Easter, our favorite foods traditions in Spain and Portugal
Easter is one of the most important holidays in the Ibero-American community, including Spain and Portugal. These two countries celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with lively festivals, family get-togethers, and a traditional Easter dinner.
In Spain, the week leading up to Easter is called Semana Santa (“Holy Week”), which is marked by elaborate processions across cities like Cádiz, Murcia, Málaga, Seville, Zamora, and many others. It is common to see the procession of “pasos”, which are lifelike sculptures of the events in the final days of Jesus. In Portugal, these “passos” are filled with flowers and lights and are carried by men in tunics and with torches in their hands.
Since food is such a vital part of the Easter festivities, we wanted to highlight some of the most 14 popular Spanish and Portuguese Easter foods that can be seen on the dinner table for a traditional Easter lunch. No matter if you call it Pascua, Páscoa, Easter, or something else, these dishes are sure to pique your interest.
1. Mona de Pascua
Perhaps Spain’s most famous Easter dish, the Mona de Pascua can be seen on every table during this holiday. It is a spongy cake, either round or doughnut-shaped, and is topped with boiled or chocolate eggs as well as colorful decorations. In Spain, it is a tradition for godparents to give this type of cake to their godchildren on Easter Monday. In fact, the word ‘Mona’ is an old Moroccan word that means ‘gift,’ and the number of eggs on top of the cake corresponds to the age of the godchild. In This cake is especially popular in Catalonia, Valencia, and Murcia.
3. Sopa de ajo (garlic soup)
If you need a break from all of the rich Spanish Easter dishes, try a bowl of Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup). Besides its namesake garlic, the soup is also made of smoked pepper (paprika), chicken stock, and with a hard boiled egg in the center. To add more flavor, some chefs even use a few tablespoons of sherry wine or add a pickled green pepper.
4. Flores fritas
This unique dessert, which translates to ‘fried flowers,’ is delicate with a sweet and crunchy texture. These cookies can be seen across bakeries in Spain and are usually molded by hand – some come out so beautifully that you feel bad for eating them!
This dish has a bit of a funny name, as the word “borracho” means ‘drunk’ in Spanish. This is because pieces of dough are soaked in wine or brandy during the cooking process and then dusted with powdered sugar. Since this dish originates from Malaga, you might even see it called “Borrachuelo Malagueño” (drunk Malagan).
6. Bacalao al pil-pil
The story of Bacalao al pil-pil (Cod in Pil-Pil Sauce) goes all the way back to the medieval ages. This dish was particularly popular during Lent, since fish was the only “meat” that people were allowed to eat, and it is a popular Catholic easter meal. The secret to this delicious dish is in the sauce: a staple of Basque cuisine, Pil-pil sauce is created when the natural gelatine from the fish is released and then whisked with olive oil and vinegar to form a rich thick sauce with a mayo look. Join us in the Basque Country and make sure you try it.
The Spanish version of the French toast are torrijas and you’ll fall in love with them! This delicious dessert is a favorite during Semana Santa and can be seen all over Spain. The preparation is very similar to its French counterpart, but there are a few key differences: instead of vanilla, some Spanish households substitute lemon or orange zest; instead of butter, oil is used to fry the bread; and in some cases, chefs will even dip the slices of bread in wine, resulting in torrijas al vino!
Buñuelos are small pieces of fried dough that are piped with filling. There are many variations, including buñuelos de crema (baker’s custard), de nata (cream), de viento (‘wind’, with no filling and very airy) and borrachos (‘drunk,’ with anis).
9. Cabrito (goat)
The cabrito, which is roasted goat kid, is a staple at the traditional Portuguese Easter dinner table. Different regions of Portugal have different ways of preparing this dish. For example, in the countryside you’ll often see cabrito being cooked in the traditional way in a wood oven. The result is a delicious and meaty texture with rich and intense flavor. Across the country, cabrito is usually seasoned with garlic, bay leaves, and garnished with a side of potatoes and vegetables.
Similar in idea to Spain’s Bacalao al Pil-Pil, the Portuguese also turn to cod dishes for Good Friday because the Catholic tradition doesn’t allow people to eat meat. It is said that the Portuguese have more than 1,000 recipes for cod, which means a lot of variety around the Easter dinner table!
11. Presunto e Queijo (ham and cheese)
Besides the main dishes and the desserts, the Portuguese like to assemble a dish of cut appetizers. The most famous is a mix of Presunto (Portuguese dry-cured ham) and cheese, being Queijo Serra da Estrela, a cured cheese created in the Star Mountain Range near Eastern Portugal a star.
12. Pão de Ló
If Spain’s most popular Easter “cake” is the Mona de Pascua, then Portugal’s counterpart is the Pão de Ló. A soft and fluffy sponge cake, this “Portugese Easter cake” has three main ingredients — sugar, flour, and eggs — and can be seen on virtually every Easter table. According to tradition, you should not cut pão-de-ló with a knife, but instead use your hand to grab a piece!
13. Folar da Páscoa
The Folar da Páscoa, which translates to Easter bread, is a sweet or savory bread that comes with a boiled egg baked into the middle. The tradition of adding the eggs comes from the Pagan festival Oestre (“egg”), where eggs were used to symbolize the rebirth of Christ, and thus became a traditional Easter dish in Portugal.
14. Salame de chocolate
Our final dish is the Portuguese Chocolate Salami, the ubiquitous Portugesea-Italian dessert that can be found during every major celebration, including Easter. Despite having the word ‘salami’ in its name, the Salame de Chocolate does not contain any meat. The name comes from the fact that little pieces of biscuits are rolled together and set in chocolate to give it the marbled effect of real salami.
Easter in Spain and Portugal may be celebrated similarly to other parts of the world, however there are some unique regional dishes that make it special. From Torrijas to Folar da Páscoa, their traditional Easter foods bring families together in celebration! Plus, there are always hidden prizes and eggs stuffed full of sweets throughout the season.
If you’re first time visiting or returning traveler, carving out time for Spanish and Portuguese Easter can immerse you in culture like no other experience! Are you planning a trip to Spain or Portugal? If you’re interested in exploring other popular Spanish and Portuguese dishes throughout the year, take a look at our collection of food and wine small group tours to Andalusia or Portugal, they will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience.