- Bonus: Find a Ruta de Tapas around the country to experience an amazing selection of fall foods while they’re in season (+ take a look at the one that inspired me to continue hunting for them region by region)
- Trip idea: travel north to see the leaves change and burst with color from late September to mid-November
The summer heat has come and gone for most of the country or at least it is way less intense in the South. Spaniards who were operating on vacation mode have come back from the beach, mountains or small-town living and they are ready to get back into the normal routine. This time of year reminds me of how over a decade ago, I was planning my study abroad semester in Seville with an advisor at my university. I still remember how she was almost adamant that if I was going to study in the South of Spain, I had to go in the spring to experience Andalucía to its fullest.
Fall in Spain is still one of the best times to visit. It is also surprisingly packed with festivals, seasonal foods, holidays and natural beauty. In fact, the country even has the second-largest forest coverage in the whole of the EU, at 27.7 million hectares. Only Sweden has more so that’s really saying something!
Let’s take a look at why you should visit in the off-season starting with this master list of fall foods in Spain that I absolutely love.
Ready to dig in or get cooking?
1. Mushrooms (especially the boletus variety)
In the latter days of September and into October, wicker baskets begin to appear in the windows of some small shops all around Spain. This is because both the mushroom season and the rainy season are about to get well underway. Here are a few of the most common types of mushrooms you should keep an eye out for in restaurants, fruit shops and markets:
- Champiñones (gray or white short mushrooms that are sold worldwide)
- Setas (wild mushrooms that have the classic shape but look like a fringed-out, ridged fan)
- Boletus (penny bun or porcini mushrooms with brown caps and white stems; the most valuable type around Spain with large portions (raciones) starting from 15-20€ -depending on the region- for a plate of grilled slices
- Níscalos (orange milk-cap mushrooms that you can easily forage in forests but it’s always best to have an expert join you)
Mushrooms are a fungus and they grow best in wet environments, especially in forests. One of my first “regular or “normal” outings, not too long after we got our vaccines, was to go mushroom foraging with a couple of friends in the nearby forest of Rascafría. I had a basket at home and I was told to take it with me on the day trip. Why? Collecting them in baskets is key to allowing the spores to fall out and spread. This method is circular and helps distribute them throughout the forest as you walk and hunt for more thus, ensuring next year’s harvest in the process.
One of them was Spanish and he and his family usually made trips up to the northern regions of Spain so some were mushroom foraging experts. I learned a lot that Saturday (and suffered from a blackout in terms of data with my phone provider unbeknownst to me) and was reminded that the red and white mushrooms -think Mario Brothers video games- were indeed poisonous.
In the photo above, you can see the orange níscalos (priced at 5,99€ /kilo at the time) or milk-cap mushrooms, which is what we had picked in 2021 and then I bought some myself the following year. My friends ended up making a pasta dish with mushrooms (mine had actually gone bad before I could use them) but you could also make a risotto or sautée them and serve them with cooked or baked vegetables. If you don’t have any personal mushroom experts in your circle of friends or family, you can always book a mushroom foraging excursion like the ones featured on the Sierra de Guadarrama’s website or through your own local government’s website.
While not a fall food, I still think of these pimientos rellenos (oven-baked red peppers stuffed with a delicious codfish – bacalao – filling) that we had at a nearby restaurant a couple of years later. The weekend menú del día was a bit pricey even outside the city so we just ordered a few large portions (raciones) to share and split the bill.
In hindsight, I didn’t really have all that much to drink but my friends did and I got stuck with paying for some of their beer, which can happen when you’re dining with Spaniards. If I were to repeat that experience but in a bigger group, I would’ve realized what had been happening sooner and insisted on only paying for what I had actually ordered, drinks and all. I would encourage you to do the same and try and go with a driver who isn’t going to drink -even “mildly”- and then take you back to the city in their car afterward.
Needless to say, that exact excursion didn’t happen again but it did help me foster an even stronger connection to mushrooms. It even inspired me to try cooking with wild mushrooms and later having some of the famous ones from Mesón del Champiñón* the following year on my birthday.
