The Best Catalan Desserts to Try Right Now
For people with a sweet tooth, dessert is the best part of any meal and can even be a snack in itself. While local Catalan cuisine like botifarra sausage or pa amb tomàquet, bread with tomato, continually steal the spotlight, simple but delicious Catalan desserts are waiting behind the scenes.
Want to uncover the best Catalan desserts? You’ll surely be coming back to Barcelona for more.
Not to be confused with the French crème brûlée, this classic dish can be found on most dessert menus. Although many dispute the origin, one thing is certain, the mix of creamy, rich custard and crunchy burnt sugar is a perfect combination. If you only try one dessert in Barcelona, it should be crema catalana.
There are dozens of recipes that range from sweet to savory, but the unifying element is the use of coca pastry base. Although eaten year-round, this dessert is most popular during local festivities and holidays, where families share in eating a specific coca for the occasion.
One of the most popular is the coca de Sant Joan, a flatbread-like cake topped with candied fruits, toasted pine nuts and sometimes, custard. The cake is eaten on the eve of Saint John’s Day, which coincides with the summer solstice. On the Day of the Kings during Christmas, the coca de reyes are easy to spot at bakeries’ windows accompanied by a paper crown. This special cake has a surprise! Hidden within the whipped cream filling are a bean and a little figurine of a king. The one served the slice with the king, wears the crown, while the unlucky one who gets the bean pays for the cake (though this usually never happens).
Mel i Mató
With just three ingredients, this dessert is as simple as it gets. The mató cheese, local to Catalonia is made from goat or sheep milk and is similar to unsalted ricotta. The cheese is served covered in honey and toasted walnuts. Though it may seem strange at first, the fresh mató really sets this dish apart.
These traditional bite-sized sweets are just as delicious as they look. Marzipan balls are formed and decorated with various toppings such as pine nuts, coconut shavings, and candied fruits, to name just a few. The options for decorating panellets really are endless.
Panellets are also associated with a holiday, All Saints’ Day where they are accompanied by moscatell, sweet wine (check where to buy wine in Barcelona). Locals also enjoy eating panellets with roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes, from the many street vendors who set up shop during autumn.
Bunyols are either prepared savory with cod, or sweet, similar to doughnut holes that are sometimes filled with cream. Their memorable flavor emanates thanks to an added touch of anise liqueur when making the batter. Bunyols are eaten all year in Catalonia but are most popular during Lent and Easter.
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Hungry for more Catalan food? Why not join one of Barcelona Eat Local´s acclaimed food toursat Sant Antoni and El Poble-sec iconic districts or La Barceloneta former fishermen village for a unique gastronomic experience where you´ll taste the best of Catalan cuisine.
Kalena McElroy of Lost and Abroad is devoted to digging deeper into the cultural and historical aspects of the places she visits, whether through gastronomy, linguistics or anything in between. To see where she’s headed next, check out her site, Lost and Abroad or follow her during her adventures on Instagram.