Now that we live in Spain, we’ve been trying to make the most of our time here by trying to explore new Spain destinations. One destination that was entirely new to us was the Canary Islands, Spain. Many of our Irish relatives travel regularly to the Canary Islands, often traveling to Tenerife or Lanzarote, staying at some of the all-inclusive resorts. We wanted to take a different angle. We traveled to Gran Canaria to learn about Canary Islands cuisine and wine. We ate so much food and drank so much wine to research this Gran Canaria food guide, to share with you what to eat in Gran Canaria.
We loved the Canarian food so much that we have even incorporated some of the best Canarian recipes into our food schedule at home in Girona. Our Gran Canaria tips will include advice on what to eat in Gran Canaria and where to eat in Canaria.
Canary Islands Cuisine
I was thoroughly surprised by Canarian cuisine. Everything about our experience in Gran Canaria was interesting. Everything was just a little bit Spanish but different in so many ways that I felt we were light years away from Girona. One of the main ways we noticed the difference was in the Gran Canarian cuisine. We ate some dishes, like shrimp in garlic, that taste just like our adopted home. But, there were so many flavors in the top Canary Islands food products that were obviously influenced by Africa and the location of the Canary Islands in the middle of the ocean.
Where to Stay in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Many people flock to the all-inclusive resorts in Gran Canaria, and once they get there, they kind of stay there. We had a different goal in mind. We wanted to learn all about Gran Canaria food, so we stayed in Las Palmas and took day trips to explore the island.
We recommend the AC Hotel Iberia by Marriott. They have a rooftop pool with a view of the water and are only a few minutes walk to the tapas restaurants and bars in Triana. They also have parking, making them a great option to explore the city. If you don’t rent a car, they offer a shuttle from the airport too. We’ve been staying at AC Hotel properties all over Spain, and find they are a great mix of contemporary design and value. Check the best rates at the AC Hotel Iberia Gran Canaria.
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What To Eat in Gran Canaria
We ate so well while touring Gran Canaria. Yes, we occasionally ate some typical Spanish dishes, but more often than not we were eating dishes that were most typical of the Canary Islands, and often with produce and products that were as local as possible. In this section of the Gran Canaria food blog, I include our list of the top must-eat foods for travelers to Gran Canaria.
Love traveling to taste local wine? Check out our Gran Canaria Wine Guide – How to Taste Canary Islands Wine
Papas Arrugadas – Canarian Potatoes
We are so used to patatas bravas gracing every menu in Catalonia, and throughout Spain that it was pleasant to see an entirely different type of potato on the restaurant menus in Gran Canaria. Almost every restaurant menu included papas arrugadas, or what translates roughly to wrinkled potatoes. These potatoes form the backpack of Gran Canaria cuisine.
As soon as we returned home, I learned how to make Canarian potatoes. The Canarian potatoes recipe is not all that difficult but requires a lot of salt. Essentially the potatoes are boiled in salt, the water drained, and then the potatoes are heated until they wrinkle. Although cooks use local Gran Canaria potatoes, which have a unique texture because of the volcanic climate in the Canary Islands, we use small, new potatoes, with a soft skin.
Mojo is another dish that forms the backbone of almost every one of the Canary Islands recipes. Mojo refers to one of the many different sauces that are used in Canary Islands cooking. The most well-known is mojo picon, a spicy sauce made with garlic, olive oil, pepper, cumin, and vinegar. Traditionally, it is made by mixing all ingredients in a mortar and pestle by hand. Many of today’s busy cooks (me included) use a hand blender or mixer. But, doing it the traditional way improves the flavor and texture. I became addicted to wrinkled potatoes and mojo during our tour of Gran Canaria.
Gran Canaria Black Pig – Cochino Negro Canario
The Gran Canaria black pig is one with a long history and heritage. In generations past, many families would raise their own pig for their own consumption. The pig acted as a way to dispose of organic material as well. Over the years, the pigs almost became extinct. A few pig farms have been breeding this prized pig, which is certified by the Canary Island government. Although many restaurants might have “black pig” on their menus, only a handful of restaurants sell the real thing, the Cerdo Negro Canario, from one of the few farmers.
