With an enormous quantity of products and dishes, plus lots of differents markets and fairs, the Balearics are a perfect destination for lovers of gastronomy tourism, and not just in summer.
Whoever said the Balearics are a great sun and sand destination but nothing else was wrong. There are few more memorable experiences in life than taking a long winter stroll along the promenade in Ciutadella, wandering through the narrow streets of a magnetic yet peaceful Palma or falling under the spell of a silent Formentera outside the summer months. If on top of all that you love gastronomyand tend more and more to plan trips with your stomach rather than your head, you'll have a wonderful time in the Balearic Islands.
Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera share one important thing in common: they are all islands with a solid traditional gastronomy (the local recipes are a festival of dishes and products) that goes hand in hand with great names on the contemporary cooking scene, restaurants with Michelin stars and a glorious and unrivalled array of gastronomic options for every taste and budget.
Booked your flight to the Balearics for an autumn or winter getaway? Well make a note of all these dishes you MUST try on your visit to Ses Illes.
This delicious raw cured sausage seasoned with salt, paprika and black pepper is one of the jewels of Mallorca's gastronomy. A product traditionally made at home after the seasonal pig slaughter, it's a great favourite with visitors to the island. For gastronomy lovers with a palate for quality artisanal sausages, there are few greater pleasures than digging into a hunk of bread with sobrasada and cheese – preferably Mahón, the popular name of this dairy product from Menorca.
What can we say about this pastry that has been a hallmark of the island of Mallorca since as far back as the 17th century? Plain and filled with "angel hair" pumpkin jam are the classic ones, although the popularity of this sweet round pastry made with flour, eggs, sugar and pork lard has led to new variations filled with chocolate, custard or fresh cream. Mallorquines, and all Balearic island dwellers in general, are so fond of ensaimadas that there are numerous bakeries and cake shops specialising in this great delicacy that lead all the rankings and sell enormous quantities of ensaimadas every day to enjoy for breakfast, afternoon tea or dessert.
Lobster stew (Menorca)
This typical Menorca dish tastes even more delicious when eaten while admiring views of the harbour from one of the waterfront restaurants in Ciutadella. Simple yet savoury, this wonderful dish is very popular with lovers of fine seafood. Not so long ago, lobster stew was a typical fisherman's dish served in an earthenware pot accompanied by chopped almonds, garlic and fried bread. If you're not fond of lobster, go for monkfish or any other fish because you must try this stew if life takes you to Menorca, a beautiful, unspoilt island with a great climate all year round. Whatever the month you visit, it will even be mild enough to have a little siesta by the sea.
Bullit de peix
Fish is a staple part of the Balearic diet. You'll find it in different forms at famous sophisticated restaurants as well as at informal beach taverns, whether in original recipes or simply grilled and served with potatoes or salad. Another typical fish-based recipe is the classic bullit de peix from Ibiza, a fisherman's dish (usually made of john dory, grouper, scorpionfish or monkfish) accompanied by potatoes and rice cooked in fish stock. It's usually served in an earthenware pot with a tasty garlic and oil sauce.
Payesa salad (Formentera)
Health warning: Visiting Formentera in autumn and winter can cause addiction. Once it quietens down after the hustle and bustle of the summer months, the island shines in all its glory and becomes that wild and mysterious corner of the world that invites you to ride a motorbike or pushbike down its deserted roads, bury your head in a book on its incredible sandy beaches and then end the day with a cocktail in a friendly little town like Sant Ferran or Sant Francesc. One dish you absolutely must try if you visit Formentera is the classic payesa salad, a delicious, super-healthy recipe made with the typical peix sec – fish dried in the sun and preserved in olive oil – accompanied by green peppers, onions, tomates and twice-baked bread. Everyone has their own secret for this typical dish so you'll probably find a different version everywhere you stop on your tour of the island.
Each island has its signature dessert and you can't leave without trying one of these delicacies that are traditionally made in the home. In the hands of some cooks they reach the height of perfection. greixonera from Ibiza, a type of mild, sweet-tasting pudding made with stale ensaimada, and flaó, an aniseed and cream cheese cake typical of Ibiza and Formentera, are just two of the traditional desserts you'll want to sink your teeth into. Pastissets from Menorca, or the island's famous carquinyolis, and gató d'ametlla from Mallorca, a moist sponge cake made with almonds, eggs and sugar, are some examples of the other tasty bites that await you in the Balearics.
Coca de trempó
The Balearic version of pizza is called coca de trempó and you'll find it at most establishments in the Balearics at any time of day. It consists of a dough made with flour, water and oil and then covered with assorted vegetables, usually green pepper, onion and tomato. It will taste even better if you wash it down with one of the interesting local wines.
Wine and olive oil tourism
Talking of wine and olive oil, the Balearics are home to very interesting products of both types and offer a range of related activities for anyone wanting to find out more about the production process. Mallorca boasts DO olives and olive oil (Aceituna de Mallorca and Aceite de Mallorca), obtained from the Mallorquina, Arbequina and Picual varieties. As for wine, lovers of this beverage will have endless opportunities to taste little-known jewels during a visit to the Balearics. Mallorca boasts two DO wines (Binissalem and Pla i Llevant) and there are several protected geographical indications the length and breadth of all the islands. There are activities for all tastes and levels: tours, tastings, workshops, lunches, vineyard soirées, etc.
You won't be able to resist this juicy dish that has become a hallmark of the island's gastronomy. Pork, chilli, garlic, black pepper, bay leaf, fennel, clove and cinnamon: that's all you find, nothing more and nothing less, in this Sephardic recipe. It's served with potatoes, red peppers, spring onions and tender beans; all fried, of course, in honour of the name of this typical dish (“frit” in Mallorquin means "fried").
So you see, the Balearic Islands are home to much more than sand and sea, even if visitors often fail to discover all their charms. Let's go!