It´s true that Spanish people visit markets, go to ski and do many other things during the winter season, but when the important days of Christmas are coming, they get together, and their main activity is eating. There are a million Spanish food that can only be seen during Christmas season, and that makes the festivity be even more special. Today we are going to be telling you which are the most popular Spanish Christmas foods, its traditions, its mealtimes during these days and many other things.
10 Best Spanish Christmas food
First of all, let´s talk about those dishes you can not miss when enjoying a Christmas season in Spain. Of course, this list could be huge as they really do eat a lot, but the next 10 meals are a must in almost every Spanish family:
🦐 1) Boiled Shrimps
One of the dishes that you will be seeing the most is the boiled shrimps. In Spain, the days of celebration are “noche Buena” (24th of December), Christmas (25th), “Noche Vieja” (31st), New Year (1st of January) and the three wise men (6th of January) …Well you may be able to see boiled shrimps in literally every festive day.
People normally have boiled shrimps as an entrée or starter before the main meal. There are big plates located in the center of the big table where everyone eats, and they can have as many as they want. If you want to know how many shrimps you need, just calculate that each person can eat more or less between 4-8 shrimps.
The recipe is very simple, it basically consists of boiling jumbo shrimps or prawns. Once they are done, you won´t need to peel them as everyone peels their own when the diner is ready. As an addition, Spanish locals like to mix them with mayonnaise.
🥓 2) Entremeses/ embutido
Of all the Spanish food eaten at Christmas, we have to highlight the entremeses. You will find them at every Spanish family and in each of the Christmas days. In case you don´t know what these are, it´s a big plate that is formed by cured meats and different kinds of cheeses.
The most common cured meats on this plate are chorizo and jamon iberico, other that lately is very typical is the fuet, and last of all, depending on the families you will also see morcilla and lomo. When talking about the cheeses, these are cured Manchego cheeses of sheep or goats.
This dish is served the same way as the shrimps, there are two or three big plates spread through the large table. That way everyone can reach it and have their enough amount of “jamon serrano” …It´s needed during Christmas.
🥗 3) Russian Salad
We are sorry for everyone who is vegan or vegetarian, because this is the closest you will be to find a veggie dish in a normal Spanish Christmas menu. Unfortunately, although there are different kinds of Russian salad, most of them are made with egg and tuna. Christmas days are tough for vegetarian or vegan people.
Other than that, this plate is delicious! Some people have it as a tapa to share with the rest of the family, but the majority uses it as a starter to eat before the big meal.
Russian salad, or as Spanish people say “Ensaladilla Rusa” is a dish that it´s popular in many other countries, but it´s also a very common Spanish Christmas food. As we said before, there are many recipes to make the Russian salad, but the traditional ones are made with potato, carrot, mayonnaise, tomato, olive oil and some other ingredients.
🍲 4) Seafood soup
In many areas of Spain, soups are an important food of their cuisine. During Christmas and winter season in general, the weather gets really cold, and having a hot soup is the best way to get warm.
Seafood soup or any other kind of soup are more common during the lunch time of the Christmas day or during new year´s. Of course, in case you are having a seafood soup, you won´t have shrimps, entremeses, or other tapas as it´s a pretty heavy dish.
Shrimps, clamps and mussels are a must on this recipe, but people also add different kinds of fish as monks or hakes.
🥩 5) Cochinillo asado
In the United States everyone eat turkey on Thanksgiving, right? Well, something very similar (a little bit less popular) happens in Spain with the roast suckling pig, or how Spaniards like to call it “Cochinillo asado”.
The authentic recipe of this dish comes from the Community of Castilla y Leon and being more concrete from Segovia where people eat it during the whole year. In the rest of Spain is a dish that is eaten only in special occasions, and that´s why it becomes so popular during Christmas.
Making it is not very complicated, but it takes a lot of time as it needs to be brown and crispy. Many people cook potatoes and onions as an accompaniment for the meal.
🍣 6) Salmon
It´s probably not the most typical Christmas food in Spain, but you will still find it in many homes during the Christmas celebrations. There are actually two types of salmon that are eaten in this time of the year.
On one side we have the normal salmon, which is a main course that is more common for lunch than for diner. It´s normally cooked in the oven and it can be accompanied with onions and cucumbers or potatoes.
On the other side we have the smoked salmon or also known as “salmon ahumado” in Spainsh. This is the most typical one during Christmas and it´s eaten as a tapa or starter to share for the whole family. You can eat by itself, or you can also put it on a toast with butter.
🥂 7) Cava
Of course, in a Spanish Christmas meal you also need to mention their popular drinks. It´s true that kids drink sodas as Coca-Cola, Fanta…and adults may drink a beer, but none of those are considered typical during Christmas season.
In Spain there is a drink that is known as the Spanish version of the French Champagne, and it´s the Cava. Drinking a glass of Cava in New Year´s eve is something you have to do if you spend Christmas in Spain, plus it´s the drink they use to make the family toast (Chin-chin).
You will find the best Cava in the community of Cataluña, and if you want to see where they produce it, we recommend you visiting the Penedès region. Nowadays, Cava is typical all over the country.
