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Prepare Your Recipes: 8 Popular Spanish Ingredients And Their Origins

Most of the Spanish dishes were highly influenced by the Moors. Aside from them, Spaniards also brought other ingredients such as rice, olives, and paprika. These ingredients made Spanish cuisine better than before.

Nowadays, it’s easy to determine if a dish came from Spain because they have their distinct flavour profile. In addition, the presentation and cooking techniques are distinct from other cuisines. If you visit Spanish restaurants, you should try the famous meals to give you more ideas of what they can offer.


If you want to know what are there common Spanish ingredients that originated from other parts of the world, then you should check the list below!

1. Saffron

Have you ever tried paella? If you have tried the authentic one, then you know what saffron is. It’s an expensive spice in making paella. But although it’s expensive, you’ll just need a little amount and you’re good to go.

However, did you know that spice with a yellow-orange colouring effect was first cultivated in Greece? Nowadays, other countries cultivate saffron, such as the USA, India, Iran, and Spain, mainly for cooking purposes. You can also use it in soups, sauces, and stews to add a grassy flavour with hints of sweetness.

Now there’s no reason for you to try paella on your next visit to Spanish restaurants. You can also try other dishes with saffron to widen your flavour profile.

2. Garlic

Are you a fan of garlic? It’s one of the most common ingredients, not only in Spanish cuisine, around the world. It’s mostly used when you saute but in Spain, they also make other ways to extend the life of garlic such as pickled and marinated. Moreover, you can also encounter garlic in other cuisines just like how it’s used in Spain.

But even though Spaniards are one of the countries that first introduced garlic to America, experts said that it originated in West Asia around China, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. Later on, it was introduced in other parts of Asia and also reached European countries.


3. Olive oil

Do you know what keeps Meditteranean meals healthy? It’s their constant use of olive oil. From breakfast to dinner, it’s impossible to miss the use of olive oil. If you’ve tried eating in Spanish restaurants, then you know that tapas are filled with it.

You can use olive oil in different dishes such as salad dressings, and cooking. It can also be the first and last ingredient you use when you prepare a meal. But did you know that olives (where the source of olive oil) originated in Asia Minor (nowadays known as Turkey)?

It was thousands of years ago when wild olives were discovered, and now most households have at least a bottle of the finest olive oil. It’s easy to incorporate with different dishes because you have the options of regular, virgin, and extra virgin olive oil.

4. Paprika

The Spanish cuisine mainly uses pimentón, the sweet version of Mexican paprika (where it originated). However, there are other variations to choose from depending on the level of sweetness and spiciness. Paprika’s smoky flavour compliments cured meats such as lomo and chorizo.

Aside from that, paprika is also used to spice up other dishes that include fish and chicken. It’s usually in a form of red powder because it was grounded from pepper pods.

Nowadays, there are lots of regions in Spain where you can find paprika and its other variations. You can taste them when you visit tapas bars and Spanish restaurants. You can also try experimenting on your own by adding it to your usual meals.


5. Rice

A lot of people love paella, and one of its main ingredients— rice. However, the early days of rice have been cultivated in Asian countries including India, China, and Southeast Asia. Along with the different varieties of rice, there are also differences in how it’s prepared.

In Spain, the rice used is mostly subspecies of rice such as Bahia, Senia, and Calasparra. They use short-grained rice because it absorbs liquid much more than the steamed ones, which makes it perfect for paella. It means that the rice can absorb all the flavours of each ingredient.

6. Vinegar

Sherry vinegar is popularly produced in Spain. It’s used for a lot of their dishes including gazpacho and sauces. Moreover, it gives dishes a different sharpness due to their acidity.

However, the first production of vinegar came from around 5000 B.C. where Babylonians record their scrolls as the wine of the poor people, and experts also found vinegar in some urns from the Egyptians. Since then, various countries recreate the process of making vinegar using different ingredients and procedures.


7. Herbs

You can find a wide range of different herbs, but the main herbs used in Spanish cuisine are oregano, parsley, rosemary, and bay leaves. A lot of dishes are made and improve using these herbs. Moreover, they are also used as garnish when used fresh.

Herbs have been present in different dishes ever since they have been discovered in France and Italy years ago. There are different ways how herbs improve meals. So when you visit Spanish restaurants, you should try their food to know what are these differences.

8. Tomato

Tomatoes can be used fresh and preserved. They’re used in a lot of Spanish dishes all year round. The fresh ones can be incorporated in salads, gazpacho, and other soups. Meanwhile, the preserved are used to improve the taste of other dishes like casseroles and stuffed meats.

Although the Spaniards introduced tomatoes in European countries in the 16th century, tomatoes came from Mexico. It was first used as an ornament because they were suspicious that it’s poisonous.


It’s good to be informed about the origins and histories of basic ingredients you used for cooking. As you get to know them, you’ll also get to know the dishes you love. Additionally, you’ll also learn other dishes that you’ve never tried before. Let us know what are ingredients do you always use when cooking by leaving a comment below!



About the Author: Aliana Baraquio is a web content writer who also loves to cook dishes from different countries. If you want to experience a Barcelona-style restaurant that serves high-quality food, and a modern, contemporary, fresh, feel from the south of Europe, visit TAST Catala Spanish Restaurant.

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