In Spain, Christmas Eve—or La Noche Buena ("The Good Night")—is all about family and feasting. Loved ones gather around tables laden with food and celebrate for hours, typically late into the night. Many attend midnight mass, but often meals stretch past midnight and creep into Christmas day.
A typical Spanish Christmas Eve menu features several courses beginning with tapas (appetizers), a first course, main course, and dessert with coffee or after-dinner cocktails. When planning your meal, don't forget about drinks: cava, a Spanish sparkling wine, is perfect for toasting and you can't have dessert without espresso.
Pick and choose from the recipes below to create your own festive Spanish Christmas menu.
01 of 13
Ham, Cheese, and Chorizo Appetizer With Bread
A simple tapa that you can throw together at the last minute, this plate of ham, cheese, and chorizo appetizer with bread is also a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Use high-quality Spanish charcuterie and cheese and set it out with a bottle of wine while you prep the rest of your meal.
02 of 13
Spanish Omelet (Tortilla Española)
Called a tortilla de patata in Spain, this thick Spanish omelet is layered with tender potatoes and is a popular dish all over the country. Serve it as an appetizer or as part of the main meal and try drizzling it with sofrito, a simple tomato sauce.
03 of 13
Fried Squid (Calamares a la Romana)
Fried squid, also known as calamari, is also popular in American restaurants. Thin rings of squid are battered and fried until crispy, creating an irresistible starter. Serve hot with wedges of lemon and, for a real treat, a homemade mayonnaise dip.
04 of 13
Ham Croquettes (Croquetas de Jamón)
Croquetas de jamón (cured ham croquettes) are individually-sized, lightly-breaded and fried fritters that are creamy on the inside with salty ham. To save time on Christmas Eve, prepare the dough ahead of time and freeze it.Continue to 5 of 13 below.
05 of 13
Spanish Salad (Ensalada Mixta)
A colorful and flavorful Spanish salad is a classic first course to a big meal and the ingredients can be swapped depending on what you have on hand. Serve with slices of baguette as a first course or alongside your main entree.
06 of 13
Spanish Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo)
Spanish Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al ajillo) is another popular tapa in Spain and there's good reason why. Fresh shrimp are cooked with lots of garlic and a pinch of spice until tender before being devoured by your guests. Use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil for the best results.
07 of 13
Paella is a classic Spanish dish that's perfect for the holidays—you can customize the ingredients and flavors, it serves a crowd, and it makes a beautiful spread that's great for sharing. Keep the pan size and heat source in mind when figuring out serving size, and don't skimp on the saffron.
08 of 13
Spanish Roast Lamb (Cordero Asado or Lechazo)
For a show-stopping Christmas centerpiece, make this Spanish roast lamb. Simply coated in oil or lard and then occasionally basted and turned, the lamb cooks until tender and juicy.Continue to 9 of 13 below.
09 of 13
No Spanish holiday feast would be complete without patatas bravas. Crispy fried potatoes are topped with a spicy tomato sauce—they're essentially Spanish French fries—and served piping hot.
10 of 13
Spanish-Style Deviled Eggs (Huevos Rellenos de Atún)
Deviled eggs are an eye-catching, bite-sized snack that can be made ahead and placed on the table before tackling other courses. Tuna and tomato sauce adds a unique flair to these Spanish-style deviled eggs, along with a sprinkle of sweet paprika.
11 of 13
Spanish Adobo Chicken, Beef, or Pork
In Spain, pork, beef, and chicken are often marinated in an adobo, a tasty combination of spices and vinegar. This Spanish adobo chicken, beef, or pork recipe includes variations for red meat, pork, and chicken, and uses dried spices.
12 of 13
Spanish Almond Cookies (Polvorones)
Spanish Almond Cookies (Polvorones) are a kind of mantecado, a variety of Spanish shortbread. Traditionally, these cookies were only prepared from September to January, making them an ideal ending for a Christmas dinner. They're soft and crumbly and practically melt in your mouth.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
13 of 13
Spanish Crumble Cakes (Mantecados)
These soft and light Spanish crumble cookies get their texture and richness from lard or shortening and they're flavored with anise and lemon. The delicate treats are especially good with coffee after a big holiday meal.