Vegetarian Traveller – 10 Vegetarian Options in Spanish Food That You Can Enjoy Without a Fuss
I still find myself often daydreaming about our holidays in Spain last year, Andalusia to be more precise. My mind keeps wandering back to the tapas we devoured sitting outside an eating joint in a winding alley of the white city of Ronda. Enjoying sunlight with a soft touch of chill, relishing food and worrying about nada.
Yes, eating in Spain is magical. Most eating places have an outdoor sitting area, on the pedestrian way outside the restaurant. So we were always eating not confined within walls but rather out there in the world. As we took your seats, the waiter (or camarero) gave us enough time to choose from the menu, no one pestered us to hurry even a tiny bit. After we’ve ordered, the food usually took its own sweet time to come. And once we have been served, we were free to nibble as slow as we prefer.
In fact, I would say that eating in Spain is like practising the art of living in the moment. There is no rush, no hurry and nothing else do but to just be there in that moment and enjoy your food.
However, this magical experience of eating out in Spain was something we learned only when we reached there. Before, I wouldn’t lie, we had our concerns.
When we planned our 8-day holiday to Andalusia, the southern region of Spain, we weren’t sure about the food. Reason being, I am a vegetarian. Lacto-ovo vegetarian, if we venture into the technicalities. And that has never been a problem. All through my travel in Asia, North America, South America and now in the UK, I have always been able to explore different cuisines without many glitches.
But for Spain, we were anticipating a problem around finding vegetarian options in Spanish food. Spaniards are crazy about their meat, especially ham. Every corner of a market that you turn to, you are sure to find dozens of ham legs (jamon) hanging from store ceilings.
As a joyful Spanish guide told us, “Here in Spain we eat everything which is on four legs, except a chair.” So I wondered, with respect to food, will I be able to survive in Spain. And more importantly, being a lacto-ovo vegetarian, would I be able to try, understand and appreciate Spanish cuisine.
Within my first day in Spain, my reservations were laid to rest as I found out that there was enough in Spanish-Andalusian cuisine for vegetarians to feast on. I just needed to find a restaurant which had at least a couple vegetarian options to choose from. It just meant spending about 15 minutes or so checking the menu of restaurants at a plaza (which is the heart of every city in Spain) before settling on one.
All through my travel, what I appreciated the most about the Spanish-Andalusian cuisine was the unpretentious nature of the food. There was no over-reliance on sauces and spices were used sparingly. There was no instance of hiding the taste of the food or of moulding the food beyond recognition. The food was unassuming, simple and modest.
What to eat in Spain if you are a Vegetarian?
I will accept that I didn’t have as many choices as a non-vegetarian person would have in Spain. However, I had enough choices to eat some good meals and some decent meals. I had enough choices to try a variety of food that was particularly Spanish-Andalusian in nature. The only thing I needed to do was to try with an open mind. It was surely a sort of adventure!
And so from all the things that I tried, here are the 10 vegetarian options in Spanish food that made my travel all the more memorable.
10 Vegetarian Options in Spanish Food That You Can Enjoy Without a Fuss
If you haven’t drunk gazpacho, you haven’t been to Spain. Seriously, I found gazpacho being sold everywhere in Andalusia and I am not complaining. It is a great thirst quencher and quick way to get nutrition in your body.
Gazpacho is mainly tomato, peppers, cucumbers and few other ingredients blended together. You might find it served thin in a glass or you might find it served a bit thicker in a soup bowl. Anyway it is delicious and filling.
2. Berenjenas Fritas
This is one of the Spanish dishes that I admire the most. Reason being, berenjenas fritas is absolutely simple – simple in preparation, simple in appearance and simple in taste. And because of this simplicity, I kept devouring it piece by piece.
This dish is prepared by cutting eggplants into thin slices, frying them crispy and then topping it all up with local honey.
3. Espinacas con garbanzos
This is one of the popular vegetarian items to find in a menu del dia (set menu of the day) of a restaurant. This one is chickpeas and spinach cooked together in some Spanish spices. The proportions of the ingredients wary – you might get a plate full of spinach with few chickpeas around or you might get a plate full of chickpeas with spinach floating around. The dish is accompanied by bread. Order a side salad and you will have yourself a complete meal.
4. Tortilla de Patata
This one is like an omelette made from eggs (of course!), potatoes, onions (maybe) and olive oil. It is thicker than a frittata and is served cut like pizza slices. The name “omelette” is a bit misleading because tortilla de patata isn’t really a breakfast item, you are more like to find it as a snack item and almost for sure to find it as tapas.
Bocadillo is Spanish sandwich made with a rustic bread loaf. You can say this one is like a Spanish baguette sandwich. As with any sandwich, it will have a spread, cheese slices and some other stuffing along as well.
Bocadillo one is a great food for vegetarians because it is often prepared then and there and therefore you can get it customized. For example, if a menu mentions bocadillo with olives, cheese, meat and eggs, just ask the server to not put meat. Vegetarian bocadillo with tomatoes, olive oil and manchego cheese is a common one.
These are also good food to pack and carry around (the kind of food we needed a lot because of LittleB in tow!). It would be a tad difficult to find bocadillo on a restaurant menu. The easier way to try this one is at a cafeteria, a bar or at a roadside eating joint.
Croquetas are like cutlets. They are mashed up food, shaped into a ball or a log, coated with breadcrumbs and fried. These are absolutely crispy from outside and on the inside gooey.
Croquetas can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian, most eating places will carry the vegetarian option as well. For the vegetarian option, the stuffing would be cheese along with either mushroom, cheese, nuts or spinach.
7. Paella Vegetariana
Busting the myth first, paella is not an ‘only’ seafood based dish. You can find it in other meat option and even in vegetarian option.
Does seafood paella taste better than vegetarian paella? I don’t really know because I was busy hogging up my vegetarian paella and licking off the empty pan as well! Do not let the whole talk about seafood paella being better or not overwhelm you. If you find vegetarian paella, you enjoy it!
We had vegetarian paella at Marbella’s Paseo Maritimo (seaside promenade) and thanks to that paella, it was the most beautiful lunch we had at Spain.
8. Roasted Chestnuts
If you visit Spain somewhere around October-November, you might hit the chestnut season. And that would mean, easily finding a guy selling roasted chestnuts at the plaza.
Roasted chestnuts were a perfect snack for us every time we were coming back after a tiring day of roaming around a city. October evenings got a little chilly and waiting on a bus stop it was hard to ignore aroma of coal-roasted chestnuts all around.
Do not forget to peel them before eating though. For the first time, silly me ate the peel as well only for the chestnut seller to point out it wasn’t the right way to eat!
If you had churros before, forget about them and have them again in Spain. Here, they look different and also taste much lighter. And they might or might not be served with a chocolate dipping sauce.
10. Chocolate drink
I ordered a chocolate drink from the menu assuming it would be something like hot chocolate. But no. It was chocolate drink – a drink made out of chocolate, just chocolate. Like they have taken chocolate, melted it and served it in a cup. Literally.
It was unexpected but it was awesome as well. Because I drank a cup filled with chocolate, my spirits remained high for hours that day!
For more travel-related posts, click here – YellowMellowLife Travel
For some simple but great lacto-ovo vegetarian recipes, click here – YellowMellowLife Food
Have you travelled to a place where finding your food preference was tough? Comment below and let me know how you survived it all!