Spanish croquettes are the perfect tapa for any occasion! But it helps to know how to separate the great from the merely good. At these places that make the best croquetas in Madrid, you’ll soon see that not all croquettes are created equal.
You know a tapa is truly legendary when it has a whole day dedicated to it—January 16th is officially World Croquette Day. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this popular dish every day of the year! We’re going to dive into the secrets of Spanish croquetas, and share some of our favorite spots to try them in Madrid.
You might be wondering: what exactly are croquettes? These little fried rolls are popular the world over, but Spain does them especially well (okay, we might be biased). That said, there are secrets to spotting the best of the bunch… ready to discover them for yourself?
How to Spot a Perfect Croqueta
Many claim to have the best croquetas in Madrid—but what does that actually mean? What makes a croquette not just good, but great? Let’s work from the outside in.
When the waiter drops off a ración de croquetas at your table or on the aluminum bar top, the first thing you’ll see is the shape. Undoubtedly round and uniform? Buyer beware!
These are likely the industrial, frozen variety of croquettes. Still decent, but nothing too special.
When made by hand, croquetas are very labor intensive. For a tell-tale sign that someone has put in the work, look for grooves left behind by the hands of the obrador who made them. Alternatively, they may have been shaped by two spoons, a traditional method that gives croquettes a more elongated shape.
Once you’ve confirmed that the shape is authentic, it’s time to take a bite. The first thing you’ll feel is the crunchy exterior, thanks to a coating of breadcrumbs added before deep frying.
A good croqueta should have a crispy shell that isn’t especially oily, making it easy to pick up with your hands. If they’re fresh and hot out of the fryer, a fork and knife is also okay. When in doubt, look around to see how the locals are eating, and follow suit!
Next up is the filling. At the center of the croqueta is a soft, creamy, flour-based béchamel. It should be thick enough that you can pick the croqueta up without it falling apart, but soft enough that it melts in your mouth.
In addition to the béchamel, Spanish croquettes are commonly filled with pieces of leftover jamón (Iberian ham). Additionally, other common fillings include puchero (shredded meat), bacalao (salt cod) and boletus (mushroom). But the options are endless, and you’re likely to find all kinds of creative flavor combinations!
Hungry already? Check out the video below to see how langoustine croquettes are made at one of our favorite Madrid tapas bars. And if you’re up for the challenge, try making croquettes at home with our croquetas de jamón recipe!
Where to Find the Best Croquetas in Madrid
Ready to try some for yourself? Hit up any of the following places for croquetas that’ll blow your mind. Warning: it’s almost impossible to eat just one.
1. Santerra: Award-Winning Croquetas
Located in the Salamanca neighborhood, Santerra is the perfect place to order a plate of highly acclaimed croquetas while standing at the beautiful bar with the locals.
In 2018, these were named the best ham croquettes in the world, based on a variety of criteria. The best part? The homemade breadcrumbs create an extra-crunchy exterior, making that first bite even more enjoyable.
2. Casa Manolo: Off the Beaten Path
Casa Manolo is located in Vicálvaro, a former small town that Madrid’s urban expansion swallowed up in the 1950s. Open your cloth napkin and order the house croquetas to start.
If you like them, don’t keep it to yourself! Manolo is usually walking around the restaurant and won’t shy away from a compliment. Because it’s outside the city center, there’s plenty of space nearby where you can walk off all that béchamel.
3. B13 Bar: Vegetarian Croquetas
Highly regarded as a go-to option among Madrid’s vegetarian community, B13 has created vegetarian versions of classic local dishes. They even have a veggie-friendly calamari sandwich!
Located in Malasaña just a few minutes from Gran Vía, this restaurant offers two different types of croquetas: pumpkin and leek or mushrooms and garlic. Either one will set you back just €6.50 for an appetizer-sized portion. Yum!
4. Rocablanca: Totally Traditional
If you’re culturally curious and unafraid to push your way up to the bar, this place is for you.
You won’t find any bells or whistles in this classic Madrid institution. But for just €1 each, you can enjoy Rocablanca’s famous (and gigantic!) croquetas in a variety of flavors.
It’s to your advantage to sit at—or at least get close to—the bar so you can see what kinds of croquetas are waiting to be devoured. Don’t miss the ham, and if you’re still hungry try the bacalao (salt cod), cabrales (Asturian blue cheese) or fried egg with chorizo. Drooling yet? We are.
5. Casa Julio: A Local Classic
Last but not least: the spot that countless madrileños will name when asked where to find the best croquetas in Madrid.
Located in an unassuming little locale in Malasaña, Casa Julio is regularly packed to the rafters with locals who know what’s up. Any one of the traditional Spanish dishes on the menu is worth your while, but most people come here in search of one thing alone: the famous (and huge!) croquettes.
If variety is your thing, this is the place to go. Casa Julio’s croquette offerings are delicious and diverse, with several vegetarian options available at any given time, too.
Best Croquetas in Madrid FAQs
A croquette is a small fried ball of béchamel sauce with any number of fillings; ham, chicken, salt cod, and mushrooms are common croquette flavors in Spain. When done right, croquettes are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, imperfectly shaped, and not too oily.
Croquettes are indeed a common menu fixture in many tapas bars in Spain! Depending on the establishment, you may also see them offered as a media ración (a medium-sized shared plate) or a ración (a large shared plate).
Update Notice: This post was originally published on May 11, 2020 and was updated with new text and photos on June 1, 2021.
Want to learn how to make croquetas at home? Grab a copy of our brand-new digital cookbook, Recipes from the Devour Tours Kitchen. It features over 50 recipes, including one for authentic ham croquettes. You may not be able to visit Madrid right now, but you can still bring Spanish cuisine into your kitchen!
After finishing her Master’s in Spanish Linguistics in Madrid, Cait didn’t hop on a flight back to Boston like her classmates. Years later, you can find her trekking around pueblos looking for a menu del día or biking around Madrid looking for the best vermouth and tapas.