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What are Some Examples of Basque Cuisine?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Basque cuisine is quite unique, much like the Basque people, who live on the border between Spain and France. The food in this region is certainly influenced by Spanish and French culinary traditions, but the Basques sometimes take their food in new and surprising directions. Basque restaurants overseas sadly rarely focus on the wide range of Basque cuisine, focusing instead on popular meat dishes rather than the many options found in the Basque country.

The history of the Basque people is often a topic of debate. Many Basques argue that they are culturally and genetically distinct from other European people, and that as such they represent an extremely unique community. Basques live in both Spain and France, in a region which is sometimes called “Basque country.” In Basque country, people speak the Basque language, which appears to be an isolate, completely different from any living European language, and they cook foods which focus on fresh, locally available ingredients as well as preserved fish and meats.

One of the major components in Basque cuisine is seafood, ranging from salt cod to fresh young eels. The Basques have historically been a seafaring community, and most creatures which can be found in the sea pop up in their food. In the inland parts of Basque country, more of a reliance is placed on lean meats like goat and sheep, as well as high quality beef. Basque cuisine also uses vegetables grown in the Ebro Valley, including lots of beans, corn, and potatoes.

Like many European communities, the Basques make a wide range of breads and cheeses, and they accompany their meals with wine and an assortment of liquors, including Txakoli, Patxaran, and Izarra. They also a lot of offal such as brains and liver in their cooking, and they skillfully preserve a wide range of meats, from smoked blood sausage to Basque hams. The tradition of Basque cuisine is simple and hearty, with clear, bright flavors.

One of the more interesting aspects of Basque culinary culture is the txikiteo, a tradition of hopping from bar to bar for pintxos, or small plates of appetizers. In major Basque cities, a huge proportion of the population can be seen on txikiteo on the weekends, with certain establishments becoming particularly renowned for special dishes. Basque culture places a heavy emphasis on the enjoyment of food and companionship, and it is a great privilege to be invited along on a txikiteo.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By John57 — On Jul 31, 2011

One of my friends spent several months in Spain and came home with some of the most unique, but delicious recipes I have ever had.

One of my favorites was an appetizer made of smoked fish and fresh fruit. This was tasty enough that I could have made a meal of it.

He made this dish with a combination of smoked salmon and trout. The fruit was a blend of grapes, kiwi and strawberries. You can use whatever smoked meat and fresh fruit you like to make it a personalized taste.

By LisaLou — On Jul 31, 2011

Another advantage of eating this type of cuisine is maintaining your weight. Most people will have their largest meal of the day in the evening. But with this style of eating, the main meal is served in the early afternoon, and often includes some kind of soup.

Your body has a chance to burn off more calories when you eat your larger meal earlier in the day. If you were able to consistently follow this style of eating you would be able to lose weight or keep your weight at a manageable level.

By andee — On Jul 30, 2011

Basque cuisine sounds like a great way to eat your meals. I remember reading that this type of cooking doesn't rely on a lot of special spices or seasonings, but mostly focuses on what is fresh and in season.

Anytime you eat food that is fresh, you are getting the best quality and the true flavor of the food really comes through.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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