A Look at the Different Spanish Sauces

Salsas espanolas: 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. Spanish 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:


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 and the name 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 we do not have a word for it in English and it is very similar to mayonnaise, we’ll simply call it “garlic mayonnaise.”


Homemade Spanish mayonnaise 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.


This marine sauce is based on fish stock and includes white wine, onions, and a touch of parsley. You might also see this sauce called pescadora. It is part of many soups and stews in the Spanish kitchen, such as Almejas a la Pescadora.


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


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.


This vegetable sauce comes from the region of Cataluna and is made of 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 is a sauce made of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and olive oil. Sometimes it includes peppers as well. It can accompany dishes such as tortilla Espanola 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 onion and garlic, rather than starting with fresh tomatoes.


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


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


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