What to Eat in Barcelona – 5 Catalan Dishes You Must Try

Black Rice - What to Eat in Barcelona Food Guide

Feeling hungry in Barcelona?  You’re in luck!  There is some incredible food in Barcelona, but sometimes you have to know where to find it.  So, this Barcelona food guide has some of the tastiest traditional Catalan dishes you MUST try in Barcelona.

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Pa amb Tomàquet – Bread with Tomato

One of the most commonly eaten foods in Barcelona, pa amb tomàquet (or pan con tomate in Spanish) is so simple to make and also very delicious.  In principle, all you have to do is take pieces of bread, lightly toast them and rub garlic and tomato over the bread, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Despite it being so simple, every tapas bar and restaurant has its own special way of making it.  Some will serve you the separate ingredients and you make your own, while most will serve it already prepared.

The key to a good pa amb tomàquet is in the type of bread used, and the type of tomatoes.  For me, the bread should be a little crispy so you have a good surface to rub the tomato on, although if you have pre-prepared tomato puree then you can apply it with a spoon.  The tomatoes should be ripe and juicy.

Pa amb tomàquet can be served as a tapa, or as an accompaniment to pretty much any dish on a Catalan menu.  Most bocata sandwiches also come with tomato instead of butter, adding moisture and flavour to the sandwich.

Pa Amb Tomaquet - Bread with Tomato
Pa Amb Tomaquet – Bread with Tomato

A Bomba

A bomba is a Barcelona speciality and a staple on all good tapas menus in the city.  Originally said to have been invented in the Barceloneta neighbourhood, at a tapas bar called La Cova Fumada, a bomba is a ball of mashed potato filled with meat and deep-fried.  This tasty ball is served with a spicy sauce and often with aioli garlic sauce too.

I’ve heard different stories as to the origin of the name bomba – which means bomb in English – as some say the bomba was specifically designed to be the shape of a bomb, served with an explosive spicy sauce ignited with a fuse of allioli, referencing the anarchist revolutionaries who used Barceloneta’s tavern-filled streets to plot attacks against fascist forces in the city.

Others say the name came from a customer who ate the particularly plump, round croqueta and exclaimed “¡Que picante, es una bomba!” – This is so spicy it’s like a bomb!  I personally prefer the first story, but no matter what the origin of this tasty tapa, it’s one food you certainly have to eat in Barcelona.

Una Bomba - A Barcelona Tapas Classic
Una Bomba – A Barcelona Tapas Classic

Calçots

Calçots are a Catalan delicacy and are a special foodie experience to enjoy in late January, February and spring.   They are basically a cross between a leek and a spring onion, and the long, thick onions are grilled over an open flame until black, then wrapped in newspaper to cook through.

The result is a delicately flavoured vegetable that, once separated from the charred outer layer, is dipped in thick romesco sauce and devoured.  It’s hard to describe the joy you can get from pulling a sweet onion from its blackened shell and dangling it over your mouth.  YUM!

Calçots are best enjoyed as part of a larger barbecue, with butifarra sausage and white beans a traditional main course, usually accompanied with copious amounts of red wine or cava in my case!  During calçot season you can find community Calçotadas to attend, or many restaurants have them on the menu which isn’t as much fun but a great opportunity to try them.

Grilled Calcots with Romesco Sauce
Grilled Calçots with Romesco Sauce

Arròs Negre – Black Rice

While black rice might not sound particularly appetising, once you realise that the colour comes from rich squid ink that gives this dish an incredible seafood flavour, it sounds much tastier!  Instead of the usual paella (which comes from Valencia), try this delectable dish instead.

Squid and cuttlefish are the main ingredients along with the rice, and you’ll often find clams and prawns mixed in there too.  Serve with a dollop of garlic allioli to give an extra depth of flavour – just make sure to wipe your mouth afterwards as the black ink sticks!

Delicious Black Rice - Arros Negre
Delicious Black Rice – Arros Negre

Crema Catalana

You can’t talk about Catalan food without mentioning the iconic Crema Catalana dessert.  Similar to the French Crème Brulee, this creamy custard dessert is lightly flavoured with lemon and cinnamon and finished with a caramelized sugar layer that gives the most satisfying sound when you crack into it.  A Crema Catalana is the perfect way to end any meal in Barcelona.

Crema Catalana - A Delicious Barcelona Dessert
Crema Catalana – A Delicious Barcelona Dessert