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May 23, 2011 12:04 PM

what dishes in spain typically contain nuts?

hi! i love CHOWHOUND! we are going to spain this summer and our son is allergic to nuts (tree nuts). Visiting madrid and barcelona. Trying to find out what dishes typically contain nuts (pine nuts, brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc). THANKS FOR ANY INFO!

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  1. A refreshing drink called 'horchata' or 'orxata' is made from 'chufas' (tiger nuts), sweets made by nuns contain almonds, turrón (nougat) also contain almonds... avoid sweets and cakes.
    Brief glossary:
    pine nuts (piñones)
    walnuts (nueces)
    almonds (almendras)
    pistachios (pistachos) :-)
    chufas (tiger nuts) it's really a tubercule.
    panchitos (peeled peanuts)
    cacahuetes (peanuts)

    1. A lot of Catalan dishes use picada as a base. Picada contains almonds and or hazelnuts. Sauces like romesco contain nuts. Pine nuts are everywhere in Catalonia. Chufas are tubers not nuts, but one poster here has found an anecdotal account of one allergic person claiming a reaction after drinking horchata.

      I think you'll have to ask everywhere you go.

      1. Hi Moi,

        My 12 yo son and I travel to eat. He is also allergic to nuts (both ground nuts and tree nuts). We had wonderful meals in Barcelona and Seville last summer, without any problem. I did a lot of research beforehand by reading cookbooks and menus. I also learned the names of the nuts as well as the typical dishes of each city.

        Compared to dining in many countries of Asia and the Middle East, eating in Spain is relatively safe and easy. Almost all places use olive oil (vs peanut oil) and if you avoid the sauces described by SnackHappy, you shouldn't find too many cases of savoury dishes being prepared with nuts. Servers are well-trained and willing to relay your special requests to the kitchen. (I think I am the member with the anecdote about orxata, btw.)

        CAREFUL with pastries, sweets and baked goods! Barcelona's version of pizza/flatbread, the Coca, is often made with nuts. The fancier pastry shops lean towards the use of ground almonds (as in France). Fortunately, all the shops and restaurants we visited were very responsive to my questions. Even up in local areas (like Sarria), the shopkeepers understood enough English to warn us when necessary. I travel with homemade Allergy Cards in both Catalan and Spanish too.

        GOOD TO EAT:
        - Tapa or pintxo bars, where you can choose your own food.
        - Paella or rice dishes (contain seafood, fish, meat, veg but no nuts)
        - Modern Catalan restaurants, including Alkimia and Gresca

        Traditional Catalan cooking DOES use nuts. The standard of English may be a bit lower in these restaurants so if you decide to try one, choose a restaurant that does more tourist business and has servers who speak more English. I will be trying El Glop this summer.

        A delicious but potentially dangerous dish is the Catalan version of Italian stuffed pasta, the canelone. At Alkimia, theirs is very delicious but it's made with an almond cream sauce. My son enjoyed a substitute dish of stewed oxtail tortelloni.

        We'll be going back to Barcelona this summer, as well as visiting Madrid and San Sebastian for the first time.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Aleta

          So helpful!! oh my goodness. thank you! i have an allergy card in spanish. Do you have any tips Aleta for Italy---we will be going there also? :O)

          1. re: moi

            We went to Rome and the Amalfi Coast a few years ago, also with no problem except for massive weight gain due to excessive and happy consumption. :-P

            I recall that 2 of my favourites -- pesto and arancini (rice balls) -- often contain pine nuts. Most pizzas and pastas were safe.

            Again, I would study up on the foods of the region. I think certain areas use more nuts (and ground-up nuts) than others. I'm sure Chowhound Italy forum members will be more specific.

            Have fun!

            PS. Fellow Chowhounds were very helpful when we were in the trip-planning stage. They told me about Colman Andrews' great book on Catalan cuisine and cooking. You can find it in your public library so no need to buy it. Full of recipes and explanations that will help you avoid nuts and appreciate the traditional cooking.


            PPS. To compensate for the no-pastry policy, pls consider a visit to this historic Granja for hot chocolate, an order of whipped cream (!!) and nut-free items. Nice multilingual menu here.


            Also, pls stop at the Boqueria market for amazing fruit drinks etc.

            1. re: Aleta

              i am all over it! thank you! anything else you think of, let me know. I appreciate it so much!

