04 Aug 20
Camino Comida – Lunch on the Camino
One of the delights of walking the Camino de Santiago is the anticipation and enjoyment of the delicious foods you will sample along the way. As the kilometres pass by and your stomach starts to rumble, the topic of camino conversation invariably turns to what scrumptious morsels are on the menu for lunch. The Spanish generally eat five times a day – early in the morning, late morning, lunchtime at 2pm-ish, late afternoon and in the evening after 8pm but lunch is considered the most important meal of the day. This may challenge your idea of eating but with the options available for lunch, what you eat will be one of your memorable Camino highlights.
What is a typical lunch?
Lunch (comida or almuerzo) may take the form of a snack or series of snacks, however you should always also carry some light provisions with you at all times. Your midday meal(s) may take the form of a picnic, a pilgrims menu, tapas or a more traditional sit down lunch depending on how many kilometres you are walking that day, what’s available, your budget and of course your hunger and desire to try the tempting options available to you.
Do this at least once! Check the weather forecast, pack a sarong or something to sit on and fill your backpack with goodies to enjoy en route. If you travel in spring, you may even be able to garnish your meal with fresh herbs gathered from the side of the Camino! Fresh thyme works wonderfully with cheese and tomato! Relaxing in the sunshine amongst a field of flowers is a lovely way to spend an hour and to appreciate the journey as well as the destination for that day. Head to a local market, supermarket or specialist shop and stock up on some bread and regional cheese and meat en route. Jamón ibérico is a famously flavoursome cured ham that is sliced paper thin and packs a flavour bomb, especially when combined with a regional cheese. Olives, nuts, fruit, pastries and seasonal vegetables are also readily available along “the way” and make for scrumptious picnic ideas.
Do this at least once! The Menu del Dia (or menu of the day) is the official discounted pilgrim’s menu that was started by Franco to ensure all workers could obtain a hearty nutritious midday meal at a reasonable price. Normally served between one and three in the afternoon by many restaurants in Spain, it usually starts with a soup or salad, has a meat or fish based dish and finishes with a dessert. Bread and wine are included in the price of 8-15€
Do this at least once! Skip the more formal meal and spend an afternoon tapas hopping. Tapas (or Pinchos) are small plates of tasty morsels to bridge the gap between late morning and lunch time or prior to dinner. They can be anything from olives or nuts to intricately created flavor combinations and usually cost€2-3 a serve and are traditionally served in bars. If you are like me, these exquisite creations definitely warrant some photography before consuming so you can try and replicate them at home! You might want RAW Travel to plan your itinerary so you have an afternoon in the more famous tapas towns of Pamplona, Logrono, Leon or in Santiago where seafood features strongly. I have happily made tapas my afternoon and evening meal to sample as many flavor combinations as possible! White anchovies, eggplant and honey anyone? You can try Calle de San Juan Calle del Laurel, and Calle San Augustin, in Logrono, Plaza del Castillo in Pamplona and many of the side streets in Santiago. Petiscos Cardeal is my favourite in Santiago.
Cafes and bars
Frequently on the menu for lunch at most places along the Camino are Bocadillos (or Sandwiches), Empanada’s (Beef or Tuna or Pies) and Tortilla which is like a potato and egg frittata. These will become your more easily available staples but also paella, salads and hearty soups are also quite typical and are usually accompanied by bread.
Like me, you may choose to have first (around 11 am) and second lunch!!! but generally some food option is available any time of the day. The Spanish eat later than we do in Australia, so be flexible and prepared for lunch anytime between 11-3 or both depending on the day. Daylight starts later in Spain than in Australia so if your accommodation is pre booked it is likely you will not be hitting the road until the relatively leisurely hour of 8-9 am. Generally, lunch is considered the main meal of the day and precedes siesta and is usually served until 4 pm. On some days you may also make do with a hearty snack en route and have lunch when you arrive. If you pushed everything on 2 hours you would fit more easily in to the Spanish eating timetable ie lunch at 2pm, dinner at 8pm.
How do I order?
Many of the menus will typically be written in Spanish and you will quickly become familiar with common lunch items. Travel involves stepping outside your comfort zone. Have fun, be courageous and practice some of your Spanish and do not eat only at places where you can read the menu. We do also provide you with a Spanish phrasebook with a menu decoder in it!
There are many wonderful seasonal local specialties such as white Asparagus in the Rioja area or Padron Peppers of Galicia Padron peppers in Galicia. Spain also enjoys some of the best seafood in the world and this is evident the nearer you get to Santiago. Make sure you try the “pulpo” or Octopus in Galicia.
What to drink
You might start your day with a Cafe Con Leche (white coffee). Water is available from fountains along the way and is generally safe to drink. Make sure you do not miss at least one glass of the best fresh orange juice in the world. If you are after something of the alcoholic variety a cool draft beer is fantastic after a lengthy day walking the Camino in the sun and this comes as a caña, or small glass or a una jarra grande de cerveza a large glass. San Miguel, Keler, Mahou, Cruz Campo, and Estrella Damm are some of the Spanish produced beers
There is an plethora of wonderful wines you can find to accompany your meal. Think wonderful reds in the Rioja region (Tempranillo) and crisp whites (Albarino) by the time you reach Galicia. It is difficult to have a bad wine in Spain and easy to have good wines!
What if I have special dietary needs?
Being a vegetarian, coeliac or having food allergies are not generally well understood in Spain so its best to learn and print the appropriate phrase before you go ( see below). Generally, you can bring packaged snacks from home to supplement your diet and purchase specialist items en route in the larger towns.
Menú del Día: €12-16
Bocadillos / Epanadas / Salad/ Approximately 5 €
Drinks between 2-4€
Tapas 2-4€ per serve
Above all, take on the Camino food journey with an adventurous attitude and try as many foods as you can. The tastes are as varied as the people you will meet on your pilgrimage.
Specialist dietary information
Useful Spanish phrases…
Vegetarians / vegans
- Do you have any vegetarian meals? Tiene un menú para vegetarianos?
- Without meat, please. Sin carne, por favor
- I do not eat meat. No como carne
- Does it have meat? Lleva carne?
- I am a vegan. Soy vegano
- Without tuna, please. Sin atún, por favor
- I do not eat meat, dairy, eggs or any animal products. No como carne, lácteos, huevos o productos de origen animal
- I have a nut allergy. Soy alérgico a los frutos secos
- I am lactose intolerant: Soy alérgico a los productos lácteos
- I am gluten intolerant. Soy celíaca/o. Tengo intolerancia al gluten
- I have an egg allergy. Soy alérgico a los huevos
- I am allergic to seafood. Soy alérgico a los mariscos
- I am allergic to soy. Soy alérgica a la soja