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Many people will pick up a shot glass or a postcard from each city they visit. But if you’re anything like us, you’ll probably want to fill your suitcases with something else—food!
Luckily, when it comes to food souvenirs from Spain, you have plenty of options here in Madrid. Whether you’re shopping for friends, family, or yourself, here’s what to buy and where to buy it.
With a culture that revolves around meal times and socializing, Spain makes it all too easy to spend your entire trip to Madrid eating and drinking your way through the city. The Arab and Mediterranean influences present in many Spanish foods make for traditional dishes that will wow your senses, and the melting pot of cultures in Madrid offer anything a foodie could ever want.
If you’re hoping to bring Spain into your own kitchen, be sure to pick up some of these food souvenirs from Spain before you get back on the plane home.
1. Olives & Extra Virgin Olive Oil
These two products alone are enough to convince any foodie to book a flight to Spain. Spanish olive oil often gets dubbed “liquid gold,” and for good reason—with half of the world’s olive oil in any given year coming from Spain, it’s safe to say we know what we’re doing. And of course, all that oil comes from some of the world’s best olives.
When we say that olives and olive oil are everywhere here in Spain, we mean everywhere. Spaniards will eat olive oil on toast for breakfast, cook with a heavy hand of the stuff for every meal, and snack on a tapa of olives with their caña at every bar you walk into.
Even though most of Spain’s olives and olive oil come from the south, these food souvenirs from Spain are plentiful here in the capital. One of our favorite places to buy olive oil in Madrid is the Patrimonio Comunal Olivarero shop—which is actually the official olive oil store of the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture!
While you’re there, don’t forget to pick up a jar of Madrid’s own Campo Real olives. Serve them in a dish with some beer, sherry wine, or vermouth before a dinner party, and you’ll be well on your way to opening a Spanish bar in your own home.
2. Jamón Ibérico de Bellota
You haven’t really tried ham until you’ve tried Spanish acorn-fed Iberian ham.
This stuff is the best of the best—the product that most Spaniards would probably go to war to protect. But what makes it so different from your average deli ham, anyway?
There are two factors that make jamón ibérico de bellota one of our favorite food souvenirs from Spain (or, let’s be honest, one of our favorite foods in general). Those are the breed of the pig and its diet.
Black Iberian pigs are native to—you guessed it—the Iberian peninsula. For this particular variety of ham, the pigs roam free range on rolling oak-dotted landscapes known as dehesas, where they forage for rich and nutty acorns. The hams undergo a curing process that lasts for at least 36 months, leaving you with an unbelievably flavorful ham that practically melts in your mouth.
You can buy jamón ibérico in Madrid at many gourmet shops, but our go-to place is Charcutería Ismael at the Antón Martín Market, run by our friend Jesús. He’s been working in the ham industry for much of his life and is always happy to help share the jamón love!
Note: Unfortunately, Americans cannot take jamón back home, as customs restrictions strictly prohibit bringing meat into the country. We recommend saving yourself the potential hassle at the airport and ordering it online from a US-based Spanish food retailer instead. If you’re not American, do check your own country’s restrictions just in case!
3. Spanish Spices: Saffron & Paprika
Spanish food is known for being on the mild side—but it does incorporate aromatics quite brilliantly. The full-bodied parsley in steamed clams, dash of smoked Spanish paprika on Galician-style octopus and subtle saffron in paella take seemingly simple plates to new levels of succulence.
As you explore the gourmet shops (our favorite is Spicy Yuli) and markets of Madrid, check out the selection of spices and buy whatever unique flavors that spark your interest. To make sure your version of your favorite Spanish dish comes out just as it would here in Spain, two spices are especially crucial: smoked paprika (pimentón) and saffron (azafran).
Smoked Spanish paprika is one of our favorite food souvenirs from Spain, and the paprika from the small town of La Vera is the best (look for pimentón de La Vera). You can find it in sweet (dulce), semi-sweet (semi-dulce), and hot (picante) varieties. It is a steal here in Madrid at around €2 a pop, so stock up and discover your favorite!
Saffron, on the other hand, is famous for being the most expensive spice in the world. Here in Spain, it grows on the fertile plains of Castilla-La Mancha not far from Madrid—making it much less expensive than it would be abroad. A few strands go a long way to add a beautiful pop of color and flavor to dishes like paella.
4. Spanish Wine
Spanish wine is much lesser known than that of our French neighbors, and infinitely more difficult to find abroad. And if you can find a nice bottle in your local store, you better believe it will be ridiculously overpriced.
That’s not the case here in Spain. We’re home to 70 protected wine regions, with Rioja being undoubtedly the best known. But there’s a whole world of excellent Spanish wines to discover—from the sun-drenched sherries of Andalusia to the bold, lesser-known reds of Toro, all the way up to the rolling cava vineyards of Catalonia.
As a bonus, it’s easy to get excellent value for your money when buying this particular food souvenir in Spain. It’s not difficult to find great bottles in the €10–15 range. Head to a local shop like Madrid & Darracott or Vinoteca Vides to get personalized recommendations from people who live and breathe Spanish wine.
5. Paella Rice & Pans
Paella is arguably Spain’s most famous dish—and also its most misunderstood. Originally from Valencia, this sizzling dish traditionally incorporated rice, rabbit, chicken, and beans, cooked together in a large, shallow pan over an open flame.
Nowadays, almost every family has their own recipe based on their tastes and the regional ingredients available. But every Spaniard you speak to will likely agree on one thing: a good pan and the right rice are non-negotiable.
Unfortunately for those who don’t call Spain home, these two key paella components can be tough to find abroad. We recommend grabbing a paella pan for a quarter of the price of what you would pay for it back home. You want a wide, shallow pan that will allow you to spread the rice out in a thin, crispy layer.
And of course, a good paella is all about the rice! Here in Spain, most paellas use bomba rice, a round short-grain rice grown on the east coast of Spain that packs tons of flavor. It can hold three times more liquid than other varieties, yet still hold its own shape in a paella!
You can find bomba rice at any Madrid grocery store, and paella pans wherever homeware and kitchen supplies are sold. Get both of these food souvenirs from Spain and you’ll be well on your way to cooking perfect paella no matter where you are in the world. (Bonus points if you can convince a local to share their secret recipe with you before you head off!)
Food Souvenirs from Spain FAQs
Here in Spain, you can stock up on everything from kitchen staples to gourmet goodies. A few of Spain’s star products are olive oil, wine, cured meats, cheese, paprika, saffron, and canned seafood.
Sadly, no—American customs regulations strictly forbids bringing meat into the country from abroad. Your best bet is to order it online from an American company specializing in Spanish foods once you’re home (La Tienda is our go-to pick).
Update Notice: This post was originally published on October 11, 2012 and was updated with new text and photos on April 29, 2021.
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