This blog post was originally posted on August 29, 2014, and was updated on December 14, 2017.
We absolutely adore the food in Madrid, but even we have to admit that some typical Spanish dishes here are a little bit out of the ordinary!
Madrid is famous for its casquería (offal and organ meats) and locals are known to indulge in delicious preparations of tripe, kidneys, sweetbreads and beyond. You’ll also find yummy Madrid foodie favorites like snails, barnacles and pork rinds available at any traditional bar. And while we realize that unusual foods are relative depending on who is eating them, here are seven bizarre foods in Madrid that surprise our non-Spanish friends most often!
1. Callos a la Madrileña – Madrid-Style Tripe Stew
One of Madrid’s most popular winter dishes, tripe stew (known locally as callos), is a rich and hearty meal that even the skeptics will find themselves adoring. Made with perfectly cooked chickpeas, cow tripe, chorizo and blood sausage, it might sound scary but we encourage you to give it a try. You’ll be thankful for this dish if you visit during the colder months. Don’t blame us when you’re asking for seconds!
Where to try tripe in Madrid:
- Visit Taberna La Bola (Calle de la Bola, 5) for a sit-down meal. Callos is one of their signature dishes!
- For standing room only, check out our friends at Bodegas Ricla (Calle Cuchilleros, 6)!
2. Oreja a la Plancha – Grilled Pig Ear
When we tell our friends that pig ear is one of Madrid’s most traditional dishes, many people stare back in horror. “But that’s what we feed our dogs!” they exclaim. Well, those lucky dogs have been feasting on one of the city’s delicacies. Here in Madrid, local bars chop up pig ears and grill them until they’re nice and crispy. They’re served with a side of spicy bravas sauce, and of course, accompanied by a cold beer.
Where to try pig ear in Madrid:
- Our beloved Casa Toni (Calle de la Cruz, 14)—a stop on our Tapas, Taverns & History tour—is among the best places to eat this dish in the city center!
- For a more modern version, try the delicious pig ear dumplings at StreetXO (Calle de Serrano, 52), a more casual spot opened by 3-Michelin-star chef David Muñoz in the El Corte Inglés food court.
3. Caracoles – Snails
Although famous in many cities around the world, you won’t find many people more obsessed with good snails than a true Madrileño. The proof? The line out the door at the local snail bars every Sunday morning at the famous Rastro Flea Market! It’s one of the less bizarre foods in Madrid, considering France to the north, but it’s still strange to most travelers!
Where to try snails in Madrid:
- The agreed-upon best spot is called Los Caracoles (Calle de Toledo, 106). It’s no surprise that the best snails in Madrid come from a spot literally named “The Snails!”
4. Zarajos – Deep-fried Braided Lamb Intestines
Close your eyes and take a bite! Perhaps the most off-putting of the foods on this list, these lamb intestines are cleaned and braided around wooden sticks, before being fried to juicy, crispy perfection. When done right they taste crunchy, gamey and utterly delicious—when not, you’ll need an extra strong sangria!
Where to try lamb intestines in Madrid:
- You really can’t go wrong with our friends at Casa Toni (Calle de la Cruz, 14). You won’t need that extra strong sangria if you order your zarajos from here!
5. Percebes – Gooseneck Barnacles
These delicious sea critters come from Galicia, where fishermen risk their lives to collect them. This explains the hefty price tag for a small plate—they can go for up to 70€ per pound! They look quite unusual, even in comparison to the other bizarre foods in Madrid, but once you’ve tried them with a refreshing albariño wine and the right company, you’ll start to see what all the fuss is about.
Where to try goose barnacles in Madrid:
- Marisquería Perlora (Calle Magdalena, 40) in the heart of the city!
6. Criadillas – Bull Testicles
Head to one of the many great markets in Madrid and you’ll find a busy casquería booth—the organ meat butcher commonly has a long line on Saturday mornings. On display between the sheep brains and pig hearts, you’ll find the squiggly oval shaped specimens that you’re too afraid to ask about. They’re the bull testes, and despite being widely available in the markets, we’ve only found one restaurant that serves them on occasion. However, if you’re really interested in trying them, we have a local connection (see below!).
Our Huertas Neighborhood Food and Market Tour visits the butcher’s booth at the Antón Martín Market, where you’ll get a full lesson in Spanish casquería!
Where to try bull testicles in Madrid:
- Tabernícola (Calle de Buen Suceso, 20) offers criadillas al ajillo (garlic bull testicles) on their seasonal menu.
- Stop by Bar Omaira in the Antón Martín Market (Calle de Santa Isabel, 5) and mention Devour Madrid Food Tours. You’ll get the hookup!
7. Ortiguillas Fritas – Fried Sea Anemone
You’ve probably never considered eating an anemone, but there is something strangely addictive about these little critters. Battered and deep-fried, their texture and appearance are similar to the croquettes you’re sure to try in Spain. However, their flavor is more comparable to raw oysters—a true taste of the ocean in every bite! Generally caught off the southern coast of Spain in the Gulf of Cádiz, these are tough to find in Madrid, but the places that source them serve them right.
Where to try sea anemone in Madrid:
- The most authentic version can be found at La Taberna Sanlúcar (Calle San Isidro Labrador, 14).
- For delicious croquettes made with sea anemone, check out Bar Lambuzo (Calle de los Conchas, 9)!
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Lauren grew up in an Italian-American family where 3-hour meals were the norm. After 10 years in the restaurant industry, she moved to Spain where she launched her popular Spanish food blog, Spanish Sabores, and soon after led groups on the first Devour Madrid food tours.