In a land where pintxos are the norm and foodies flock to local bars for feasts of miniature haute cuisine, it can be easy for people visiting the Basque Country to forget to save room for dessert.
But like the rest of the food offered in this beautiful region, dessert is no joke. In true Basque style, both chefs and locals offer only the best treats across the region. The Basque standard of using locally produced ingredients holds true not only with pintxos, but when making desserts, too. In other words, don’t fill up too fast because you will definitely want to try these typical desserts from the Basque Country!
1. Etxeko Biskotxoa (Pastel Vasco)
Most commonly referred to as Gâteau Basque which simply means Basque Cake in French, it is one of the most typical desserts from the Basque Country and a definite must-try! The crust, similar to a soft shortbread, is golden brown and buttery with a flaky, light crumb. There are two traditional fillings for this tasty cake including an almond-flavored pastry cream and black cherry preserves. Both versions are equally delicious. This cake is a wonderful end to any meal and is great with a café con leche.
Local’s Tip: The best Gâteau Basque can be found in the French Basque Country. We especially like the black cherry filled cakes found in Saint Jean de Luz. Many pastry shops sell individual size cakes. Try one for breakfast—you won’t be sorry!
Pronounced “go-shoo-a,” this Basque word literally means “sweet” and it’s a perfect description of one of the most typical desserts from the Basque Country. The origins of this darling dish can be traced to a small, family-owned pastry shop in Vitoria-Gasteiz where the dish is known simply as Postre Vasco or Basque Dessert. Traditionally, this is a multi-layered dessert that begins with a base of whipped cream, followed by a layer of airy sponge cake which is finally topped off with a dollop of caramelized custard. Uniquely, this dessert is served in small clay bowls. But don’t be fooled by the rustic presentation—this little treat is sure to please!
3. Idiazabal cheese with walnuts & quince jam
For many, cheese doesn’t sound very dessert-like. But keep an open mind! This combination of flavors is a traditional, local favorite that is served in Basque cider houses across the region. Idiazabal cheese is a simple farmhouse cheese made with sheep’s milk in the regions of Gipuzkoa and Navarra. With a compact texture and a smoky, nutty flavor, this award-winning cheese combines perfectly with locally cultivated walnuts and sweet quince jam.
Local’s Tip: While this dessert is always plentiful in cider houses, it can also be ordered in most bars and restaurants. Like any artisanal product, Idiazabal cheese offers a wide variety of flavors so try more than one during your stay.
Another of our favorite typical desserts from the Basque Country, pantxineta (pronunced “pan-cheen-eta”) will surely satisfy your sweet tooth! This light tart has a flaky puff-pastry crust filled with a thick custard cream. Crowned with crushed almonds and a dusting of powdered sugar, this dish is a real crowd-pleaser! Pantxineta is a dessert option in almost all restaurants serving a menú del día. Many pintxo bars have this beauty sitting near the end of the bar, too. When you see it, ask for a slice!
Literally meaning “nut sauce” in the Basque language, this dessert from the Basque Country has been around for more than 150 years. Served on Christmas Eve in Basque farmhouses, this creamy pudding-like dessert is made with only four ingredients: walnuts, milk, cinnamon and sugar. The best versions of Intxaursaltsa are found in convents around the Basque Country. Authentically Basque, this dish is exclusive and hard to find.
Local’s Tip: During the winter, many places have Intxaursaltsa on hand for the local crowd. It probably won’t be printed on the menu but don’t be afraid to ask for it. Hopefully you will be in for a sweet surprise!
6. Canutillos de Bilbao
Part of the gastronomic culture of Bilbao, we’re sure you’ll love this crispy treat! Generally, buttery puff-pastry is rolled out nice and thin. Then, it is wrapped around metal cylinders and deep fried to a golden brown. Finally, the crispy shells are filled with pastry cream and dusted with sugar. When served warm with chocolate sauce for dipping, it’s hard to eat just one!