Gastronomy in all the Canary Islands is very similar, with some highlights in each of the islands. Traditional gastronomy has been shaped by the history of the islands, and this means long periods of poverty in which food was scarce. But it also implied imagination and, we should not forget this, an important relationship with South America. In this post we want to provide you with a tour to discover food, wines and gastronomy in Tenerife. ¡Salud!
The most typical dishes in Tenerife are papas arrugadas, ropa vieja, goat cheese and gofio. We will cover these dishes and some other local speciliaties. If you want to learn more about Spanish gastronomy and regional differences we recommend you our gastronomy post.
Let´s start with Gofio. First of all, what is Gofio Canario? It is basically roasted maize. We could argue that everybody in the Canary islands eats Gofio, it is part of the DNA of the islands. A fact is that for centuries Gofio was almost the only food available. It is referred to as “El pan de los canarios” (the bread of Canarians).
Gofio can be found in many different dishes and is served as a starter, a side-dish or even as a dessert. Imagination has had no limits with Gofio and you may well find it for breakfast mixed with milk, or as a vegetable starter mixed with vegetables, or mashed with bananas. But this is not all, don´t be surprised if you find Gofio icecreams, gofio mouse and even a gofio liquor!
Ropa vieja is the name of the famous traditional Canarian stew. Ropa vieja literally means “old clothes”. The base of this stew is pretty humble: to prepare it the remaining of the previous day’s food is used (this was the case traditionally, though today´s reality uses the recipes, the base may not be from the previous day). Add chick-peas, some other vegetables, and meat plus the day´s before leftovers and the outcome is ropa vieja. You will enjoy ropa vieja at its best at Guajinches and it is worth trying ropa vieja many times since you will discover everybody has a recipe for it and no two ropa vieja dishes are the same!
When potato arrived from Peru a “culinary revolution” took place not just in the Canary Islands but all over Europe. Potato brought an important ingredient to fight famines. In Tenerife, you will find “papas arrugadas” everywhere. The exact translation is “wrinkly potatoes” Papa is a word from the Canary Islands and not used in the rest of Spain to refer to potatoes. Papas arrugadas are small size potatoes, boiled in their skin with lots of salt. They are normally served with the Canarian typical sauce: mojo.
The mojo picon is the traditional sauce from the canary islands. You will find both red and green mojo (it is made with green or red peppers and coriander) Mojo is very tasty, and it is used to accompany not just papas arrugadas, but all sort of fish and meat dishes.
Local goat cheese baked in the oven and usually served with mojo and a palm honey. This is a typical tapas dish in Tenerife and it can also serve as a starter.
If you enjoy fish Tenerife is a great place for sure! You may have booked an all inclusive hotel or half board accommodation. No matter how you travel we would strongly recommend you find time to enjoy a meal at a restaurant specialised in fish. It is usually very fresh and you can find fish you may have not tasted before. Navigating a fish menu may not be easy though since local names are not very common.
Cherne is one of the most common fish. It is a white fish similar to grouper fish. You may find it translated as sea bass sometimes. It is not that! Vieja is another typical fish in Tenerife, it is a parrotfish. You will also find Tollos, which is some sort of small shark.
A good option if you want to try a fish dish is a Cazuela de pescado. Cherne is normally used in these cazuelas.
Ropa vieja is most frequently served stew, but you will also find many dishes with rabbit and goat meat stews. You will also be able to find steaks served alonmg with papas arrugadas and mojo sauce.
Tinerfeños love to end their meals with a sweet treat. There are a good number of local desserts that are worth trying. The most famous ones are these: Quesillo. This is a pudding made with eggs and condensed milk. Bienmesabe is made with almonds, eggs, and sometimes a bit of wine. Principe Alberto is another famous dessert. It is the local version of Tiramisu. Gofio Mousse is the “sweet version” of Gofio. Last but not least, Truchas. This has nothing to do with the trout fish. They are sweet pastries prepared with sweet potato and almonds.
People from Tenerife are proud about their wines. Local producers will mention during a wine tour that Shakespare mentioned the wines of Malvasia from Tenerife in his plays.
The arrival of Spaniards to Tenerife brought along grapes and wine and Malvasia became very popular during the XVI century in Europe.
There are several reasons why wines are special in Tenerife. Let´s focus on three of them: the island is not flat and vineyards are found in mountain terraces where machines cannot be used. This basically implies low yields and hand grape picking.
Some of the grapes in Tenerife like Listan Negro have almost disappeared elsewhere. The isolation of the Canary islands at the time of the philoxera plague contributed to the preservation of these vineyards and that implies very old vines.
Last but not least, the volcanic soils provide a very peculiar style of wines.
The most important wine regions are located in the north, neat La Oratava and Tacoronte.
Guachinches are the best way to try local food from Tenerife in a truly traditional environment and at excellent prices. If you stay at a hotel or only go to restaurants in resort areas in the island you will be for sure missing the truly gastronomic experience Tenerife offers.
A Guachinche is a local wine producer that serves food. Local wine producers did not find it easy to sell their wines and in order to foster direct wine sales they initiated to offer food as part of their overall proposal.
Guachinches are not opened all year round, and they have a very limited menu. As a matter of fact most Guachinches do not have a written menu available and you would need to pay attention to the waiter when he share the “daily specials”.
Guachinches are located in Tenerife there where wine is produced: the Northern part of the island. You will find most Guachinches from Tacoronte to the valley of La Oratava.
What can you expect to eat at a Guachinche? Typical dishes include ropa vieja, fried goat cheese, papas with mojo, chorizo and fried eggs and rabbit sauces.