Asturias is a province in the region known as Green Spain, which includes Galicia, Asturias, the Basque Country (El Pais Vasco), and Cantabria. It is known for fresh fish, lots of cheeses, and rich desserts.
Where Is Asturias?
Asturias is sandwiched between the regions of Galicia to the west, Cantabria to the east, and Castilla-Leon to the south. Asturias has miles of coastline on the Cantabric Sea to the north, which provides Asturian regional cuisine with high-quality fish and seafood. Asturians are proud of their history, including the fact that in 722 AD, they helped Prince Pelayo fight off the Moors. For many centuries after that achievement, Asturias was looked upon as a poor region of simple farmers until the end of the 19th century, when the region experienced more prosperous times.
Traditionally, Asturians are farmers, shepherds, and fishermen. Even today, many shepherds allow their flocks of sheep to roam the beautiful green hillsides and the native breeds of cattle are prized for their milk. Asturias is the land of cheese, and there are over two dozen varieties of cow, sheep, and goat’s milk cheeses produced in Asturias.
The regional cuisine of Asturias is well-known in Spain and Latin America. Here are some of the more well-known dishes from Asturias:
- Fabada Asturiana: Asturian Bean and Sausage Casserole Probably one of the most famous Spanish dishes is Fabada Asturiana, or Asturian sausage and bean casserole. It is so popular that Spaniards have canned it and exported fabada all over the world. Spanish women brought their recipes with them to Latin America, so it is very popular there, as well. You can find the sausage, ham, and other ingredients for fabada shrink-wrapped in little packages in the meat department of Spanish supermarkets. Although Fabada Asturiana is the most famous dish using fabas or beans that are grown locally, there are many other dishes that combine the beans with rabbit, mushrooms, and even salmon.
- Caldereta: Fish Stew This fish stew contains not just fish, but lobster and crab as well. Add onion, parsley, fresh tomato, a bit of white wine, and cognac and you have the most delicious fish stew you’ve ever tasted.
- Merluza a la Sidra: Hake in Cider This main course appears on menus in most restaurants in the region. Hake (Merluza ) of very good quality is available in Asturias and Cantabria, the neighboring region. Merluza a la Sidra is a delicious blend of hake fish, clams, onion, garlic, tomato, potatoes, apples, and a bit of cider, cooked in a ceramic dish, then baked.
- Salmón a la Ribereña: Salmon with Cider Asturian Style Asturias is known for Salmon Rivers named Nalon and Della, and it is Spain’s leading salmon producing region. This dish is made with salmon, bacon, ham, and cider or white wine.
- Carne Gobernada: Asturian-Style Beef in White Wine Carne Gobernada is a typical dish from Oviedo, the capital of Asturias. It is a traditional main course, prepared by very slowly cooking the chunks of beef in onions and white wine until they are tender.
Cabrales cheese is the most famous cheese in the region. It is a strongly flavored blue cheese aged in caves and is now produced under a Denomination of Origin (D.O.). It is available in gourmet food stores and through websites. The Regulating Council of this Denomination of Origin recognizes that Cabrales cheese is one of the most well-known products of Asturias and is now promoting the product internationally, as well as through culinary tourism of the Cabrales area.
The region produces other cheeses such as Gamonedo, Penamellera, and Afuega’l pitu.
Cider and Wine
Sidra or cider, made from locally-grown apples in Asturias, has been produced here since ancient times and has long been considered the regional “wine.” It is a low-alcohol drink, which is slightly effervescent, and very refreshing. It is popular all over Spain and enjoyed during the hot summer weather. In addition to sidra, Asturias has a new D.O. or Denominacion de Origen, "Cangas," where both red and white wines are produced.
Popular Asturian Desserts
Some of these sweet treats include regional foods like apples and cheese:
- Arroz con Leche): Rice Pudding ( The Asturian version is made with rice, butter, sugar, lemon, and a cinnamon stick. It has a special addition: a layer of caramelized sugar on top.
- Casadielles or Bollinas de NuezSpanish Walnut-Filled Bollinas () These sweet little empanadillas or turnovers are filled with chopped walnuts that have been soaked overnight in anise liqueur and sugar. They are fried and coated in sugar.
- Tarta de Manzana): Apple Tart ( Freshly sliced apples are baked in a pastry shell and topped with apricot preserves. Some versions include a cup of local cider, as well.
- Quesada Asturiana)Asturian Cheesecake (: This traditional cheesecake is made with fresh goat cheese and decorated with fruit or powdered sugar.
Other sweets to try from Asturias are tocinillos de cielo, fayules, and carajitos (fritters filled with a hazelnut paste).