*This Madrid institution opened in 1964 and it’s located across from the Mercado de San Miguel (sadly a majorly overpriced tourist trap market). You won’t get highly attentive service here because they are almost constantly busy but the mushrooms are divine. They come out hot so be careful and blow on them or wait a minute or so before you eat them. The restaurant serves them with toothpicks (palitos) already stuck into each one so refrain from asking for a fork and eat your mushrooms like the locals do!
2. Chestnuts (castañas)
Chestnuts are something that reminds me of my time living in Galicia at the start of my long-term stint in Spain. They are most prolific in areas of heavy rainfall and the trees can almost exclusively be found from as far Northwest as Galicia to the northeast in places like Navarra and Cataluña.
The Castaña de Galicia PGI refers to a geographically-protected chestnut (the European variety) that has been cultivated by local Galician growers. Most chestnuts are sold fresh or even frozen and the price per kilo can vary, from 4,95€ (or less) to 6,25€ /kg – from my own recent observations here in Madrid this season.
During my first year in Spain and as a language assistant at a public school, I participated in a magosta or a chestnut-roasting party. It was very different from a fall festival party or an outdoor bonfire that we’d have in the Midwest but it definitely helped me see (and enjoy) chestnuts in a whole new way. I honestly don’t think I had ever tried them before 2014, seeing as I’m not from a rainy region like Northern Spain.
The good news is that you don’t just have to travel to the regions I listed above where chestnuts are grown to try them. In big cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla, you can find sellers running their chestnut, honey-roasted nut and roasted corn-on-the-cob businesses out of little huts or cabins that say Castañas on the front or the side.
What still remains present each season is my desire to buy chestnuts from a little train-shaped cabin in the middle of Santiago de Compostela – a missed opportunity but one I will have to rectify if I can!
3. Huesitos or Huesos de Santos
As you may already know, you can find special city or town-specific treats and delicacies in the majority of provinces and regions in Spain. Well, on the contrary, let me (re)introduce you to something you can find in bakeries (panaderías) and pastry shops (pastelerías/confiterías) all over the country.
Huesos or huesitos de Santos.
These are small, filled marzipan bone-shaped treats that resemble human bones but with a spiral design etched onto the outside. They typically start to pop up in shops starting in mid-October (possibly earlier) and last until early November supplies run
All Saints Day (Todos los Santos) on November 1st is celebrated in different countries around the world but you will find that most of Europe observes this holiday (a federal one at that). My home country, the United States does not recognize it but it’s a day that has been on my radar for over a decade now. Why?
Well, you know I’ve been in Spain for almost a decade at the time of writing this post but it is also one of my close friend’s birthdays. Being born on one of your country’s federal holidays has its perks like being able to sleep in moderately late, am I right?
So, while this is not a savory fall food, it is something that will signal to you that fall has definitely arrived in Spain. Even if you find yourself wearing a T-shirt and shorts as you walk past a pastry shop selling this seasonal delicacy.
4. Buñuelos de Viento
This festive delight is actually something I’ve only recently been made aware of. I knew that these were eaten in Spain but at the time of discovering the huesitos, I didn’t see any sign of this pastry also being sold at this time up in Northern Spain. It may be that I just wasn’t paying as close attention to them as I was to something that had an interesting shape.
Buñuelos de viento (also known as Nun puffs/profiteroles), not to be confused with their savory counterpart buñuelos de bacalao (codfish balls/puffs), originally come from France (pets de nonne) as well as Morocco, Turkey and Egypt. They have been exported to French-speaking Canada, the United States and Spain. These dessert pastries are soft, spongy, deep-fried chunks of dough with frosting or cream inside. I’ve recently seen flavors like chocolate, whipped cream, vanilla and pistachio – one I’ve never seen made available before.
Last year, during a cooking class in the upstairs part of a highly-rated restaurant, Ferretería, my husband and I (+ our class) made our own buñuelos. I’d recommend just having 1-2 at a time (maybe 3) because these little pastries pack a powerful punch in terms of sugar. We also saw first-hand what this El País recipe article cautions about how important the temperature of the oil was in terms of frying the pastry correctly. If it’s not warm enough, the buñuelos won’t float. If it’s too hot, they will likely burn.
When in doubt, go pick up some fresh ones from mid-October to early November so you can savor this seasonal fall food – even though it is more of a pastry.
