The Way of Saint James is considered by many to be a culinary experience, and indeed it is. Each route passes through different regions, each with its own specialties. Over the years, our pilgrims have asked us for clarification on questions about the typical ones in this post. If you have other questions about the typical disher found on the Way of Saint James and what is the meaning of some terms. Therefore, we will answer the most typical ones in this post. If you have other questions about the gastronomy on the Camino do not hesitate to contact us, in Galiwonders we will be happy to help you!
9 questions about meals on the Way of St James
What is the Pilgrim’s Menu?
If you are doing the Camino de Santiago, you will notice that many restaurants advertise at their door the “Pilgrim’s Menu“. It is a basic menu, very oriented to pilgrims, which usually includes: starter, main course and dessert. The price is usually inexpensive (around 10€ per person). Most restaurants offer a choice of three alternatives (one of which is usually vegetarian).
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What does “Half Board” mean?
Most of our itineraries include “Half Board” most of the time. Breakfast and dinner are therefore included. Both breakfast and dinner can be seerved in the accommodation itself, or in an enclosed area (if the accommodation does not have a restaurant). Each day when you arrive, you will be informed about this at the hotel reception.
We don’t normally include lunch in our itineraries. Why not? Because the time for lunch does not usually coincide during the route. It is difficult to book a restaurant for lunch, because each pilgrim usually follows his or her own pace.
In this way, it is almost impossible to foresee an exact time of arrival. What we can include however is a picnic to take alog the way. A picnic usually includes a sandwich, a bottle of water, a piece of fruit, and something to snack on (nuts or potatoes).
Where can I eat on the Camino?
The answer depends of the route chosen. Normally, there are plenty of places to eat along the Camino. For example, if you are doing the French Way or the Portuguese Way, you will have no problem fnding restaurants and small supermarkets along the Camino, and even picnic areas if you prefer to buy something before leaving in the morning.
For those who choose a less popular route (such as the Primitive Way or the Vía de la Plata), it might be difficult to find restaurants on some of the stager, so we recommend buying something in the morning or the day before at the supermarket. Another option is to order a picnic to take away from accommodation (which will usually include a sandwich, drink, fruit and yoghurt).
What time are meals on the Camino?
Keep in mind that Spain has its own timetables as far as meals are concerned. Most likely each pilgrim will be accustomed to follow the schedules and traditions on their country in this regard. Therefore, you will have to adapt to a different routine.
Each hotel has its own timetable, which can be adaptad to a greater or lesser extent to the needs of the pilgrims. In any case, it is not usual for breakfast to be served before 7:30 AM, and it lasts until approximately 10:00 AM.
Breakfast is usually the most controversial meal of the Camino, as in Spain it is not so common to find cooked food as it is in other places such as Ireland, the UK or the US for example. Pilgrims from these countries, where breakfast is usually more abundant, can consider it a bit limited sometimes.
The most usual breakfast in Spain is the Continental, and it usually includes coffee, juice and pastries or toasts. You will also find the “reforzado” on the Camino (which literally means “reinforced”), and that’s basically the Continental with a couple of extras, such as ham, cheese and yogurt for example. That’s the one we typically book for our Pilgrims, as we understand a good breakfast will be needed to be ready for a long walking day.
The third option, is the buffet-style, with many different options to choose from: coffee, chocolate, tea, cereals, biscuits, cold meats, etc.
If you are staying on an Albergue, breakfast will not be included as a standard. Usually Pilgrims bring their own stuff and cook it in the common kitchens.
Lunch in Spain is usually served between 01:30 PM and 03:30 PM. During this time, pilgrims are usually in the middle of the Camino. But it is difficult to say for sure, as each person follows his or her own pace. There are usually stalls along the route, which serve food throughtout the day (at least sandwiches).
If you are doing any of the most walked routes (such as the French Way or the Portuguese Way) you will have no problem to find places on the way to have lunch. There are many restaurants and small supermarkets on route, and picnic areas if you want to buy some food before you leave each morning.
