The ultimate food lovers’ guide to Tenerife
Now, more than ever before, food plays a massive role when choosing where to travel, whether it’s in looking at the local cuisine or making sure the hotel places gastronomy among its highlights.Okay, imagine this: someone asks you to recommend the perfect destination for food lovers. What would you say? It’s a fair assumption to make that typical answers would include places such as France (especially Paris), Italy and maybe even Japan, right?
Well, for anyone who’s truly explored Tenerife’s gastronomy, their answer would almost certainly be different.
Here’s the thing that still far too few people know: Right now, Tenerife has one of the most exciting culinary scenes going! Our unique volcanic soil, ideal climate and geographical location, combined with the expertise of some seriously creative chefs, mean that here you can sample some of the finest food imaginable.
Case in point: Tenerife is home to no less than 5 Michelin starred restaurants. (See below)
What happens all too often, is that people come and go without ever giving local cuisine a chance. Just as you wouldn’t consider visiting Italy and not trying the pizza, gelato, pasta or tiramisu, the same really should apply to Tenerife – yet so often doesn’t.
After all, what better way to learn more about a culture and its history than through the aromas, textures and flavours of its gastronomy? Tenerife and the Canary Islands in general offers a rather unique take on Spanish cuisine, the result of important culinary influences from both nearby Africa and South America, where many Canarians emigrated to in the past – especially Venezuela – and where a large number of residents living on the islands today have migrated from. Over the years, this myriad of cultural influences has forged a completely new style of cuisine, which is what makes Tenerife gastronomy so special, and so delicious!
Words like puchero, mojo, quesillo, barraquito, may all seem very random and meaningless right now, but that will soon change of you follow our advice!
Fish and meat: the undisputed stars of Tenerife’s cuisine. But the fruit and vegetables are not to be missed either!
It goes without saying that Tenerife is almost unbeatable when it comes to offering the freshest, most delicious fish and seafood. The best known coastal towns and villages for an unforgettable fish meal include La Caleta, Los Abrigos, Tajao, Garachico and San Andrés, where boats deliver the catch of the day in the morning and it’s a first come, first served basis for diners to choose what they’d like, so get there early! For the healthiest options, avoid deep fried things such as calamares and chipirones (whole baby squid) and go for grilled or boiled alternatives such as chocos a la plancha (grilled cuttlefish), vieja (parrot fish), pargo (snapper), dorada (sea bream), or pulpo octopus. Lapas (limpets) are also a local specialty worth trying if you’re into seafood, as is atún en adobo, marinated tuna steak.
Meat lovers are also well catered for. Pork is especially popular in Tenerife, particularly cochino negro (black pig), an indigenous type of pig bred here in the Canaries, fed exclusively on acorns. The meat is exquisite in both flavour and texture. Other popular pork dishes include carne fiesta, which are chunks of marinated pork, fried and served with potatoes. Goat (carne de cabra) is another local favourite, cooked in chunks until the meat is tender and melt-in-the-mouth.
And then there are the fruit and vegetables…packed with flavour, produced locally by family run farms and benefitting from the year-round sunshine and perfect growing conditions, you may well discover that you’ve never really tasted a mango until you’ve tried one here.
When it comes to food and drink, there are two ways to approach your visit to Tenerife. One is to think “I’m on holiday, to hell with the diet, I’m here to indulge”, which is a perfectly normal response to a much-awaited holiday and, truth be told, the one we’re strong advocates for. Or, you may fall into the second category of those who genuinely enjoy healthy eating and want to keep it that way, give or take an ice cream or mojito here and there.
