Mar 21 2023

Spain’s Little Fish with Big Flavor

It’s the littlest fish in Spain that pack the biggest flavor. Salt-cured, pickled, grilled or crispy fried, let’s get to know some of the country’s smaller sea creatures and how to eat them

Did you know that it's the littlest fish in Spain packing the biggest flavor punch? Found in both Atlantic and Mediterranean waters, the most popular types of small fish are sardines and anchovies (often served as boquerones). A blue fish species, they have a high healthy fat content, they’re rich in omega 3 and the smaller they come, the tastier they are! In Spain you’ll see these types of fish salt-cured, pickled, grilled or crispy fried to perfection. Let’s get to know some of the country’s best little fish and how to eat them.

Summertime in Spain is sardine season, when they gorge on plankton which gives them peak flavor and texture. Sardines are caught fresh, mainly on the Atlantic coast in the north and Andalusia in the south, then grilled whole and served with sea salt and herbs. The best sardinillas - the smaller sardines - are also artisanally canned and have won awards globally as canned seafood preserves. Sardines should be paired with a wine from the region, for example a treixadura from Ribeiro DO in Galicia, or a dry moscatell from Sierras de Málaga DO.

Another of Spain’s premium preserves is anchovies. Anchovy filets are prepared by hand and cured over months, before being canned in Extra Virgin olive oil. The resulting pinkish silky texture and umami flavor mean they can be enjoyed simply on fresh crusty bread or in salads. The full mouthfeel and salinity of Spanish anchovies pair well with a bubbly Cava DO or even a light red wine, for example, a trepat from Conca de Barberà DO.

Boquerones en vinagre are anchovies in pickled form. These filets are cured in vinegar, so they become white and tender, with a tart, more subtle fish flavor. This type of anchovy works well with a wine of higher acidity, for example a verdejo from Rueda DO.

Last but not least, boquerones fritos, known specifically in Andalusia as pescaito frito, are fresh plump anchovies that are coated in flour and fried whole, so you can eat them as a crispy finger food, preferably paired with a sherry from Andalusia such as Manzanilla de Sanlúcar DO.

So, next aperitivo hour, try catching the wave of Spanish bite sized fish.