For those who decide to do any of the less walked routes (such as the Camino Primitivo or the Vía de la Plata for example), it could be a problem to find a restaurant some of the days, so we would recommend to buy something in the morning or the day before at the supermarket, or getting a lunch box at your accommodation (which typically includesÂ a sandwich, some snacks, water and yogurt).
As fas as schedules are concerned, dinner is usually the most conflictive meal of the day. It is a fact that in Spain dinner is usually served quite late compared to other places. It is not very common for dinner to be served before 09:00 PM(although restaurants on the Camino are usually flexible, and this timetable can be adapted in some cases), until approximately 11:00 PM.
Dinner is usually the most enjoyable meal of the day on the Camino, as it is the moment to enjoy really good food, relax, and share all the experiences of the day with other fellow Pilgrims.
In many places, you will see the “Menú del Peregrino” (Pilgrim’s set menu) which usually includes a starter, the main course and dessert. You will typically have three or more options to choose from (there’s usually a vegetarian option, but in case there isn’t or if you have any food intolerance, do not hesitate to check with them, they will be able to offer you alternatives).
We hope you found this article useful and that you enjoy, as much as we do, all the gastronomy along the Camino de Santiago.
If you are doing the Camino and you are used to a different timetable, it is understandable that you will be hungry when you arrive at your destination. But keep in mind that it is very difficult to find a restaurant serving dinner at 06:00 PM (something that is common in other countries).
Dinner is usually the meal of the day that is most enjoyed on the Camino, as for many it is the time to enjoy the delicious cuisine, relax and share experiences with other pilgrims. In addition, to fall asleep and also taste rich oenological proposal of Galicia, we invite you to try the different wines of denomination of origin of this community.
Will I be able to have breakfast if I leave very early in the morning?As mentioned above, breakfast in Spain is usually served between 07:30 Am and 10:00 AM. If you plan to leave very early in the morning, you will most likely have to wait for breakfast later in the day on the Camino. Some hotels usually leave something prepared for early risers (coffee, toast, pastries…). However, bear in mind that this is more a gesture of goodwill on the part of the hotel than something obligatory (many other establishments will stick to their schedule).
What does breakfast consist of?
Breakfast is usually the meal of the Camino that generates more controversy because, as many of you already know, in Spain it is not as common to find breakfast as abundant as in other countries such as Ireland, United Kingdom or United States for example. Pilgrims from these and other countries, accustomed to cooked and diverse breakfast, may consider our proposal a bit limited at times.
The most common breakfast in Galicia is the Continental, which normally includes coffee, juice and pastries or toast. On the Camino there is also usually a “reinforced” option, which is basically the Continental with some extras, sucj as cold meats, cheese and yoghurt. In Galiwonders we reserve this option whenever possible, as we believe that a good breakfast is vital to face a long day walking with energy.
The third option is the typical buffet breakfast, which usually has a wide selection of food to choose from: coffee, tea, cereals, biscuits, cold meats, etc. If you have chosen to stay in a hostel, it is likely that breakfast is not included. Pilgrims usually bring their own food, which they prepare in the communal kitchens.
Will I be able to eat on the Camino if I am vegetarian or vegan?
The Pilgrim’s Menu usually includes a vegetarian option in its offer. However, the vegan diet is still unknown in some areas of the Camino (especially in rural areas). If you are vegetarian or vegan, our recommendation is that you let us know at the time of booking. In this way, we will be able to inform the establishments so that they have an alternative available.
What if I have another type of dietary requirement?
Just like vegetarians or vegans, if you have any other dietary requirements, we recommend that you let us know in advance. For example, if you are gluten or lactose intolerant, or if you have any alergies.
Please note that most of the accommodation on the Camino is small family-run establishments, which may not be prepared if they are not notified in advance. If they are notified in advance, they will do their best to adapt to the dietary needs of each pilgrim.