🍫 8) Turron
Of course, you can not do a list of Christmas foods in Spain and not mention the sweets and desserts. Probably the most important food during this time of the year are the sweets, there are many of them and it´s when everyone quits their diet to eat all the sugar they can.
The first one we need to talk about is the turron. No matter if it´s the one you like the most or not, I am sure we all agree that there is turron in every Spanish house during Christmas season.
There are a million types of turron, and each year there is a new one, but two of them are popular all over the country are recognized by everyone. These are the soft turron (Jijona) and the hard turron (Alicante).
🍪 9) Polvorones
These are our favorites, and we are sure many people love them as well. Polvorones are one of the most popular Spanish Christmas food, but the truth is that they are actually just one of the million types of mantecados you can find.
Normally what you will find on a Spanish house during Christmas days is one or two trays with more than 20/30 mantecados and after the dinner people can have as many as they want.
Polvorones and mantecados are not only eaten in the special days, but in the two months before Christmas starts. You can see mantecados of lemon, coco, chocolate and many others.
🥮 10) Roscon de Reyes
We are finishing our traditional Spanish Christmas food list with the one that it´s mainly eaten on the 6th of January when the tree wise men arrive. Well, you can buy them during the whole month of December and January, but it´s a tradition in Spain to eat it after opening the presents that the three kings have brought.
There are two types of “roscon de reyes”, the one with cream and the one without it, depending on if you have a sweet tooth or if you don´t, you will choose one or the other. For most of the people the roscon with cream tastes better, but it´s true that is not the traditional one.
Oh, and remember that inside the roscon there are two surprises, one will make you happy and the other one…not so much!
Christmas mealtimes in Spain
Now you know which are the 10 most typical Christmas foods in Spain, but it´s important that you have the schedule in mind because depending on the time of the day you will need different menus:
Are Spanish Christmas breakfast important?
Christmas breakfasts are not very celebrated in Spain as they reserve all their energy for lunch and specially for dinner. Anyway, since the beginning of November big markets start selling Christmas foods as polvorones, turrones or mazapanes and people buy it to have it at home.
You will find two types of people during the breakfasts in Spain, the ones that are not hungry at all because they had been eating the whole night…These don´t normally eat anything during the morning. And the ones that take the chance of eating more sweets before the festive days are over.
There is only one Christmas breakfast that is celebrated in Spain, it´s on the 6th of January and the main reason is because the three wise men arrive with the presents. It´s a tradition to open them and then eat a good “Roscon de reyes” with the family.
What about Spanish Christmas lunch?
Lunch is normally considered the most important mealtime of the day in Spain, but during Christmas days although it´s still more significant than breakfast, dinner has a more special role.
There are two big and traditional Spanish Christmas lunch, which are on the 25th of December and on the 1st of January. What many people do is spend the night of the 24th with one part of the family (Dad´s family for example) and eat lunch on the 25th with the other family (Mum´s family). The same happens on the 31st of December and the 1st of January.
The most common Spanish Christmas dishes are main courses as soups, salmon fish, Cordero. Some people also serve entremeses (jamon, chorizo…), but big plates are more important.
How is a traditional Spanish Christmas dinner?
Dinners are the most important meals of the day during Christmas festivities. In Spain you would normally celebrate with family or friends the dinner of the 24th of December and the 31st of January. Spanish locals would normally stay awake until 3-5 am in the morning these days.
On dinners is where everyone spends more money. They buy expensive meals like the seafood (shrimps, prawns, crawfish and more), the meats (mutton, sirloin or ribs) of course the starters (Iberian ham, chorizo…) and the desserts (polvorones and all kinds of turron).
Christmas food traditions in Spain
If you are willing to have a typical Spanish Christmas celebration, then you must follow all the “rules” and traditions as the families do in Spain. There are many customs, and these are different depending on the area of Spain, but don´t worry because there are some generic traditions that every Spaniard do:
1) Finish with 12 grapes
I believe Spain is not the only country in the world that does this tradition, but it´s still the most important fact on a Christmas celebration in Spain. Everyone prepares a glass with 12 peeled grapes and 12 seconds before New Year starts you will need to start eating them…One for each of the chimes.
It is said that if you don´t do it, you will have bad luck for the rest of the year. Oh, and one last reminder, don´t try to rush while eating them, we don´t one no one to get hurt.
2) “Chin Chin with cava”
If you haven´t heard the word “Chin Chin” yet, it basically what Spanish people say before having a toast. During Christmas days there is always one or two toast per night, and people normally use cava as their drink.
If you are not a big fan of cava, you can also use champagne or sidra.
3) Chocolate with churros on New Year
To understand this custom, you first need to know that Spaniards love to eat churros when they stay awake until late. For example, during the festive days of a town, young people would normally go to their house at 10 am in the morning, and right before leaving they go with their friends to a “churreria” and have a few churros for breakfast.
The same happens on New year´s. In this case no matter if you have been partying all night or if you have just woken up, eating churros with chocolate is a must.
Well, now you know all about what do the Spanish people eat at Christmas. As you have seen, they have a huge list of different dishes, and every single family has their own menu. What we can guarantee you is that it all taste delicious.
Before living, we would like to ask you what would be your ideal menu of Spanish Christmas food?