Food is one place where people from different cultures can meet and exchange their traditions over conversation. The Camino de Santiago cuisine is no exception. Centuries of local traditions infuse the food available along on the major pilgrim routes. Some of the eating may be as adventurous as a long-term trek. Yet there will always be an abundance of fresh and well-prepared cuisine for the hungry pilgrims.
Menu Peregrino on Camino de Santiago
One interesting aspect of restaurants and Camino de Santiago cuisine is that in addition to their varied offerings a Menu del Día or Menu Peregrino (a daily special) will be available. The special will usually include a hearty meal with a few courses, drink and bread. It is overall less expensive than other options. You may have a choice of two items or may simply receive the item they have available that day. When you order the daily menu, you benefit from both something locals find tasty and something that is native to their region. On cooler days soups such as fabada (bean stew) or caldo gallego (vegetable soup with collard greens) can be especially delicious. Many tasty treats are available and rotate with the day. It’s your chance to let the chef serve you what they recommend!
Seaside Delicacies and Camino de Santiago
The cuisine and culture of a country is influenced by the local landscape and food availability, and nowhere is that more true than the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago or in Galicia as you approach Santiago on the French route. Seaside villages along the path offer incredibly fresh fish of many kinds, as well as more unusual delicacies. In Finisterre, the local and traditional option is percebe, or gooseneck barnacles. Known for their briny, sea-like flavor, these barnacles are valuable and costly. The divers in Northern Spain and Portugal who look for them risk their lives to deliver this treat. If the chance to sample comes up in your journey, consider it a chance to taste part of the culture and livelihood of those in the area, one that remains unchanged over many centuries.
Another interesting option to sample along the Camino is pulpo. While maybe not typical of many other parts of the world, this octopus is delicious: savory and supple. In Galicia, you can sample the variety known as pulpo a la gallega, which involves a sprinkle of paprika to bring out the flavors and salt with great olive oil produced with olives grown right there on the Iberian peninsula. While the texture is unusual, it tends to win people over to eating the little rounds of tentacles. Try it even if it is your first time! Keep your eyes peeled for pulpo on the menu as you approach towns like Melide or other coastal areas as you get closer to Santiago de Compostela. In Portugal polvo is usually served grilled and also delicious.
Vegetarian Options: Being Inventive
Spanish and Portuguese Camino de Santiago cuisine will have a lot of salads, bread, and eggs but it is rare to find dishes in restaurants that are utterly devoid of meat or seafood. However, growing tourism in the region means that people will know about vegetarianism. You can explore many options available at any given restaurant. Just ask for vegetarian options and restaurant staff will do their best to offer you a tasty meal with a friendly service. One recommendation is to do some of your own grocery shopping in towns where you visit. Make sure you take advantage of the wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables and the local fresh ground spices. In Santiago, Mercado de Abastos is an amazing historic food market with abundance of fresh and prepared foods for any taste.
Tarta de Santiago
Delightful pastries are available at the local pastelería or pastry shop in many towns. One that should be near and dear to any pilgrim’s heart is the “Cake of Saint James,” or Tarta de Santiago. These almond cakes are dusted with powdered sugar and decorated with the cross of Saint James. The cake is light and fluffy from an abundance of eggs. Treat yourself to a slice while also learning about the culture and history of pilgrimages.
There are so many delicacies along the Camino, too many to mention. Take a trip and discover and taste for yourself! Adventure Camino offers more than simply a walk through the countryside. We connect visitors with customized itineraries that maximize cultural experiences, including the world-class cuisine of Spain and Portugal. For more information, contact us.