Fancy a delicious Spanish breakfast? If there’s one thing Spain stands out among many others for, it’s its incredible gastronomy and the wide variety of Spanish dishes you can enjoy.
Dishes like paella, Spanish omelets, and tapas have long ceased to be a local secret. However, in today’s post, we want to focus on something lesser-known, namely the typical Spanish breakfast foods.
As the famous saying goes, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” And we Spaniards take that very seriously. After breakfast, many hours pass before our next meal, which is not until around 2 pm. That’s why we put so much emphasis on our breakfast (although many of us eat a few midday snacks called almuerzo in between, but we’ll leave that topic for another day).
So grab some snacks, and let’s explore a typical breakfast in Spain. Since tastes differ, as we all know, we’ll present you with typical savory options and some delicious Spanish sweet breakfast options.
Note: This post is part of our “Local Experts” series, in which locals introduce their homeland. The following article was written by Jesús, born and raised in Spain.
Typical Spanish Breakfast Foods – Savory Options
Let’s start with the Spanish breakfast for lovers of savory dishes. Here you will find breakfast dishes that every Spaniard eats from time to time, if not every day, and in which bread plays the leading role. So let’s dive right in.
The classic breakfast in Spanish homes and bars is undoubtedly tostadas (“toast”). It is the most versatile breakfast you can find because there are endless variations.
This typical Spanish breakfast is eaten all over the country, from north to south and east to west.
Its main ingredient is toasted bread. But there are endless varieties of bread: White bread, whole wheat bread, sliced bread, bread with seeds, and round bread….
You can add any toppings you can imagine to this toasted bread. The most traditional toast is olive oil toast with salt, but it can also be topped with tomato, butter, jam, ham, cheese, sausage, avocado, tuna, etc.
When you are in Spain, you should not miss the opportunity to try toast with different toppings every day. The most typical is to eat toast with oil and salt, with tomato, oil, and salt, or with butter. My favorite is toast with tomato, oil, and tuna. You have to try that!
Vicki’s note: When we talk about “toast” here and in the rest of the article, it is a literal translation of “tostada” and means toasted slices of bread. However, this does not mean the typical American toast as we know it from America. That also exists in Spain but is somewhat atypical.
Pan amb tomàquet
One of the most common toast varieties is pan amb tomàquet (tomato bread). It consists of toasted bread rubbed with tomatoes and then served with olive oil and salt (some also add garlic).
This variation originated in Catalonia and is enjoyed mainly in places along Spain’s Mediterranean coast, such as Valencia, Murcia, and the Balearic Islands, and Aragon. However, you can find the popular tomato toasts all over Spain today.
There is no more Mediterranean breakfast than sitting in a beach bar overlooking the sea with the first rays of sunshine and ordering a tomato toast. I promise you that there is no more excellent way to start the day. This way, you’ll provide your body with nutrients to get you through the day on one of Spain’s beaches.
Another hearty breakfast with bread as the main ingredient is bocadillos (“sandwiches”).
The most traditional Spanish experience is when we are traveling around the country and stopping at a roadside bar or gas station to eat a sandwich for breakfast. You will see families, workers, or groups of friends eating a good sandwich for breakfast.
The best part is that a bocadillo like this doesn’t get boring quickly in Spain because there are such wide varieties to choose from. You can choose between chorizo, longaniza, salami, morcón, tuna, vegetables, or the cheese or serrano ham sandwiches that are so popular with everyone, and the best one: ham and cheese sandwich – there is no better combination.
So, you can’t drive around Spain without trying one of these sandwiches to energize you in the morning.
There is another typical type of Spanish bocadillo that I haven’t mentioned yet. It is a sandwich filled with our next standard Spanish breakfast….
Tortilla de Patatas
This dish is Spanish cuisine par excellence, whether for lunch, dinner, or breakfast: Spanish potato omelet.
Nothing is more typical than eating a delicious tapa with tortilla de patata in a bar. Either as a sandwich or as a side dish, with or without mayonnaise, with ham, or just like that.
This little treasure of Spanish gastronomy has already made a name for itself worldwide. Such a simple dish of potatoes, eggs, oil, and the never-ending question: “Onion or no onion?”. Here writes an advocate of the team tortilla with onion and little curd.
The potato omelet initially emerged as a cheap alternative for Spanish families in the 18th century. It has since become one of the most popular dishes in the whole country, and we can’t live without it.
We continue with a dish that is very popular throughout Spain: migas. Migas is a dish prepared mainly with crumbs of toasted bread pieces and served with meat or vegetables.
It is prepared by frying stale bread with oil and garlic previously soaked in water and waiting for it to brown. An infinite number of ingredients can be added, such as chorizo, sausage, fried eggs, cracklings, roasted peppers, sardines, cucumbers, tangerines, and grapes….
There are several variations of this dish, for example, in southeastern Spain, where it is usually prepared with wheat flour and is therefore called Migas de Harina.
Migas used to be a dish used by hunters, nomads, or people who traveled a lot from one village to another. They also formed the usual breakfast of the Spanish militias in the military academies.
Nowadays, you can have migas for lunch or a tapa with migas in the morning to give you the energy you need for your day. Whether sweet or salty is up to you.
