A trip around the Basque country wouldn’t be complete without tasting the typical Basque food and specialities. The extreme Southwest of France and the Basque part of Northern Spain offer a lot for food lovers. In the Basque country, people are called “bon vivant”, enjoying life, food, parties, traditional festivals…
So today, I’ll introduce you the best traditional Basque food recipes.
In this article, you will learn:
- where does Basque Country food come from,
- what is Basque food,
- what are some famous starters, main courses, cheese, desserts and local recipes of the Basque cuisine.
- some tips to organise your discovery of the Basque dishes or tour the Basque Country.
You will also find the information if you want me to organise your food tour in the Basque Country and some culinary excursion ideas.
Although you will find some Basque recipes online, the ones I give you here are only by locals.
Don’t hesitate to tell me if you’re interested in a special recipe and want me to find it for you and/or translate it in English!
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Article summary – the best Basque food recipes.
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Bask food, Basque food or Basques food?
Well, you will often find the three spellings as French people often think “Bask” is the right spelling.
And yes, Basque food is BasqueS food, the food of Basque people!
Where does Basque food come from?
Basque food is the food of the Basque Country region.
Most of the few foreigners who have heard about the Basque Country immediately think about Spain.
But the Basque Country area is much bigger than the Spanish part in Northern Spain. It actually includes 7 provinces, 4 in Spain, 3 in France.
That means that each area has its own traditional Basque food recipes and a lot of towns or villages have their own Basque Country dishes!
If you look at the map, Labourd, Basse-Navarre and Soule are the 3 French Basque provinces.
Biscaye, Guipuzcoa, Alava and Navarre are the 4 Spanish Basque provinces.
In this article, I’ll tell you where you can find the different Basque food specialties when it’s specific to a Basque province or town.
What is Basque food?
Basque cuisine often includes red chili in its recipes as you will see below.
It’s hard to describe something like “typical Basque cuisine” as Basque foods include fish, meat, cheese, local vegetables, regional desserts.
Cooking modes, sauces are also various.
But some Basque cuisine recipes are so famous that we can name it as typical from the Basque Country: Basque cake, Basque cider, Txakoli wine, cod, pintxos (Basque tapas), marmitako, Tolosa black beans,etc.
Basque Fish and shellfish.
The Basque Country is open on the Atlantic Ocean. Consequently, fish and shellfish are a big part of the Basque cooking.
The French city of Saint Jean de Luz is the ideal place to try the “ttoro”. Choose a Basque restaurant in the rue de la République, in the centre.
Ttoro is a kind of fish soup made with a lot of fish and shellfish.
If you want to prepare it yourself, you will need hake, langoustines, mussels, garlic, onion… and Espelette pepper. Depending on the recipe, you can use another kind of fish.
Each year, the costal town of Ciboure, close to Saint Jean de Luz, organise the ttoro festival.
Beware: It’s different from “toro”. You will find it in Camargue area and it means “bull”. Marmitako is another Basque soup I’ll tell you about later.
Let us organise your tour in the Basque Country during the ttoro festival in Saint Jean de Luz! My travel agency partner and I will take you to this original festival where you’ll meet the ttoro fraternity and Mass. You’ll try the best Basque specialities and Basque tapas, the best culinary experience in the world according to Lonely Planet. You will learn everything about King Louis XIV wedding in Saint Jean de Luz. You will see the beach ranked n°1 in France and the one ranked n°1 in Europe by Trip Advisor readers. Family trip, group tour, business trip, customised trip are available.
Chipirons : squids.
Saint Jean de Luz is also the place to eat the delicious “chipirons” also called “xipirons”.
They prepare the squids (chipirons) “à la plancha” (grilled). It’s served with rice and onion, tomato, bell pepper sauce… and red chilli again. The recipe is called “chipirons à la Luzienne” (squids in the style of Saint Jean de Luz).
Read more: chipirons à la Luzienne recipe.
If you want to prepare it by yourself, my favorite place to buy squids is Capbreton fish market, the only place in France where fishermen are allowed to sell directly to the consumers!
In Spain, it’s generally prepared “à l’encre” (calamares en su tinta).
“Marmitako” is another Basque soup. The main ingredients are tuna and potatoes… and red chilli again.
You can find it both in the French and Spanish part of the Basque Country, almost everywhere but especially in the towns and villages along the ocean.
Thon kaskarote – tuna kaskarote.
Thon kaskarote is made from grilled red tuna, fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, leek, onions and… red chilli.
Beware: it’s not a recipe by a local.
“Merlu Koskera” is made from hake with asparaguses, peas, mussels, clams, hard-boiled eggs.
Oiartzun daurade is a grilled full and open sea bream with garlic, red chilli sauce and vinegar.
It’s the specialty of Oiartzun village in Guipuzcoa.
Txangurro is a spider crab stuffed with onions, carrots and leeks.
Other fish specialties of the Basque cuisine.
