Among the top few reasons to visit Spain, from the history to the art to the beaches to the wine, food ranks quite high on the list. Surrounded by water on many sides, the seafood of Spain is world-class. The country’s unique climate yields wonderful wines, olives, oranges, and more. Spanish cuisine has elevated ham to another level. And there are some amazing cheeses, desserts, and more, according to the official tourism website of the Spanish government.
Oh, and the olive oil? It’s like nothing else on earth. Literally. Much of Spain’s olive oil is covered by PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status and is ranked as world-class, according to Foods and Wines from Spain.
What there is not much of to be found on the typical Spanish plate (or in the typical Spanish glass) are the foods featured here, for as it happens, many foods we commonly associate with Spain are either not common there, are not even Spanish, or both.
There are usually two causes for the misconceptions when it comes to Spanish food. The first is that dishes that are regional–and Spain is nothing if not a regional nation–instead of being widespread. The second is that many foods that originated in the Americas but happen to have Spanish-sounding names are thought to be from Spain.
Here are 7 foods almost never eaten by Spaniards, even though some of them did indeed originate in that nation. Plus, don’t miss 6 “Mexican” Dishes No One Eats in Mexico.
The Spanish do eat tortillas, and quite often in fact. But the Spanish tortilla is an egg, potato, and onion omelet, not a flat disc of flour or corn. Those may be common in Mexican and other Latin American cuisines, but that’s because they originated there, according to Chapala. There is nothing historically Spanish about the tortillas found on this side of the Atlantic, nor are said tortillas oft seen in Spain.
Paella is eaten in Spain, but it is only common in parts of Spain, it’s hardly a ubiquitous national dish, via Matador. Paella is traditionally a Valencian dish, not a traditional Spanish dish, and while you will find it on the menu at some restaurants beyond this eastern coastal region, it will usually be served at locations pandering to tourists.
Tapas is a type of dish, not, contrary to common misconception according to Spanish Sabores, a food in and of itself. So people don’t eat tapas, per say, but rather enjoy a few bites off a small plate of patatas bravas, jamon serrano, calamari, and so forth, according to Spain’s official tourism site.
In Spain, Sangria is served primarily to tourists, though it is sometimes served at parties or festivals, via Land Lopers. It is hardly seen as a national beverage by Spaniards, and that’s even though it does trace its roots back some 2,000 years to the time of the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, according to Spanish Sabores.
Jalapeño peppers are not common in Spain. They may be thought of as “Spanish” by some people, but they are Mexican in origin and in common use today. On the other hand, there are some varieties of hot pepper that are commonly grown and used in Spain, such as the Pimiento de Gernika, grown in the northern Basque region, via Taste Atlas, or the Pimiento Asado del Bierzo from Castilla-Leon.
Tacos are Mexican. Or rather a pre-Mexican food, if you will: according to Twisted Taco, they were being eaten in Meso-America long before the Spanish arrived. As for the burrito? According to Vox, it was likely developed in Mexico in the mid-1900s but only became widespread after gaining popularity in America. As for the Spaniards, they hardly ever eat tacos or burritos, and when they do they are treated as foreign food because that’s accurate.
The so-called “birthplace” of ceviche, the citrus acid-cooked shrimp dish suddenly popular all across America, is debated, but one thing is for sure: it’s South American, not Spanish. Despite what many people believe–do a quick Google search starting “is ceviche from…” and see what populates–the dish was developed either in Peru or Ecuador, according to What’s Cooking America, and it’s largely unknown in Spain.