What are the typical dishes of the Camino de Santiago?Of course, we can only answer this question with the Galician’s favourite word: ir depends! As there are so many different routes of the Way of Saint James, they run through multiple regions (the French Way alone, from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago, is over 800 km long). Each of them has its own specialities. Therefore, we are going to choose five typical dishes of the Camino:
Pulpo á feira:The most daring ones, will be delighted to try one of the most acclaimed dishes of the region, Pulpo a Feira, or octopus. It looks quite easy to cook but finding the correct point is the most difficult part and the job of the “pulpeiro” (the person in charge of preparing the octopus) is considered a real art and needs years of practice. After boiling the octopus, they add some olive oil, salt and paprika. It is served on a wooden plate, and eaten with a toothpick. If you do the French Way you can try it in Melide, a famous village for the preparation of this delicacy. Many pilgrims affirm that this is the plate they liked the most along the Way and that they would like to taste it again.
Potato omelette:this dish can be found on almost every menu along the Camino routes in Spain. Our recommendation? La Tita in Santiago de Compostela.
Empanada (Galician Pie)The main ingredients of this dough that can be filled with many different stuffings, are eggs and flour. We may find them filled with cod, tuna, octopus, sardines, meat, seafoods… it’s usually eaten as an appetizer or a starter, and in some places you may taste it as a free tapa with your drink. If you manage to try it, we strongly recommend you the “empanada de maiz” (made with corn flour) because the type of pastry is quite different than the normal one, a bit more crunchy. A real delight for the palate!
Galician brothit is very common to see Caldo Gallego (Galician broth) as a starter on Pilgrim’s Menus. This traditional soup contains turnip greens,potatoes, broad beans and some pork shoulder.
Tarta de Santiago:for breakfast or as a dessert… Any time is the perfect time to savour Tarta de Santiago!
Marisco (Seafood)Goose barnacles, spider crabs, scallops, clams, mussels, lobsters, langoustines, prawns… Galicia can be true heaven for those who love seafood, as varieties seem to be endless! The quality of our shellfish is appreciated all over the world, but also the great value for the money. Don’t leave Galicia without enjoying a delicious seafood platter! If you walk the Portuguese Coastal Way, you will be able to find many restaurants serving this delicious food, incredibly fresh. Some of these places celebrate famous festivals like the Lobster’s Festival in A Guarda or the Oyster Festival in Arcade. It can be quite an experience to go to the market of the cities you will cross and see how strong its importance in this region is. One of the most famous market you can visit, is the Santiago one, at Mercado de Abastos. You will enjoy the atmosphere and will be able to taste some fresh food and local wine while relaxing in this market full of life!
Peppers of Padrón (little green peppers)The green peppers of Padrón, (a small village along the Portuguese Way) are very famous not only in Galicia but in all Spain. There is a saying in Galician language “pimientos de Padrón unos pican y otros non” which means, “the peppers of Padrón, some are spicy some are not”. You can always get a “hot” surprise and get one or more small spicy peppers, but they are so delicious that the risk is worth the reward. Most of them are sweet and very tasty, prepared in a very simple way, quickly fried and sprinkled with rock salt. Enjoy!
Galician meat (Beef and pork)For those who are truly hungry, the churrasco is a meat feast: ribs of pork and beef, chorizo… all cooked on the grill, served with chips, salad and “chimichurri sauce“. You will probably see a lot of commensals enjoying a good plate of churrasco, a chuleta or chuletón, (t-bone steak) on the beach bars, during summer season! As you can see, both meat and fish lovers can find many options to satisfy their appetite. After a long day of walk, get some rest and enjoy the best of Galician cuisine! Obviously there are many other delicious plates that you can try along your Way such as the caldo gallego (special soup of this region), the cocido (boiled pork meat with potatoes and chickpeas), the different cheeses of this region (tetilla cheese, Arzúa cheese), the tortilla of potatoes, the Santiago cake, the filloas (like thin crepes), the flan, ect. Check out for the dish of the day and try to taste many different specialities along your Way. To accompany your meals, we can’t forget the wines of the Denominations of Origin and the many liquors (herbs, coffee, ect.). We hope you found this brief list of interest, and if you have something to add about your own experience on the Way, please leave a comment below. Feel free to contact us to receive an itinerary for your Camino de Santiago and Buen Camino!
Tastes of the Camino: Camino de Santiago recipes book
If you are looking to bring back home all the gastronomy of the Camino de Santiago, here you have Tastes of the Camino, written by Yosmar Monique Martinez.
