There are no diets on the Camino de Santiago. Walking this ancient pilgrimage gives you a free pass to eat as much delicious food as you want, and there are plenty of great dishes to choose from.
Along this historic Iberian trail, you will have an opportunity to sample Spanish cuisine in many different restaurants and tapas bars. You can rest assured you will fall in love with the Camino by way of the stomach as well as the foot.
To make the most of your spiritual and gastronomic adventure, here are some dishes that you must try.
What to Eat on the Camino de Santiago
Pil Pil Cod
Pil pil cod is a recipe you must try if you walk the Northern Route of the Camino from the Basque Country. The dish contains four basic ingredients: chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and cod. But the main protagonist is the sauce that provides an extraordinary flavor. The name of the dish is the onomatopoeia of the exploding noise the cod makes when it is being glazed.
Gâteau is a pastry stuffed with fruit and cream. There are many versions of Gâteau. Each is so simple, yet so delicious! Gâteau goes great with a cup of coffee.
It is another specialty that comes from the Basque Country, albeit the French part. However, if you decide to walk the French route, you won’t have a hard time finding Gâteau in St. Jean Pied-de-Port.
The French Way has two culinary epicenters—León and Castile. Both places are famous for Garlic soup. It is one of the typical dishes of the Way of Saint James. Because the recipe is so humble, Castilians eat it during Easter.
It includes paprika, broth, garlic, olive oil, eggs, bay leaf, serrano ham, and hard bread. Delicious and packed with nutrients, this healthy soup is great fuel for pilgrims.
According to Spaniards, Iberian ham is the best cured meat in the world, and many international pilgrims have backed up this claim. They make it from pigs that eat wild grass, herbs, and acorns while freely roaming through oak forests. Jamón Ibérico has such a unique flavor precisely because of the way the pigs are farmed.
You can eat it as a pincho (small tapa), with some Spanish almonds, or on a bocadillo (sandwich). The fat is part of the experience, so don’t discard it.
After a long day of walking on the Camino de Santiago, lentil stew is one of the most satisfying dishes you can eat. No matter which route you take or what place you stop to eat, it’s often on the Pilgrim Menu, so you will have plenty of opportunities to try it.
The ingredients of this thick stew are lentils, garlic, onion, carrots, and smoky chorizo. It is as delicious as it is gorgeous.
Pimientos de Padrón
Pimientos de Padrón is some of the best foods Galicia has to offer. As you get close to Santiago de Compostela, you will see more and more of these one-of-a-kind green peppers.
This green variety of peppers is not spicy at all. They are salty and somewhat smokey. Padrón peppers are typically fried in olive oil. The peppers are as simple as they get, but, once you try them, you won’t believe how deeply satisfying they are.
Eggs a la Flamenca
Eggs a la Flamenca is the most flamenco dish of Seville. You cannot miss it if you take the Via de la Plata route. The ingredients of this famous Sevillian dish are green asparagus, garlic, onion, green beans, ham, peas, piquillo peppers, chorizo, red tomatoes, and, naturally, eggs.
However, the ingredients can vary a bit, as many restaurants and chefs have their own special recipe. Traditionally, the dish is served in a clay pot.
After you pass the village of Vega de Valcarce, you will see this classic Spanish specialty pop up on menus everywhere. Pulpo is a dish of stewed octopus that’s drenched in olive oil and served with smoked paprika.
Preparing Pulpo is truly an art as it cannot be too hard or too soft, and it requires just the right touch of paprika and salt. It is one of the signature foods of Camino de Santiago and the best place to try it is the town of Melide.
Cocido Lebaniego is the most famous gastronomic treat of the city of Liebana, one of the stops on the Camino Lebaniego. However, if you walk the Northern Route, it’s just a small detour near the monastery of Santo Toribio. The recipe includes spicy Spanish pork sausage, black pork sausage, bacon, cabbage, potatoes, and chickpeas.
