Exploring the local Cuisine of Spain

Traveling to Spain with Food Allergies

Spain is a beautiful destination known for its rich history, delicious food, and stunning architecture. From the land-locked city of Madrid to the bustling city of Barcelona, a major cruise port on the ocean, and the array of picturesque small towns that make up the country, there is no lack of wondrous destinations to visit. If you’re going to be traveling to Spain with food allergies, read on to learn the most important things to keep in mind to ensure you have a great trip with your food allergies.  

Spain with Food Allergies

While Spain is without a doubt one of the most captivating destinations to visit in the world, there are a few essential considerations to keep in mind if you are embarking on a trip to Spain with food allergies. As with any location, preparation is key when traveling to Spain with food allergies. 

In the major cities, such as Madrid and Barcelona, you will find more locals speaking English than in the smaller, coastal towns. However, it’s always best to carry your food allergy chef card with you. This is key to making sure your specific dietary needs are being understood and carried out in order to avoid your allergens. It’s also a good idea to learn the Spanish words for your allergens and safe foods, that way you know what to look out for on menus and food labels. 

enjoying paella with food allergies in Spain

Food Labeling Laws in Spain

As a member of the European Union, Spain follows similar food labeling laws as other EU countries, such as France and London

EU Regulation 1169/2011 requires the 14 major food allergens to be labeled if they, or ingredients they’re derived from, are present in any pre-packaged foods. The top 14 food allergens must always be identified in the ingredient list of these foods with a clear reference to the name of the allergen. For example, pre-packaged food labels might say, contains milk, wheat, or egg. 

These 14 allergens differ from the allergens identified in the United States and Canada, so make sure to familiarize yourself with this EU regulation before leaving for your trip. 

Although this regulation makes identifying allergens and safe foods easier, it’s essential to remain diligent and double-check food labels when buying packaged food or snacks during your trip to Spain. 

Is Spain Good With Food Allergies?

For many food allergy families wondering if Spain is good with food allergies, it’s important to understand what you can and cannot bring with you into Spain, as many families like to bring some of their own meals and snacks. Let’s take a deeper look at these restrictions and guidelines. 

 

What Can You NOT Bring Into Spain?

Since Spain adheres to the European Union’s laws around bringing food into the country, there are food items that are not allowed and food items that have restrictions. 

Meat products from certain countries as well as certain fish and seafood products cannot be brought into the country with you. The same goes for live animals and animal products, unpasteurized dairy products, and products that contain GMOs. 

Foods with certain import restrictions are meat products, which can be brought in only from certain countries outside of the EU, certain types of fish, and dairy products in limited quantities. Plants and plant products must have a phytosanitary certificate in order to be legally brought into Spain. 

These laws and regulations are subject to change at any time, so it’s always best to double-check them before traveling to Spain with food allergies from another country. 

 

Importation Guidelines and What Can You Bring Into Spain Legally

For families who want to bring some of their own ingredients and snacks into Spain, there are many food items that are allowed according to Spain’s importation guidelines. As always, you can shop for some items when you arrive in Spain, but it is good to bring items that are harder to find as well as snacks since you don’t know what they will have in store. 

You can legally bring in fruits and vegetables that are pest and disease-free as well as packaged, non-perishable snacks and food items. Baked goods, chocolate, and candy are allowed, as long as they do not contain meat or dairy products. 

 

Exploring the Local Cuisine of Spain

Spain’s culinary scene is infused with flavors, delicious spices, and ingredients. With the right knowledge, preparation, and restaurant research during the planning phase of your trip, you can ensure your family enjoys your culinary experience while making safe choices and adaptations to accommodate your food allergies. 

tapas at outside cafe in spain

 

 

Here are some of Spain’s most iconic dishes and key things to keep in mind when considering your allergens: 

  • Olive Oil – Spain uses a lot of olive oil in its cooking, however, it is always a good idea to double-check in case a certain restaurant uses or incorporates another type of cooking oil, such as soy or peanut oil. 
  • Paella – Paella is a classic Spanish dish that is typically made with short-grained rice, varieties of green beans, rabbit, chicken, sometimes duck, and garrofó (a variety of lima or butter bean), cooked in olive oil and chicken broth. Sometimes there is wheat flour in the kitchen being used for other varieties of Paella. Shellfish can be found in the seafood version of Paella. If you are vegetarian, then you need to request a vegetarian Paella. Be sure to inquire about what ingredients are used in the kitchen if you have severe food allergies that can be impacted by cross-contamination. 
  • Seafood – Seafood is abundant and widely used in dishes made in Barcelona and coastal towns. If you are traveling to Barcelona with food allergies, I highly recommend having your food allergy chef card available if seafood or fish is an allergy for you.
  • Tapas – Tapas are small plates of various dishes and are popular all around Spain. The tricky thing about Tapas is they often don’t have the ingredients listed on the menu, so it’s important to remember to ask questions about allergens, as they will be a bit more unknown. At some restaurants, the Tapas will be more buffet-style and others will be brought to your table.
  • Croquettes – Croquettes are a popular Tapas dish that can contain seafood, fish, ground meat, vegetables, and other ingredients.They are typically fried in bechamel sauce. Since there are so many varieties of Croquettes, make sure you get them made to order so they are safe for you. For the best culinary experience, eat these warm. 
  • Potato – Potatoes are also a popular ingredient in Spanish cuisine, which can be great depending on your allergies. Potatoes are a staple ingredient in the Spanish omelet, Trinxat, Tortilla de Patata, and the popular simple dish of Patatas a la Riojana, which are made of potatoes, garlic, sliced chorizo, onions, and pimenton paprika. It is also served with bread on the side too, so keep that in mind if you have a gluten allergy. 
  • Patatas Bravas – This is a popular Tapas dish and late night snack for many. It consists of potato cubes, spicy tomato sauce, onions, garlic, chili powder, and paprika.
  • Churros – Churros are a popular Spanish dessert, but they can also be eaten as a snack or breakfast item. The fried dough does typically contain gluten, which is then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. For the authentic culinary experience, dip them in warm chocolate, but beware of this if you have a dairy or soy allergy. 
  • Tarta de Santiago – This cake dessert originated in Galicia, but will be found all throughout Spain. It is made with almond flour, sugar, and eggs. It is typically served with coffee, but is not overly sweet. This dessert is naturally gluten-free, but double check to make sure there is no cross-contamination, as that would be a concern in this case. You should also check to make sure no additional ingredients have been added that are an allergen for you. 
  • Crema Catalina – This dessert is very similar to creme brulee. It contains milk, citrus peel, cinnamon, and egg yolks. It is typically a great option for those with allergies to gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, soy, etc. 

cream catalina dessert in spain

 

Navigating Spain With Food Allergies

For those traveling to Spain with food allergies, there are a variety of tasty cuisines that you can enjoy depending on your allergens and the substitutions you can make at restaurants. 

You will find some great dishes that are naturally gluten-free. Peanuts are not widely used in dishes throughout Spain, but some restaurants do use peanut oil, so always double-check on this with the chef and restaurant staff. Tree nuts will be found in more dishes and are often more hidden in items like sauces. Pine nuts and almonds are widely used, but there are a good variety of nut-free main dishes and desserts, like Crema Catalina.

For those with a dairy allergy, be cautious of anything with garlic mayonnaise, as they tend to use milk or eggs depending on the location you are visiting, so always ask for clarification and present your food allergy chef card. Croquettes are a popular choice, but the bechamel sauce typically contains milk, unless you find yourself somewhere that offers bechamel-free Croquettes. 

The biggest struggle when traveling to Spain with food allergies is navigating seafood, as many dishes contain this allergen, especially if you are in a coastal town. There are still a variety of other options to indulge in, but seafood will typically be on the premises of most restaurants, so be diligent with your restaurant research. Vegan restaurants may supply more options without seafood present in the kitchen.

Spain offers an incredible travel experience in both sights and tastes. For those traveling to Spain with food allergies, you can savor the flavors of Spain with the right preparations and substitutions to dishes. Be sure to carry your food allergy chef card with you at all times and don’t be afraid to communicate your food allergies clearly and confidently. Ask for substitutions and clarification on ingredients or cross-contamination risks as needed. By following these tips and keeping this information in mind, you can enjoy all that your Spanish adventure has to offer!

If you’re ready to plan your trip to Spain with food allergies, visit my contact page to book a consultation with me or inquire about my full-service travel planning! It would be my honor to help make your trip memorable for you and your family. 

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