Eating My Way Through the Canary Islands: Top 10 Dishes to Taste in the Canaries

La Gomera Gostronomy

Eating My Way Through
the Canary Islands:
Top 10 Dishes to Taste
in the Canaries

Eating my way through the Canary Islands has been and continues to be one of my favorite parts of living in this little corner of the world. Acres and acres of farmland and a subtropical climate provide in-season local ingredients all year, and being surrounded by the sea means that there’s no shortage of fresh and tasty seafood – and people who know how to prepare it to perfection.

Each island has their own claim to fame – Lanzarote’s sweet volcanic wines, El Hierro’s rich, smoky cheeses, and Tenerife’s guachinches serving up fresh, homemade vino and nosh tucked away in the vineyards of the northern mountains.

Mogán, Spain WM

There may not be a ton of different options, but what traditional Canary Islands´ cuisine lacks in variety, it more than make up for in flavor. Read on for some of my top picks that are about as Canario as you can get…

1. Papas Arrugadas

Papas Arrugadas con Mojo Picón

These tiny, wrinkly potatoes are a staple in the Canarian diet, and no visit to the Canaries is complete without trying them. This simple side dish is prepared in a big, boiling pot of salted water, causing the outer skin to pucker and wrinkle.

Papas arrugadas are found everywhere and impossible to miss. They’re often served as garnish or a side dish for most meat or fish entrees, but are also commonly ordered as a ración – a plate to share with friends. The best part about these tasty treats is the delicious mojo sauce drizzled on top.

Try it here: Literally anywhere. Papas to the archipelago are like schnitzel to Salzburg; everywhere. And as any Canary Island local will tell you, one of the most important parts of papas arrugadas is what´s drizzled on top…

2. Mojo

This tasty sauce comes in 2 varieties and accompanies everything from salads and potatoes to meat and fish. Each restaurant and abuela prepares the sauce slightly differently with their unique ratios of EVOO, garlic, vinegar, herbs and spices.

Mojo Verde

Mojo verde is the milder version and gets its color and flavor from parsley, cumin and/or cilantro. It’s typically served on lighter dishes like fish, seafood and salads.

Mojo Picón

Mojo picón is somewhat spicier (at least that’s what the Canarians say… my California-raised, jalapeño-trained taste buds can’t seem to detect the heat). Mojo picón gets its color and extra kick from paprika and dried red peppers. It tends to be served on heavier dishes, like papas arrugadas, meat and cheese platters.

Try it here: It really depends on your own tastes – more or less garlic, more or less vinegar, etc. My fave is at an amazing Canario tasca in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – Bodegón Pachichi. Their mojo picón has an tasty kick and is so popular with the locals that you can buy a 1/2 liter for takeaway.

3. Queso Asado // Queso a la Plancha

Queso Asado La Gomera

Deliciously too good to be true, this ración is actually exactly what it sounds like… grilled cheese. The Canary Islands have a long tradition of raising goats and sheep and have truly mastered the art of cheese making.

Queso asado is typically prepared with a soft but firm goat or sheep cheese, grilled to perfection with a crispy crust on the outside and gooey, melty deliciousness on the inside. The dish is either served savory with mojo verde and mojo picón, sweet with miel de la palma (local palm syrup), or mixed with a combination of all three.

In El Hierro and Gran Canaria, the Herreños and Canariones add a special twist by using smoked cheese (queso herreño) – a specialty from the littlest island.

Try it here: Try it anywhere, everywhere, twice a day if you can. In Tenerife and La Gomera the dish is served spectacularly everywhere. In Las Palmas and Gran Canaria in general, it’s not as common, but it’s worth searching for. I’m partial to the one served at La Otra Punta (near the auditorium at Las Canteras) and Marsala in Vegueta. 

4. Almogrote

Almogrote

An unbelievable appetizer, often served as a starter with warm bread, small crunchy toasts, or occasionally crunchy veggies. Originating from the island of La Gomera, almogrote is a starter spread made from strong, hard, cured cheese grated and mixed into a paste with garlic, cayenne pepper, tomatoes, spices and EVOO. If, like me, you’re an admirer of fuerte cheeses, you won’t be able to get enough of this… though you might want to resist if you´re on a first date!

