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La Rioja Foodie Guide

(Wines, Pinchos, Recipes)

Written By: Byron | February 27, 2023
a large coridor lined with oak wine barrels

Explore the beautiful region of La Rioja with our La Rioja Regional Foodie Guide. Packed with local cuisine, Rioja wines, and other produce not to be missed. Keep reading to discover the best produce and recipes from La Rioja, what to eat, pinchos, and of course, the world-famous wines from the beautiful region of La Rioja. 

regional map of Spain with the La Rioja region highlighted in red

An introduction to the region of La Rioja

L

a Rioja is a small but fascinating region located in northern Spain, known for its rich history, unique culture, and world-renowned wine. Nestled between the Basque Country and Castile and León, La Rioja covers an area of approximately 5,000 square kilometers and is home to just over 300,000 people.

One of the most notable features of La Rioja is its stunning landscape, which is characterized by rolling hills, picturesque vineyards, and rugged mountain ranges. The region is also home to several rivers, including the Ebro river, which provides a vital source of water for the local agriculture and wine production in the northern part of the region.

La Rioja Wine Region

Speaking of wine, La Rioja is perhaps best known for its world-famous red wine, which is often made from Tempranillo grapes and aged in oak barrels. The region boasts over 500 wineries, many of which offer tours and tastings for visitors. 

In fact, wine tourism has become a significant industry in La Rioja, with visitors flocking to the region to sample its delicious vintages and learn about the winemaking process.

The Rioja Alta Wine Route is among the “Wine Routes of Spain” and is an exciting journey exploring the many wineries, wine museums, and gastronomic delights the region has to offer. 

Want to discover more about Spanish wine? Check out our complete guide on the different Types of Spanish wines

But wine isn’t the only gastronomical delight on offer in La Rioja

A baked potato sits awith a pimiento sauce syringe.

La Rioja Cuisine and History

The region is also famous for its cuisine, which is characterized by hearty stews, grilled meats, and locally-sourced vegetables. Some of the most popular dishes in La Rioja include Patatas a la Riojana (potatoes with chorizo sausage and peppers), Bacalao al Pil Pil (salt cod in a garlic and olive oil sauce), and Chuletillas al Sarmiento (grilled lamb chops with grapevine shoots).

In addition to its food and wine, La Rioja has a rich cultural heritage that dates back thousands of years. The region has been inhabited since prehistoric times and was later colonized by the Romans, who left behind several impressive structures, including the ruins of a large Roman bridge in the town of Calahorra. 

La Rioja also played a significant role in the medieval period, as it was a major stop on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Today, those who embark on the pilgrimage Camino del Santiago from the french side (the route of St James) will likely pass through the beautiful landscape of the La Rioja region.

Famous dishes from La Rioja

La Rioja is a region in Spain with a rich culinary tradition steeped in history and influence from all neighboring sides. Riojan cuisine is defined by the landscape and weather and can be best characterized by hearty stews, grilled meats, and locally-sourced vegetables. 

Some of the most popular dishes from La Rioja include:

  • Patatas a la Riojana: A delicious stew made with potatoes, chorizo sausage, and red peppers.
  • Bacalao al Pil Pil: A classic dish made with salt cod cooked in garlic, olive oil, and chili peppers.
  • Chuletillas al Sarmiento: Grilled lamb chops served with grapevine shoots, a classic dish from the Rioja region.
  • Pochas a la Riojana: A simple and delicious stew made with white beans, garlic, and chorizo sausage.
  • Menestra de Verduras: A vegetable medley of asparagus, artichokes, and peas cooked in a tomato and onion sauce.
  • Perdiz Estofada: A slow-cooked stew made with partridge, vegetables, and a rich tomato sauce.
  • Caparrones con Sacramentos: A hearty bean stew made with black beans, chorizo sausage, and morcilla (blood sausage).
  • Trucha a la Riojana: Trout cooked with garlic, paprika, and onions.
  • Sopa de Ajo: A garlic soup made with bread, eggs, and paprika.
Bacalao al Pil Pil, served on a white plate with a small pattern of mojo sauce on the plate.

La Rioja Pinchos (Pintxos)

Pinchos are small plates similar to tapas that are served in many of the local bars and restaurants around the La Rioja region. It is customary to enjoy a pinchos or two in the early afternoon or evening, and many of the local bars will offer an extensive range of tantalizing flavor combinations to try. 