Marinated anchovy (anchois marinés).
Fresh cod served in the traditional Basque food menu of the cider restaurants especially (morue fraîche). Go to the typical cider-making restaurants in the mountain areas of Guipuzcoa during winter. You will enjoy the traditional cider-making menu. See more information in the meat section. You will also find a suggestion of Get Your Guide cider house tour at the end of the article.
Contact me if you want us to organise a cider house traditional Basque meal for you.
Meat has probably the most important place in the traditional Basque dishes.
Basque people like meat a lot, and they produce a lot of animals in the area.
Therefore, we can buy some good products, from the farms or butcher’s shops. I rarely buy it from the supermarket, as the quality is lower and it’s not cheaper!
Zikiro is a “méchoui” party (barbecued whole lamb served with flageolet beans).
In the south of France and Spain, lamb is also often served with piperade (see below with the local specialties).
Ask us to organise a zikiro party in an ancient cave for you!!!
Tripotx is a lamb blood sausage generally served with “piperade”.
Axoa comes from Espelette but we eat it in the whole French Basque country. This typical village even has its axoa festival in June.
It’s made from veal, sometimes mixed with lamb.
We mince the meat with different ingredients and… red chilli. And guess from which place comes the red chilly? From Espelette!
The juice of axoa is not fat and it’s served with potatoes.
If you visit the Basque Country, you absolutely have to pay a visit to Espelette with its house facades covered with chilli and try axoa there.
Pantxeta is a veal blood sausage.
Txuleta ou chuleta.
Txuleta or chuleta is a rib of beef.
As I told you before, the meat is delicious here and “txuleta” is a must.
It’s very popular in Spain and is part of the cider restaurant’s menus.
Tolosa city, close to San Sebastian, is very famous for txuleta and even has a dedicated festival with a special menu.
Here is the typical cider-making restaurant’s menu: cod omelette, fried cod with red chilly, txuleta, ewe cheese with nuts and quince jam. + unlimited cider that the guests take in the big barrels. It costs from 25 to 35€. The atmosphere is friendly, as people eat on big tables and enjoy looking for the best cider’s barrel. The most authentic places only open during winter.
Take the best of your stay in the Basque Country by visiting Tolosa during the txuleta festival, dinning in a cider house and eating in the best pintxos bars in San Sebastian old town. Contact us for the organisation!
Poulet basquaise or chicken basquaise.
Poulet basquaise or chicken Basquaise is normally served with piperade.
Tripota is a Basque blood sausage from pork stuffed with onions.
Xistorra is another kind of spicy Basque sausage.
Ventrêche or Xingar.
Ventrêche or xingar is made from fat pork’s belly.
Lukinke is a dry sausage slightly spicy.
Chichons are rillettes with Espelette red chilli.
Funny fact: Don’t mix up with the slang word “chichon” that means hashish!
Jambon de Bayonne or Bayonne ham.
Almost everybody think it comes from Bayonne, but it’s not.
Before, it was prepared in Salies de Béarn and exported through Bayonne harbour. This is the reason of its name.
It comes from “Ossau” and “Aspe” valleys.
Its origin is controlled and protected (AOC).
Read about the making process here.
If you like ham, don’t miss Bayonne ham fair, occuring since 1462!
Ask us to organise your Bayonne ham fair discovery. You will enjoy all the best Basque specialities, be it a meal or a sport!
Basque Country food specialties.
In addition to the fish and meat, we also have some local specialties.
Piments d’Espelette is red chilli from the beautiful and typical French village of Espelette.
The name is also protected (AOC).
Basque people are fond of red chilli as you could notice in the previous recipes.
We use both fresh red chilli or chilli powder.
We use chilli jam (delicious with the cheese), chilli jelly, salt + chilli…
And even some chocolate with chilli!
Basque diet won’t be complete without chilli.
It’s available in the little basque shops but you can also find it on Amazon.
Some people also use a chili’s plait to decorate their kitchen.
Let us organise your stay during Espelette chilli festival. You will discover at the same time some of the most beautiful villages of France plus the witches caves and villages of the Basque Country plus eat the best Basque dishes.
Pimiento del piquillo.
Pimiento del piquillo comes from Spain.
This is a triangular pepper that came from South-America.
Don’t cook with water as it would lose its taste.
It’s delicious, especially when it’s stuffed with cod. It’s meltingly soft and fits the taste of the cod’s stuffing.
Look for “pimientos rellenos” and “baccalao” (cod).
Piperade is prepared with onions, tomatoes, red chillies, garlic, olive oil.
It’s typically served with chicken basquaise, eggs, omelette, ham.
Taloa is similar to the traditional corn flour tortilla and served with lomo, xingar, xistora, ewe cheese or whatever you want.
It’s cooked on a warm metal plank called talo burni.
Pintxos – basque tapas.
Pintxos is the Basque word for tapas.
The pintxos in San Sebastian have just been elected the 1st of the top world’s 500 best meals.
