9 Most Iconic Foods and Drinks in Valencia, Spain
Valencia. It’s a city, sure, but did you know that it’s actually also the name of an entire region of Spain, filled with delicious and iconic foods?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Valencian food would just blend in with the rest of the amazing dishes in Spain. After all, Spain is known for its incredible food so the competition is fierce. However, Valencia actually has its own distinct, local dishes that you won’t find elsewhere in Spain, and they’re nothing short of exceptional.
Whether you’re planning a trip to sunny Valencia and want to know what to eat there, or you want to bring the flavours of Valencia straight to your kitchen, this post is guaranteed to fill you with excitement about Valencian food and drinks!
Many people across the world think of Paella as a Spanish dish, but it’s actually Valencian! Sure, nowadays you can find paella all across Spain if you look hard enough, but Valencia is the only place where you can sample the authentic and traditional version of this world-famous dish.
There are plenty of different variations of paella available these days, but the traditional dish includes rice, green beans, butter beans, peas, rabbit and chicken, which is cooked in olive oil and chicken broth. While seafood paella is very popular nowadays, authentic paella is not made with seafood.
Paella is a dish that’s made to share – especially since it’s cooked in such a huge pan! If you order paella in Valencia you’ll usually get the entire pan brought to your table – so unless you have a few friends to share it with, double-check the portion size before you order it!
It’s tricky to find bad paella in Valencia, but for excellent paella that the locals love head to Restaurante Flor de Valencia in the city of Valencia!
2. Horchata & Fartons
In the sweltering heat of a Valencian summer, there’s only one thing that will refresh you – horchata! This non-alcoholic drink, made from ground tiger nuts, tastes a bit like peanut butter, but it’s quite hard to describe! The only way to truly understand the taste is to travel to Valencia and try it!
The Valencian version is the original version of horchata – although the Mexican version, made with rice, is the most famous internationally.
This cool and milky drink is the perfect pick-me-up in the heat, and in Valencia it’s traditionally served with a sweet treat, called a farton. A farton is a long, thin, brioche-style bread, glazed with icing on one size. It’s a little bit naughty but absolutely delicious!
It’s easy to locate mouth-watering horchata and fartones in Valencia city – just head to any horchateria! The most famous, by far, is Horchateria de Santa Catalina.
Valencians go wild over pumpkin, so it makes sense that one of the most popular sweet treats in the region uses pumpkin as its star ingredient.
Buñuelos are small doughnut-style pumpkin fritters, served dusted in sugar. They’re especially popular during the Fallas Festival, one of the biggest events in the year in Valencia. The Fallas Festival runs from the 1st to the 19th of March to celebrate the end of winter, and things get pretty crazy!
If you’re visiting Valencia during this time expect huge parties, fireworks, parades and gunpowder. And, of course, Buñuelos!
You can get this fluffy Spanish snack all over the city during the festival, but they’re fairly easy to find all year long – just head to a buñoleria or horchateria.
4. Arroz a Banda
If you take normal paella, and spice things up a little, you get Arroz a Banda! This fishy rice dish is fairly unknown outside of Valencia but it is a must-try if you’re visiting the Valencian coast!
To make Arroz a Banda, simply cook paella rice in fish stock, without any other ingredients. The stocky rice is then served alongside fish, potatoes and onions, usually with aioli.
Arroz a Banda is typical of the area around Alicante, on the coast of Valencia, where seafood is everything! It makes sense, then, that this fishy alternative to Paella is so beloved here. It’s also a great Valencian dish to start with if you want to cook Valencian food, since it’s so simple.
When Christmas arrives in Valencia, the region will be abuzz with excitement about the return of one of the best desserts in Spain – Turrón!
Turron is a Moorish dessert that’s hundreds of years old and is even enjoyed outside of Spain. What many people don’t realise, though, is that Turrón was first created in the tiny town of Jijona, in the region of Valencia!
The traditional version is made of sugar, honey and almonds, but nowadays there are all sorts of wild and wonderful versions of Turrón available!
One of the most popular vendors of Turrón is Turrones Ramos, in the city of Valencia, which stocks this sweet treat all year round.
Aioli has been a staple in the Mediterranean for so long that it’s hard to say where it originated. One thing is for sure, though – Aioli is one of the most iconic foods in Valencia, Spain!
Aioli has a pretty similar texture to mayonnaise, but it’s made from just olive oil and garlic, meaning it’s vegan-friendly! Since there are so few ingredients, you can only imagine how strong garlic flavour in Valencian aioli is. It’ll make your eyes water!
If you join a Valencian family for lunch or dinner, prepare to eat a lot of aioli. It’s served with pretty much everything, but especially patatas bravas.
7. Alli i Pebre
Alli i Pebre is one of the signature dishes of the Valencia region, but it’s one that not too many tourists know about. This dish is as local as it gets!
Alli i Pebre originates from the area surrounding the Albufera, a lagoon on Valencia’s coast. Put simply, “Alli i Pebre” translates to “garlic and paprika”. Fortunately, though, these aren’t the only two ingredients. Fish and potatoes are served with the garlic and paprika, and eel is the most popular seafood used for this dish.
As we know by now, Valencians love a strong garlic flavour, and this dish is no different!
The village of El Palmar is the most popular place to sample Alli i Pebre, since it’s rumoured to be the village where the dish originated from. However, there are quite a few “tourist restaurants” here serving up sub-par Alli i Pebre. Head to Llar del Pescador restaurant for the real deal.
8. Agua de Valencia
It’s Saturday night in Valencia and you’re about to hit the bars for a few drinks… but what do you drink? Agua de Valencia, of course!
Agua de Valencia is the region’s most famous and beloved cocktail, made of cava or champagne, orange juice, vodka and gin. It’s strong, that’s for sure – and certainly not for the faint of heart!
Agua de Valencia was first created in 1959 in Café Madrid de Valencia, in the city of Valencia. This cocktail bar still exists, so if you want to sample the original Agua de Valencia, this is the place to head to.
Another one of the most beloved and iconic foods in Valencia is Esgarraet. This cold salad tapas dish consists of grilled red peppers, olive oil, garlic, cured cod, and occasionally olives if you’re feeling fancy.
This is one of the most popular local dishes in Valencia thanks to the tasty contrast of the sweet red peppers and the salty cod. To eat esgarraet the local way, devour the dish with friends and then mop up the leftover juice with some crusty bread. Yum!
Esgarraet dates back to the mediaeval ages in Valencia. Local fishermen realised that this dish would be a great way to preserve cod, and the rest is history! The dish was originally made with salted cod, to help with preservation, but nowadays you’ll usually find esgarraet made with fresh cod.
Spanish food is absolutely delicious, but Valencian food takes things to the next level. It’s hard to argue otherwise when this region is the home of paella, probably the most famous Spanish dish in the world!
As well as the heavy hitters, Valencia also has a few culinary surprises up its sleeve. It’s very easy to try something new here – whether that be doughy, pumpkin-flavoured Buñuelos or a glass of sweet and strong Agua de Valencia.
The fabulous flavors of Valencian food are still a well-kept secret, but they certainly won’t stay secret for long!
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