Food and Drink
Memorable meals out are a vital part of the holiday experience for many visitors. So what sort of food are you going to encounter in restaurants on Lanzarote? What’s on a typical menu? And what are the local specialties?
Blend Of Influences
In general, Canarian cuisine is a blend of Spanish, African and Latin American influences. Reflecting the island's geographical position as a staging and one time trading post between these points of the compass in centuries past.
Fish versus Flesh
You could be forgiven for thinking that fish dishes dominate. But despite being an island race the Canarians in fact eat less fish than their mainland counterparts.
This could possibly be a genetic hangover from the original island inhabitants, the Guanche. As they were, apparently, lousy fishermen and excelled instead at rearing livestock such as goats and sheep.
As a result, even today, you’ll find that goat features prominently on most menus, along with other indigenous animals such as rabbit, whilst baby kid is regarded as something of a local delicacy.
The Latin American connection comes into play with other meat dishes – especially beef – which is usually imported from Argentina – and is of the highest quality.
Despite the carnivorous preference of the locals there is still of course a good variety of local fish and seafood to sample – the most common being dorada, sama, vieja and cherne. These are all tasty white fish and are usually grilled (a la plancha) and served with the ubiquitous papas arrugadas –or wrinkled potatoes - possibly the best known Canarian dish. Which are basically baby spuds boiled, with their skins on, in seawater.
Papas arrugadas are always served with a variety of sauces - or mojos. Whilst recipes vary from chef to chef you can always guarantee that you’ll be given a choice of at least two of these sauces to pour onto your potatoes. The green mojo is a blend of olive oil, vinegar, parsley, coriander and garlic – whilst the fierier red mojo contains the same oil and vinegar base but with the additional kick of chilli and red peppers.
Soups and Stews
Soups and stews also feature heavily on the traditional Canarian menu. One of the most common is puchero, which is pretty much a meal in itself. The classic puchero contains a variety of meat cuts, vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and onion along with either lentils or chickpeas to further thicken the mix.
These soups are often enjoyed as a starter – but there are of course plenty of alternative options, such as the ever-popular gambas al ajillo, which is such a staple on restaurant menus here that it could almost be termed the Canarian prawn cocktail. The gambas - or prawns - are cooked with olive oil, brandy, chilli and heaps of garlic and served sizzling hot – usually with a good portion of bread for dunking in the oil.
Whist vegetables are obviously used in many traditional dishes vegetarian options are virtually non-existent. As meat or fish is usually added in some way shape or form, even to green sounding options such as watercress soup – which, for example, often contains bacon.
The same is also true of main course dishes where vegetables are often little more than a garnish accompanying fish and meat dishes.
One safe option for vegetarians however are the local goat's cheeses, which are of particularly high quality – especially those from Fuerteventura. These have won all sorts of awards and accolades – and usually feature as a starter in most restaurants 'tipico’.
If you really want to really immerse yourself in the traditional flavours of the island then you’ll also need to sample gofio – a flour made from ground and toasted maize which was once the staple diet of Lanzaroteños.
Today gofio is used in a variety of ways – often appearing as a thickening agent in soups and stews as well as in a number of sweet dessert dishes.
Most wine lists offer a selection of both locally produced and mainland Spanish wines. It is extremely rare to come across bottles from other countries such as France, Italy or the New World.
The Canaries used to be world leaders in the production of sweet Malvaisa wine-which still features widely on wine lists today and which makes a good accompaniment to dessert and coffee.
A number of good quality red, white and rosé wines are also produced on Lanzarote, such as El Grifo and Bermejo, via a unique form of cultivation. To find out more see our Lanzarote Wine page and Bards and Vineyards.