Papas Almogroteadas

Try it here: I’ve never met an almogrote I didn’t like. This is a safe dish to order pretty much anywhere, especially in La Gomera.

One of my favorite Tenerife restaurants – El Capricho in Bajamaroften invites guests to taste a small sample of their delightful almogrote on the house. For a less traditional taste, Arepera Punto Criolla in La Laguna (Tenerife) puts a unique and delicious twist on the dish, serving up papas almogroteadas – french fries smothered in the stuff.

5. Gofio

Soy más Canario que el gofio.” 

To put into perspective just how emblematic this dish is in the Canary Islands, this age-old expression of islander pride means, literally, “I’m more Canarian than gofio.”

Gofio is a cereal grain which has been a staple from the time of the indigenous Guanches and often considered a superfood in the Canaries. It’s usually made from cornmeal, but can be any combination of ground, roasted grains. Gofio can be used to make sweet deserts and breads, as a thickener for soups and creamy, savory dishes, and even brewed into beer a la Dorada’s Volcán, a local brewery from Tenerife

Though the habit is no longer as common, many Canarians grew up mixing a spoonful of gofio in their morning milk or cola cao, believed to give them energy for the day. Is it the most delicious treat on the island? Nope. But if you want a real taste of the Canaries, gofio is about as Canarian as it gets. Try is as mouse, bread with almonds and honey or the classic Escaldon de gofio (below).

Try it here: Any homemade mouse de gofio will be a tasty way to end a meal. If you find yourself in Las Canteras, swing by Las Palmas’ iconic Heladeria La Peña Vieja to try their spin on gofio ice cream.

6. Escaldón de gofio // Gofio Escaldado

La Criolla Escaldon food WM

One of the most common gofio dishes that you’ll find in the guachinches of Tenerife or traditional Canarian restaurants of the islands is escaldón or gofio escaldado. This dish is prepared by using gofio to thicken fresh fish broth, usually infused with a base of onions and garlic. It’s a tasty, filling dish that can be shared as a ración and is typically served with big chunks of sweet red onion to scoop up the goodness.

Escaldón changes a bit in texture and flavor from region to region. On the westernmost islands, it tends to have a thicker consistency similar to mashed potatoes or refried beans, while on the eastern islands it tends to be more like a thick, creamy (all too often pasty) soup. I’m definitely more partial to the western variety and have more or less stopped eating the dish since moving to Gran Canaria…

Try it here: All of the best escaldóns I’ve sampled have been in Tenerife, usually at guachinches. The first one I ever tried and by far the best can be found at Arepera Punto Criolla in lovely UNESCO listed La Laguna, Tenerife.

7. Potaje de Berros

Potaje de berros WM

This tasty stew is most typical from the island of La Gomera, but is often offered as a starter on menus throughout the islands. The dish is made primarily from berros (dark, leafy watercress greens) and chickpeas or white beans. It’s sometimes served as a thick, blended soup and sometimes as a broth with generous chunks of root vegetables and corn. A warning to the less carnivorous: while often vegetarian friendly, the broth is sometimes pork based, so be sure to ask your server!

Try it here: The dish is a specialty from La Gomera and they do it best, however anywhere offering the soup as a starter on the menu del día will give you a good idea what it’s all about. My fave was at Las Chacaras near Hermigua in La Gomera.

8. ALL the fish

sama WM new

I flipflopped for quite a while deciding which of my favorite Canarian fish dishes to add to this list – so much so that my next top ten list will likely be dedicated just to the goodies that come from under the sea.

After many years in mainland Spain as a mainly vegetarian/occasional pescatarian, I’ve had all too much practice avoiding all things meaty (which in Spain is basically everything). In Madrid, this often meant eating dinner before going out to dinner and religiously frequenting any tapas joint that would grant my request for algo que no lleva carne-si-puede-ser-por-favor without exaggerated eye rolling from the camarero. Needless to say, moving back to the seaside for my once or twice a week fish fix has definitely been one of life’s little luxuries.

cherne WM

Some of my favorites from the region include cherne (stone bass), sama (sea bream) and vieja (parrot fish). Cherne is a white fish, usually served grilled and crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and smothered in mojo verde. Sama is a larger fish, often stuffed with garlic, doused with EVOO and served on a large platter to share with friends and family. Not sure which to choose? Try ordering a parrilada – a big mixed platter of different fish and/or shellfish, usually accompanied by potatoes or other root veggies.

