Spanish & Latin American Culinary Terms

By Gayot Editors

Don’t know your bacalao from your besugo? Have no fear. Whether you’re dining at a top-rated restaurant or a small café in San Sebastian, our guide to Spanish food terms will arm you with the necessary culinary lingo to negotiate any menu.

Note: Because there are so many regional dialects in Spain and Latin America, the term for one food product might easily have four or five variations.


Olive oil
Olive oil

Aceite: oil
Ajo: garlic
Al ajillo: with olive oil and garlic
A la marinera: fish or seafood cooked with garlic, onions and white wine
All-i-oli: aïoli; garlicky mayonnaise
Almendras: almonds
Almejas: clams
Anchoas: anchovies
Arroz: rice
Asado: roast
Atœnor bonito: tuna


Bacalao: dried, salted codfish
Besugo: sea bream
Boquerones: marinated anchovies
Bullabesa: Catalàn fish stew similar to bouillabaisse
Burrito: soft, wheat-flour tortilla rolled and stuffed with various meats, refried beans, cheese and vegetables


Calamares: squid
Caldo: broth
Callos: tripe
Camarones: shrimp
Carne: meat
Cerveza: beer
Ceviche: raw fish marinated in citrus juice
Chalupa: a small, thick corn tortilla folded into a boat shape, fried and filled with a mixture of shredded meat, cheese and/or vegetables
Chilaquiles: flat tortilla layered with beans, meat, cheese and tomato sauce
Chile relleno: large, mild chili pepper, stuffed with cheese and fried in an egg batter
Chorizo: spicy pork sausage flavored with garlic and spices
Cigallas: crayfish or langoustines
Conejo: rabbit
Cordero: lamb
Crema catalana: custard with burnt sugar on top like a crème brûlée, but less creamy than the French dish


Spanish food: Empanadas

Empanada: pie or tart filled variously with meat, seafood or vegetables
Empanadita: a small empanada
Enchilada: a tortilla, fried and stuffed variously with meat, cheese and/or chilies
Entremeses: appetizers
Escalivada or Escalibada: chargrilled or roasted peppers, onions, eggplant or other Mediterranean vegetables


Flan: a baked custard with a caramel coating (also crema caramela)
Frito (frita): fried

Guacamole RecipeWatch the video


Gambas: shrimp
Garbanzos: chickpeas
Gazpacho: Andalusian; a cold soup of fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers, olive oil, vinegar and garlic (also celery, breadcrumbs)
Guacamole: an avocado dip or filling, with mashed tomatoes, onions, chilies and citrus juice


Habas: broad beans
Higado: liver
Huachinango: red snapper
Huevos: eggs
Huevos rancheros: tortillas topped with eggs and a hot, spicy salsa
Huevos revueltos: scrambled eggs


Jalapeño: very common hot chili pepper, medium size
Jamón: ham
Jamón Ibérico: delicacy from the native Iberian breed of pig
Jamón Serrano: dry-cured ham, like Parma ham


Lenguado: sole
Licuado: fruit milkshake
Lima: lime
Limón: lemon
Linguiça: garlicky pork sausage