The delights of the Canary Islands' gastronomy

Visiting the Canary Islands is a pleasure for all senses. In any of its islands you can enjoy its fantastic landscapes, feel the breezes of its diverse ecosystems, hear the sound of the sea or the arid valleys and volcanoes and, of course, taste the wonderful flavours of the Canarian gastronomy.

Origins of Canarian gastronomy

The Canarian gastronomy has its origins with the guanches – the first aborigines that occupied the islands – part of its gastronomic culture endures in the traditional Canarian cuisine. They introduced to the island barley, rabbits, pigs, also goats, sheep that provided milk and butter. They also ate fruits such as dates and figs. With barley, the gofio was prepared, which consists of a dough that made a part of the basic diet of guanches. It is still a typical dish of Canarian food, now also made with wheat flour or milled corn.

Due to its geographical location, the Canary Islands were the scene of the passage of commercial routes for sailors from all over the world. Both Romans and the settlers who went to America have passed through the islands and have left their influence in the gastronomic customs. That is why culinary habits have changed over the centuries with the arrival of new products brought from distant regions. This happened with the arrival of olives and figs from the Roman Empire or the potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, corn (millet), etc., from America.

Characteristic products of the Canary Islands

The Canarian bananas are well-known, and its arrival in the islands occurred in the 15th century from Southeast Asia, where the climate favoured its cultivation. The bananas of the Canary Islands were the livelihood of sailors and travellers during their trips to America. The trade of this fruit has spread throughout the world, being very popular internationally and has given it a product stamp with denomination of origin. The Canarian banana has an important role in the gastronomy of the islands, being used mostly in desserts where they stand out the most.

Potatoes or papas are the indispensable product in the Canarian gastronomy. The potatoes, coming from America, were accepted immediately on the islands and nowadays, they are included in many dishes or as a side dish. There is a wide variety of classes, among which there are ancient varieties that no longer exist in the rest of the world.

Among its most famous dishes are wrinkled potatoes – papas arrugadas. This traditional dish of Canarian cuisine, is made with “pretty potatoes” – papas bonitas, a variety of small sized and purple skinned potatoes served with mojo sauce. Although it is one of the main dishes in all the Canary Islands, in Lanzarote it has a greater role. In all establishments dedicated to gastronomy in Lanzarote you will find papas arrugadas that are served with the sauce par excellence that accompanies this dish, the mojo picón.

The cheeses are another of the delicacies in the Canarian gastronomy, awarded internationally. The majority of Canarian cheeses have the denomination of origin label (PDO). Within its classification we find the cheeses majoreros, palmeros cheeses, cheeses of Guía. Each island has its variety of cheeses that are made with milk from goats and sheep fed with natural pastures giving them different textures of soft, fresh, cured and semi-cured cheeses. There is also a variety of flavours such as smoked, oil, paprika or gofio.

Canarian cheese is common in all the restaurants and bars of the Canary Islands and is consumed both as snacks and as an ingredient in the preparation of traditional Canarian food, also it is used in quesadillas, in poached cheese with mojo or almogrote (typical of the island of La Gomera – pate made with cured cheese, pepper, tomato and oil). The majorero cheese is made in Fuerteventura, which was the first cheese to obtain the DOP seal and has won the most awards. It is very present in the gastronomy of Fuerteventura.

The taste of the sea in Canarian gastronomy

The marine wealth that surrounds these islands provides abundant varieties of fish and seafood with which simple and exquisite dishes are made. Among the varieties of seafood the most commonly used are grouper, tuna, roosters, samas, bocinegro, old, abaes, moray eels, squid, octopus, shrimp.

The taste of the sea is present in the Sancocho. This typical dish of the Canarian food has cherne as protagonist, which is a white fish similar to grouper, and which is served boiled and accompanied with potatoes with mojo picón and gofio.

Other dishes that you can try are the fish broth, old at the back, fish churros, fried moray, tuna in marinade, tollos, limpets. You cannot miss a visit is to La Graciosa to taste the flavours of the sea such as the pork rinds, the octopus carpaccio, the bocinegro or grilled squid.

The taste of meat in Canarian food

The meats are prepared roasted or in stews. The meat of goat, pig, rabbit are the protagonists of delicious dishes that will surprise you with flavour. The “festive meat” is the typical one that you will find at the local parties and it is made with pork marinated with garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, oregano, white wine and vinegar. You should also try other dishes such as rabbit with salmorejo, carajacas, puchero, cabrito al horno before returning home.

Mojo, the quintessential sauce of the Canary Islands

It is an indispensable accompaniment in almost all Canarian gastronomy, both in appetizers and in main and secondary dishes.

Its preparation includes essential ingredients as olive oil, vinegar and garlic and then, depending on who makes it, you can add other ingredients such as coriander, cumin, paprika pepper, saffron, parsley, herbs, tomato, etc., it can be spicy (mojo picón) or not. The mojo can be green or red and served with the famous papas arrugadas, cheeses, fish or meat.

The sweet Canarian flavor

Many of the typical desserts are made in the Canary Islands with almonds, bananas, honey, millet, gofio, figs, etc. Among the most outstanding are the bienmesabe (almonds, sugar and egg), frangollo (millet flour, milk, lemon, sugar, almonds and raisins), Prince Albert (chocolate cream cake, with brownies dipped in coffee, with almonds ), rapadura (main ingredient is honey), quesillo (egg custard and condensed milk), the gofio mouse, mole eggs, banana pancakes, Canarian trout, etc.

Undoubtedly, the Canarian desserts are a delight for the sweet tooth. Well, now you know that exploring the Canary Islands implies getting to know its gastronomy, so try everything!