Typical Breakfast Foods in Spain – Sweet Options
And to sweeten your morning a bit, let’s see what typical Spanish sweet breakfasts you can indulge in before you head out to explore the Spanish terrain.
Churros con Chocolate
There is nothing more Spanish than eating churros on Sundays for breakfast with the family. This breakfast food is always popular with Spaniards, whether in summer or winter.
Churros are long rolls of fried dough sprinkled with sugar. It’s also ideal for dipping the churros with hot chocolate and creating a flavor explosion on your palate.
I know it’s not the healthiest breakfast in the world. But it’s something to indulge in. And if you’re traveling in Spain, you’re sure to pass by a churro store.
There are two types of churros: churros finos and porras. Porras are larger churros with a larger amount of dough that you don’t see everywhere in the country, but mainly in areas like Madrid and Murcia. Try both types and find out which one you like best.
Of course, our best ally to wake you up in the morning can also never be missing here in Spain: Coffee. In Spain, almost everyone drinks coffee for breakfast.
You’re spoiled for choice: café solo, café con leche, a manchada (café con leche with a little coffee), café con leche condensada (condensed milk), a manchado (with a bit of condensed milk), a carajillo, or even an asiático (typical coffee for the southeast of the country). As a non-Spanish person, it’s pretty easy to get lost in the shuffle.
Very typical for the Spanish breakfast is a combination of coffee, toast, and the following item on our list…
Freshly squeezed orange juice
The third pillar of the Spanish breakfast is fresh orange juice. Coffee, toast, and juice: the perfect breakfast!
There is no better way to start the day than with orange juice, which is full of vitamins and very refreshing – ideal for strengthening yourself for visiting some Spanish sights.
Spain produces about six tons of oranges annually, and the largest productions are located on the Mediterranean coast.
As our mothers say, “drink orange juice to avoid a cold.” And indeed, no one wants to catch a cold while traveling. So we should listen to our mothers and order one of these delicious juices when traveling in Spain.
Ensaimada de Mallorca
Ensaimadas are known all over Spain. Mallorcan ensaimadas are especially popular because they originated here. If your trip takes you to the Balearic Islands, more precisely to Mallorca, you can’t leave without trying this sweet pastry.
But don’t worry, if your trip doesn’t take you to Mallorca, you can also find ensaimadas everywhere in Spain.
Ensaimadas are a Spanish pastry made from wheat flour. They are shaped in a spiral, like a shell, and sprinkled with white sugar.
Magdalenas (“madeleines”) are like sponge cakes but in a smaller format (in muffin form) and with similar ingredients. It is not clear where they originated, whether from Spain or France. But nowadays each country prepares them in its own way.
In Spain, we prepare the madeleines with eggs, sugar, butter, and wheat flour. For flavor, we might add grated orange or lemon peel.
Every bar and bakery in Spain has delicious muffins to go with your morning coffee. Be sure to try dunking the muffin in your coffee or milk, as it adds an incredible flavor. And dipping your pastry in your drink is definitely typically Spanish.
As I said, it’s not entirely clear where this little pastry actually originated. However, one theory that places this invention in the Spanish territory is that at the time of the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, a young Spanish girl named Magdalena distributed these little shell-shaped pastries to pilgrims as a symbol of their pilgrimage. Over time, the Magdalenas spread along the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela, and so this little sponge cake became popular all over the country.
Fartons and Horchata
Now it’s time to travel to the Mediterranean coast, more precisely to Alboraya in Valencia, to discover a typical Valencian breakfast: Fartons with Horchata.
Let’s start by explaining what Horchata is: a popular drink in the Valencian community. If you stroll through the streets of Valencia, you will find numerous Horchaterias where you can try this traditional drink with its characteristic white color. It is mainly made from tiger nuts, a small tuber.
Its origins date back to ancient Egypt, where tiger nuts were already used in drinks for the pharaohs. Around 700 BC, the Arabs brought the tiger nut to the Valencian coast. They used it for medicinal purposes mainly because of its digestive and disinfectant properties.
Horchata is prepared with water, tiger nuts, and sugar. But they might also add cinnamon or lemon peel. The result is a delicious drink named “pure gold” by James I, King of Aragon, because of its consistency and taste. Valencian Horchata is different from Mexican Horchata, for example, which is made from rice.
Since its discovery, the horchata makers of Alboraya have tried to find the perfect condiment for this delicious drink. Thus, in 1960, the Polo family produced a long, spongy and sweet pastry. This resulted in the fartons, which are ideal for soaking up the Horchata and fit perfectly into the horchata glasses due to their long and thin shape.
On your next trip to Valencia, you absolutely must try this delicious Valencian breakfast by dipping the fartons in your Horchata and experiencing a taste explosion when you have a bite of the sweet treat. Are you already considering your next trip to Valencia to enjoy this incredible breakfast?
Bread with Sugar and Oil
A sweet variant of the already mentioned toast, probably rather unusual for foreigners, is to put sugar on the oiled toast. This creates a unique flavor.
