Eating Snails in Spain: Delicious Tapas Caracoles

Eating snail tapas in Spain

Have you ever thought of eating snails in Spain? Wondering what does escargot taste like? How to eat escargot? Do you know that snail tapas are favorite Spanish spring tapas?

The national food of Spain might be jamon iberico (Iberian ham), paella (Spanish rice-based dish) or gazpacho (Spanish tomato soup), but what makes Spanish cuisine one of the most sophisticated cuisines in the World is a large range of Spanish food delicacies. And although snails in Spain might sound like bizarre foods, snail tapas are nothing less than Spanish delicacy.

TRADITION OF EATING SNAILS IN SPAIN: POPULAR SNAIL TAPAS IN SPAIN

Eating Spanish snails tapas in Cadiz in Spain
A tapas bowl with cooked snails in Spain © World Travel Connector

First of all, let’s start with some basics. Snail in Spanish is called caracol, and snails in Spanish are caracoles. In springtime, snails or caracoles take an important role in Spanish cuisine. Market stalls, supermarkets, bars and restaurants in Spain in spring burst with snails ready to be transformed into appetizing Spanish dishes. In spring snails in Spain are served as a crucial ingredient of popular Spanish dishes like arroz con caracoles (rice with snails)conejo con caracoles (rabbit with snails) and cabrillas en tomate (snails in a tomato sauce). In Spanish tapas cuisine, caracoles are one of the most popular Spanish tapas highly appreciated across Spain during late spring.

eating Spanish snails caracoles in Spain
Caracoles tapas in Bar Los Caracoles, Calle Sporanis 4, Cadiz, Spain © World Travel Connector

Snail tapas season lasts in Spain from May to June. I happened to travel the region of Andalusia in Spain during May, at the peak of the snail tapas season when Andalusians indulge in tapa de caracoles, one of their favorite spring tapas. Traveling Andalusia I have witnessed Andalusians slurping snail tapas in the streets of Malaga, Granada, Cordoba, Jerez, Cadiz, and Seville. Although I have been a pescetarian for more than 20 years, I got curious and intrigued by the palatable joy of Andalusians. Additionally, I have always been led on my travels by insatiable desire to taste local food. That being said, one day in Cadiz I stopped in a tapas bar full of locals eating snail tapas and decided to give a try to caracoles. My decision turned out to be one of the best Spanish tapas I have tried in Spain.

EATING SNAILS 

Eating Spanish snail tapas in Spain
Snail tapas bowl in Bar Los Caracoles in Cadiz in Spain © World Travel Connector

People have been eating snails since prehistoric times. The first shreds of evidence of eating snails go back to 30.000 years ago. Moreover, in the Roman Empire snails were a gastronomic delicacy of ancient Roman cuisine. Nowadays snails are widely eaten in Western Europe: Italy, Spain, Portugal, and probably the best known France where escargot snails are treated as a supreme delicacy and are on menus of a large number of elite restaurants.

Eating snails in the Mediterranian countries traces back the Catholic fasting heritage. According to the Catholic tradition, snails are not classified as meat and are allowed for eating on fasting days. Not only Western Europe appreciates eating snails. The U.S. went even further and proclaimed May 24 as the National Escargot Day honoring land snails dishes.

But you should know that not all land snails are eatable. Only particular land snail species can be eaten: Helix pomatia (the Roman snail, escargot), Otala punctata (known as cabrillas in South Spain), Helix aspersa (the garden snail), Cepaea nemoralis (the grove snail), Cepaea hortensis (the white-lipped snail), Achatina fulica (giant African land snail), and Helix aperta (the green garden snail). So, if you are thinking of preparing a snail dish, be sure if the snails are edible.

TYPES OF COOKED SNAILS IN SPAIN: CARACOLES AND CABRILLAS SNAILS IN SPAIN

eating Spanish snail tapas
Caracoles tapas © World Travel Connector

Spaniards prepare two types of snails: caracoles and cabrillas. Caracoles (Helix pomatia, escargot) are small snails, and cabrillas (Otala punctata) are large snails.

Traditionally caracoles in Spain are cooked in a broth with garlic, black pepper, cumin and bay leaves. And cabrillas snails in Spain are prepared in a thicker tomato sauce with garlic and aromatic herbs, and usually served with sobrasada (Spanish sausage). If you want cabrillas instead of caracoles, you should order cabrillas en tomate. Of course, tapas bars in Spain usually have their own ‘secret recipes’. In any case, snails in Spain make easy tapas dishes and healthy tapas to eat.