If you really want to taste everything Tenerife has to offer, here are our top 9 food and drink suggestions:
Typically, you might expect the first thing we say to be the quintessential little salted potatoes with green and red sauces. We’ll get to them later. No, the first thing we’re going to suggest you try is most definitely our cheese. Canarians take their cheese very seriously. In fact, they are the biggest consumers per capita in the whole of Spain, eating close to double the national average. “Why have I never heard of Canarian cheeses before?” you may be asking yourself. Well, you’ll find it very hard to get your hands on any of the hundreds of varieties outside of the islands. That’s due to two main reasons: production is small, mainly on local family farms. Secondly, demand is high. In other words, the aim is not to export it, rather to enjoy it locally. Internationally, though, Canarian cheeses are well-known, and have won countless medals in the World Cheese Awards over the past decade or so. As an example, in 2018, during a record-breaking competition that saw 3,500 cheeses from all around the world being judged by an international panel of 230 experts from 29 countries, the Canaries brought home 35 medals: 2 Super Golds, 7 Golds, 11 Silver, and 15 Bronze medals! The majority are made from local goats’ milk, others are a combination of goat and sheep milk, and a few include cow’s milk. Varieties include fresh, semi mature, mature and smoked cheeses, which are often coated in paprika, gofio (a local cereal), truffle or even red wine.
A barraquito coffee
Forget about your fancy order of a non-fat, double-shot, wet cappuccino with caramel syrup and whipped cream. Coffee in Tenerife basically boils down to espresso, milky coffee or a cortado, a smaller, stronger version of the café con leche. Most places are slowly starting to offer at least soya milk as a non-dairy alternative, but generally speaking, it’s still full fat milk all the way. If you really want to go native with your coffee while you’re here, try a barraquito. This very original combination of layers of espresso coffee, condensed milk, steamed milk, cinnamon, lemon peel and a generous shot of Licor 43 is as photo-worthy as any coffee you’ll find at an unnamed, overpriced global chain. The alcohol is optional (but much better with) and yes, it’s packs quite a punch of both caffeine and sugar, but it certainly beats a boring old white coffee…
Canarian potatoes with red and green mojo sauces
Yes, the famous papas arrugadas con mojo. Tasty, cheap and easy to make, they’re a Canarian staple. These delicious little potatoes are boiled, skin on, in heavily salted water, then served with a generous helping of either mojo verde (green) or rojo/picón (red). The green mojo is a tasty blend of garlic, coriander, vinegar and olive oil, while the red version is a spicy alternative that includes red peppers, cumin, salt, vinegar, garlic and oil. No two restaurants have identical mojos, everyone has their own little secret ingredients and variations, but they really are scrumptious. This is authentic, rustic food at its best.
Adeje’s spicy chicken
The historic village of Adeje in South Tenerife has become something of a mecca for fried chicken lovers. Home to Restaurante Oasis, Bodegón Damary, Otelo and El Corral de Pollo, among others, this now legendary dish of succulent, crispy, fried, garlicky, spicy chicken thighs and drumsticks is not to be missed. Los pollos de Adeje, which literally means “Adeje’s chickens” is an island-wide classic, drawing in locals and visitors from far and wide. Simple yet exquisite, each restaurant has their own particular recipe; some come with more sauce poured over, others serve the chicken crispier and without the added sauce. Choose chips or Canarian potatoes and a bit of salad and you’ve got everything you need. Otelo’s at the very top of Adeje village also offers spectacular views of Hell’s Gorge (Barranco del Infierno) and all the way down across the coast. The restaurants are rustic, family run, slightly chaotic and as unpretentious as it gets. But the portions are huge, the prices unbeatable and the chicken if finger-lickingly good. Watch and learn, KFC.
There’s nouvelle cuisine and then there’s good old-fashioned food like Granny used to make. Puchero is the latter. Granted, you may not feel like it in the heat, but this mouth-watering plate of locally grown fresh vegetables (pumpkin, cabbage, sweet potato, carrots, marrow, green beans, potatoes, etc.) cooked in their own stock with chickpeas and occasionally a piece of chorizo, belly pork or beef, is absolutely divine. To taste it at its best, drizzle some vinegar and olive oil over it. And to eat the puchero to beat all pucheros, head to family-fun restaurant Casa Pedro, better known as Casa Pedro el Crusantero, in Santa Ursula in the north of Tenerife. Run by Domingo and Francisca Gonzalez, whose grandfather, Pedro (no surprises there) first opened the restaurant in 1973, there are other typical and equally tasty local specialities on the menu (which is a blackboard, there are no actual menus). Healthy, tasty, simple and unpretentious, it’s Tenerife on a plate.