Today we are interviewing Yosmar Monique Martinez. As a publisher and culinary instructor, she states that anyone could create a memorable meal with the correct ingredients and guidance. She has always been fascinated by gastronomy with an open mind, as she lived in four different countries. In fact, this passion lead hear to study at the prestigious culinary school Le Cordon Bleu, in Paris. This was just the beginning of her large professional experience in gastronomy, that she likes to combine with travels.
And this is how she became familiar with the Camino de Santiago and the origin of her cookbook: Tastes of the Camino. Let’s learn a bit more about her experience.
-How many times have you walked the Camino de Santiago, and which routes did you choose?
I’ve walked the Camino four times, twice from Saint Jean Pied de Port, once from Porto and once from the Sanabrés. The first three times I walked with my mother, who was 69, 71 and 72 years old. The last time I walked with a good friend.
-How was your experience with the “Menú del Peregrino“?
I’ve eaten many menu de peregrinos and some recipes in my book were inspired by these menus. The menu de peregrinos are simple but homey food, often made with caring, and that is all you want at the end of a long and tiring day of walking
-What motivated to write a book about food on the Camino de Santiago?
I have culinary training and a passion for food! So anytime I travel I like to learn about the foods of a country and make them at home. In addition, I have Spanish heritage, so it was lovely to learn more about foods I often took for granted. When I got back to the United States, all my pilgrim friends would ask if had a recipe for one dish or another. Therefore, I decided to write a cookbook. As I was not doing this full time, it took me two years to develop the recipes, test them and write the manuscript. Then it took me another 10 months to produce the book. I self-published the book which meant I had to learn everything. It was a lot of work but it was an amazing experience from which I learned and grew a lot.
-Is Spanish gastronomy popular in your country?
Spanish gastronomy has grown a lot in popularity in the United States in the last 15-20 years and the concept of tapas has spread to other types of cuisines as well.
It is really hard to pick only three but I would say:
Paella & Fideúa
Tarta de Santiago
-Any restaurant you can recommend on the Camino de Santiago?
Along the Camino de Santiago, there were many bars and restaurants that I enjoyed. Some were simple and others were a bit more upscale. But here are some that were really nice:
Patisserie Chez Monique in St. Jean Pied de Port (great gateau basque)
Hotel Akerreta in Akerreta (I think they only serve overnight guests)
Palacio de Las Pujadas in Viana
Bar La Fontana in Logroño
Los Parrales in Najera
Meson El Cid in Burgos
Bar la Piedra in Santo Domingo de La Calzada
El Resbalon in Carrion de Los Condes
Casa Angeles in Hospital de Orbigo
Casa Maragata in Astorga
Casa La Moncloa in Cacabelos
Panaderia Artesanal in Vega de Valcarce ( I love their empanadas Gallega)
Pulperia Tera Nosa in Palas de Rei (excellent tortilla!)
Pulperia Garnacha in Melide
Panaderia Luis Mella in Silleda on the Camino Sanabres (wonderful empanadas!)
In Santiago, I like Taberna do Bispo and Maria Castaña for a simple, casual meal. For a bit refined, I like San Clemente, O Dezesseis, and Casa Marcelo. I also love the mercado de Abastos!
Finally, in Negreira, I really enjoy Casa O Barqueiro… the food is phenomenal!
-What will readers find on your book that is different to any other cookbook?
Tastes of the Camino is different from other cookbooks in the sense that it is not organized by type of course. Rather it is laid out in the order which I travelled. So the first couple of recipes were recipes from the French Basques country, the next ones were from Navarra, followed by Rioja, Castilla y Leon, and Galicia. By laying out the book in this order, I was able to take the readers with me on my Camino while giving them a gastronomical insight into reach region I walked through.
The book, Tastes of the Camino is available on Amazon and the author’s website: www.whiskandspatula.com/books. Books purchased on her website come signed by the author.
We hope you have found this article useful and that you can enjoy, as much as we do, the gastronomy of the Way of Saint James. If you have any questions regarding meals on the Way of Saint James or have something you would like to add, do not hesitate to leave a comment or contact us, we will respond as soon as possible!