In Spain, breakfast, or el desayuno, is the smallest meal of the day. The Spanish typically eat a large midday meal but start the day off with something simple such as a sweet roll and coffee. Children may drink a cup of thick and creamy Spanish hot chocolate or cold chocolate milk with a roll, though cereals are now popular with children, too.
If breakfast is eaten outside the home, like in a local cafe or bar, it will be a little more substantial. It's still nothing compared to a typical American breakfast. Toast with various toppings and small sandwiches are common fare Spaniards enjoy to begin their day. Any breakfast you eat in Spain should tide you over until noon. That's when you’ll most likely be whisked off to the bar for a few glasses of wine and tapas before lunch.
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Coffee is an important part of the Spanish diet. Many Americans are surprised to learn that coffee in Spain is very different from what they're used to in the States. Like most European nations, Spain prefers espresso to drip coffee.
You can have your coffee black (cafe solo), but the Spaniards' drink of choice is cafe con leche (espresso with steamed milk). Today, most Americans are familiar with the espresso drink known as the latte, which is similar to cafe con leche but includes "microfoam."
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This common breakfast beverage—for adults and kids alike—bears no resemblance to the hot chocolate that's familiar in America. Instead of a pale powder, Spanish hot chocolate (chocolate caliente) is made with pieces of chocolate, cornstarch, and milk. After melting the chocolate into the warm milk and cornstarch combination, the mixture is cooked slowly over low heat until it is thick. It becomes so thick that a churro can stand up straight in the cup.
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One of the best elements of a Spanish breakfast has to be the sweet bread known as ensaimadas. These breads come in many different styles and flavors, and they date back centuries—the first known recipes originated in the 1700s. Back then, reduced pig lard was a major ingredient, but today you can find most bread without it. Now it's common to have fruit or sugar-coated ensaimadas.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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Breakfast pastries are popular as well. The most basic breakfast food is simply a roll with jam or a sweet roll, though the magdalena is also a favorite. Originally a shell-shaped lemon-flavored cake, magdalenas are now often in the form of a cupcake. They're rich in flavor, but light and fluffy in texture, and have a sweet and lemony taste.
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Although churros are known as a Mexican or Spanish dessert, they are a traditional breakfast food in Spain. The lightly fried dough is similar to a doughnut but shaped into long "sticks" with deep ridges, and sprinkled with sugar or honey. Served alongside hot chocolate, it's a great way to start the day.
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Torrijas is Spanish bread pudding topped with sugar and cinnamon or rich honey. It's very similar to the American dish French toast and is usually made with the slices of bread that no one wants to use for sandwiches. Milk, sugar, and cinnamon are brought to a boil and left to rest for five minutes before the mixture is poured over the bread. After sitting for an hour, the soaked bread is dipped into a whisked egg, then fried.
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Whether at home or in a local cafe, it is not unusual to see toast accompanied by butter or mild, soft cheese. Pan con tomate is very popular; a simple toasted bread rubbed with ripe tomato, garlic, and olive oil. Other open sandwiches enjoyed as a first meal are tostada con mantequilla y mermelada (bread with butter and jam) and toast with jamon, which is Spanish dry-cured ham. French bread sandwiches called bocadillos are offered with a variety of fillings for breakfast as well.