic Basque Pintxos bar dish in northern Spain. Indeed any animal’s cheeks such as pork or beef (called carrillada) are also pretty high on the menu choice for many here. Braised and done with a sherry like Pedro Ximenez, even better..

Unique Spanish Food - Morcilla Cocido - Spanish dish

“The belly rules the mind.” Spanish Proverb

Delicious Spanish Seafood Meals

What can non-meat eaters order in Spain?

Not big on beef BBQs or Chicken Cutlets? Luckily Spain is a huge vegetable and pulse growing nation.  They like a lot of cooked chickpea and lentil stews.. but make sure you do include tuna as a meat when you ask if it is fine for a vegetarian.  Many traditional kitchens still don’t count it as one and will liberally sprinkle tuna over your soups, salads and stews.

Perhaps it comes from their long time influence of the Moors, but the folk of Southern Spain love sweet things.  Thus, they enjoy pairing something sweet, with something nutritious.
A great dish to look out for on a menu is Berenjenas con miel de caña –  Aubergine or Eggplant (Berenjenas) can often be a mushy disappointment, tastelessness and bland, but fry them up and pour some molasses over and bang, here is a great little tapas taster.
Spain's last Cane Sugar - Molasses Company
Interestingly, sugar cane grew plentifully and was a crop started by the Moors, during their rule in Spain and it was an important crop thereafter. However, when Spain, colonized the Caribbean, like Cuba, they realized how well, cane would grow there and literally destroyed their own homegrown industry. Only one place in Spain now produces cane syrup (like molasses) and it is down on the Southern coast.

Surprising tastes for Vegetarians in Spain’s South

One delicious combination of salad which you may come across is orange slices, anchovies, olives and Molasses. An odd combination but very tasty. Speaking of lighter dishes, Granada’s orange, onion and Codfish Remojón salad, is a surprisingly refreshing dish as well. Some cooks even add beetroot to this for colour. Two nutritious taste sensations to try on your trip in Andalucia or at home.

Cold Soup with a Twist

If you are a big gazpacho fan, than you should definitely try ajo blanco. Not as famous, this very ancient soup, (some say developed by the Romans) is the original warm weather meal. Although called “White Garlic” the colour and taste comes from the crushed almonds and bread it is made with.


Strange Spanish Foods - Anchovies & orange salad

Try these culinary delights of Spain’s strangest foods on our self guided or guided bike tours.


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Spain's Unique Foods to Try - Jamon Iberica