Where to Eat Cerdo Negro Canario? We recommend checking out Granja el Tio Isidro, in the hills of Gran Canaria. They specialize in farming and cooking this famed Gran Canary Black Pig. Their restaurant knows just how to prepare the black pig, so tender, and even the fat tastes soft and sweet. They have limited hours, mostly opened on the weekend. It’s best to plan ahead for this excursion, but it’s so worth it. Granja el Tio Isidrio is only about a 20-minute drive from Las Palmas.
Canarian Ropa Vieja
Before traveling to Gran Canaria, I knew of Ropa Vieja more as a Cuban dish. I was surprised to start seeing it on menus at most places to eat in Gran Canaria. I just had no idea it was a typical Canarian food. This version of Ropa Vieja is a Canarian stew made with chickpeas, meat, onion, and potatoes. We ate Ropa Vieja multiple times during our trip to Gran Canaria, each version tasted different. It’s a slow-cooked dish, made in several different ways, some of which has tender meat, others a little less tender. All have chickpeas, peppers, and potatoes. This is another of the traditional Canarian food recipes that I tried cooking as soon as we returned home. The key to getting the flavor right is to include vinegar, which gives it a little tang.
Where to eat Canarian Ropa Vieja? We had two great versions of Ropa Vieja that I would recommend, each entirely different from the other. On the more contemporary side, try it at Texeda, in Tejeda, in the center of Gran Canaria. Their version of Ropa Vieja, made from their own goats that are fed only corn, herbs, and the leftover malt from their craft beer production. The other great version was at a typical tapas bar in Las Palmas called Cristal, a very no-nonsense bar that is open straight through the day.
Gran Canarian Cheese
After living in Southeast Asia, I tend not to associate cheese with islands and tropical climates. But, Gran Canaria defied our expectations on numerous fronts. After all, it is still in Spain, a haven for cheese lovers! There are many types of cheese available on the island. South of the island produces more goat cheese, whereas in the north there is more sheep cheese. There are only a few varieties of cow milk cheese because it is difficult and expensive to have cows on the island. The hilly and mountainous landscape doesn’t allow for the cultivation of cattle. In fact, to this day, there are still nomadic sheep herders on the island, but few cattle ranches.
One of the most unique Gran Canary cheeses is made from thistle flower instead of rennet. Flor de Guía cheese is only made during the winter when the sheep are pregnant and not producing milk. Sometimes you can find this cheese aged outside of the winter, but the best time to find it is when it is fresh. Even without the Flor de Guía, every cheese we ate was simply amazing, and perfectly pairs with Gran Canaria wine.
Chorizo de Teror Las Nueces
This is a dish you probably won’t find on every must-eat in Gran Canaria list. Chorizo is a pork sausage that is common throughout Spain. Chorizo de Teror Las Nueces, though, is very local and made only on Gran Canaria, in the town of Teror. This version of chorizo is made with salt and paprika, which gives it the reddish color that is entirely different from traditional chorizo. The texture is soft and creamy, similar to a sobrassada. You see the Chorizo de Teror Las Nueces at the local market, where often dozens of small chorizo links are displayed like a coiled-up serpent.
Even after researching about gofio, I still found myself asking the question, “what is gofio?” At its most basic, gofio is a flour made from roasted grains. It looks like a flour and can be added to many different foods, including mixed in a glass of milk, of course for good health. When you speak to a local in Gran Canaria, they will often tell you they eat gofio every day, and that their mother swore by it. Their mother would say a spoonful of gofio keeps the doctor away. I can’t tell you what is in a gofio recipe, but I started sprinkling it on my yogurt each morning and I enjoyed it. It also can be added to many Canary Islands desserts. Desserts include gofio ice cream or gofio mousse. The texture is an acquired taste, though.
When I asked our guide exactly what is bienmesabe, he simply replied: “it tastes good to me.” And that is its literal translation. More specifically, it’s a sugary spread made with local Canary Island almonds, along with eggs, sugar, and lemon. It’s sweet and although I enjoyed it just on a spoon, I have a jar at home and I spread it on sweet breads and toast.
Where to find bienmesabe in Gran Canaria? If you make it to Tejeda, buy a jar at Dulceria Nublo, which is well-known for its pastries and its house-made bienmesabe.
