HOME > Chowhound > Spain/Portugal >


What to bring back from Spain? [moved from Home Cooking board]

October is going to see me in Spain, but maybe while there I'll discover something new that I want to bring back home. Anyone have any thing I should keep a look out for?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think saffron is quite reasonably-priced there?

    1. Maybe some rare sherries? Too bad that so much foodstuff is non-transportable.

      3 Replies
      1. re: souschef

        I love to travel and had a long chat with an agent at Customs in Ottawa a few years ago. I am always looking for foodie gifts since the value is usually there much more so that in souvenirs. All dried foodstuffs are allowed: mushrooms, herb mixes,regonal spices, teas, coffees, and especially some great dried peppers which i often bring back as gifts from our annual Mexican winter.I also bring back pure Vanilla from VeraCruz which is packaged in a plastic bottle as opposed to breakable glass.No problems so far with leaking.I have returned home with interesting pasta shapes from Italy. Regional cookbooks/magazines are also a great gift for cooks.From Spain I would think Pimenton, Saffron, olives packed in those little Vacuum pouches, I might also think of lining the bottom of my suitcase with a Paella pan!!

        1. re: lovetocookPEI

          Why would you go to the trouble of bringing back a paella pan when they are so cheap here? Supposedly the best ones to use are the cheap tin ones, not the copper ones.

          I suggest that you try to catch episodes of "From Spain With Love", a really great program on the FN about the food of Spain. T

          1. re: souschef

            True enough. I have a massive Cast Iron pan that Copco used to put out iin the 80's. A glorious thing that I use for Everything. I love to bring back cooking tools as gifts. You can be sure to find a Mexican Comal in my suitcase every time I return from Mexico. Very handy for all sorts of things, especially blackening peppers.Friends love them.

      2. Many threads on this topic here, among this one.


        What you bring home depends partly on where you will visit. Common staples include but are far from limited to the following, which usually find their way into my own luggage:

        canned or jarred seafood such as ventresca tuna from brands that include Ortiz, Cuca, etc
        smoked paprika (pimenton) in 3 varieties
        saffron (please read up on different qualities before you buy this
        )Marcona almonds
        sherry vinegar (especially made from Pedro Jimenez grapes) ;
        olive oil
        Piquillo peppers from Navarra
        dried beans including those from Tolosa
        Good rice (may not be worth its weight to drag home)

        jamon Iberico, chorizo and other pork products are a popular item for some people to bring home, depending on import regulations in your area

        9 Replies
        1. re: erica

          There's no way you would be allowed to bring pork products into Canada. My mother once sent me sausages from Goa; I got a polite note from Customs informing me that the pig had been killed twice.

          In case you are allowed to bring back tinned seafood: on an episode of the FN program to which I referred, they featured a tapas bar in Barcelona (I think) where everything is canned, but supposedly delicious. Now if you can find that bar .....

          1. re: souschef

            The bar is Quimet i Quimet, but you don't have to go there for canned seafood. It's literally everywhere. The subject has been covered in many threads on the Spain and Portugal board.

            Berberechos seem impossible to find in Canada. I would bring back a case and a big bottle of salsa aperitivo.

            1. re: souschef

              Not sure about Canada but for the US breads, beans, nuts, aged cheeses, canned vegetables, fish and meat (pates, canned foie gras, etc.) are allowed. I declare everything on the customs forms.

              1. re: caga tio

                Always declare, best policy.
                A friend is a USDA officer and had to confiscate a whole undeclared jamon serrano (worth several hundred Euros) from a joker at SFO. He was extremely upset, to say the least.

                1. re: caga tio

                  I do like Mahon and Monchego and Cabales. Didn't get to try tetillas.

                  1. re: caga tio

                    If you happen to buy an extra suitcase to lug a jamon and you happen to forget to declare it, don't leave it on the kitchen table upon your return just to have the family dog pull it off and eat half at 4:00am...I'm just saying.

                    Used to be absinthe was hard to get in these parts. Easier today, but much cheaper and widely available in Spain.

