- Published on 03.01.2021
- By Elena
- 7 comments
Typical food & allergens in Barcelona
I love eating out in Barcelona. Food quality is great and it tastes delicious. We also have warm weather most of the year so having lunch with a beer sitting on a terrace with some friends is one of my ideals of happiness - and even more now that I live in London!
Because I know Catalan and Spanish cuisine quite well, and because I speak the languages, eating out with food allergies in Barcelona has always been quite easy for me but I can understand that for tourists, travelling with a food allergy can be stressful. Luckily for people with dietary restrictions, Barcelona usually receives an average of 20 million tourists each year, which has boosted awareness of food allergies and dietary restrictions.The Food Allergen Labelling Guide regulation that came into effect at the end of 2014 forced all restaurants in the EU to provide allergen information for all their dishes, either in written or oral form. This considerably raised awareness at the level of the continent.
If you eat out in Barcelona, you will easily find many restaurants offering non-Spanish or non-Catalan cuisine such as Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, American...basically everything you can think of! And if you opt for some traditional Catalan and/or Spanish cuisine and you’ve got any dietary restrictions, the below information should come in handy to help you eat allergy friendly meals while enjoying one of the best cities in the world!
If you are allergic to tree nuts (like I am), you should be safe most of the time except when it’s time for dessert. And especially for Christmas, as our top treats like Turron (photo below), Polvorones and Mazapanes are made of nuts. For savoury options, nuts would usually come as a part of a sauce or garnish, so always check with the waiter to be on the safe side.
Turrón (or torró in Catalan) is one of the main treats for Christmas
Fish & Shellfish
In Barcelona, beware of fish or shellfish should you be allergic or intolerant to them - you will find them in many typical tapas and mains, and they are one of the ingredients of our star national dish, the Paella. But don’t worry, Paella is also cooked with meat or veggies. In fact, the typical paella from Valencia is cooked with chicken, rabbit meat and veggies.
We also love garlic! It is part of our diet and you will find it in many of our sauces too. My favourite one is Allioli, which means garlic (all in Catalan), and (i) and oil (oli). This sauce is made with the two ingredients I just mentioned plus salt, fresh lemon juice and... one of the top allergens, egg!
And if you plan to eat Tortilla de patata, always stay away if you’ve got an egg allergy as egg and potatoes and the two main ingredients of this dish.
If you have to avoid gluten, you will also have to be careful with our Christmas treats - but now there are a lot of gluten-free options available so it is all about asking and doing a bit of research if you buy at the supermarket.
There’s also been a growing number of restaurants offering gluten-free options (one of the restaurants reviewed below offer gluten-free pasta and pizza in some of their establishments) and you should be OK eating paella if restaurants cook it with natural ingredients e.g. natural tomato.
Another typical dish in the Catalan cuisine is Fideua, which is like Paella but instead of rice you cook it with “fideos” (short pasta noodles) - you will have to ask for gluten free pasta. By the way, my mom cooks the best fideua in the world!
One of my favourite dishes is Canelons, which is what we eat on the 26th of December, for the Sant Esteve celebrations - St. Stephen’s Day. Canelons are made by filling meat into pasta rolls. We later cover the pasta with bechamel sauce and cheese. This dish is available in many Catalan restaurants and would usually contain dairy and gluten.
Canelons for Sant Esteve
And talking about bechamel... the amazing croquetas are made with this ingredient, so try to avoid this if you can’t eat dairy. And croquetas contain gluten too...
Finally, our amazing patatas bravas should be a safe bet but always check if the sauce has been cooked with any ingredient containing gluten.
I may be missing some typical dishes you could try if you eat out in Barcelona but the above should already be very helpful! Of course if you have any questions, feel free to ask me :)
Barcelona - Allergy Friendly Restaurant Reviews
Casa Aliaga - Allergen menu and personal attention
Casa Aliaga is a Mediterranean restaurant where my family always goes to. When I am in Barcelona, a lunch at Casa Aliaga is starting to become a tradition.
