Traditional Dishes In Valencia, Spain
Paella, horchata, turrón and infinite tapas… The glorious Valencian cuisine is a wonderful concoction of the edible traces left behind by the various ethnicities throughout millenia. Enjoy discovering all the delicious food in Valencia – a stretch of fertile land that has perched itself along the Mediterranean Sea.
In this guide you will find all the information on traditional Valencian cuisine, with photos and my recommendations on where to try them.
When talking about food in Valencia, it is unthinkable not to mention rice. Rice has become the hallmark of the local cooking.
There are three main groups of rice dishes in Valencia. Seco (dry – all the broth gets evaporated during cooking), meloso (slighlty soupy) and caldoso (very soupy). Paella falls under the dry rice category – seco.
Some fun facts about rice:
- Rice production in Valencia started around the 8th century with the Moorish invasion.
- Valencian rice dishes are always yellow due to the addition of saffron.
- This staple food in Valencia is cooked either in shallow wide pans over wood or gas fire. Also in clay pots.
Paella de marisco.
Many people don’t realize that the most famous Spanish dish – paella – originated in Valencia. Lake Albufera, the rice production hub, is a very picturesque location that is worth visiting.
Paella cooking became popular here in the 19th century, when the iron and steel industry took off. That allowed for everyone to get their hands on the famous pan.
One thing you must know is that your paella should have a crispy rice layer at the bottom (called “socarrat“).
Also, it must be mentioned that paella and other substantial rice dishes are eaten for lunch only. Dinner is reserved for tapas.
Other Rice Dishes
Arròs amb fesols i naps.
Needless to say, food in Valencia is much more than just paella.
Apart from the chicken-and-rabbit and seafood paella, there are dozens of other typical rice dishes in Valencia.
Here are the most widespread ones:
- Another dry rice with seafood, cooked in a wide shallow pan – arròs a banda
- Same as the dish above, but with the seafood peeled and chopped up making it ready for direct consumption – arròs al senyoret.
- Black rice cooked in squid ink – arròs negre.
- Oven baked dry rice with tomato, blood sausage, pork belly, garlic, potato – arròs al forn.
- A meloso rice with beans and turnips – arròs amb fesols i naps.
- Lobster rice. Can be meloso or caldoso. – Arroz con bogavante.
Arroz con bogavante – typical of Alicante province.
Fideuà. Image source: Jorge Franganillo
Tender and crispy noodles with seafood, made in the same type of pan as paella.
Where to eat such food in Valencia and outside:
With the exception of a few nice restaurants in the Old Town, unfortunately the majority of them cater to tourists.
For authentic delicious rice dishes go off the beaten path. Also, if you can, visit the small town of El Palmar on Lake Albufera, where the rice and eel production keep employed the bulk of the inhabitants.
Here are some of my favorite places for rice and fideuà, both in the city and within a short drive from it.
- L’Establiment – on Lake Albufera
- Las Bairetas – an award winning rice specialist restaurant in Chiva and in Denia.
- Casa Roberto – south of the Old Town in Valencia
- La Galería de los Arroces – although far away from the Old Town, it is just a short taxi ride away and the rice dishes are spectacular.
- Saití – a small upscale restaurant not far from Ruzafa neigborhood. Included in Bib Gourmand.
- Alquería del Pou – a traditional country-side house surrounded by gardens just outside of the city.
- La Barraca Toni Montoliu – a traditional country-side house displaying typical farming utensils. Located in Meliana.
- Casa Salvador – a classic restaurant boasting various awards for their rice dishes, located in Cullera.
For a longer list of places, check out the website wikipaella.org. It was founded and is run by the people from the gastronomy industry of Valencia who care about preserving the art of paella making. There is a restaurant map that you can peruse, even if you do not speak Spanish! The map includes a few authentic paella restaurants outside of Valencia and even Spain.
Stews & Soups
Away from the coastline, inland regions of Valencia enjoy hearty dishes based on meat or game.
Closer to Castile La Mancha region one can note the neighbor’s influence. Gazpacho manchego starts appearing on the restaurants’ menu. This particular gazpacho has nothing to do with the famous cold tomato soup! It is made of bread and game.
On the coast however there is a very Valencian dish called all i pebre – a slightly spicy soup with local eel and potatoes.
All i pebre
Eel stew. Image source: davidprsr
All i pebre – pronounced as “eye-ee-pehbreh”. A humble fishermen’s dish, which originated in the towns on Lake Albufera. So should you wish to eat the best eel stew, drive there or take a short taxi ride!
Literally “pans”, this group of dishes are humble soups and casseroles made with meat, rice, pork and legumes. It is a staple of the interior regions of the Valencian Community. A type of olla called puchero is typical during the Christmas holidays.
Where to try soups and stews:
All i pebre – Mornell restaurant in El Palmar or pretty much any restaurant in that little town.
Ollas – La Utielana (also paella and fideuà, depending on the day). Also, at traditional restaurants in the interior of the Valencian Community.
Titaina – one of the indigenous tapas dishes in Valencia.
Tapas is an amazing Spanish phenomenon that comprises food, alcohol and good company!
Food in Valencia is unimaginable without such local tapas as esgarraet and titaina. As well as tapas originating in other regions of Spain. For example, Spanish cured ham, potato omelette tortilla, chorizo and cheese plates are plentiful in Valencia.
So finish your day with delicious traditional tapas at one of the restaurants listed at the link above!
Cocas is a typical food in Valencia and can be of two types: salty and sweet.
A salty coca with roasted eggplant/aubergine and red bell pepper. Image sourse: invictusgrilltakeaway
Salty cocas are basically flat breads similar in concept to pizza, and can wear various toppings.
Sweat cocas are called coca de llanda and are sponge cakes.
An orange and chocolate coca de llanda.
Where to try cocas:
At any traditional bakery and coffee shops throughout the city and the Community.
Nuez café – a coffee shop near the main square Plaza de Ayuntamiento.
Granier bakeries – several franchises are dotted throughout the city
Locals love salty food in Valencia, as people in the rest of Spain do. Salazones are salted or pickled snacks, such as stuffed olives, anchovies & spicy pepper skewers, smoked sardines, cured tuna belly mojama.
Also, a very typical food in Valencia is little pickled aubergines (eggplants), eaten whole! (Pictured above, to the right of the garlic).
While this type of fare might be too salty for a non-Spanish palate, I encourage you to give it a try. You can find dozens of delicious salty goods at the Central Market and try them piece by piece. Maybe get a glass of sweet red vermouth to go with! 😉
Valencian desserts are not very varied. So many restaurants prefer to serve Italian or American desserts, as they are quite popular.
One traditional Valencian dessert is an egg based flan, for example.
There is also an ancient pumpkin and yam based dessert arnadí, which can be found in traditional restaurants in the Cabanyal district of Valencia or at traditional restaurants in the country side, for example – at La Genuina.
Torta Cristina is a round chewy almond cookie.
Buñuelos – pumpkin based light donuts. They are dunked into hot chocolate and are the most locally loved sweet snack in the colder months.
During the hot Valencian summer a glass of ice cold sweet horchata (tigernut milk) with fluffy pastries fartóns will help bring down the temperature.
Horchata with fartóns.
Where to have sweat snacks:
Keep in mind that Santa Catalina is the most centric and is open throughout the day. The other two are open mainly from 6pm onwards – and the whole day during festive seasons (such as Las Fallas). I find it that the best buñuelos are at Fabián!
After lunch many restaurants will offer guests a shot of a cold local liquor and maybe a small piece of coca de llanda.
Mistela is the most common dessert wine in Valencia. This fragrant fortified sweet wine is made from the locally grown Moscatel (Muscat) grape variety. It should be drunk ice cold.
If you are looking to try a truly local dry red wine, go for Bobal. It is exclusively grown in Valencian wine country and takes up the majority of the land dedicated to vineyards.
Agua de Valencia. Image credit: lally_bel
Agua de Valencia is alcohol (vodka, gin and cava – Spanish sparkling wine) & orange juice based cocktail. It was invented in the mid 20th century in one of the bars in Valencia.
More on the sweet topic of alcohol – to much surprise of the tourists, locals do not really consume sangría as such. (There is however a mixture of red wine and club soda that some locals may drink in the summer, called tinto de verano).
And if you are a caffeine lover, check out my post on how to order coffee in Valencia!
Make sure to at least try some of the appetizing Valencian cuisine staples during your stay! I hope this post will help you navigate your way through food in Valencia. If you are curious to learn more about the history of Valencia while eating delicious foods and sipping on wine, join my evening tapas & wine tour!