Spain’s 'croquetas' have become a must at today’s 'tapas' table, but how did they become so popular in the Iberian Peninsula?
Croquetas are a staple of the Spanish tapas scene, but how did this evolution of the French croquette become so popular in Spain? It’s a story of love at first…crunch!
Way back when, the first mention of the croqueta in Spain was in 1812, during a dinner offered to English troops, after they helped liberate Spain from Napoleonic rule. The French creation - devised by royal chef Louis de Bechamel - has since become a hard and fast rule of snacking for Spaniards. It was only inevitable that they would add jamón down the line.
Meat lovers enjoy the diversity of croquetas available - check out the jamón ibérico de bellota or jabalí (wild boar), then there’s the chicken, chorizo or oxtail varieties. But seafood eaters are by no means left out, with black squid ink, shrimp or cod croquetas on the menu. Vegetarians also have options - think spinach and pine nut, mushroom or even blue cheese croquetas.
In terms of pairing your croquetas of choice with Spanish wines, it’s hard to resist the fruity acidity and bubbles of a brut Cava DO to freshen up your palate after the creaminess. If you’re after a wine and seafood croqueta pairing, you could opt for an albariño or a verdejo varietal. For a red wine pairing, think barrel-aged wine - such as tempranillo - with a roast chicken or jamón ibérico croqueta, to bring out the savory flavor in both food and wine.
Today’s croquetas are so pervasive (and popular) that you’ll find them everywhere - from the most humble bodega bar right through to Michelin-starred restaurants. There’s even a Michelin guide dedicated to where to find the best croquetas in Spain. They were once created for a King, after all!