Wondering what they eat in Spain at Christmas, or looking to make some Spanish Christmas food of your own? Hopefully my comprehensive list of traditional Spanish Christmas foods will inspire you to try new recipes over the holidays.
I’ve often said that it’s been hard for me around the holidays since moving to Spain. I live in a zone with a much better climate, but the lack of snow at Christmas time means that something is missing. Don’t get me wrong. I actually kind of hate the snow, but I did enjoy a beautiful white Christmas making snowmen and snow angels and warming up with a nice steamy cup of hot chocolate afterwards.
A new country means new traditions, though, and I really can’t complain about the Spanish Christmas food. In fact, I probably like it more than whatever we used to eat back home.
Christmas is a great excuse for buying and serving the highest quality foods that you can afford, which is what most people do here in Spain.
Traditional Spanish Christmas Food
We buy a high quality jamón serrano each year for Christmas, a ham that has been running free and eating wild acorns for the last months of his life. It is very traditional to include a serrano ham in high end Christmas baskets filled with other delicacies like manchego cheese, chorizo ibérico, and a good bottle of red wine.
When getting together for the holidays, it is very common for one of the appetizer plates to be “entremeses”, which is basically a platter filled with different cuts of meat and cheeses.
Also very popular for Christmas dinner is seafood.
My husband’s boat fishes for the famous red Denia shrimp that can sell for the upwards of 200 Euros a kilogram in the days right before Christmas. The Denia red shrimp is prized as one of the most flavorful and highest quality shrimp, and people from all over Spain love serving it at their Christmas Eve feast along with cigalas, and langostinos in beautiful platters called “mariscadas“.
Other prized seafoods include angulas and berberechos, or even favorite fishes such as besugo, monkfish or the less expensive cod.
Here are some Spain inspired seafood dishes that would make the perfect addition to any Christmas feast:
Other Main Dishes:
Apart from seafood, other prized meats are sought after during the holidays.
The mother in me can’t bear the sight of the cochinillos, or little suckling pigs, for sale in the meat counters this time of year, but this wouldn’t be a complete listing of traditional Spanish Christmas food if I didn’t at least mention them. The suckling pigs are halved and roasted and served whole on a platter, with head, hooves and all. I’m sure it is delicious, but I just can’t bear the thought of slaughtering a 2-6 week old baby pigling while still breastfeeding right at Christmas time.
If that turns you off too, there is always the option of roasting a turkey, or a capon (a rooster that has been castrated and fed a special diet to make it more flavorful). Lamb dishes are also popular at Christmas meals.
My mother-in-law usually makes a Valencian puchero on Christmas Day to serve the broth with our Christmas Eve dinner leftovers.
No Spanish Chrismtas meal would be complete without a good bottle of wine. My favorite is vino tinto (red wine), and I especially love the wines from the Ribero del Duero region or the more famous Rioja wines. For those who prefer white wine, my region, Alicante, serves up some of the best white wines made with moscatel grapes. These sweet grapes add a nice touch of sweetness to even the drier wines of the region.
Desserts are usually served with a bottle of Spanish sparkling cider, and/or a quality Spanish cava. Cavas are Spain’s sparkling wines that are made in the traditional champagne method, but using the more local grape varieties.
If you prefer a cocktail of sorts, you can use a more inexpensive bottle of cava to make Agua de Valencia.
What really sets Spain apart from other countries at Christmas is it’s wide array of traditional Spanish Christmas treats. Almonds take center stage and are the protagonists of many, if not most, of them.
After a meal, plates of different types of turrón, marzipan, mantecados and polvorones, and other pastries are brought out and served with sidra (sparkling cider), cava, or liqueurs such as mistella or orujo.
Traditionally there were two main types of turrón, Turrón de Alicante, a hard nougat fillled with whole almonds, and Turrón de Jijona, a softer, creamier tablet made from an almond paste. The traditional versions were made from almonds, honey, sugar, and eggs, but now you can find all sorts of “turrones” in the stores. Pretty much any bar of chocolate or any sort of sweet paste formed into a bar for cutting and serving at Christmas time is now referred to as turrón, and you can even find crazy non-traditional turrón flavors such as “bubble gum” and “chorizo.” While I love the unusual and wacky, I’m not too sure about either of those. 😉
Other more traditional sweets vary by region. In my area, the Valencian community, pastissets de boniato are probably the most common Christmas pastry.
If you are planning a Spanish Christmas dinner, hopefully I’ve given you some inspiration for creating the perfect feast.
Remember, though, that in Spain we celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, meaning that Christmas doesn’t end here until the Epiphany (Three King’s Day) on January 6th, with it’s traditional Roscón de Reyes, of course. So as Christmas comes to an end back in my hometown in Michigan, here in Spain we’ve only just begun to celebrate.