Where to Eat on the Camino de Santiago
In northeast Spain lies the region of Navarre. Its cuisine boasts French and Basque influences. If you walk the Camino Northern Route, make sure to try trout in any of Navarre’s gorgeous towns. It is a favorite dish of the locals. The Navarrese like to stuff it with succulent Jamon Serrano before they put it on the grill to cook and crisp.
They also love their local veggies, such as green beans, artichokes, asparagus, and red peppers. The local produce is best sampled in menestra de verduras—a delicious mix of Navarrese veggies sautéed in garlic and oil. The local vegetables also often turn up simply roasted with lemon, garlic, and olive oil.
You will find some truly exceptional red wines around Puente la Reina. Viña Orvalaiz is perhaps the best known local wine.
The region is home to the Monastery of Irache. As a reward to pilgrims, there is a fountain near the old Cisterian monastery that is literally flowing with monastic wine.
There, pilgrims can choose between copious amounts of fresh water or a moderate measure of wine. The monastery lies on the Camino de Santiago, so you won’t need to make any detours.
When you cross into Rioja, the grayish trail of the Camino turns to the color of wine. The capital of this province is Logroño. There is a wine-colored asphalt footpath that leads pilgrims into the city. All over the place, there are grape leaves, wine glasses, grape-shaped engravings, and wine-colored tiles.
If there is such a thing as a paradise for wine lovers, Rioja is it. The eponymous Rioja wine is among some of the best in the world. Even though it usually flies under the radar, it is as age-worthy as Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Stuffed red peppers are a major specialty in Rioja. The ingredients depend on the chef’s mood, but they usually consist of salted cod, vegetables, rice, and ground pork or beef.
The region is well-known for its hunting reserves, and the game often ends up on the tables of local restaurants. Make sure to try quail, rabbit, wild boar, or venison in some of the local rural outposts. If you want to do breakfast like Riojans, order toast roasted with quail eggs, jamon Serrano, and red peppers at a local tapas bar.
The city of Logroño is also known for its deep ice cream-making tradition. Here, you will find any ice cream flavor imaginable, from cherry and orange sorbets to goats cheese with blueberries.
As mentioned, León is a major culinary stop on the French Way. It boasts a wide array of tapas and suitable beverage combinations. Aside from the aforementioned garlic soup, black pork sausage with paprika and onions (morcilla) is a really popular dish in the city. Cured and salted beef with apple and cheese is also a regional favorite.
As for tapas, croquetas are a safe bet. Their gooey ham and cheese interior and round potato exterior are quite appealing. A mountain of patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy salsa and herbs) goes well with the local wine.
Santiago de Compostela
The Santiago de Compostela cathedral is the ultimate goal of every pilgrim that walks the Camino de Santiago. And munching on some of the Galician specialties is a great way to celebrate your arrival in this old city.
Galicia may be one of the poorer regions in the country, but it has one of the richest cuisines. The Galician take on the aforementioned pulpo (pulpo a la gallega) is something every pilgrim must try. Swimming in oil, grilled with herbs, and served on a bed of paprika and potato, the Galician octopus is hard to resist.
A dish of scallops, one of the symbols of the Camino de Santiago, is a great way to crown your pilgrimage. Steamed scallops served with a heaping of olive oil, onion sauce, and tomato sauce are perhaps the best dish of Santiago de Compostela’s seafood contingent.
Like many other Spanish dishes, this one also has many variations. It can be served with or without breadcrumbs, with ham or without ham, with paprika or without paprika…
Galician pie, Galician stew, and pork shoulder with turnip greens are some other typical dishes of the area. The locals are also very proud of their steamed mussels—Mexillón de Galicia.
The diverse cuisine of Spain is among the best in the world, and walking the Camino de Santiago gives you a chance to try all the best dishes of Iberia. The culinary possibilities on this ancient pilgrimage are limitless. Whether you decide to walk the Camino in spring, summer, or fall, you’ll be able to enjoy an unbroken chain of satiating delights.
About the Author
I’m Rebecca, a translator and avid traveler, a book worm, and horror flick enthusiast. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them. You can also catch up with me on Twitter.