Travel with kids represents an endless adventure. Not only does it provide you with opportunities to teach your children about the world, but you also get to experience new things through their eyes. There are so many magical aspects to stepping outside of your comfort zone and teaching your children that “no one is foreign.” Unfortunately, trying new foods can prove a wrestling match if you’ve got picky eaters.
Fortunately, Spanish food comes with many irresistible treats your kids will adore. The exceptional range of eats and treats will entice even the fussiest eaters. Here’s our guide to surefire palate pleasers that’ll encourage your little ones to eat more adventurously.
Before we highlight individual dishes, there are a few things that you and your family should understand about Spanish cuisine. Spanish families don’t make a distinction between food for children and food for adults. Unlike the States, where kids tend to go for chicken nuggets, fries, PB&Js, and other finger foods, Spanish families share plates. In other words, nothing is off-limits for little ones.
This approach to eating comes with no preconceived notions about what kids do and don’t like. Why are we talking about this? Because revamping your attitude concerning expectations about kid-friendly foods will encourage your children to branch out.
Since there are no boundaries between the food adults and children eat, you’ll be amazed to see Spanish kids noshing on plates of Almejas and Calamares a la Romana. Alamejas are small clams served in garlic sauce and Calamares a la Romana is a dish of calamari batter rings.
Now, don’t panic! If your kids are squeamish about clams and squid, that doesn’t mean they’re going to starve. You’ve got plenty of other options, but the idea is to remove preconceived notions about what kids do and don’t like so that they can explore individual tastes in a new location. Remember, too, that if your kids or teens have a Western palate, they’ll still find plenty to eat. After all, pasta, burgers, and pizza places abound. Kebabs or gyros also represent a fantastic option when abroad.
Thankfully, finding delectable food in Spain for kids is a simple task when you know what to look for and where to find it. Common places to find meals even the pickiest eaters enjoy include:
Here’s what you need to know about each type of establishment, the food you can find there, and what the experience will be like.
Bread remains a staple of the Spanish diet. But it’s not the pre-sliced crustless stuff you wrangle out of plastic bags stateside. Loaves are fresh-baked and crusty. Because they’re preservative-free, the Spanish must buy fresh loaves daily. Bakeries abound, even in the smallest towns. And cities such as Valencia and Barcelona also include pasticceria (confectionary) and pasteleria (cake shops) on just about every corner. There’s always plenty to eat at these shops, from sandwiches and cookies to croissants and empanadas.
Tapas bars offer a wide selection of small plates served in a family-style setting. Common to the Basque region of Northern Spain, tapas provide an excellent way to let your kids try a variety of different dishes without having to commit to a large plate of food. One type of tapas is known as pintxos and generally involves slices of baguette topped with various ingredients held onto the bread with toothpicks.
Besides tapas bars, cervezeria are another great spot to find affordable eats that kids will love. Although cerveza refers to beer, these establishments are far more than bars. Instead, they serve sandwiches and grilled meats. They’re an excellent option when growling stomachs get the better of you, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money or time at a white-tablecloth restaurant.
Now that you know where to go to get kid-friendly food, let’s take a closer look at some surefire dishes that’ll please even the least adventurous eaters. We’ll start with sandwiches, known as bocadillo.
The Spanish take on a sandwich is both hearty and filling. Common varieties include:
Bocadillo are more than simple sandwiches punctuated by two slices of processed bread. Meals you can rdive into, they include unprocessed bread served with fresh vegetables, meats, and cheese. Tuna fish sandwiches often come mixed with olives, so bear this in mind when ordering.
Besides bocadillo, empanadas are another excellent food for families on the go. The Spanish are obsessed with these little pockets of goodness, and we can’t blame them. Found at both street vendors and high-end restaurants, they come in a variety of delicious flavors.
The most popular varieties of empanadas include jamon y queso (ham and cheese), pisto (ratatouille), and atun (tuna). By ratatouille, we’re referring to the savory blend of red bell peppers and eggplant stewed in tomato sauce famous throughout the Mediterranean. Pisto empanadas are a go-to snack that almost any kid will get behind, and there’s always the excellent Plan B of ham and cheese, too.
Like the bakeries on every corner, finding cured meats and sausages in Spain is a cinch. Butchers and charcuterias abound. The most common sausage found at these establishments is chorizo. But if this proves a little too spicy for your kids, order fuet or salchichón instead. Another snack for Spanish children adore is sobrasada, a sausage spread that pairs beautifully with fresh bread.
Another excellent menu item for the whole family is albondigas or meatballs. Staples of tapas restaurants and cervezerias, they’re often served in a tomato or mushroom sauce. Not only do they prove warming and filling, but kids will readily recognize them from American fare, which can encourage hesitant eaters to dive in.
The Spanish have made rice dishes iconic over the years. One of our personal favorites remains paella, a traditional mix of chicken and rabbit with rice and vegetables sauteed in a savory, creamy sauce. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, other versions of paella include seafood and squid versions. One of the best-known dishes in the country, many visitors consider it the national dish of Spain. That said, locals will unanimously agree it’s a dish unique to the Valencian region. Here’s a delicious Spanish paella recipe to get you in the mood for international travel.
When it comes to kid-friendly recipes from Spain, you’ll also want to keep patatas brava on the top of your list for moments when few things sound appealing to your kids. The Spanish version of French fries, these deep-fried chunks of potato will make children and teens feel right at home even when they’re an ocean away. They’re often served with a slightly spicy red sauce or mayonnaise.
Your family will also find a wealth of gorgeous fruits available at Spanish markets. These include pomegranates, figs, melons, and Valencia oranges. Bear in mind that Valencia oranges prove seasonal and are often marked jugo for juicing. You’ll enjoy the best pick during the winter.
But avoid the temptation of picking fruit from the orange trees lining the sidewalks of Valencia. Sure, they may appear quite tempting, but they won’t taste like the delicious produce you purchase at the market. That’s because they’re a decorative species of the fruit-bearing trees we know and love.
Attractive dessert options also abound because the Spanish are known for their endless “sweet teeth.” If you get out of the country without trying flan, there’s a problem. Check out Isabel Eats’ five-ingredient Spanish flan. After all, this custardy dessert represents the pinnacle of Spanish desserts. But there’s also crema catalana, the Spanish version of crème brûlée, featuring sweet custard with a hint of orange zest and a crispy burned sugar top.
For a treat on the go, don’t forget about churros. A regular accompaniment to festivals, churros are served with a thick hot chocolate dipping sauce. You’ll also find pastries such as farton a lovely snack. Don’t let the name fool you. This delectable, sugar-powdered pastry stick pairs well with coffee or horchata.
The list above barely scratches the service when it comes to the mouthwatering Spanish foods you have to look forward to on a family vacation to the Iberian Peninsula. As you can see, you’ll find countless ways to entice even the pickiest eaters to try something new. Besides knowing what to eat, check out our list of what to do while on a family vacation in Spain.
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