Many families make this recipe at home, adding sugar and either oil or butter to the toast. In restaurants, however, it isn’t easy to find this combination. But you can be sure that there is someone who eats this breakfast.
If you like trying new things, this combination of sweet and savory is excellent and a great energy boost for your morning.
Leche con Gofio
As the name suggests, this popular Canarian breakfast consists of milk with added gofio. But what is gofio?
Gofio is a type of food made from roasted cereal flour, similar to regular flour, but with a darker color. It is a mixture of different ground and roasted grains such as wheat, barley, rye, or even lentils.
This food dates back to pre-Hispanic times when the indigenous people of the Canary Islands began to eat it, and it was a staple in their diet.
Gofio has proven significant over the years due to its high caloric and nutritional value. For this reason, it has been essential in times of famine or war, as it is an easy food to prepare and comes with many benefits.
During the emigration to America, the Canarian ships were mainly supplied with gofio since it was easy to transport and had a good shelf life during the journey.
So, if your next trip takes you to the Canary Islands, you should definitely try this nutritious breakfast. Because with it, you’ll be in top shape for your adventures on the islands, like climbing Mount Teide.
Now it’s time for torrijas! Do you know what torrijas are? It is a dessert that is usually eaten for breakfast as well as an afternoon snack.
Torrijas or Torrejas are prepared similarly to French Toast that you may know from back home. They are typically made from a slice of bread soaked in milk (sometimes syrup or wine), then dipped in a beaten egg and fried in a pan. Finally, sugar or honey and cinnamon are tossed on top.
The result is a spongy, sweet bread that exudes a flavor that will satisfy your sweet tooth when you bite into it.
In Spain, torrijas are most often eaten with the whole family during Semana Santa, Spain’s Easter week.
Let’s move on to the next of the typical Spanish breakfasts, the fardelejos—a typical sweet from La Rioja, more precisely from Arnedo.
It is a puff pastry filled with something similar to marzipan. They are made with ground almonds, eggs, lemon peel, and sugar. Afterward, they are topped with powdered sugar.
Fardelejos are of Arabic origin and have been prepared in La Rioja since the 9th and 10th centuries. Since then, they have been an essential part of Rioja culture and are also known as “Rioja sweets.”
You can find this pastry everywhere in the Rioja region. Anyway, it is especially popular during the festival of the patron saint. People in La Rioja eat fardelejos for breakfast or as a dessert after lunch.
Our list of sweet breakfast dishes cannot end without talking about Sobaos Pasiegos, also known simply as Sobaos.
The Sobao pasiego comes from the valleys of the same name, the Valles Pasiegos, in Cantabria. In the rural areas, they began to use the ingredients available to them, such as flour and butter, to make sobaos.
Nowadays, sobao is made with flour, butter, sugar, and eggs and can be prepared with lemon zest and rum. Nowadays, it is a product that is sold all over Spain. But if you want to try the real sobao, you must come to the Cantabrian region to indulge in this perfect snack for breakfast.
Personally, I can assure you that sobao dipped in your milk with cocoa or coffee is one of my favorite foods that I can never get tired of.
FAQ about Breakfast in Spain
In Spain, breakfast is usually eaten between 7 and 9 am. The start of work or school and university is generally at 8 or 9 am, so many people eat breakfast before starting their day of work or study. On weekends, however, breakfast is usually not eaten until around 10 am.
Breakfast is called “desayuno” in Spanish. In Catalonia, you can also find the first meal of the day as “Esmorzar.”
Many people in Spain have the habit of having breakfast in bars in the morning. This creates a tradition of always going to the same bars. In other families, for example, it is a tradition to have breakfast together on Saturdays or Sundays.
However, while many people prefer to have breakfast in bars, others prefer to have breakfast at home, either for convenience, to save money, or out of preference.
Breakfast prices can vary greatly depending on the type of breakfast or the city you are in. In smaller towns, you can get breakfast between 2 and 3 euros, which includes toast, coffee, and orange juice.
In big cities like Madrid or Barcelona, breakfast can cost up to 5 or 6 euros.
Generally, toast is the cheapest, followed by pastries. On the other hand, a sandwich can cost between 3 and 6 euros, depending on its ingredients. A tapa with a Spanish omelet will not cost you more than 2 or 3 euros.
Spain as a whole has excellent breakfasts to offer, whether you’re in the north or south, on the coast, or in the center.
One of the most important places to have breakfast is the roadside bars. These are typical bars or restaurants you find on the side of the road when you travel from one place to another. Many workers, such as truck drivers, stop to have a good ham sandwich or some tapas de tortilla.
Fruit is not what you see most often in bars and restaurants. Many Spaniards eat fruit in the morning, but mostly at home.
The typical Spanish breakfast consists of a coffee with milk (café con leche), a tostada (a toasted slice of bread) with grated tomato, olive oil, and a topping such as ham or cheese. Spaniards also like to eat croissants, magdalenas (muffins) or order orange juice with it.
Like in most countries, many people eat breakfast while others don’t. In Spain, it is common to eat toasted bread with olive oil, tomato, ham, and coffee with milk in a bar or at home.
We hope this gives you a general idea of the next time you need to pick a breakfast in Spain.