                    1. re: porker

                      No fault of the dog, and a palpable reason for immolation. JMO.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        The dog? Or me?
                        If that scenario happened to play out, I'm sure the dog would have been punished into next week with a slipper...
                        I imagine it would be difficult to explain the situation to friends who took part on the trip and were waiting for the "back to Spain" party showcasing recently imported wines, absinthe, canned goods, and the epitome of Spain, a whole jamon with hoof still attached. I'm sure it would take weeks to finally come clean...

                        1. re: porker

                          I love happy endings!
                          Carry on, don't get caught or killed.

                1. re: Veggo

                  A former hound brought to my attention that only the tinned angulas may be brought back from Spain. I would have thought that it would be obvious to most foreign travelers that fresh or frozen wouldn't fly.

                2. Check out the website of Tienda.com, then only bring back the things you can't get from them. No, I'm not affiliated with them in any way, but I have found that they carry a lot of things from Spain. I'm going broke, because I can't stop getting their stuff, and they have canned berberechos and many other shellfish..

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: DavidA06488

                    Many of the things that I have purchased in Barcelona have been cheaper than what can be found on Tienda.com.

                  2. Sorry I wasn't a bit more clear while the suggestions that you mention are also useful (and I'm surprised no one said Olives or Olive Oil), I additionally am looking for those dishes or desserts that are so addictive to most travellers that they say to themselves.. I want to learn to make this when I return home... Maybe that is more a personal question. While I will try my best to hit the standards.. cocido, something from an asador, yemas... As far as things like angulas.. I'm not sure how I'd prepare them once I got them here. Besides I'm not sure due to dietary restrictions that I would be able to bring them back. Do the Madrid and Barcelona airports have duty free shops that would carry these items? If that answer is in another thread just say so and I'll find it. Thanks again.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                      I mentioned olive oil in my post above. Whether or not it is worth it to you to schlep it home depends on what you have available in your area back home.

                      Of course you can buy many of these products on online sites such as Spanish Table and Tienda. The prices make this option prohibitive for many, since the same products are available for a fraction of the cost in their native regions of Spain.

                      There are food shops at both airports; prices are much higher than in the city shops. I am unsure why you would want to purchase at the airport. Such delicacies as angulas, percebes, etc, are best sampled in a bar or restaurant in the North, in my opinion. Not sure what you mean about dietary restrictions, though.

                      1. re: erica

                        Kosher (at home anyways) and sorry for the oversight.

                    2. What to bring back always come back to each individuals. First, it is all the standard stuff that what visitors equate with Spain: saffron, smoked paprika, olive oil, sherry vinegar. dried beans, cheese, canned seafood. Then the other factors come into play:
                      *The money saved: as I travel more and more, I tend to carry back less and less due to global world of commerce, I can get just about any standard item through the internet (as an earlier posted stated at Tienda) or at Spanish Table with a store in my area. Sometimes the saving gets to me and I would buy back a few things: saffron and lots of canned seafood and always a big can of anchovies. I am a cookbook collector and since I read a little Spanish, I always bring back a couple of cookbooks by Spanish chefs. The saving over the internet is substantial.
                      *what does the individual like to cook and eat. Not everyone is in love with canned seafood or dried beans, bomba rice. Buy what one like and will use. For example, one person would love a can of angulas whereas I don't find the canned stuff to my liking.
                      *things that definitely difficult to find/special are what I usually bring back; special pressing of olive oil (olive oil does not keep, fresher the better); high quality sherry vinegar; quality canned seafood.
                      *Packing issue: liquid is getting more and more complicated. An individual will lug tons while another would only travel with a carryon.
                      Suggestions in the previous posts are good. My advice, is to eat a lot of food and browse the food shops while you are in Spain. You will discover then what you like and want to bring back. If your last stop is Madrid, save all your standard shopping for then so that you don't have to lug things around. The city has everything and price right. Madrid's Barajas airport will have have standard food items but it is not the time to buy high quality goods. Barcelona airport, not much.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: PBSF

                        If you can, get to an El Corte Ingles gourmet food hall, they have an amazing selection of all kinds of delicacies. I always bring back tinned fish, jamon iberico and manchego.

