If you’re a food-motivated traveler, you’ll be delighted to get your tastebuds acquainted with traditional breakfast in Spain.
Spanish food culture reflects the diversity in the country’s regions and cities, with breakfast dishes in Spain being just as varied as you might hope. Classic breakfast staples cater to all appetites and palates with a mix of sweet and savory options.
This post breaks down what to eat for breakfast in Spain.
What Time to Eat Traditional Breakfast in Spain?
As with other countries in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Spain has a relaxed approach to meal times.
In general, breakfast in Spain could be eaten any time between the hours of 7:00 am and 11:00 am. It really depends on a case-by-case basis and where work hours fit into the agenda. But, this is the four-hour window when you can expect to find hotels, restaurants, and cafés serving breakfast dishes in Spain.
What do People Eat for Breakfast in Spain?
A traditional breakfast in Spain revolves around the following food items. However, the heavier options are more likely to be eaten at the weekend while the lighter bites are more likely to be eaten on a day-to-day basis.
In addition to the traditional breakfast dishes, hotels and cafés in the larger cities of Spain will usually offer international breakfast options too. French, American, English, Portuguese, Middle Eastern, and beyond! Therefore, you can expect to find a spread of pancakes, cereals, European pastries, and freshly chopped fruit on menus.
What to Drink with a Traditional Breakfast in Spain
But first, coffee. As with other European countries, a lot of Spanish people will forego breakfast in Spain – preferring to save themselves for a big lunch. However, coffee is never skipped.
The most typical coffee in Spain is café con leche (coffee with milk). This is half espresso, half steamed milk. Depending on where you’re eating, you’ll have the option to drink regular cow’s milk or a plant-based alternative.
However, you can also order an energizing café solo (espresso), super-sweet café bonbon (coffee with condensed milk), and the classic latte, café leche manchada.
If you want to turn your café solo into an Americano, you can ask for water on the side.
On a hot day in Spain, you can ask for café con hielo (iced coffee). If you’re having a late breakfast in Spain, maybe try a café carajillo which comes with a splash of rum, brandy, or whisky.
Decaf coffee in Spain is café descaféinado.
Of course, you can always find a range of teas available if you prefer. In fact, hot chocolate is a fairly standard breakfast drink in Spain. Your choice of hot drink can be joined by freshly squeezed orange juice made from Spain’s famous citruses.
Now, onwards and upwards with traditional breakfast in Spain to look forward to.
Classic Breakfast Dishes in Spain
So, what do people eat for breakfast in Spain on a typical day?
1. Pan Con Tomate (Bread with Tomato)
Pan con tomate (bread with tomato) is considered the quintessential traditional breakfast in Spain.
A simple yet scrumptious plate, this consists of toasted bread rubbed with fresh garlic, virgin olive oil, and sea salt topped with ripe tomatoes. Sometimes the tomato is served as a salsa in a pot mixed with garlic, other times it comes already assembled.
In the Catalan region, the dish is known as pa amb tomàquet.
This is a ludicrously tasty breakfast that works as a light lunch or afternoon snack.
2. Tostada (Spanish Toast)
If you fancy a fuss-free bread-based breakfast, you’ll also find tostada on most menus in cafés and hotels. This is just the Spanish for toast, with toppings varying from eggs, jam, marmalade, or even simple old salted butter.
As with all Spanish food, you can expect to note subtle differences in the types of bread served and the variety and flavor of the toppings. One of the most widespread breakfast foods in Spain, the type of bread used for tostada will vary depending on where in the country you are.
3. Huevos Rotos (Broken Eggs)
Also known as huevos estrellados, huevos rotos is a traditional breakfast in Spain when you have a larger appetite.
Diced potatoes and strips of onions are lightly fried until they’re golden. Then, chorizo or jamón (Spanish ham) is added to the pan before being topped with eggs that cook on top of the mix. As you cut into the fried egg, the yolk will pour over the potatoes and result in a delicious, filling breakfast.
4. Huevos Revueltos (Scrambled Eggs)
Along with huevos rotos, huevos revueltos is as popular a choice of a breakfast dish in Spain as it is around the world. Spanish scrambled eggs are cooked in olive oil, salt, and pepper. The finished product is sprinkled with fresh herbs and served with oven straight out of the oven.
In addition to being served plain, it’s possible to find huevos revueltos cooked with tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, or other seasonal vegetables.
5. Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelet)
One of the heftier breakfast foods in Spain, you’ll already know tortilla española (Spanish omelet) from main courses and tapas.
Also known as tortilla de patata, Spain’s national dish is a mix of eggs, potatoes, and onions prepared with fragrant olive oil. It’s usually served plain but sometimes with vegetables or chorizo.
Seeing as it’s pretty heavy-going, eating tortilla española should cover you for lunch as well as breakfast. As this is a surprisingly difficult dish to cook well at home and get the balance right, you’ll want to make the most of ordering this for breakfast in Spain.