Try it here: One of the most memorable meals I’ve had in the islands was at the gorgeous El Burgado in Buenavista del Norte, Tenerife. We started with fresh tuna tartare and mussels and feasted on an exquisitely grilled sama, all served at our outdoor table amidst small streams trickling down into the ocean beside us. It’s not necessary, however,  to do fancy to get good fish. Most of the sea side chiringuitos will leave your mouth watering for more.

9. Shellfish

seafood la marsala WM

Like their fishy friends, I found it similarly impossible to pick just one or  two species of shellfish from the islands. Some of the most popular shellfish dishes include chipirones (baby squid, usually breaded and fried a la sahariana), pulpo frito (octopus – fried instead of boiled like is common in northern Spain), langostinos (prawns), mejillones (mussels) and one of my faves, lapas (limpets).

Langostinos WM

Try it here:  I love the lapas at La Hila in San Sebastian de La Gomera & El Refugio in El Hierro, and the pulpo frito in Las Palmas’ La Barbería is definitely memorable. Santa Cruz de Tenerife’s old Canarian mansion-turned-restaurant La Hierbita is known for their fish and seafood parrilladas and you honestly can’t go wrong at the exquisite Mesón el Monasterio in Los Realejos (Tenerife).

10. Chocos Asados

chocos WM

The one under-the-sea delight that deserves it’s own special number on this list are these guys. Chocos are cuttlefish (a type of squid). When well-prepared, chocos are one of my favorite seaside treats, but it definitely might not be for everyone.

The squid are prepared whole and served lightly charred, tentacles and all – something that may be reminiscent of a sci-fi flick for the less adventurous eater.  If done right, chocos are slightly browned at the top, crispy at the tentacles and smothered in mojo verde. If overdone, the texture quickly changes from soft-but-firm to chewy and more or less awful. If trying chocos for the first time, be sure it’s a place that’s well known for seafood and preferably not a total tourist trap.

BONUS! Carnivore Delights

(IE, Stuff I’ve never tried but people seem to like)

meat

While not my forte, I figured I’d “throw a bone” so to speak to the meat-eaters out there. While I haven’t tried any of these dishes myself, they’re typical of the region and can be found on most Canarian menus. In no particular order:

  • Ropa Vieja: a highly seasoned stew prepared with chickpeas and an assortment of meat, typical in the most Canarian of restuarants, and especially at Tenerife’s guachinches. I once tried a pescatarian-friendly version of this dish with octopus in place of pork and red meat – ropa vieja con pulpo at Bochinche El Chato (a fantastically authentic spot in the heart of Las Palmas).
  • Carne de cabra: goat meat
  • Pata asado: roasted pork leg meat, often served on sandwiches or bocadillos
  • Chorizo de Terror: Gooey sausage meat from the mountainous, agricultural region of Teror in Gran Canaria, usually served in a bocadillo
  • Conejo al Salmorejo: Rabbit meat in a salmorejo inspired tomato sauce

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#buenprovecho #bonappetit #quesuerteviviraqui

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I’m not sure if it’s the pictures or the descriptions, but I’m HUNGRY! Perdóname while I head out to Las Canteras to hunt down some papas con mojo and almogrote.

I’d love to hear about your faves in the comments below – Have I missed any of your top picks? Any restuarant suggestions for a hungry pescatarian?  And if you haven’t yet experienced Canary Islands´gastronomy at Las Palmas’ Ruta del Pincho (Thursday Tapas Night), don’t forget to find out the details by clicking here!

Love & light (and a healthy appetite 😉), Erica 💙

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55 Comments Add yours

  1. bherron80 says:

    1) I LOVE all squid so we totally agree on this! 2) I’m also Californian and laughed at your comment about how Spaniards think something it spicy and we are like ‘Whaaaattttt? Where’s the spice?’ You wanna try spicy have some habanero salsa! 🙂 Speaking of which I just bought a tortilla press so I can finally eat decent corn tortillas in Spain.