Spanish snail tapas are commonly served in small tapas bowls and are best enjoyed with a glass of refreshing Spanish beer.

WHAT DO SNAILS TASTE LIKE

A tapas bowl with Spanish snails
Snail tapas at Bar Caracoles in Cadiz in Spain © World Travel Connector

In my opinion, caracoles taste very similar to sea mussels or clams. In other words, snails taste only a little bit less salty and a bit more mushroomy than mussels or clams but otherwise pretty much the same. Thus, if you like mussels and clams, then you are going to appreciate snails as well. As a pescetarian who loves seafood, I found snails surprisingly delicious.

Spanish snail tapas are not only savory but also healthy. Snails are low in fat and full of proteins.  Snails eat plants, vegetables, fruits, and algae. But unfortunately, sometimes snails can carry on some parasites. Therefore snails should be cleaned out of all impurities before consuming. Traditionally snails in Spain are put on fasting for two-three days prior to cooking. Snails are not fed to make clean themselves internally.

HOW TO EAT SNAILS

eating Spanish snails in Cadiz
Me eating snail tapas in Bar Los Caracoles in Cadiz © World Travel Connector

Do it as locals do: slurp them. Forget a knife and fork. But, if you feel uncomfortable with slurping, don’t worry. The snail tapas comes with toothpicks to help you to take out the fleshy part of the snails out of the shells. Don’t bother with it if the broth starts dripping off your chin. It’s a part of the snails eating experience. In the end, a napkin will help you to make yourself tidy in a second.

caracoles snails in Spain

TAPAS BARS, RESTAURANTS AND MARKETS TO TRY SNAIL TAPAS IN ANDALUSIA

Eating snail tapas in Cadiz: Bar Los Caracoles, Bar Tito, Mercado Central de Abastos (the central fresh food market in Cadiz)

Eating snails in Seville: Los Caracoles El Cano tapas bar, Casa Diego, Casa Ruperto, Casa Antonio Los Caracoles, Casa Remesel, Bodega La Mina, tapas bar Alfonso

Eating snails in Malaga: Meson Lo Gueno, La Recova, El Estrecho bar

Eating snail tapas in Granada: Bar Aliatar Los Caracoles,  Los Mascarones

SNAIL TAPAS BARS AND RESTAURANTS BEYOND ANDALUSIA

Eating snails in Madrid: Restaurante Casa Amadeo Los Caracoles, Rastro flea market, Los Caracoles

Eating snails in Barcelona: restaurant Los Caracoles, El Pebrot i El Petit Cargol restaurant, restaurant Diagonal Can Soteras, Dolceta 2 Restaurant, El Convent Restaurant

To sum up, if you want to taste authentic Spanish tapas beyond classic tapas such as montaditos (famous Spanish finger food), patatas bravas (Spanish fried potatoes), tortilla da patatas (traditional Spanish omelet), chipirones (popular Spanish deep fried baby squids) or pimientos del padrón (Spanish fried green peppers), then you should put caracoles (snails) on your list of Spanish food to taste in Spain.

If you are interested in some more authentic Spanish food and traditional Spanish drinks, you should read:  Popular Spanish Food You Need To Try in Spain

Eating snail tapas in Spain

FOOD TOURS IN SPAIN

Eager to learn more about Spanish cuisine, to taste traditional Spanish dishes and amazing Spanish wines?!

Try out some authentic Spanish food tours while in Spain: from authentic tapas tour, Spanish wines tasting tour, Spanish food cooking class to traditional Spanish dinner with a flamenco show and more.

Learn about authentic Spanish tapas, how to cook authentic Spanish paella, enjoy the finest Spanish sherry, explore local food markets in Spain…

Learn, how fun and enjoy your trip to Spain in an authentic Spanish way.