6. Bocadillos (Spanish Breakfast Sandwiches)
A bocadillo is a type of baguette that has become a staple of a typical breakfast in Spain. The name stems from the word “bocado” which means “mouthful”. The “illo” suggests it’s a small bite, but this really isn’t the case. In fact, you should expect any bocadillo to be sizable sandwich
The bread has that fluffy interior and a crusty shell, as with French baguettes and Vietnamese bánh mì. These can literally be stuffed with anything – making it one of the best choices of breakfast foods in Spain for vegetarians. Classic fillings include cheese, tomato, egg, tuna, chorizo, and ham.
As these travel well, you can also pick up a fresh bocadillo in the morning and take it out on a day trip. Not that you’ll struggle to find lunch in any of Spain’s beautiful cities!
7. Empanadas (Stuffed Pastries)
What do people eat for breakfast in Spain when they’ve got places to go? Empanadas!
These Spanish and Latin pasties appear all over Spain and Portugal as well as in Central and South America. Their exact origin is unclear, but no two empanadas will ever taste the same.
While in Spain, you’ll find empanadas for sale as street food as well as in bakeries. They’re baked or fried with all kinds of mouthwatering fillings that usually center around local and regional cheeses. They also come with seafood, meat, and veggie mixes, making them a solid go-to for vegetarians and pescatarians.
For some, empanadas constitute a snack. For others, they’re a full meal. It depends on your appetite, how large they are, and how many you want to order.
8. Embutidos de Carne (Cold Cut Meats)
Embutidos de carne are essentially cold cuts of cured meats served with strips of cheese and bread or crackers. It’s a bit like having charcuterie for breakfast (maybe minus the wine!).
Jamón, chorizo, lomo (pork loin), chorizo, and salchichón (salami) are the typical meats included on a board of cold cuts. This is basically the Spanish version of the continental breakfast served throughout European hotels. Therefore, this is the traditional breakfast in Spain’s hotels.
Sweet Breakfast Foods in Spain
In addition to ensaïmadas, there is an assortment of sweet eats that play their part in the typical breakfast scene in Spain. Actually, the following are some of the more popular options for breakfast in Spain for the working population.
9. Churros Con Chocolate Caliente (Fried Dough with Hot Chocolate)
In addition to being a beloved afternoon pick-me-up, churros con chocolate is a traditional breakfast in Spain for those with a sweet tooth.
Churros are those long, fried donuts you’ll find everywhere in Spain, Latin America, and pretty much anywhere else. They’re usually dusted with icing sugar or granule sugar and a dash of cinnamon.
Sold on the street and in cafés and restaurants, churros are served piping hot with a pot of hot dipping chocolate. They pair to perfection with a café con leche at any time of day.
10. Ensaïmadas (Mallorcan Pastries)
Ensaïmadas are pastries originating from the Balearic island of Mallorca (Malorja). It’s a sweet bread pastry made using flour, eggs, and sugar plus a dusting of icing sugar. They’re twisted into rolls before going in the oven, resulting in a distinct shape.
Owing to their popularity, ensaïmadas and similar pastries are found all over continental Spain. These and other sweet or savory pastries are a typical breakfast in Spain on days when you have a lower appetite. Hailing from France, croissants are commonly eaten in Spain – prepared with a Spanish twist.
In fact, all regions of Spain produce their own pastries with different flavorings so it’s always worth popping your head in at your neighborhood bakery.
11. Torrijas (Spanish-style French Toast)
When in France, eat French toast. When in Spain, eat torrijas.
Spanish torrijas are prepared with slices of bread that have been soaked in a mix of hot milk, sweet wine, cinnamon, cloves, lemon zest, and whatever other spices favored by the chef.
These are then dipped into beaten eggs before being pan-fried. What makes torrijas different from French toast is that regular white bread is used rather than brioche. Plus, stale bread is the preferred base! It’s generally served plain but you can add toppings such as fruit, cream, and chocolate sauce.
Although available all year, torrijas is a traditional breakfast in Spain around Easter.
12. Españoletas Aragonesas (Spanish Biscuits)
Also known as galletas, españoletas aragonesas are Spanish biscuits consumed as a light breakfast food or snack.
Super simple to make, these are prepared using eggs, sugar, flour, sea salt, and lemon. The end result is a gentle biscuit that you can enjoy plain, dipped in a coffee, or topped with a preserve.
As with other food items, exact recipes vary and bakers all over Spain will add their signature ingredients. However, if you’re looking to pick up a light breakfast snack, check out the spread of españoletas aragonesas in the bakeries near your accommodation.
13. Magdalenas (Spanish Muffins)
Magdalenas are a type of muffin similar to the madeleine cakes of France. They have a lemony flavor complemented by the subtle hint of olive oil. As with the other sweet breakfast foods, they taste even better in conjunction with a freshly brewed mug of coffee.
Although generally seen as a breakfast food in Spain, magdalenas do double up as an afternoon treat or snack.
14. Bizcocho (Spanish Sponge Cake)
A type of sponge cake, bizcocho hails from Southern Spain. The cake is made from eggs, oil, flour, sugar, milk, and vanilla essence. As with magdalenas, bizcocho is first and foremost a breakfast cake in Spain although you can eat it as a snack or dessert too.
The exact recipe may be tweaked to result in a bizcocho flavored with citrus, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, or chocolate. In fact, it tends to get a seasonal makeover throughout the year to reflect Christmas and Easter.