For Basques, food always comes first, and the winter holidays are no exception. Typical Christmas foods in San Sebastian are just as delicious as you can imagine.
Spanish cuisine, famous for its amazing flavors, takes on even higher levels of deliciousness at Christmastime (if that’s even possible!). But not all regions in Spain celebrate the winter holidays with same dishes—every city and region has its own traditions and specialties.
If you’re headed to the Basque Country, we’ve gathered up a list of typical foods that you’ll find on most families’ Christmas menus in San Sebastian.
Christmas is one of the most special celebrations of the year, so Basques want to make it very special. The most important thing is to make the meal different from a normal Sunday menu—which, by the way, can be very impressive too!
That’s why we kick the dinner off with luxurious starters such as oysters or caviar to guarantee a festive mood. If not a fan, no worries! In San Sebastian, we can always include some pintxos—the local finger food—on the menu.
Seafood, seafood and more seafood
Seafood is an emblematic part of Basque cuisine, and it plays an important role on the Christmas menu, too.
Baby eels, sea bream, hake, cod fish—you name it! It’s probably impossible to find a Basque Christmas table without a selection of amazingly fresh seafood and fish, and there’s no need to wonder why: the nearby Cantabrian Sea is a true treasure.
The most traditional fish dishes on Christmas are bacalao al pil pil—cod with olive oil, garlic and guindilla peppers—or merluza a la koskera: hake with clams and local vegetables, like green or white asparagus and leek.
A meat lover’s Christmas treat: lamb
Lamb is very popular in the Basque Country, and it’s a common option––or addition––alongside the fish dishes on the Christmas menu. There are various ways of preparing this yummy dish, but grilled lamb is a classic.
The mouthwatering meat is typically paired with seasonal vegetables, but those in need of something more filling can add the region’s famous Tolosa beans to the menu!
Traditional Christmas desserts
In San Sebastian, like everywhere in Spain, Christmas is not Christmas without sweets. And there has to be a good variety of them! Where it’s very typical to buy a nice selection of the traditional Christmas cookies, polvorones, from a supermarket or local bakery, it’s also nice to prepare something sweet at home.
A very typical option, and probably one of the most traditional Basque Christmas foods, is intxaursaltsa, a sweet walnut cream. Legend says that intxaursaltsa was traditionally prepared with cod stock, but luckily these days we tend to use whole milk instead!
And then there is pastel vasco, the famous Basque cake that has its origins in the French Basque Country and will melt the heart of any pie lover.
Pastel vasco traditionally has two filling options: sweet cherries or dreamy pastry cream. Which option would you choose to add to your Christmas table?
Want our insider’s guide to eating in San Sebastian? Just add your email address in the form below!
After living years in Madrid and Barcelona, Tita found her home in San Sebastian, not least because of the delicious food. Nothing beats a bottle of sidra and a plate of anchoas after a Sunday hike in the green mountains of Basque Country, she says.