So of course, the best place to eat pintxos is the Spanish coastal town of San Sebastian.
Go to the old district and enjoy the atmosphere of the basque cafés, going from one to another. Try one or two pintxos with a local txakoli (slightly sparkling white wine) in each place. Finish your evening walking along the ocean. Perfect evening, right?
Let us organise your pintxos tour, including the visit of the old city! We exactly know where to find the best pintxos.
Maybe you will also witness a pintxos competition. Yes, we have also some pintxos’ champions, both in the French and Spanish part!
At the beginning of May, Bayonne celebrates pintxos with Pintxos Eguna, when you can eat amazing pintxos for a low price.
There are so many kinds of pintxos recipes that I can’t give you only one recipe. In the book below you will find a selection of Basque pintxos recipes.
Due to our mountains and nature, we have a lot of herds in the Pyrenees mountains. As a result, the Basque Country cuisine is also famous for cheese.
Ewe cheese ardi gasna.
The main Basque cheese is Ardi-gasna: ewe cheese from raw milk, made in the “etxola” or sheepfold.
In France we also call it “fromage de brebis”.
They filter the ewe milk in a sheet then put it in a 30° cooking pot.
There is a long process I won’t detail. But once made, they keep the cheese in a “gasnategia”, a cold room, during 4-5 months, or more.
Some of the most famous ones are Ossau-Iraty, Roncal and Idiazabal (from the name of the valleys). But I find much more interesting to buy some in the Basque mountains during a hike! Or visit the magnificent traditional market in Tolosa on Saturday morning. You will find some very old cheese there, sometimes including insects!
Let us organise your visit to Tolosa market, followed by tapas in the best pintxos bar in the city!
The cheese listed below from Amazon comes from the Soule mountains, the most remote part of the French Basque Country, close to Bearn.
We eat Ardi-gasna with black cherry jam or chili jelly (French side). Spanish people eat it with nuts and quince jam.
Goat cheese in France is called “fromage de chêvre”.
It’s not a soft one like we use to eat in France. It’s more similar to ardi-gasna and often mixed with it.
Cow cheese here is prepared alone or mixed with ewe milk.
In France it’s called “fromage de vache”.
Basque Desserts and sweets.
Finally, Basque region food is also famous for its desserts and sweets. But I’m not sure you will still be able to eat something after such starters and main dishes!
Intxaursaltza is a sweet creamy nut soup from Spain.
Spaniards traditionally eat it on Christmas eve.
Kanouga is toffee with coffee, chocolate or hazelnut chantilly cream inside.
Saint Jean de Luz macaroons.
Saint Jean de Luz is also very famous for macaroons, that were created for King Louis XIV’s wedding in the town. Here is the recipe
Muxu is macaroon made with almonds. The Basque word “muxu” means kiss.
Gaztanbera or mamia basque.
Gaztanbera or mamia is a ewe curd we generally eat with honey.
Pettanmamia is an apple, cooked with curd and black cherry jam.
If you have read my article on the chocolate festival in Bayonne, you know it’s a speciality of Bayonne.
There’s an infinite variety of chocolate, but don’t forget to try the one with red chilly. Audacious but delicious!
Let us organise your tour during the chocolate fair in Bayonne. You will taste the best chocolate from the French capital of chocolate, wander in this beautiful canals city, learn about the story of Napoleon III, King Louis XIV and Victor Hugo in the Basque Country, etc. Tell me about your needs and guts through the contact form.
Basque cake, gâteau basque in French, is the most famous dessert of the French Basque food.
You will find everywhere “le Roi du gâteau basque” (the King of the Basque cake) or “le meilleur gâteau basque” (the best Basque cake).
We prepare the traditional one with black cherry jam, but cream is another possibility.
You will find a traditional Basque cake recipe on Euskoguide’s website.
Traditional Basque recipes book.
This Basque food recipes book is a bit different from the previous one as you will find some recipes from other parts of the Pyrenees. It’s also written by a Basque!
Recommended Basque cooking class.
You will find a lot of tours to try and cook the traditional Basque food on Get Your Guide website.
You need a flight to the Basque Country?
You can find an airport in Biarritz and San Sebastian (Hondarribia).
Epi’s Basque restaurant.
Living or travelling to Meridian USA? Don’t miss the iconic Epi’s Basque restaurant!
Basque food near me or Basque restaurant near me.
Do you know this tip? If you’re looking for a Basque restaurant near you and don’t know where to find one, simply type or say “Basque food near me” or “Basque restaurant near me” on Google! It will give you some addresses close to you.
Conclusion on Basque cuisine.
So now, you’re ready to enter a Basque restaurant and order the best Basque food from here!
Did you notice I added some traditional Basque Country recipes? Just click on the name of the food and you will be able to cook it by yourself.
I especially thank Eusko Guide Blog for their authentic Spanish recipes of marmitako.
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