Spanish croquettes are the perfect tapa for any occasion! We’ll let you know how to separate the great from the merely good—and where to sample the best croquetas in Madrid.
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). Not all croquetas are created equal, though. 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. Perfectly round and uniform? Buyer beware! These are likely the industrially produced, frozen variety of croquettes. Still delicious, 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 molded by two spoons, a traditional method that gives croquettes a more elongated shape.
A Crispy Crust is Key
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 too 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!
It’s What’s Inside that Counts
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). Other common fillings include puchero (pulled chicken), bacalao (salt cod) and boletus (mushroom). But the options are endless, and you’re likely to find all kinds of creative flavor combinations!
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 a residential Madrid barrio just six metro stops from Retiro park, where traditional tapas bars occupy the ground floor of many apartment buildings. Open your embroidered 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 green 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. It’s 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. For one euro 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. La Gastro – For Seafood Lovers
This “small and humble” project in Chueca by young chef Chema Soler will help you expand your croqueta vocabulary with their list of incredible flavors.
Visiting with a few friends or family members? Share a ración of some of the best croquetas in Madrid, filled with kimchi and Spanish carabinero prawns or cuttlefish au gratin. If you’re the kind of foodie who likes culinary surprises, ask for La Gastro’s flavor of the month!
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.