Basque Food and Wine

San Sebastian

Basque food is simple and unpretentious, hale and hearty, but is acknowledged as among the world’s culinary treasures. This is probably because the people take their food quite seriously; it forms an integral part of their daily life. Recipes are passed on from generation to generation. Gastronomic societies are everywhere and provide the people with reasons to cook and feast on their culinary creations. In fact, research shows that Basques spend a considerable portion of their disposable income on food- double that of the food expenditures in the United States! The research also indicates that they spend a great deal of their time eating and cooking.

Basques turn to the sea for its food, which mainly features a wide variety of seafood (eel, sole, hake, cod, and shellfish), as well as ham, lamb, and ingredients found in its mountains, such as wild mushrooms, apples, corn and beans. The sauces are made rich and flavorful by generous helpings of peppers, herbs and tomatoes. It also uses some very unusual ingredients, such as hake cheeks, wild boar, sea urchins, calves’ snouts and brains. But take note, Basques are very particular; the ingredients are always really fresh.

Here are some Basque food favorites:

San Sebastian

Hake cheeks or cod jaw (Kokotxas)
Hake with parsley sauce (Merluza en sala verde)
Salt cod cooked in garlic sauce (Bacalao al pil-pil)
Baby eels (Angulas)
Seabass with white wine (Lubina con Txakoli)
Tuna with peppers and potatoes (Marmitako)
Spider crab (Txangurro relleno)
Sheep’s cheese (Idiazabal)
Stuffed peppers (Pimientos rellenos)


Pintxos are Basque versions of the tapas. There are two kinds: cold ones (displayed on the bar) and hot ones (which are ordered and then cooked). These are usually enjoyed with a glass of beer (zurito) or wine. Pintxos may be sampled from the many tapas bars in San Sebastian.

Wine and drinks

Here are some of the wines and drinks that are popular in San Sebastian:
Txakoli – a delightful wine, not too strong in alcohol
Calimotxo - pronounced as “calimotcho”, this local drink is composed of 50% wine and 50% cola
Sidra – a mildly alcoholic apple cider