A Look at Different Spanish Sauces

Romesco, samfaina, alioli, mayonesa, and more

salsa verde
ManuelBurgos / Getty Images

In Spain, there is a wide variety of dishes. Every region or province has its own special dishes. Sometimes even individual towns have their own twist on regional dishes. Sauces are no different. Most sauces originated in a particular region, but many have spread across the peninsula. Below is a list of Spanish sauces that you will see in restaurants, as well as in recipes for Spanish dishes:

Alioli

Garlic, olive oil, egg yolk, and a touch lemon juice make up this extraordinarily popular sauce called alioli. The sauce is originally from the Roman times. Its name came from the Catalan words all for garlic and oli for oil. Simple to make, alioli is delicious on everything from potatoes to fish and even vegetables. Since there isn't a word for it in English and it is very similar to mayonnaise, we’ll simply call it “garlic mayonnaise.”

Mayonesa

Homemade Spanish mayonnaise is simply made with olive oil, egg, and a touch of lemon juice. It is used for many dishes, including ensaladilla rusa, the Spanish version of potato salad. It is still made fresh (with the help of a hand mixer or food processor) and poured directly into the dish being prepared.

Marinara

This marine sauce is based on fish stock, including white wine, onions, and a touch of parsley. This sauce might also be called pescadora. It is part of many soups and stews in the Spanish kitchen, such as almejas a la pescadora.

Picada

This sauce is from Cataluña as well. It is made from roasted almonds, hazelnuts or pine nuts, garlic, parsley, and olive oil. All of these ingredients are then mashed together in a mortar and pestle.

Romesco

This tasty sauce is made of tomatoes, roasted almonds, olive oil, and vinegar. (Sometimes hazelnuts are used in place of the almonds.) Romesco sauce is served with fish, seafood, or in Cataluña, calcots—blackened or barbequed green onions.

Samfaina

This vegetable sauce comes from the region of Cataluña and is made with garlic, onions, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and of course, olive oil. It is similar to the Southern French sauce ratatouille. A popular dish served is bacalao con samfaina (cod fish with vegetables).

Sofrito

Sofrito is a sauce made of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and olive oil. Sometimes, it includes peppers as well. It can accompany dishes such as tortilla española or it may be an ingredient in a dish. If a Spanish cook is in a hurry at home, he or she may simply open a can of tomato sauce and add it to a pan of sautéed onions and garlic, rather than starting with fresh tomatoes.

Verde

This sauce owes its name and color to the parsley, which its main ingredient. It also includes garlic, olive oil, and white wine. It is used in many fish and shellfish dishes, including salmon en salsa verde.

Vinagreta

Spanish vinaigrette is made by mixing vinegar, olive oil, onions, and herbs. Sometimes capers or sardines are added for a bit of extra flavor.

Mojos

In the Canary Islands, "mojos" or sauces are made with vinegar and oil and are served cold, as an accompaniment to potatoes, meat, and fish. These "mojos" can be red or green and are, sometimes, spicy.