An American’s Guide to Spanish Meals

When traveling to Spain, don’t expect to be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as you would back home. The Spanish typically eat 5 meals a day, all at times that don’t quite sync up with the American eating schedule. Nonetheless, Spanish cuisine is a significant part of their culture– and is one of the best reasons to enjoy Spain! Here, we break it down for you so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

El Desayuno

The Spanish aren’t big on breakfast. Most times, they’ll chase their coffee with a fresh pastry from their local cafe or panaderia, or in some cases drink an entire bowl of coffee– yes, I’ve seen it, Spaniards love their coffee. 

Chocolate-covered churros are also a treat for the early-riser, which you can find freshly-baked-and-dipped in many cafes and churro trucks throughout the country.

PRO TIP:  If you are in Madrid, make sure you read about one of the best chocolate con churros at Chocoleteria San Ginés

El Almuerzo

Since they don’t have much food when they first wake up, many Spaniards will eat something small to hold them over the rest of the morning until lunch time. 

This often consists of a small sandwich at around 11 a.m., called a bocadillo of different meats or eggs, or a Spanish tortilla. They often will order this with another cup of coffee, or café con leche.

It’s also common to see locals enjoying pan con tomate, a piece of toast with shredded tomato, and maybe some olive oil, salt, and jamón ibérico.

La Comida

This is what Spaniards refer to as “the meal.” This is their feast of the day, and usually happens around 2 or 3 p.m., and can last 2 or 3 hours.

During this time, Spaniards will likely have several courses, sometimes a soup or salad, a main entree of pasta, fish, or meat, and a small dessert. Always a glass of wine, and bread on the side. 

Ordering from the menú del día is usually a safe bet. It has the chef’s featured items of the season, typically costs 12-13 euro, and is enough food to last hours!

PRO TIP: Make sure to eat something during this time, because you will have a hard time finding something when the town closes for its “siesta,” or afternoon nap.

La Merienda

For those that are still awake at 5 p.m., many will enjoy another small snack with coffee or tea.This is similar to their desayuno, and is usually a small pastry, or sweet treat.

Aperitivos, Tapas y Raciones

At night, Spaniards don’t eat an entire other meal after their large lunch, so they’ll typically snack on smaller dishes, called tapas.

Approaching 9 p.m., tapas and raciones can really be anything. From a bowl of olives, to a small plate of paella, to some nuts and grilled veggies, the Spanish will pair whatever they order with a nice beer or wine to end the evening.