                        1. re: pj26

                          I agree that the department store, El Corte Ingles is good for one stop shopping, especially the ones facing Placa de Catalunya in Barcelona and Sol in Madrid. If there is time, browsing the various food shops in both cities are a must if one is interested in food. The OP is from the US where customs are very strict as to bringing back meat regardless in what form or packaging. Except for some canned meat items, it is strictly prohibited and fiercely enforced.

                          1. re: PBSF

                            Are other foodstuffs ok? I know in New Zealand, any kind of produce, and honey is prohibited (including honey mustard). Or is it just meat for the US?

                            1. re: pj26

                              Every country has its own customs regulation.For the US, besides meat, there are others food items on the no list. Rather than my opinion or experiences, the only one that really counts is the Official Customs Regulations on what visitors are allow to bring in is in the US Customs website.

                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                            You will have to decide if it is worthwhile to lug your good from Madrid to Barcelona. Why bother to buy duty free at Madrid Barajas airport if you are stopping in Barcelona.
                            Barcelona has just about everything also, just not as much as Madrid. In the center of Barcelona and not in any particular order: La Boqueria, Mercat Santa Caterina, Colmado Quilez, La Ribera, Gispert, El Corte on the Placa Catalunya are just to start. Below is a link to a recent thread that should be helpful. In of the post, there is also a link to an even earlier post about buying saffron, etc.

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              There's a small artisanal food market in the Plaça del Pi (in Barri Gotic) on the first and third weekends of every month, Fri-Sunday. It's made up of small producers selling cheese, dried herbs & spices, conserves, cookies, chocolate, honey, vinegar and wine. All very good quality stuff, especially the honey.

                          2. before you head out of BCN, pay a visit to Katherine McLoughlin at Formatgeria La Seu on Carrer de la Dagueria. Hers is an Aladdin's Cave of cheeses, all Spanish, only around 25 of them - "I only buy cheese that I like and that means I have to like the producer." She has a hotline to the best, new-wave artisan cheese makers in Catalunya, e.g. Marti Huguet of Mas Alba (raw milk goat), Manel Marce of Mas Marce (raw milk sheep), Josep Cuirol of El Nou (raw milk goat)up in the Berguedà region) and loads more. Not sure if she vacu-packs (practical if you're traveling, tho be sure to release them promptly from this prison on return home) but leave a little space in your luggage for some beauties from her tiny store

                            1. So much is readily available in supermarkets or good food shops at home , that I rarely bother bringing foody items these days. Occasionaly a local speciality - say mojo sauce from Tenerife or the local "Fet a Soller" olive oil from Mallorca

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Harters

                                It's true a lot of things are available, but there's a certain cachet to that saffron or whatever you got on holiday, to my way of thinking. Remember when...

                              2. If you can find it (I looked while i was there but no luck), you might pick up some piment d'espelette. It's a Basque region red pepper, and it can be found in parts of Spain (I believe La Tienda sells it, though it's quite expensive there). It's got such a unique aroma and flavor -- i really wished I could find some. And if you do see it, please report back and let me know where!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: botanica

                                  Espelette pepper is French Basque. I don't think it's very common in Spain. I'm not even certain whether it's used in traditional Spanish Basque cuisine.

                                  1. re: SnackHappy

                                    You can buy piment d'Espelette in the main indoor market in San Sebastian.

                                2. Just wanted to add a note to this thread.

                                  When shopping for pimentón, look for pimentón de La Vera. That's the famous smoked one. Pimentón in Spain is just a generic term for powdered pepper. Although what you'll find is usually from Murcia or La Vera, it could be pretty much anything.

                                  1. I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned HORCHATA!

                                    Since bringing in jamon iberico de bellotas is verboten, I bring in as many bottle of the Chufi Maestro brand horchata as I can stuff in my suitcases every time I fly back from Madrid.

                                    Serve it on crushed ice in a tall glass for your guests - a refreshing reminder of the hot summer afternoons on the plaza mayor in any given town in Spain. The horchata from Spain is tigernut-based, and is completely different than any horchata in Latin America (usually rice-based).

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: J.L.