              1. re: moi

                Hi again Moi,

                I thought of one more item in Barcelona to be careful with:

                Gazpacho at Paco Meralgo. Delicious but contains ground almonds too.

          2. re: Aleta

            Does refined Peanut Oil have any of the allergens that cause an allergic reaction? I understood the processing removed them. Of course cold pressed oil maybe different but is very unlikely to make its way into a deep fat fryer.

            I also have a tree nut allergy, so no problem with peanuts which are quite different (they are a legume) and like many nut allergy sufferers are only allergic to a few types (I think the stats indicate that 12% of people allergic to one type of tree nut are allergic to another) so walnuts and pecans are my real enemy.

            I generally found I had few problems if I used the same caution, I did find walnuts creeping into some dishes around the Med that I wouldn't generally associate with them, pesto for example in Northern Italy and some of the tomato breads in Spain. So beware of some "standard" foods that have nuts added because they are cheap and locally grown. Apart from that if you understand food in general it isn't that risky.

            1. re: PhilD

              The use of peanut oil in Spanish cuisine is virtually nil.... It's not highly prized for potato chips or deep frying (olive oil is, instead). Peanuts themselves are rare, with the exception of little snack mixes you might get with a drink at a bars.

          3. Salads can also have nuts--particularly walnuts and pinenuts... Here are some foods to steer clear of:

            Nocilla (the Spanish Nutella)
            Ajoblanco (white gazpacho)
            Romesco, Salvitxada (sauces)
            Mortadela (a lunch meat with pistachios)
            Chicharrón (another lunch meat)

            Tarta de Santiago

            Also quite a few cookies, cakes, and other snacks (even if you don't see them, they could use almond flour). For packaged foods, after the ingredients it will say if it contains nuts, eggs, etc. My son is allergic to eggs and I'm always asking folks in bakeries whether the items contain eggs (they usually say no, and quite often they turn out to be wrong). Nuts are a bit more obvious, though. But it doesn't hurt to be a bit extra suspicious about desserts. He should be good for the classics like arroz con leche, natillas, tocino del cielo, flan, though. You should also steer clear of the little candy stores that sell nuts (frutos secos) in bulk--I think the potential for cross contamination would be pretty high.

            Do chestnuts count? Those are castañas (more a winter thing, though).

            One good thing... you won't find potato chips fried in peanut oil here. Instead, look for those fried in olive oil (aceite de oliva). They're delicious!

            15 Replies
            1. re: butterfly


              I was just wondering the other day -- with the Spanish love for fried eggs, the national cholesterol level must be high! But to live in Spain and be allergic to eggs, that sounds like a real challenge. My son's 2 classmates in Canada are also allergic to eggs and eating out is almost impossible.

              1. re: Aleta

                The main thing that my son misses out on is dessert (oh deep fried stuff and tortilla española). Almost all Spanish desserts (except arroz con leche and sometimes natillas) have eggs. The reason: a lot of the pastries and sweets got their starts in convents, which used up the eggs that were left over from the winemaking process. Luckily my son is a total chowhound, so he's open to almost everything else from octopus to blood sausage. If he were picky, it would be rough.

                Spanish folks have one of the longest lifespans in the world. I think the olive oil, wine, and delicious pig products, and general tendency toward sharing and moderation--not to mention some great genes--counteract the supposed ills of fatty foods.

                About allergies... it's interesting that nut allergies are very rare here (maybe due to the lack of peanut butter and peanut byproducts?), but egg, milk, and fish allergies are more common (not to mention the allergy to olive pollen that strikes every spring!). Still, I think the original poster won't have a problem asking about nuts ("es alérgico a las nueces, avellanas, piñones, y todo tipo de fruto seco" should do the trick).

                1. re: butterfly

                  Speaking of blood sausage, although I love it myself, I don't usually let my son eat it. Doesn't it sometimes contain pine nuts?

                  1. re: Aleta

                    Some do, others don't. There are many types of morcilla containing either rice, onions, pine nuts, etc. In my experience, restaurants mostly serve the rice version.

                    1. re: SnackHappy

                      Sometimes the rice version has pine nuts, too, though mass-produced morcilla de Burgos/Aranda generally don't. Every town has its take on morcilla. To be safe, I would probably avoid it unless you were buying them direct from a butcher who made them.