FOOD TOURS IN MADRID

Authentic Tapas Walking Tour in Madrid

Tapas Experience Walking Tour in Madrid

Secret Food Tours in Madrid

3-Hour Tapas Adventure with Wine and Tasting in Madrid

Ham & Wine Tasting Tour in Madrid

10 Tapas 2.5-Hour Cooking Class in Madrid

FOOD TOURS IN BARCELONA

Tapas Walking Tour in Barcelona

Tapas Tour for Lovers of Spanish Food in Barcelona 

Evening Tapas 3-Hour Walking Tour in Barcelona

Private Foodie Tapas Tour in Barcelona

Wine Tasting with Tapas Tour in Barcelona

Authentic Spanish Paella Class in Barcelona

Spanish Paella Cooking Class & Market Tour in Barcelona

Spanish Tapas Class & Local Market Tour in Barcelona

Secret Food Tour in Barcelona

Private Tapas Tasting & Flamenco Show in Barcelona

Private Cooking Class & Market Tour in Barcelona

FOOD TOURS IN VALENCIA

Authentic Valencian Paella Cooking Class

Valencia: Paella Class, Tapas Dinner & Flamenco Show

Tapas Tour in Valencia

Valencia Markets & Paella Private Foodie Tour

FOOD TOURS IN VIGO

Trek & Tapas Tour in Vigo

FOOD TOURS IN MALAGA

Bike Tour of Malaga: Tapas and Wine 

Evening Wine & Tapas Tour in Malaga 

Gourmet Tapas Tasting Tour in Malaga

Tapas Tasting Tour in Malaga 

3-Hour tapas Tour & Flamenco Show in Malaga

FOOD TOURS IN GRANADA

Walking Food Tour in Granada

FOOD TOURS IN SEVILLE

Spanish Cooking Class with Dinner in Seville

3.5 Hour Spanish Cooking Class & Food Market Tour in Seville

4-Hour Food Tour in Seville

Spanish Tapas Cooking Class in Seville

Wine & Sherry Day Tour from Seville

Wine & Sherry Day Trip to Jerez and Cadiz from Seville

FOOD TOURS IN ZARAGOZA

Wine Tasting & Tapas in Zaragoza

FOOD TOURS IN PALMA DE MALLORCA

Old Town Sunset Tour & Food Tastings in Palma

Authentic Tastes & Amusing Tales Food Tour in Palma

Palma de Mallorca: Food Hooping Tour of Patios, Palo & Cuina

FOOD TOURS IN SAN SEBASTIAN

San Sebastian Culture & Food Tour: Grab Your Pintxo

Would you give Spanish snails a try? A cooked snail might not sound like your cup of tea, but you might get surprised. Are you ready to taste some odd foods or you prefer to stick to your regular diet while traveling? Do you like to challenge yourself with weird food? What was the most bizarre food you have ever tried? Have you tried a snails dish somewhere else if not in Spain?  Maybe an escargot dish in France? Any experience with a French snail dish?

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Eating Snails in Spain: Delicious Tapas Caracoles
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14 comments

  1. Looks like a big serving of snails but I’m assuming they are very small but flavorful, sounds perfect with a nice local Spanish bread to soup up!

    1. Hi Carol,

      I am not familiar with eating snails in Mexico. I haven’t been to Mexico yet. 🙂 But looking forward to answering this question after visiting Mexico. 🙂

      xoxo Milijana

  2. I didn’t know how snails are eaten, thank you! After your explanation I assume they shrink a bit and detach so they can just slide out of the shell or at least become easier to pop out with a toothpick? I’m still not too keen to try any, but it doesn’t sound as bad as I had previously thought.Especially since I do love mussels and mushrooms.

  3. We do love the tapa in Spain. Hubby loves all seafood. So snails are right up his alley. We will have to plan a visit for May to June to enjoy this delicacy. I did not actually know that there were so many different types of snails. And that they were not all edible. Good to know that slurping is the accepted method for eating.

  4. I have had the opportunity to eat snails multiple times in Spain – in Madrid and Barcelona and they were quite delicious! I prefer the Spanish method rather than the French, the snails are not hidden under garlic!

  5. That is a huge amount of snails. Was that for just one person? My husband and daughter would love to try this. That picture of you leaning a little over your bowl is very cute.

    1. Hi Kathleen,

      Actually, the bowl wasn’t big as it might seem in the photos. There were many snails, but they were rather tiny.
      And the bowl was all mine. 🙂

      Thanks for the compliment.

      xoxo Milijana

  6. Snail Tapas in Spain sounds quite interesting. I would have never imagined them eating in all these ways but not definitely going to try once in Spain. Thanks for sharing complete info. about it.

  7. I know snails from France – with herb butter and always just in dozens. didn’t know they were eaten also in Spain. Have to try them the next time I’m going there – looks really unique.

  8. I’ve had snails before in France. I still think the best scene ever is Julia Roberts in Pretty woman and it slips out. Too funny

  9. I have never had snails. I haven’t had mussels or clams either. I think it would be a fun experience to ‘slurp’ them, especially after a couple sangria

  10. I bet snails have a much more earthy taste than other molluscs. I can only imagine how tasty they would be if the snails were seasoned with chili and paprika to add a bit more spice!

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