A Local Foodie’s Guide to Canarian Cuisine
Are you a real foodie? Do you always want to try out local foods when you travel?
Then this blog post is the perfect guide for traveling to Tenerife. We will guide you through the most famous Canarian dishes so that you know exactly what to order. You will also get a complete overview of the 20 best traditional Canarian restaurants, with a special section about traditional Canarian restaurants called Guachinches.
1. Discover traditional Canarian food
Canarian cuisine is a blend of various cultures. It has a long history, starting with the eating habits of the island’s original inhabitants, mixed with the influences of the 20th-century Canarian migrants who traveled between the Canary islands and Latin America. Its fertile volcanic soil and proximity to the ocean make Tenerife the perfect place to enjoy delicious traditional Canarian food.
2. Famous dishes of Tenerife
Tenerife’s many bars, cafés, and restaurants are a real treat for foodies. There is something for everyone, from fast-food restaurants to Michelin-star restaurants with cuisines worldwide. But if you want to try something typical Canarian, you cannot miss out on the following 17 dishes.
2.1 Mojo Verde, Mojo Rojo
Mojo sauce is as traditional as it can get in the Canary Islands. It’s paired with just about everything. There are several versions of mojo sauce, but the two most common are mojo Rojo (made from red pepper and garlic) and mojo Verde (made from coriander and parsley).
2.2. Papas Arrugadas (Wrinkled potatoes)
Potatoes, or “papas” as they are known in Spain, hold a special place in the local diet. These “wrinkled potatoes” are boiled in sea salt water for around 30 minutes before being roasted to wrinkle the skin and create a salt crusting. The dish is usually served with mojo sauces.
Even though potatoes are common almost everywhere in the world, here in the Canary Islands, they are famous for their rich flavor, thanks to the volcanic soil. Instead of choosing the usual “papas fritas”, you should give these wrinkled potatoes a go while in Tenerife.
2.3 Rancho Canario
Rancho Canario is a tasteful thick noodle soup with chicken, pork, chickpeas, vegetables, and potatoes.
2.4 Ropa Vieja
Ropa Vieja is a trendy Cuban dish. The version in Tenerife is quite different, with chickpeas as the main ingredient. You can add leftover meat – sausages, beef, chicken – or use odd cuts of meat like trotters or ribs. The stew is well seasoned with different herbs and spices.
This dish is typically served at family dinners and has many variations that inspire heated restaurant competition.
2.5 Cochino negro
You can find pork on every traditional Canarian menu, even though you see more goats on the island than pigs. People believe many pigs existed before the conquistadors arrived on the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands even have a special breed called cochino negro. Cochino negro is becoming increasingly popular on menus, and it comes in various forms.
2.6 Carne Fiesta Canarias
Carne Fiesta Canarias is one of the most famous Tenerife dishes. The pork is cut into small squares and marinated in a special sauce for a few hours. Then it’s put onto a skewer, mixed with vegetables, and grilled. It’s delicious and served with papas fritas or papas arrugadas, the Canarian wrinkled potatoes.
2.7 Carne de cabra
Goat is one of the must-try meats of the Canary Islands, and you can find it on most traditional menus. There’s even a place on Fuerteventura where almost everything on the menu is a goat (goat burgers, goat meatballs, goat lasagne). However, goat isn’t for everyone because the taste is much stronger than many other types of meat. It usually comes buried under a mountain of chips.
2.8 Cazuela de Pescado (fish casserole)
Instead of eating paella, you should try cazuela de pescado. It is the perfect way to try local fish that is not fried or grilled. The type of fish and seafood used in cazuelas can vary, but cherne is best. The meaty counterpart is called puchero.
Cherne is one of the most common fish in Tenerife. It is a large deep-water white fish. Cherne is often grilled, mildly flavored, and meaty, making it an excellent fish even if seafood “isn’t your thing.”
2.10 Conejo al salmorejo
This rabbit stew with a lot of paprika is very popular in Tenerife. The rabbit meat is first marinated overnight in oil, wine, vinegar, paprika, chili pepper, garlic, vinegar, and herbs like rosemary and thyme. The next day, the meat is fried before being simmered with the sauce over low heat.
If you visit the Canary Islands at Christmas, there’s a high chance you’ll encounter Baifo, which is the name for a young goat. This dish is made from goat meat marinated in various herbs, including oregano, bay leaves, thyme, and generous amounts of garlic.
2.12 Adobo de cerdo
Ready for a taste of bacon? Adobo de cerdo is the shoulder of pork in a rich, spicy sauce. The sauce or ‘adobo’ is a tasty marinade of paprika, oregano, garlic, salt, and some sherry vinegar. The slow-cooked pork meat is so tender it falls off the bone.