    This Canaria food looks like an interesting variation on typical Northern Spanish food ( I Live in Madrid and it gets pretty darn boring going to Spaniard’s houses for dinner here as it is always the same 5-7 ingredients or dishes). You may have convinced me to come all the way to Las Islas to do some food touring!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Man, I would do some pretty awful things for some habanero salsa or fresh jalapeños! Tortillo pro-tip for a fellow Californiana: the big Carrefours usually sell some pretty legit corn/flour blend tortillas in the deli section with the fresh breads 🙂

      Like

  2. Brianna says:

    Oh, yum! This all looks amazing. I would totally go to the Canary Islands just to eat all these delicious foods!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      It’s definitely one of the highlights!

      Like

  3. OK…..now I’m hungry! LOL! What a great list and I’d love to visit the Canary Islands someday. Great photos too!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Thank you! You won’t be dissapointed 🙂

      Like

  4. mscgerber says:

    Oh my godness! It’s midnight here and I’m so hungry after reading this post! 😀 Need to try Papas Arrugadas once, never heard of it before.

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      You’ll LOVE them! Papas arrugadas to the Canarians are like pasta in to Italy – if it’s not part of the meal, than you haven’t eaten!

      Like

  5. Followingtherivera says:

    My mouth is watering after reading this! I love the look of everything especially the seafood and the gofio escaldado. Delicious eats here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      I’m glad to hear it! If you’re hungry, I’ve succeeded! 😉

      Like

  6. Nathan says:

    I’m a huge fun of seafood, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy trying out the local fare which seems to offer a wide array of fish and shellfish. I’d love to have some of the gofio as well, since it’s so symbolic of the Canary Islands 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      If you love fish, you’ll be in heaven! Can’t go wrong snacking on seafood with seaviews ahead of you 🙂

      Like

  7. Up and Gone says:

    Love this post! Between the food and the beach, you simply cannot go wrong with the Canary Islands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      And don’t forget the mountains! We have some of the most gorgeous hiking destinations, like Tejeda, Garajonay and Anaga… and of course Mt. Teide… the tallest mountain in all of Spain!

      Like

  8. Marta Sailis says:

    You made me very Hungry! what a nice journey through fantastic food!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      To be honest I got so hungry when I was writing this post! And I think I snacked the whole time I was selecting the photos 🙂

      Like

  9. Taha Salman says:

    Canary Island on bucket list….check – the food looks amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      It’s delicious…. and tastes even better when you’re snacking on the sand with the Atlantic at your feet 🙂

      Like

  10. I don’t know why the idea of wrinkly potatoes is making me giggle but it is. I need to try them! The grilled cheese is totally talking my language – cheese addict here! For the gofio, I think we’d seek out the beer as not come across beer made from this grain before. I’m not so keen on watercress-type greens so might skip the barras but definitely want ALL the fish and shellfish, and yes yes yes to the cuttlefish!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Sounds like you need to book a trip to the Canaries! It’s all so, so yummy… and the cheese is to die for! All made from fresh, local, happy goats and sheep 🙂

      Like

  11. Sippin Gypsy says:

    What a great post! I love how you broke down each staple dish and what was in it! Your comparison of spice level to your own preference was funny!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Thanks for reading 🙂 Hope I made ya hungry!

      Like

  12. All the fish ever! I love eating the local fish dishes when visiting islands! As a fellow Californian with a Mexican best friend, I’m with ya on the spice. But on the other hand, my boss is German and thinks that ketchup is too spicy. I guess it’s all personal preference, haha!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Hahah, when I moved to Spain and my Spanish roommate told me she didn’t eat black pepper because it’s “too spicy” I completely and totally believe it was a joke! Of course it wasn’t, and she’s definitely not the last person to have told me the same.

      Like

  13. Ali Dunnell says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and loved the look of all the dishes and the settings too. Beautiful photos and interesting descriptions. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Thanks for reading! Hope you get to taste it some time 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Renee says:

    Those foodie photos are making my mouth water. Looks so good. I love Spanish food and tapas, so I’m gusssing this is similar but with an inslanders twist. Fabulous colours in the food too.

