12 Emblematic Basque Pintxos to Try
Pintxos are small foods served everywhere in the Basque Country, an autonomous region located in northern Spain that is famous for its delicious food.
Pintxos are similar to the tapas served in the rest of the country but are smaller – generally speaking. Their name comes from the Spanish verb pinchar, which means to stab or poke, since these delicacies are presented with a toothpick in the middle.
Truth be said, not many weeks go by for me without eating one or two pintxos in different Basque bars, pubs, or restaurants. They are the perfect way to try delicious foods without getting too full, perfect for in-between meals. Of course, you can eat several of them and feel satiated for the rest of the day.
In this article, we will show you some of the top Basque Country pintxos you can try when traveling to the region, from Bilbao to San Sebastián.
1. Tortilla de Patata
The tortilla de patata (potato omelet) is the crown jewel in the Basque Country, and you can find it almost everywhere. An eternal battle is fought between those that enjoy it elaborated with onion and those who do not.
In any case, there are as many variations as bars serving them. Still, the quality of the potato is what defines everything.
Look for tortillas filled with ham and cheese, tortillas with txaka (crab), pickled tortillas, mushroom tortillas, vegetable tortilla, tortilla with pepper, and many more.
Usually, these pintxos cost between 1.50 and 2 euros, but you can choose to get them in breakfast offers accompanied by a coffee or a juice or order them on pintxo pote Thursdays with prices as low as 1 euro!
2. La Gilda
These are most popular in Ganbara, a bar located in San Sebastián, but are found everywhere.
La Gilda is a pintxo with a strong flavor made with a pickle that combines olives and chili peppers with a fish preserve, usually anchovies. The name honors Rita Hayworth: “green, salty and a little spicy”.
If you want to try them in Bilbao, you can choose places like GildaToki, La Viña del Ensanche, Portu Berri Barria, or Mercado de la Ribera (an excellent place to try dozens of exquisite pintxos and sweets).
3. Cod or Hake Kokotxa
Kokotxas are one of the juiciest parts of the fish, and pintxos can be made with cod or hake.
Cod is very common in the Basque gastronomy and history and enormously popular in the Vizcaya province (try it in Lisbon, which is also famous for this fish, and let us know which is better!).
These pintxos can be cooked in many ways: in green sauce, in batter, in pilpil style, in Donostia style, and many more.
Txangurro means spider crab in Euskera, the Basque language. Txangurro a la donostiarra is one of the most popular pintxos you can find in San Sebastián and is made with onion, tomato, leek, and brandy.
If you want to try them in Bilbao, go to the Plaza Nueva in the old town, where you can find them in the shape of a tartlet or the txangurro puff pastry, a classic!
A txapela is the traditional beret of the Basque Country. It has been a sign of identity of Basques for generations. However, it’s also the name of a pintxo: stuffed bread buns that are pretty hearty.
They have a beret shape and can contain many different ingredients, hence the name. It is also the name of a sauce in some places.
For example, you can find txapela spicy fried potatoes in the tavern of the same name in places like Madrid and Barcelona. Basques are everywhere!
Another traditional element of Basques, a trainera is a ship of the Cantabrian coast formerly used for fishing. Nowadays, they are used for rowing regattas.
The trainera pintxos – reminiscent of the shape of the famous Basque ships – are muffins on which various ingredients are served, from cod in ajoarriero sauce to mushroom scrambled eggs.
This is a traditional mussel that can be elaborated with tomato sauce and fried bell pepper, onion, chili pepper, and garlic, all crushed. The shell is loaded and coated with flour and breadcrumbs for frying. There are many ways to prepare mussels as tigres pintxos.
This is, undoubtedly, one of my favorites. How can you resist the shape and softness of croquettes accompanied by so many tasty ingredients: cured ham, cheese, olive oil, for example?
Found almost everywhere, this is a mouth-watering pintxo that can take your hunger away in a couple of bites.
We traditionally eat rabas (battered and fried squid) on public holidays or on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
They have something that is very appetizing just before lunch or as an accompaniment to larger meals. You can find them in many Basque bars and restaurants, from big cities to smaller areas.
Can they be considered pintxos since they are not pierced with a toothpick, come without bread, and are served in more generous portions? Well, let’s not get too philosophical here.
Txaka, or crab sticks, are usually served on a crunchy, delicious bread toast with mayonnaise and salmon. Many Basque bars also include txaka in their tortillas de patata, or potato omelet, since it’s a flavor with a solid contrast.
If you’re not sure where to try a txaka pintxo, visit Casa Vergara, in the old town of San Sebastián, or Bar Charly, in the famous Plaza Nueva of Bilbao.
Beware this one! Txistorra is a filling sausage and perhaps one of the most emblematic products of Basque gastronomy.
The sausage is placed on a slice of bread, and the mere sight makes it hard to resist. Moreover, txistorra is typically found inside a talo (a thin tortilla) on the feast of St. Thomas in many street stalls – celebrated in San Sebastián and Bilbao on December 21.
12. Any Pintxo with Cod!
As stated before, cod is a central pillar of Basque gastronomy and is also very popular in pintxos. They can be presented gratin on toasted bread, with piquillo bell pepper, in oil, made with garlic, mayonnaise, and anything you can think of.
Sometimes, it is presented in a porcelain bowl with exquisite sauces or decorated with pil pil, chopped boletus mushrooms, and chives.
Related: 14 Best Tapas Bars in Bilbao and San Sebastian
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