2.13 Arroz a la Cubana
Banana is the main crop in Tenerife and is one of the critical ingredients in Arroz a la Cubana. This dish is allegedly borrowed from Cuba (although many Cubans are unaware of it). It consists of rice, sausage, fried egg, and one or two fried bananas. It is quick to make, healthy, and delicious.
You will likely hear the term gofio often when talking to local foodies. It’s a legacy left by the Guanche people (the native inhabitants). Gofio is flour made with toasted grains – most commonly from million (sweet corn).
Gofio is eaten throughout the islands. Hotels usually have a large bowl of gofio flour next to the cereals so people can sprinkle it on their cereal or eat it in milk. Restaurants use gofio in many dishes too. It’s often used in a dish called escaldón (gofio mixed with fish broth). Gofio is also very popular in desserts, such as gofio mousse, gofio ice cream, and gofio chocolate.
2.15 Sancocho canario
Fish is one of the most traditional dishes you can eat on the island of eternal spring. Sancocho Canario is a typical fish eaten on Good Friday. Sancocho usually means stew or thick soup, particularly in Latin America. But in the Canary Islands, the dish is presented without much gravy. This dish is made with preserved and salted fish. The fish has to be desalinated for 24 hours. After this, it is boiled on a low fire with potatoes and served with your favorite mojo sauce.
2.16 Queso de cabra (goat cheese)
It is said that the residents of the Canary Islands consume more cheese per person per year than in other parts of Spain. So if you are on the island, try a few local cheeses.
‘Fresco’ (fresh) goat cheese is the most common here. This cheese is only a few days old and has a soft taste. Cured and smoked cheeses are also trendy in Tenerife. They usually come from farms around Anaga. Some of the dairy farmers cover the cheese with pepper or Gofio. You can order fresh, grilled (queso a la plancha), or fried (queso asado), accompanied by your preferred mojo sauce.
What’s not to love about a dessert translated as “tastes good to me”? Dip your spoon into a bowl of Bienmesabe – a sweet, soft puree made with ground almonds, egg yolk, sugar, lemon zest, and cinnamon – and enjoy. It is usually served with cream or ice cream.
3. The 10 best restaurants in Tenerife
Do you want to eat like a real Canarian? Then you cannot miss out on Restaurante La Casona del Vino when visiting Tenerife. This remote restaurant is a well-kept secret amongst the locals of Tenerife. Tourists who discover this hidden gem are guaranteed to come back here!
At first glance, the menu, with typical Canarian/Spanish dishes, doesn’t seem special. However, the unique blend of spices passed down from generation to generation makes the words unique.
The showpiece of Taberna Marinera Agua y Sal is fish, which is freshly caught daily. You can choose the fish you want to eat yourself from the large displays and from the fish tanks where live crabs and lobsters are kept. The restaurant has a large terrace. The fish tanks, the nautical decorations, and the fresh sea breeze let you enjoy the whole experience of dining in this small fishing village.
The restaurant is very family friendly with a particular area for children. While the children play to their heart’s content, parents can relax and enjoy delicious seafood and local wine.
Don’t be fooled by the size of this restaurant. It may look small, but Restaurante San Diego has an extensive menu with something from everyone.
Local wines, typical Canarian dishes, a cozy setting, and friendly staff. What more do you need? We recommend sitting on one of the tables in the front. They have a stunning ocean view.
La tasquita de Mami is a family-run restaurant that serves authentic Canarian food with a modern twist. If you have a sweet tooth, you surely won’t be able to resist the desserts. We can recommend chocolate coulant, tarta de mami and the milhoja.
3.6 El Camino
This cozy restaurant in Puerto de la Cruz is located on stairs leading down to the beach. The shared tapas are a perfect option if you are with friends or family. You get different small dishes, bread, and the day’s sauce. The portions are pretty generous, so you can easily share the tapas for three people with four. Finish your meal with a traditional barraquito, and your experience in this restaurant will be one to remember.
If you are looking for typical Canarian food, freshly caught fish, papas arrugadas with a delicious mojo, and a sweet wine look no further. Bodegón Mojo Picón is the place to be for you. We can recommend the stewed and fried octopus paired with the Mojo Picón. High quality but low prices!
This restaurant is a bit harder to find, but worth the effort. Here, you can choose the fish and the preparation method yourself. A must-try is the Frangolo, a typical Canarian dessert with ground millet flour as the main ingredient. It does not have a lot of sugar, so it is not very sweet and is usually served with a bit of honey or palm syrup.
Do you like to fish? Then you should stop here! This restaurant serves freshly caught fish every day. Make sure to leave some room for the dessert, seeing they do an irresistible milhoja here.