The restaurant is located in El Poblenou, the district where my dad and uncle grew up. El Poblenou is located by the sea and used to be the largest industrial area of the city. After the Olympic Games, in 1992, the neighbourhood went through a major transformation and you can now find a mix of “old” bars and “hipster” cafes around the area.
This nice little restaurant is the kind of place where someone with dietary restrictions will feel safe to eat. The menu has information on each allergen, and vegetarian and gluten free options are also available. Of course, every time I have visited this place, I would always inform the waiter about my allergies and they are super accommodating with me.
What do I eat here?
For family lunches, we would always take some tapas to share for starters, with food like Pop a la Gallega (octopus, seafood - photo below), Pa amb tomaquet (typical catalan bread rubbed with tomato and olive oil, contains gluten - photo below); Escopinyes al vapor (steamed cockles - photo below, seafood); croquetas, which would usually contain gluten, dairy and I have also found some containing nuts!
Some starters "tapas style"
As a main...this amazing rice with lobster was my choice. Simply delicious!
Arroz con bogavante (in Spanish) or rice & lobster
I am not a fan of eating desserts at restaurants as most of the time, they would contain nuts but here at Casa Aliaga I’ve already tried the amazing Chocolate truffle, which only contains milk as an allergen.
I cannot see any English menu on the website (and I actually did not ask if they have a paper version) but I believe the staff speaks English and of course, if you have any doubts, just ask me! Also, they’ve blended Peanuts and Nuts together in the allergen menu, as they are all considered “shelled fruits” but if you speak to the waiter they will happily help you with all allergen information and make sure you enjoy your meal safely.
Can Fisher - Delicious seafood and allergy awareness
Can Fisher is a relatively new restaurant (opened in 2017) located in front of the sea of Barcelona. This was my second visit and once again, I felt welcomed and reassured by the staff when mentioning my food allergies. I booked online and left a note explaining my peanut and tree nut allergy. As we arrived, they immediately asked who was the person with allergies - I just love when restaurant staff does this!
This place is not entirely nut-free - for example, two of their three carpaccio offerings contain nuts: Carpaccio of seabream, toasted almonds, smoked oil and red grapes, and Colinabo carpaccio, hazelnut tartufata and feta cheese.
However, if your plan is to eat any other seafood or paella, which is what I recommend if you visit Barcelona, you should not have any issue with nuts.
What did I eat?
For starters, we shared some Pa de coca amb tomaquet (yes, we always get bread rubbed with tomato, it’s a tradition here!), a portion of sauteed clams and cod fritters & lemon curd (pic below too) All mouth-watering!
Pa de coca amb tomàquet
Cod fritters & lemon curd
And of course, as a main, this amazing Paella…
Paella is always a good idea when you are near the sea :)
La Tagliatella - Restaurant chain with food allergy awareness and gluten free options
La Tagliatella is a restaurant chain in Spain, Portugal, France and Germany. I have only visited a few of the Spanish branches so I can only speak for these.
If you like Pasta or Pizza...this is a good choice. They are well prepared to cater for people with dietary restrictions with a comprehensive allergen menu - and the waiters of the restaurants I have visited would always help me with my food choice.
La Tagliatella also started to offer, a few years ago, gluten-free options - but not all establishments are catering for coeliacs yet.
What do I eat there?
My go to here is the Rigatoni with Tartufo al Parmiggiano, which contains truffle, Parmiggiano cheese and egg.
But this time I opted for the Pappardelle with Tartufo e funghi which contains cream, mushrooms and truffles… yes, I love truffles!
Pappardelle Tartufo e funghi
My dad opted for this Pizza Di foie with tomato, mozzarella, mushrooms, foie, cream, pearls of raspberry and arugula. Since this pizza was safe for me too, I took a bite and I did not regret it!
Pizza Di Foie
I would love to hear your experience with food allergies or dietary restrictions in Barcelona. Many places are well prepared but of course, you can always find restaurants that seem not to understand what an allergy is.
I hope if you travel one day to Barcelona you will have a safe and pleasant experience with food :)
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