They make wine in Tenerife? Hell yeah! And damned good wine, too! First-time visitors to Tenerife might be pleasantly surprised to learn that the Canary Islands produce some seriously excellent wines. So good, in fact, that the reason you won’t have seen these wines in your local supermarkets at home, is because local demand is so strong that very little gets exported off the islands. In other words, we drink it all here. But Tenerife’s wine production isn’t a new thing. Not at all. It goes a long, long way back. Wine exportation has actually been going for centuries. In fact, it goes further back than even Shakespeare, who actually mentioned it in two of his plays, referring to it as simply “Canary” or “Canary sack”. It’s fair to say the quality of wine has improved beyond recognition over the years. What makes Tenerife wine so unique is, to cut a long story short, the climate. Or, to be more correct, the many unique micro-climates that are found all over Tenerife and the Canaries as a whole, which combine sunshine, warmth, a variety of volcanic soils, a subtropical location, trade winds and humidity from the Atlantic Ocean. The other really interesting thing about winemaking here is the enormous amount of grape varieties. Forget the best-known international varieties, or even the most popular mainland types. Here the main grapes are Listán Blanco and Listán Negro (Palomino) but there are many others also cultivated.
With 5 protected denominations of origin on the island, producing high-quality varieties that benefit from almost unbeatable grape-growing conditions, rest assured that there really is the perfect red, white and rosé for everyone!
Better still, why not partake in a bit of wine tourism while you’re here? From guided tours around local bodegas (which, of course, include wine tasting) to a visit to the Casa de Vino wine museum, you can discover the fascinating story behind the Canary Islands’ winemaking and get a little merry in the process. Cheers!
Here’s a cool little fact for you: In the late 19th century, when the vine louse plague epidemic (phylloxera) destroyed most of the vineyards throughout Europe, their geographical isolation meant that the Canaries were completely unaffected. What does this mean? That today, the Canaries boast the more native grape varieties belonging to the ancient European vine strains than anywhere else. Most vines here are ungrafted, which means they can be up to 100 years old!
If you’re only encounter with croquettes up to now has been the frozen potato variety, fasten your seatbelt: you’re in for a wild ride! There seems to be no limits as to what can be put in croquettes or croquetas here: mushrooms, spinach, cod, tuna, ham, chicken, squid ink, cuttlefish, carrot, cheese; you name it. Freshly made, deep fried and often served with alioli, they are the gastronomic equivalent of the overlooked amateur football team that finally earned their place in the Champions League.
One of the main reasons to try this dish is its name: it’s not every day you can take a photo of yourself tucking into a plate of food whose name, translated, literally means “Old Clothes”! We’re guessing the moniker comes from using leftovers, but it’s a curious title nonetheless. One of the most popular dishes among locals, the preparation of “ropa vieja” is actually quite time consuming. The dish consists of chickpeas, chicken meat, potatoes, white wine and, it goes without saying, plenty of spices. Traditional, filling and full of flavour, it’s comfort food at its best.
Fresh fruit aside, desserts in Tenerife are often tooth-achingly sweet and, more often than not, contain a generous amount of condensed milk. Of all the typical local ones to try, our number one choice would be quesillo. Very similar to its Venezuelan counterpart, it’s a denser, more flavoursome version of a custard flan, made using eggs and, yes, you guessed it, condensed milk. Perfect for sharing between two or even three people, it often comes served with cream, because, well, why do things half-heartedly?
Others to watch out for:
*The famous plátano canario
Before tourism, it was the humble Canarian banana that was responsible for the economic growth of the region for centuries. Although many plantations were removed in the south of the island to make way for hotels, there are still many swathes of green clearly visible dotted around the landscape, which are where these delicious bananas are still produced and exported today. Smaller, denser and sweeter than their Caribbean counterparts, they are a vital part of the islands’ identity and taste great too!
*Potatoes, in all their forms.