If you are in Madrid or going to have visitors come see you, check out Devour Tours’ Paella and Tapas Cooking Class. We were among a few volunteers to try the class out in exchange for a review. Mentioning it in this blog post is of my own volition simply because I had such a good time meeting our guide and Le Cordon Bleu trained chef, Arantxa, exploring the Mercado de Antón Martín and eating a tapa there (a superb, very local, no-frills Spanish market) and then working with our chef to begin cooking the meal we were going to all sit down for and enjoy together for lunch. It is adaptable for vegetarians, vegans, nut-allergies and non-drinkers (though due to the use of sharp knives, it isn’t suitable for kids age 12 and under from what it says on their website).
5. Roast suckling pig (cochinillo)
It’s likely that you’ve heard of this dish before or at least seen the word on a menu if you’ve ever visited Spain. The region of Castilla y León, particularly the city of Segovia, is where this dish is most famous (and popular to order). Due to the heaviness of this main course, be sure not to order it in the summer. Temperatures in Central and Southern Spain are known to soar into the 100s (40ºC+) during the months of July and August. Even if you or some of your visitors are dying to try it while exploring this part of the country, resist the urge to order one of those piglets on platters.
You will see them all over the place. Trust me, the signs are everywhere…and some places do a ceremonial cutting of the pig with a plate, which would be interesting to see if you’re into that sort of thing. Friends of mine have often regretted ordering the full plate just because it’s so popular and it ended up throwing a giant wrench into the rest of their day (or night).
Still want to try it?
A lighter alternative that I would recommend is to go to a restaurant like El Cochifrito, where you can order a sliced and fried version of the roast suckling pig (cochinillo) for 22 euros (or a media ración’half portion for 12 if you’re on your own). They also have some great wines, huge salads (we really loved the de la casa -house- option), appetizers (think jamón and Spanish cheese) and other entreés. In a city that feels like it’s pushing the largest portion of its most popular dish on you, it’s nice to know that there are smaller versions if you’re not able to spend the rest of your day digesting it.
6. Soup and purée season (crema de calabaza o calabacín)
Spain is a very seasonally-minded country and the same can be said for many other European countries. Both cold and hot soup seasons are real things here and the Spaniards take each one seriously. There is such a thing as the wrong time for salmorejo or gazpacho (seasonally: May-September) and for one of the sopas (October-April/May) on my list below.
Some of my favorite Spanish fall soups and/or warm fall foods:
- Crema de calabacín (zucchini purée – my number one favorite!)
- Sopa castellana (a garlicky chickpea soup with meat and a tomato-based broth)
- Crema de calabaza (pumpkin purée; with picos or croutons on top)
- Garbanzos con espinacas (a spinach and chickpea dish with paprika on top; link to a recipe from Spanish Sabores that I used recently)
- Sopa de marisco (a tomato-based broth soup with a wide variety of seafood plus, a crab/lobster claw or two if you’re lucky)
- *Not Spanish but if you’re an American and went to Olive Garden at some point in your life, this Chicken and Gnocchi Copycat Soup recipe is so, so good
7. Caquis/Kakis (Persimmons)
I still remember the first full winter in Spain when one of my very first tutoring students mentioned this word to me:
<<Conoces los caquis?>> he asked me inquisitively.
(I’m 95% sure he used that spelling)
Not until I found myself living in the city limits of Madrid about 6 years later holed up in my apartment with my husband during the aftermath of a blizzard looking for something new to bake. I think sometimes you don’t make a new discovery or really get into something you’ve thought about doing or trying until you’re ready.
That was the case with me and kakis (persimmons) – my preferred spelling, which you’ll see on signs in many local fruterías.
I used our blender that we had gotten as a wedding gift a year and a bit before that snowstorm, Filomena, and made bizcocho de kakis (persimmon bread). You need to pick off the leaves after you wash them and then peel them or keep the skin on before you chop them up into blender-friendly pieces. That re-discovery of an old fruit helped give us something to look forward to in the mornings for the next 2-3 weeks that January as it was hard to tell if all the snow had melted or not. I enjoyed baking with them and hope to experiment with some more recipes with them. From my own experience, I recommend just using one per loaf of persimmon bread or muffins.
You can’t see it from my pictures but when you cut open a persimmon, it has a natural star-shaped pattern on the inside. It’s probably my favorite thing about this new-to-me fruit.