While all towns in the La Rioja region will offer Pinchos, one town, in particular, draws substantial crowds of foodies for its gastronomic delights, and that town is Logroño. With a little over 150,000 residents, the town has a thriving pinchos scene and would rival the neighboring tapas mecca, San Sebastian. 

A ham and olive pintxos stacked on a slice of bread.
2 small bowls of mushrooms and shrip tapas sit on a wooden benchtop

Logroño

Logroño is a beautiful town situated along the banks of the Ebro river, but it is just a short stroll from the river, to the center of town, where you’ll find the famous Calle del Laurel lined with lively pinchos bars.

Discover Pinchos/PIntxos Recipes and Tips on How to Make These Tasty Snacks at Home

We are particularly partial to Logroño and have visited many times, and every time we go there, we always make sure we go to get the undisputed king of tapas along the famous Calle de Laurel in Logroño: Champiñón con Gamba

Mushroom and shrimp tapas (Champiñón con Gamba) is unquestionably the most famous tapas dish found along the popular Calle de Laurel tapas route in Logroño. The recipe itself is delightfully simple and has remained the same for over 40 years; grilled champiñón mushrooms, garlic oil, baguette, and the small fried gambas on top, all held together with a toothpick. 

We have also recreated Mushroom and shrimp tapas (Champiñón con Gamba) recipe at home. We love it and make it every time we have a tapas or pintxos party at home! 

La Rioja Desserts

  • Pear pudding – Rincón de Soto pears are the main ingredient of this recipe which is prepared the traditional way.
  • Torrijas – Fried bread with sugar and cinnamon. 
  • Camerano cheesecake – A traditional dessert with Cameros cheese to give it a Riojan touch.
  • Peras al Vino – Pear simmered in red wine and spices
A pear cooked in wine is served on a white plate drizzled with sauce

Learn the secrets of the Mediterranean Diet –

It’s no secret that the Mediterranean diet is healthy. It has been proven in numerous studies from all corners of the world, it aids weight loss, reduces the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as a growing list of other health benefits.

Find out what’s most exciting about the diet and create some incredibly tasty and simple Spanish recipes. 

Looking for more travel inspiration?

Check out our other Regional foodie guides from all over Spain!

The Basque Country

Straddling part of the border between France and Spain, the Basque Country (País Vasco) has an incredibly diverse landscape that extends far beyond the renowned foodie capitals of larger cities such as San Sebastian and Bilbao. While the region is small, it has the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world per capita.

Galicia

Exploring the far northern Galicia region by food is like opening a foodie treasure trove. With a rugged coastline that divides two seas, undulating hills, and large fertile plains that benefit from the highest annual rainfall in Spain. Galicia is blessed with exceptional quality fresh produce, seafood, meat, and dairy products at every turn.

Galician cuisine is perhaps most famous for the stunning dessert, the Tarta de Santiago, but visitors to the region should take time to explore the many delicacies and dishes that are made in the region. 

Madrid

They say that all roads lead to Madrid and a small stone slab lies discretely within Madrid’s Sol Plaza celebrating the geographic kilometer ZERO of Spain. But, it’s just a short stroll in any direction where you’ll find the rich aromas of authentic Spanish food wafting from the alleyways and narrow cobbled streets that are lined with Madrid’s famous tapas bars and prestigious restaurants. 

Madrid is not only the geographic center of Spain but also the renowned melting pot where Spain’s culinary cultures merge. This is no more evident than in the enormous range of Spanish and international cuisine on offer throughout the capital, and with nearly 10,000 restaurants within the Madrid region, you’re spoilt for choice! 

The Valencia Region

With its white-sand beaches and turquoise water of the Mediterranean Sea, the Valencia region harbors some of the best cuisine and fresh produce in Spain. Orange groves are dotted all the way up and down the region, and the rich fertile soil makes for ideal vineyards, producing excellent wines. It’s also one of only two UNESCO-listed locations for gastronomy and is home to many of Spain’s most renowned restaurants.

Catalonia / Cataluña

The Catalonia region is perhaps best known for its thriving capital, Barcelona, but a close second when you mention Catalonia is the food. The region offers a wealth of authentic Spanish cuisine that has resonated all around the world. 

With its borders spanning from the Mediterranean Sea in the east, to the stunning rugged grazing plains of Aragón, to the picturesque mountainous zones of the Pyrenees mountain ranges, the Catalonia region has it all!

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