Typical Spanish Breakfast
Spanish gastronomy is full of beautiful surprises, and a typical Spanish Breakfast is no exception. Fragrant paella in which every grain of rice is soaked in the intense flavours of a strong stock and toasted “sofrito”, creamy and refreshing “salmorejo”, spicy almond and garlic “ajoblanco”, popular “gazpacho”, slow-cooked oxtail in red wine, “zarzuela de mariscos” seafood stew with thick roasted almonds sauce and toasted bread, Galician octopus with paprika and olive oil, roasted leg of lamb in traditional stone ovens … These are only a small fraction of the hidden wealth hidden in Spanish cuisine.
We feel that a typical Spanish Breakfast deserves a big mention on our blog for its uniqueness and all aspects you will not find anywhere else. Like everywhere in the world, breakfast is a relatively recent invention in Spain, enjoying mass popularity only since the middle of the last century.
These days breakfast “on the street” has a unique position in the daily meal hierarchy, as it is the last thing an average Spaniard would like to give up. Even in the biggest economic crisis of recent years, the breakfast bars were always full. While you might spend a fortune for a good quality breakfast in the rest of Europe, that’s not the case in Spain.
How Much to pay for a Spanish Breakfast in a Bar?
The price is undoubtedly a huge selling point. While the price of coffee climbs to astronomical heights anywhere else, the price of a complete breakfast with coffee and toasted bread with cheese or Jamon ranges from 2 to 3 Euros. For that price, you usually cannot buy a cup of coffee in London!
That is why breakfast outside in Spain is not a holiday thing, but a completely natural and cheap part of every day. Prices, of course, vary depending on the poshness of the business, but even in luxury restaurants and bars it rarely exceeds the price of 3 Euros.
Another factor in the price is the size of the bread and the character of the filling. Breakfast is often offered in two sizes: a smaller bun and a larger baguette (twice the price). The cheapest is only bread with olive oil, the most expensive is the combined bread with jamón ibérico and Manchego cheese.
Toasted bread with Jamon, olive oil, and coffee with milk for €2.70
Types of Bread
When serving a Spanish breakfast, the bread is almost always toasted. The type of bread often varies depending on the region, but these are the most common types:
Pitufo (pepito, bollito, vienna) - white bun or baguette, similar to common frozen production anywhere in Europe
Rebanada de pan - Slice of dense wheat bread
Panecillo - small loaves of wheat bread with a crispy crust baken in a wood oven
Mollete - white, almost underbaked flat bun
Pan de molde - bread for toasting similar to English bread
Pan integral - wholemeal bread
The advantage of breakfast in traditional Iberian Jamon areas is that Jamon automatically means Jamon ibérico, although the price is more like for Jamon serrano. Pictured above is "tostada con jamón" in Jabug.
Types of Fillings
Let’s start with the most classical version, “pan con aceite”, which is bread with olive oil, the signature of the Mediterranean diet.
Next version is “pan con aceite y tomate”, which is bread with oil with crushed tomato. Usually, when you order this, you will get some toasted bread, olive oil and some crushed tomatoes on the side.
If you add some Jamón, serrano or ibérico, the combination is called “catalana” in some parts of Spain. Jamon can be replaced with mature goats cheese or cooked ham. If you go for the cheese version, tomato is more often left out. If you prefer ham, the oil is sometimes replaced by butter or margarine. The use of butter in Spain is not that common and you may often find that while the menu shows butter, the bread itself will contain not the best quality margarine.
Another filling is made of ham with sliced melted cheese, which creates “tostada mixta”. Pork spreads called “sobrasada” are also very popular, along with “zurrapa” or “zurrapa de lomo”, which is lard with chunks of pork spiced with red paprika. Another favourite filling is also liver pate. The only sweet option is a mostly cheap and not very good quality jam with butter.
A typical speciality of the Andalusian inland is the so-called zurrapa de lomo, which is fried pork back and then crumbled in lard with melted sweet paprika.
What do Spanish Drink at Breakfast?
The Spanish are not a coffee nation, unlike most other European countries. The quality is almost the same everywhere, probably too low for coffee lovers but definitely acceptable.
The most common version is coffee with frothy milk. You can refill directly from large metal teapots that are on the table.
This is so-called "nube", or cloud, hot milk with a spoonful of coffee. It is therefore often called manchado (stained).
Coffee is traditionally served in a glass so that you can clearly see how much coffee is at the bottom. This is very important for the Spanish as there are several exact terms in Spanish indicating the ratio of coffee to milk in a glass. In Malaga only there are 9 different ratios, each with its own name:
Nube - cloud
Sombra - shadow
Corto - short
Entre corto - not so short
Mitad - medium
Solo corto - only short
Semi largo - long
Largo - long
Solo - solo
Drinking tea is not very popular in Spain. Breakfast wouldn’t be complete without some freshly squeezed orange juice, which is often given for free in small glasses during the orange season. Hot chocolate and pink milk are also popular and not only with kids.
To finish off the breakfast, we cannot forget to add the churros. A fried-dough pastry, served with some incredibly thick hot chocolate sauce to dip them in.
Who Won’t Appreciate the Spanish Breakfast?
Spanish breakfast is not for snobs or hipsters. Bars welcome a wide range of social groups, with no emphasis on presentation or design of bars. Spanish breakfast is also not for extremely demanding lovers of good coffee. Coffee almost never becomes the subject of conversation and is never overestimated.
Spanish breakfast is not even for the people with a sweet tooth. Its centre lies in strong salty flavours, complemented by bitter olive oil, with the exception of churros with sweet chocolate. If you like sweet breakfast, you have to go to Portugal.