Shrimp With Avocado Salad
Some of the world’s best avocados come from Gran Canaria. They grow several varieties. I know because we actually toured an avocado plantation. If you love fresh avocados, then take advantage of eating them in Gran Canaria. One of the best ways I found to enjoy them is in an avocado and shrimp salad, where the prawns are placed inside the avocado and drizzled with a salad dressing. It’s nice and cool and delicious on a warm day in Gran Canaria.
Where to eat avocado and shrimp? We ate this version at Restaurante Cofradia de Pescadores in Puerto de Mogan. The port at Mogan is firmly on the tourist trail, and often many of the nearby all-inclusive resorts will run trips there, for shopping and eating. This restaurant offers a beautiful view of the port and is run by the local fishing cooperative. They do their best to include fresh fish, often from that day’s catch.
Mangos from Gran Canaria
I never knew that mangos grew in Spain until moving to Girona. Most of the mangos at our local store either come from Gran Canaria or Malaga. The traditional variety of Gran Canaria mango, though, is not all that enjoyable to eat. It’s fairly stringy. But, the mango farmers grow loads of different varieties, which although the plants were originally imported to the island, they grow very well. If it’s mango season during your visit to Gran Canaria, eat as much mango as possible!
Gran Canaria Coffee
Gran Canaria is one of the few areas within Europe that has a coffee production. Coffee beans need warm and dry weather year round. That’s exactly what a coffee plantation in Gran Canaria offers. Agaete coffee has been produced around the town of Agaete for generations. A handful of families continue to own and operate Gran Canaria coffee plantations, most of them continuing to harvest by hand.
Where to learn about Gran Canaria coffee? Plan a visit to Finca la Laja in Valle de Agaete in the Northwest corner of the island. They are open seven days a week from 10 am to 5 pm. The farm is only about a 40-minute drive from Las Palmas. This Agaete coffee plantation is a working tropical fruit farm and Gran Canaria winery as well. Finca La Laja is a 5th generation coffee-producing family. You can tour the plantation, farm, and winery, and enjoy a little light lunch at their restaurant, which features Gran Canaria cheese, meat, produce and of course their own Bodega Las Berrazales wine.
Other Gran Canaria Food Products
Gran Canaria likes to say that they are a continent on an island, with different climates and environments on each corner of the island. Due to the unique climate, Gran Canaria produces a lot of different types of food products that you can taste in all sorts of dishes. Potatoes and corn are staples of the diet, as are the mangos, avocados, and bananas that are grown locally on fruit plantations.
There are other really unique food productions as well. We visited a mushroom “farm” called Finca Lagar de Fuego Up until this visit, I only knew how mushrooms grew in the wild, in forests. But, one family in Gran Canaria started about 3 years ago to cultivate mushrooms indoors, in a temperature and humidity controlled environment. It was an entirely unique experience to see how these mushrooms are grown. The following day we got to actually taste these mushrooms at a lovely little restaurant in the town of Galdar, at La Trastienda de Chago. Carmelo and Nereida operate La Trastienda de Chago with so much passion for local ingredients. Not only did we eat the local mushrooms, grilled simply and drizzled with local olive oil, but we ate Grand Canaria black pig, local tomatoes, and more. Everything made from local ingredients, although Carmelo admitted the garlic comes from Lanzarote!
While eating our way around Gran Canaria, we also learned about local honey production and visited a producer of olives and award-winning olive oil. At Finca Ecologica Los Olivos in Telde, we toured the olive plantations and learned how they make olive oil. It was also the first time we saw how they salt olives, in a salt-water brine. They are open for public visits six days a week, but close to the public on Saturday when the farm often hosts weddings and other events. This is a great place to take kids too because they have a little zoo and a bird sanctuary.
We also visited Las Salinas de Tenefe, where they are harvesting salt from the sea. This was our first time learning how salt is produced. I would definitely recommend trying to visit Las Salinas de Tenefe not only to learn about salt but because the production itself is stunning. I shared tons of photos on our Instagram because the pink and white of the Gran Canaria salt production, on the bright blue skies, complete with windmills, well, it was stunning. That’s the only word I can use.