                      1. re: butterfly

                        i am learning so much! so it sounds like we would be safe trying paella ----restaurant recommendations in madrid or barcelona? Also, how about the Churros from street vendors? :O)

                        1. re: moi

                          The only danger from churros should be the danger to your waistline, LOL! However, I never noticed churros from street vendors in Barcelona. The law prohibits drinking and eating on the street (unbelievable) but I've been told that if you eat discretely, it's not a problem.

                          I would go to a nice Granja for chocolate and churros plus other stuff. Imagine ordering a plate of whipped cream! A friend of mine lives in the heart of Barcelona and he's been going to Granja M Viader since he was in diapers. They have a nice website with a full, trilingual menu and pictures. Don't miss the picture of the whipped cream.


                          For 'paella' in Barcelona, I've been to El Vell Sarria and Kaiku. Kaiku is on the beachfront in Barceloneta. Great food and relaxing place. Open only for lunch and must reserve for Sunday lunch. Pictures courtesy of Encantadisimo.


                          1. re: Aleta

                            Aleta, I am researching still--we leave in 2 wks. Is the chocolate used in Granja Viader a 'may contain' nuts? did you read the labels for the chocolate when you were in there? I don't see an email to contact Granja about that. thanks!

                          2. re: moi

                            "how about the Churros from street vendors?"

                            That is not a question that fellow hounds, even the most experienced, can tell you, unless a hound knows what kind of oil every churro stand uses.
                            The safest thing to do is, as advised by others, to ask every eating establishment that interests you.

                            1. re: Parigi

                              will do---we always always double and triple check everything when it comes to a nut allergy. This forum offers info from experienced persons who have travelled or live in that particular area and knows some of the 'lowdown'. THANK YOU!!!

                            2. re: moi

                              Re: Churros and granjas I suggest you read this reply I wrote a few months ago in another thread.


                              Granjas are not the place to have churros, but they are definitely a must when visiting Barcelona. They are very important to the food culture and history of the city.

                              Of course, the service in these places is very... Catalan. Don't expect to be treated like family on your first visit.

                              1. re: SnackHappy


                                Thanks for the correction on Granja M Viader and the link to your original post, which also contains the link to the anecdote on tiger nuts. I used to suggest Granja La Pallaresa for chocolate and churros but my friend told me that Granja M Viader was better. I guess he meant 'better' for chocolate since Granja M Viader doesn't sell churros but Granja La Pallaresa DOES.


                                Isolda, we already discussed allergy cards earlier in this thread.

                                1. re: Aleta

                                  La Pallaresa is very good and has a lot of ambiance, but I agree with your friend that Viader is better. It's almost as busy but not as frenzied as Pallaresa. The chocolate is better, although not by a great margin. La Granja is the winner in that category. What's so great about Viader is the timelessness of the place. It feels almost like a living museum and not in a fake touristy way, but in a proud Catalan way.

                                  Of course their desserts are really great and they make their own horchata in the summer as well as llet mallorquin year round. They also have the claim to fame of being the place where Cacaolat was invented.

                                  I'd say Viader, Pallaresa and La Granja are all great for different reasons. La Granja ia great because you can walk in with fresh churros from the place up the street. La Pallaresa has great crema catalana and ensaimadas amongst other things. Viader has the most charm and the delicious flam de mato and mousse de crema catalana.

                                  AFAIC, people should visit all three, but that's just me. I think I may have developed a romantic fascination with granjas.

                                  1. re: SnackHappy

                                    Well, there's goes my diet, right out the window! :-P

                                    A link to La Granja, as featured by Time Out Barcelona:

                                    1. re: Aleta

                                      I should add that the picture in that article is not of La Granja.

                                      This article has pictures of the actual place, although they're not that great.


                2. Order yourself some food allergy translation cards. Many websites sell them. These are plastic laminated cards with all the relevant info in Spanish (or whatever language you want them in). You hand one to your server, who will take it back to the kitchen if necessary so that you aren't served anything dangerous. My 14 year old son is allergic to peanuts and almonds, and he took these on a school trip to Spain last month.

                  Also bring several Epipens just in case! By far, almonds were the biggest problem there. They use almond flour and ground almonds in many dishes, and as in the US, people who aren't educated about food allergies don't always know that almond flour is as bad as almonds. So learn from these boards, but do order those cards. The brand we use is called "select wisely," but there are many others.