3.10 Tasca la Carambola
This family-run restaurant in El Sauzal is worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood. Be careful not to order too much because the portions are enormous.
4. Dine like a local in a Guachinche
What is a Guachinche?
If you want an authentic Canarian dinner experience, go to a guachinche. Guachinches, pronounced as “wa-chin-chey” are local restaurants, often located in garages or lounges of a house (and sometimes even a garden shed). There are no fancy interiors and the menu could be a few dishes. But don’t be put off: guachinches are lively places where you can enjoy some good local food for meager prices and are nearly always full of people. You may well be the only non-locals there. But as far as experiences in Tenerife go, they don’t get more authentic than this.
Typical dishes you can find include:
- Carne fiesta (marinated chunks of pork),
- Carne de cabra (goat),
- Queso asado (grilled cheese),
- Costillas con papas (pork ribs with boiled potatoes),
- Conejo salmorejo (rabbit in a white wine sauce),
- Papas con mojo (salted potatoes with the traditional Canarian red and green sauces) and
- Puchero (a selection of boiled vegetables and chickpeas, usually prepared using meat stock).
Two pieces of advice for you: vegetarians will have very few options, and portions are enormous.
Where can you find them?
As the primary purpose of guachinche is to sell wine, most of them can be found in or around the island’s most important wine-producing regions, which are almost all concentrated in the northern areas and include Tacoronte, La Orotava, El Sauzal, and Los Realejos. A few are also in the Güímar region towards the island’s south.
Legally, guachinches are only allowed to open for a few months a year. Their primary purpose is to sell wine, so once the harvest has gone and there is no wine left, in theory, they should close. This is “in theory” because there is generally quite a generous amount of rule-bending in the Canarias, and the guachinches are no different. Generally, they are open from November until the wine runs out and reopens in April.
The best Guachinches in Tenerife
Now, the best way to truly experience a genuinely authentic Guachinche is to find it by following the random signs posted in the trees and other obscure places or asking locals for directions. As they say, the journey is just as important as the finish.
Nonetheless, we’ve made an extensive list of our favorite places for you to try, and for even more Guachinches, take a look at the following 60 listed guachinches.
Guachinche Lomo Santa is located near Puerto de La Cruz and gives you a fantastic view over the Atlantic. You can enjoy delicious local wines. If you still have some place after your main dish, try the homemade flan with cream for dessert.
They offer an extensive selection of traditional foods for a very reasonable price. The portions are significant, so bring some friends with you.
This hidden gem is tiny in the suburbs of La Pin̄era in Los Realejos, so a reservation is a must, but that’s the charm in it, bringing the authentic atmosphere of a guachinche to life.
Casa Lito is a cozy guachinche with an open-air grill. The friendly staff will immediately make you feel at home. We recommend “Ropa Vieja” and grilled cheese with tomato and honey sauce.
If you’re exploring the island’s northeast, this guachinche in Taganana village is necessary. The service is quick and attentive. The waiters will gladly recommend popular dishes, but we advise you to try the queso asado and the pulpo.
In the east of La Orotava this guachinche offers a fantastic view of the entire Orotava valley and the sea.
Charming decoration, a mixed grill to die for, and one of the best lemon mousses. What more could you ask for?
The friendly staff at Bodegón Guachinche El Primero immediately makes you feel like a part of the family. The portions are significant, but the price is negligible. Make sure to try out the local wines!
The way to this restaurant is difficult, but you will be rewarded for your effort. Located on the grounds of the family vineyard, Guachinche El Miradero will surely give you a unique Canarian eating experience. If the weather is nice, you can sit on the terrace outside while your kids play on the playground.
4.10 Guachinche Casa Pepe
This guachinche is a well-kept secret amongst the locals. If you are a meat lover, you are at the correct address here. You should give the Galacian steak a try.
5. Fancy something more luxurious?
Although not famous for it, Tenerife has no less than 5 Michelin-star restaurants. For those who’d like a more luxurious experience, we can recommend El Rincón de Juan Carlos. Run by the Padrón brothers, this outstanding restaurant lies in the popular tourist spot of Los Gigantes on the cliff-fringed south coast of Tenerife. The Michelin-starred restaurant offers a choice of à la carte or tasting menus, emphasizing seafood and seasonal island-sourced market produce. The food remains traditional Canarian, presenting only Western and Eastern influences. For the whole experience, we recommend you order the complete tasting menu with 12 wine pairings from around the Canary Islands.
We hope that with this complete overview of local dishes and authentic restaurants, you can enjoy your stay in Tenerife even more!
Don’t forget to check out our other blog posts for more tips about Tenerife.