Where to Eat in Gran Canaria
There are so many restaurants in Gran Canaria, many of which are focused in Las Palmas. There is more to Gran Canaria cuisine than the Las Palmas restaurant scene. Some of the best restaurants in Gran Canaria are those that require you to leave a resort, to take a drive, and to explore all that there is on this amazing island. These Canary Islands restaurant recommendations will focus on restaurants we deem “worth a drive” – it’s our own Michelin Star rating system. These Gran Canaria restaurants are worth a drive either because the food was simply incredible, or they have something a little more unique, to help food travelers learn about the food and culture of the island.
Gran Canaria Restaurants
Restaurante & Brewery Texeda in Tejeda: Our number one recommendation for a restaurant to drive to in Gran Canaria. Borja and Andrea are a couple who returned to Tejeda after Borja spent years working at some of the top restaurants in the world. They opened a small craft beer brewery featuring a handful of cervezas artesanas. They also are producing creative versions of traditional Gran Canaria dishes using uber-local ingredients. This is an adorable little place in an adorable little village in the center of the island. It’s about an hours drive from Las Palmas but makes for a perfect day trip. You can see views across the island from Tejeda. Try the Ropa Vieja and Cherne fish ceviche, which is hard to find in most restaurants in Gran Canaria. While in Tejeda, check out La Tienda de Paco to taste some local Gran Canaria wine and cheese on their outdoor terrace.
Restaurante Bio Tasca Gastro Cueva in Artenara: Artenara is a little bit of an artists’ haven, not far from Tejeda. This gastro cave is something a little unique. A specialty food shop selling local products, along with local craft beer and wine. They also serve lunch, again with a focus on local ingredients. Their offerings are more traditional than at Texeda, but still worth the drive. Look for the sign that reads Arte-Gaia when heading into the village.
La Trastienda de Chago in Galdar: An adorable little bar, with a handful of tables, serving local Gran Canaria wines and creative dishes with local ingredients. Try their black pig, which is more Asian inspired, and their grilled mushrooms.
Granja el Tio Isidro in Telde: A family-run farm (and a petting zoo of sorts) that specializes in the Gran Canaria black pig and opens a restaurant on weekends. Definitely a plan ahead and book ahead place, but totally worth it. Only a handful of restaurants in Gran Canaria are certified to sell the official Gran Canaria black pig, and they are one of them.
Restaurante Cofradia de Pescadores in Mogan: Mogan is a little port that houses a cooperative of local fisherman, who sell fish directly to the restaurant. Enjoy a table overlooking the port and the mountains in the distance while eating avocado and shrimp salad, or their whole grilled fish served with papas arrugadas.
Markets in Gran Canaria
I love visiting local food markets when traveling. This is particularly true when the markets are frequented mostly by locals, rather than tourists. We visited the San Mateo Market, about a thirty-minute drive from Las Palmas. The San Mateo market is a great little market open on Saturday and Sunday. This is the perfect place to pick up all kinds of Gran Canary cheese. There are also a few stalls that sell some of the medicinal herbs grown on the island. There is such a culture of medicinal herbs that there is a small medicinal plants museum near Tejeda. The San Mateo market is the place to be on the weekends it seemed, with live music and everything. Busloads of locals arrive each day to make the most of the weekend.
There is also a Las Palmas market, the Mercado Central, located in the center of the city. The market is open six days a week from 7 am until around 2 pm. They are closed on Sunday. Or try the Mercado del Puerto on Calle Albareda, which has some traditional market stalls. The Mercado del Puerto is more like a Spanish food court where there are all sorts of stalls offering prepared dishes and Gran Canaria tapas. It was the first “gastromercado” in the Canary Islands.
Want to Learn More About Spanish Food Traditions?
Now that we live in Spain, I’ve been focused on learning as much as I possibly can about Spanish food. I am relying on this book Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding to educate myself about Spanish foods. I think it’s important to learn about Spain foods because I now live in Spain. If you want to learn more, check out this book!
As soon as I returned home from Gran Canaria, I vowed to spend more time learning how to COOK Spanish food. While in Gran Canaria, we bought a few local mini-cookbooks on Gran Canaria cuisine and mojo. But I also bought Claudia Roden’s the Food of Spain. The book includes the history of the regional cuisine of Spain as well as hundreds of traditional recipes from all over the country. The book is simply lovely too, with pretty photos and illustrations. I enjoy reading about food while sipping Spanish wine, and yes, actually making some of the recipes too.
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Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.