Potatoes (called papas in Canarian Spanish) are really the star product of Tenerife’s cuisine – you can find over 40 varieties of potato grown here – more than anywhere else in Europe! Types include the papa negra (“black potato”), the tiny papa bonita meaning (“beautiful potato”) and azucena, plus several more. You can even do a potato tasting menu!
A special note to those looking for vegan food:
The terms “veganism” and “Spanish cuisine” are not, it’s true, a marriage made in heaven. As a nation, Spain’s dishes are still strongly biased towards the use of animal products and the Canaries are no different in that respect. Vegetarians have plenty of options and unless you go to specifically vegan restaurants, it can be quite complicated for vegans, but things are improving, and very quickly.
Meanwhile, there are the padrón peppers, the wrinkled potatoes, gazpacho of course, delicious fresh salads and dishes such as escaldón which, if you request it, can be made with vegetable stock. Click here for our blog dedicated to vegetarian and vegan eating in Tenerife.
Tenerife’s gastronomic revolution – a star-studded dining experience!
If the food that excited you is more vanguard, haute-cuisine than rustic, cheap and cheerful, we hear you. The good news: Tenerife currently boasts five Michelin-starred restaurants, reflecting the enormous improvement both in the quality and creativity of the local gastronomy, noticeable in establishments all across the island. This is largely thanks to the talent and enthusiasm of a new generation of highly skilled chefs, which is seeing Tenerife become a genuine paradise for foodies.
The even better news: They are all open to the public, even those located in hotels. So, spend at least a week on the island and there’s no reason why you couldn’t try them all! If do you fancy a Michelin-star dining experience, here are the five restaurants to choose from:
El Rincón de Juan Carlos *
Modern Canarian cuisine doesn’t get any better than that found at what’s frequently referred to as the best restaurant in the whole of Tenerife, El Rincón de Juan Carlos. Despite its rather out-of-the-way location, this charming family-run restaurant in Los Gigantes offers an out-of-this-world experience at the hands of Canarian Chef Juan Carlos and his brother, Jonathan, while María José and Raquel, wives of the brothers and themselves impressive wine experts, offer a friendly, first-class service. The foundation for the menu is the finest local ingredients, but the food that the brothers go on to create, both visually and with regards to flavours and textures, is nothing short of mind-blowing. This is a gastronomic experience you will never forget, an embodiment of the term “Tenerife’s gastronomic revolution”.
You’d be right to expect truly remarkable taste sensations at legendary chef Martín Berasategui’s MB restaurant in Guia de Isora. In fact, no matter how high your expectations, chances are they will be comfortably exceeded. Sumptuous surroundings and a diverse tasting menu make MB a must for the most devoted of foodies, who will know that Martin currently holds an incredible 10 Michelin stars, more than any other chef in Spain. If the gastronomic experience of a lifetime isn’t found here, it isn’t anywhere. Martin really does put the oooh in food.
Enjoy a sublime fusion of Japanese and Western cuisine in the most glorious surroundings, overlooking the golf course at the Ritz-Carlton, Abama and out across to La Gomera. The tasting menu offers you the change to try several exquisite dishes, all taking the finest Canarian ingredients and transforming them into gastronomic homages to Japan.
Hidden away in a tiny street in the capital Santa Cruz, Kazan’s discreet entrance belies the gastronomic wizardry that takes place behind its doors. It may seem somewhat bizarre that Tenerife is home to two Michelin-starred Japanese restaurants, but no doubt the quality of the local fish and seafood plays an important role there. No matter how good the chef may be (and definitely is, in this case), the quality of the fish is everything when it comes to creating sashimis and tartares of this stratospheric level. Enjoy the exquisite, delicate flavours of Japan in a very zen atmosphere, and wash it down with the finest sake.
The newest addition to the Michelin family, Nub in La Laguna combines the extraordinary talent of the husband-and-wife team made up of chefs Fernanda Fuentes (from Chile) and Italian Andrea Bernardi with the finest local produce to create spectacular results that offer diners the chance to embark on a journey of the senses through Tenerife, Chile and Italy.
Admit it, the list of reasons to visit our fabulous islands just keeps on growing…