Spain has a wonderful tradition of spiced and smoked cold meats, known collectively as embutidos or sometimes fiambres (cold cuts). Most regions have their own specialities, so it’s possible to eat your way around Spain just by visiting a really good delicatessen!
Chorizo is easily the most famous embutido; you can find it everywhere in Spain, and plenty of other places around the world too. Other cold meats are not quite so well known. So here’s a guide:
- Butifarra: spicy pork sausage often found in Catalonia
- Cecina: air-dried smoked beef from the north of Castile and León. Often served thinly sliced. Cecina de León is protected by the EU’s PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) label.
- Chorizo: spicy sausage, the Spanish classic. Seasoned with pimentón – smoked paprika – which gives it the characteristic red colour. Chorizo dulce is made with sweet (dulce) paprika. Chorizo Riojano, from the Rioja region in northern Spain, has the EU PGI label. Chorizo de cerdo ibérico is made with pork from ibérico pigs – a much more intense flavour. Pricier too!
- Chistorra: a pork sausage from Navarra and the Basque Country. Also spiced with paprika, but usually thinner than chorizo. Sometimes made with pork and beef.
- Fuet: a delicious thin, dry cured sausage of pork, seasoned with garlic and pepper. Originally from Catalonia, but you can buy it pretty much anywhere in Spain.
- Jamón Ibérico: Spanish ibérico ham is amazing, the best in the world (at least, I think so!). Ibérico ham comes only from ibérico pigs and from a strictly designated part of western Spain. The finest is jamón de bellota (acorns) – the pigs are fed on acorns in the autumn which gives their meat a special flavour. So good, it deserves a blog post all to itself! Read “how to buy the best jamón in Spain“ here.
- Jamón Serrano: cheaper than ibérico as it comes from a range of breeds, not just the highly-prized ibérico pigs. You’ll find jamón serrano all over Spain in tapas and bocadillos (sandwiches). The word ‘serrano‘ comes from ‘sierra‘, meaning ‘mountain’ – these hams were originally air-dried in the cool, dry atmosphere of the mountains.
Teruel in Aragón and the Trevélez area in the Alpujarra mountains near Granada are known for quality serrano ham. Upmarket jamon serrano can be called serrano bodega (cured 9-12 months), serrano reserva (12-14 months or serrano gran reserva (15 months+)
- Jamón de York: the closest you’ll get to British sliced ham. But why bother? And why York? No idea.
- Jamón cocido: cooked ham from the hind leg of the pig. Jamón Cocido Extra is higher quality with fewer additives
- Lacón Gallego: shoulder of ham from Galicia in the very north west of Spain. Another EU PGI protected product (but I haven’t tried this one)
- Lomo: loin of pork, usually smoked. Try lomo ibérico for even more flavour.
- Longaniza del pascua: a speciality of the Comunidad Valenciana in eastern Spain, a very long, thin sausage made from pork loin with a slightly sweetish taste. Originally served only at Easter (pascua), you can now buy it all year round.
- Morcilla: black pudding, made with pig’s blood, rice, onions and spices. Another Spanish classic. Spicier than the British black pudding. Recipes vary from place to place, though morcilla from Burgos in Northern Spain is the best known. Often used in cooking.
- Morcilla Blanca: white pudding with pork. Similar to morcilla, but without the blood.
- Mortadela: sausage made from finely ground pork, often stuffed with olives. Slightly different to the Italian version.
- Morcón: a pork-based sausage, wrapped in pig’s bladder – which doesn’t sound great, but it’s good. Honestly! Typical produce from Murcia, the next door province to Alicante.
- Salchichón: the Spanish hard salami, made from minced pork and often livened up with peppercorns. Salchichón ibérico is made with pork from the famous ibérico pigs, from western Spain near the Portuguese border. Pricier than your everyday salchichón.
- Sobrasada: a spreadable version of chorizo, also spiced with pimentón (smoked paprika). Originally from the Balearic Islands; sobrasada de Mallorca has the EU PGI label. Here on the Costa Blanca, the little town of Tárbena has a tradition of making sobrasada – because the families brought in to re-populate the area after the expulsion of the Moors came from Mallorca. Try sobrasada on toast with honey – delicious, and a real local delicacy!
Like to know more? See my blog on how to find your way around a meat menu in Spain.
Try also my posts on:
- Ordering the best fish in Spain
- Ordering the best seafood in Spain
- More than just paella: a guide to rice dishes
- Queso Manchego – the king of Spanish cheeses
© Guy Pelham