If you catch them in season, keep an eye out for that unique pattern. In an otherwise suffocating time in my life, that little discovery brightened my day and I hope it will for you, too!
8. Cocido madrileño o puchero in Andalucía & Valencia
Full disclosure on this next fall food in Spain: I have never tried this dish or any of its variations before.
I wanted to add it because it is a staple in most Spanish homes but until I try it, I don’t think it’s fair for me to give my opinion on it just yet.
Stay tuned for my review!
8. Caldo gallego
One of my husband’s favorite signs that he enjoys seeing pop up in the colder months is the “Hay caldo,” sign. He normally catches a glimpse of one of these at a local football ground but they can also be found in all sorts of restaurants and bars around the country.
Standard broths are served all around Spain but there is something that sets the caldo galego apart from the rest. Though it is ironically known to be a derivative of Portugal’s caldo verde with a chouriço garnish.
What might that be?
Grelos. Or col gallega.
The closest thing I can relate grelos to is a Southern US vegetable called collard greens. These also have a short season (fall to winter or spring – if you’re in the Galicia region-) and are typically used in hearty meals like caldo gallego (which I want to follow a recipe and make myself this season) and lacón con grelos (ham hock and collard greens). They are meant to be cooked or steamed and not eaten raw – something I learned on my own when I tried to add them to a salad during my first year of teaching.
If you know you’re going to stay in Spain or even if you want a souvenir to take back with you, the ceramic stores that sell pots, bowls and utensil holders are great. I have actually always wanted to start my own collection of this type of kitchen produce and utensil storage but I want to wait until I have a bigger kitchen first. I may not wait because life is short, am I right?
I would’ve bought or asked where the owner of the restaurant I was at with some friends that day (the last day of caldo season in Coruña, May 1st nonetheless), had I not been packing up my life to put it in storage the following month.
The next time I’m in Galicia, I will be looking for a couple of bowls like the one you see in my photo!
9. Churros con chocolate
If you’re visiting in the summer and you’ve at least heard about Spain’s famous churros con chocolate, I’d recommend you only divulge in this traditional breakfast just once maybe twice. It’s a classic, typically weekend breakfast for Spaniards but the summertime is much too hot to be able to enjoy the essence of this ritual.
This is a classic cold-weather fall food and definitely something you can use to help warm yourself up in the bitter winter months in various parts of Spain.
Side note: over the years I have learned that apparently it can be said in either order, ie: chocolate con churros or vice versa.
10. Wine from La Rioja or Ribera del Duero
After many thoughts about planning a trip to Spain’s most well-known wine region and toying around with the idea of a girl’s trip, I finally went to the foodie paradise that is Logroño in March 2023. Its famous street, Calle Laurel, boasts over 80 different bars in a 300m2 radius and has dozens upon dozens of delicious bites for you to sample.
I had previously been to Spain’s other lesser-known wine region at the time- thanks to my super knowledgable wine expert aunt – up in between Valladolid and Burgos back in the fall of 2015. I still remember how chilly stepping off the train from Santiago when I arrived in Valladolid. After that, I caught a small-town bus that took me to what is no longer a Parador to have breakfast with them. Later on, we visited three bodegas and even a brewery – a surprise addition to the trip for my uncle and thanks to my interpreting skills. My favorite of the three was Legaris, whose wine I enjoyed throughout the rest of my time in Santiago that school year.
There you have it!
My master list of fall foods, wines and desserts in Spain that I have come to love and look forward to having each and every season. This latter half of the year is a busy time for me as I wrap up another fiscal year, celebrate some anniversaries, birthdays and special holidays in my family and personal life and get ready for what is coming next.
I hope this list of varied foods will keep you company as you either visit or get to know Spain on a deeper level. The days are growing shorter but that doesn’t mean that your list of fun things to do has to as well!
If you enjoyed this list but have found it out of season, check out three fruits in Spain that you must try in the spring and summer.
What was your favorite item on the list? Do you have anything to add that I should try or cover? If you liked this post and found it helpful, please consider donating to my website by buying me a coffee/tea! Your support will make it possible for me to continue creating more unique and insightful posts in the future. ¡Mil gracias!