                                      I was wondering about that as I've had horchatas in the state and it reminds me I think of something like an almond taste to it.. or maybe almost like chai. I'll be curious to try the authentic horchata while in spain. I was surprised when Andrew Zimmern tried it on his Bizarre Foods show and didn't like it and so it must be a vastly different taste. Is it pretty generic or do some places make it especially better than others (in the cafes and restaurants that is)?

                                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                        There's store bought commercial horchata which is what you'll be served in most places and there are horchaterias that make their own. The house-made stuff could be hard to find in winter, since it's considered a summer drink. If you're interested in these sorts of sweet drinks, I suggest you also try llet mallorquin a.k.a. leche merengada. It's milk sweetened with sugar and flavoured with lemon and cinnamon. One place to try it is Granja M. Viader in Barcelona – A place I highly recommend if you're interested in sweet stuff and food culture in general.

                                          1. re: SnackHappy

                                            That milk drink sounds as if it has to have been around since the days of the Moors. Very interesting.

                                          2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                            horchata is pretty easy to make. You just need to soak tiger nuts in water for 12 hours, put them in a blender with mineral water (about 1 litre for 250grams of the dry nuts). Blend and leave in a fridge for at least 2 hours. Strain through a couple of layers of cheesecloth and that's it. You just add sugar to taste.
                                            Just like with coconut milk you can get a second batch by adding more water to the ground chufa fibres, bledning further and leaving to macerate again but the result isn't quite as good the second time around.
                                            I made it on Monday for some friends and a couple of toddlers back in London and for the first time didn't add any sugar, was seriously surprised at how sweet the first pressing of horchata was. Lots of complex flavours and much easier to prepare than soya milk.

                                            So, no, I didn't immediately think HORCHATA! - although there is an interesting looking box in the Corte Ingles gourmet section with ten sachets of horchata concentrate for around 7Euros - anyone tried it?.
                                            The Chufi brand and the usual bottles of concentrate are really horrible. But if you are serious about recreating horchata at home you can buy a bag of chufas/tiger nuts from the 'frutos secos' section of a market and what you'll make at home will be nicer than the fresh stuff available from most horchaterias. They cost just under 4Euros a kilo.

                                        1. So out of curiosity I checked our gourmet store and saw the following items from Spain

                                          El almendro turron and something that started with a C
                                          Valor chocolate
                                          Simon Coll chocolate
                                          And the following Olive oils
                                          Nunez de Prado
                                          Castillo de tabernas
                                          Unio (siurana)

                                          I don't know anything about these except valor. Just though I'd say. The olive oils run between $20-30 but this store marks up anyways so I know not to buy there.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                            One item I forgot to mention is sherry vinegar made from Pedro Jimenez grapes. Or the sherry vinegar 1/24 from Lustau. I would not bother with more ordinary sherry vinegar, as those are easy to find in the US and probably in Canada.

                                            You need to check the dates of oils you see don the shelves in North America. Just to be sure.

                                          2. One question that should go along with this.. Is how to best package these items for travel so the risk of breakage is minimal.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                              A friend who brought olive oil back from Italy was told by the vendor that he should pack a half-bottle inside a shoe. A taller friend managed to pack a whole bottle.

                                              1. re: souschef

                                                Nice so long as the bottle wasn't stinky afterwords ;-) I'll have to see if I'm bringing more than my comfy brown shoes as they double as casual and dress depending on the pants and shirt.

                                                Thank you for the tip. I'll have to consider buying a small roll of bubble wrap the last day ;-)

                                                1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                  I bag in plastic, wrap in towel, and secure in center of suitcase. Haven't had a broken or popped bottle yet (maybe its just dumb luck).

                                            2. Is the Torta De Casar available from El Corte Ingles and also how long can the cheese (or any cheese) last sans refrigeration?

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                They should have it; I have had no trouble buying it the last day and carrying it home on the MAD-JFK flight. I always travel with bubble wrap; easier than trying to find it while traveling. Pad the suitcase with it on the way to Spain. I also bring folded aluminum foil, rubber bands, and many zip-loc bags in 2 sizes.

                                                1. re: erica

                                                  Ah well halfway to ESP now. The weather so far looks great except on Monday.