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Exactly! There’s so much influence back and forth between the Canaries and Venezuela/Cuba, so there’s a bit an a Latin island twist on some of the staples 🙂 Thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

  15. Wow! These dishes are mouth watering :P. I especailly like the Queso Asado. It looks very delicious. I will definitely try these when I visit Canary Islands.

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      It’s by far my favorite! But I’m a sucker for cheese :p Thanks for reading!

      Like

  16. Francesca says:

    It all looks way too good! I visited the Canaries before I went gluten free back in 2010 so I’d love to return and see how much of it is Francesca-Friendly!

    Francesca x

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Hmmm I’m sure you can still find plenty! Cheese, potatoes, fish and olive oil based sauces are all staples here, you can just skip the bread that the locals love oh-so-much!

      Like

  17. kictravels says:

    All the fish please!!! Everything looks so delicious! Great post

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Right?! There’s nothing like fresh fish caught that morning from the ocean 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Kylie says:

    Great post, love the food and photography. The Canaries are great for seafood and wine and you seemed to capture the spirit of these islands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  19. Stephanie says:

    All of the food looks so incredible (even the seafood which I’m allergic to). I love your comment about the spice levels. I thought I could handle spicy foods growing up in California as well. But when I moved to Australia, my Sri Lankan coworker frequently brings in food for me and dear lord I had no idea what spice was! I cannot wait to visit the Canaries one day and try all the foods you listed. Especially the queso because who doesn’t love queso!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      That’s funny you mentioned Sri Lanka, I always say I can hang with ANY level of Mexican spice, but legit Thai and Sri Lankan food are a whole other level!!! What’s part of California are you from??

      Like

  20. Shan says:

    Wow this food sounds incredible!! I’ve always wanted to go to the Canaries – especially for the seafood! The grilled cheese dish sounds dreamy too, this wasn’t the best choice to read when lunch is still an hour away… xoxox

    Like

  21. Constance says:

    I love food and I’ve always wondered what locals on the Canary Islands eat. I would totally try ALL of this food, it looks so delicious! Totally need to visit the islands now

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Come on over! You won’t be dissapointed 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  22. The Chocos Asados looks absolutely mouthwatering!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      They’re so delicious! It’s been a while since I’ve had some, but I’m feeling inspired to track some down this weekend 🙂

      Like

  23. Lori says:

    I’m so hungry now. Great post and I love the photographs. My dinner does not look nearly as appetizing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Hopefully you’ll make it out here one day to taste it!

      Like

  24. Bernie says:

    You’re not the only one who’s hungry! I’d most certainly be up for the squid, and it’s something I often cook at home with butter beans, tomato and paprika. I have to be careful with sauces as I’m coeliac and allergic to milk, but there’s still plenty here I could eat and love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      I’ve only tried to make squid once or twice but I didn’t get the texture quite right. I’ll have to give it a shot again! Your recipe sounds tasty 🙂

      Like

  25. lukeandmeagan says:

    Man, you had me with the title – I LOVE eating my way through new places 🙂 and it looks like you found some amazing dishes. Just another reason to visit!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      For me, it really is one of the BEST parts of travel! I think you can learn so much about a country and culture by what they eat and how they eat.

      Like

  26. Kate says:

    When I think of Spain I usually already know that the food will not be great … Tapas is not for me, I do not like bread. Of course there are exceptions, but from what I know, this will be the rule!
    In the Canaries it seems to be even more interesting !!

    Like

  27. Renata says:

    Wow – great Mediterranean cuisine – brings all the vacations to mind. Of course I love gambas and all the other sea food, but the queso asado looks super-yummy….and I could just dive into mojo. Brought a couple of bottles back with me from Fuerteventura.

    Like

  28. Lara Dunning says:

    I love exploring a place by its food and culinary culture. I’d love to try everything on this list! I’d love to try the fried octopus!

    Like

  29. Okay, WOW, I really shoudn’t have read this on an empty stomach! I have family from the Canary Islands so these dishes definitely remind me of home. Eating your way through any place is the right way to travel 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Cool! Which island is your family from?! What part? Have you been to visit them?

      Like

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