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The incredible Spanish ingredients that should be staples in your pantry

From piquant pimentón to aromatic olive oils, Spain is home to an array of heady condiments and spices that are sure to transform your cooking

Moreish Spanish cheeses that will transform your wine and cheese night
Moreish Spanish cheeses that will transform your wine and cheese night

4 mins read time   |   Written by Kayleigh Giles

Passion has long been the cornerstone of Spanish cuisine. To a Spaniard, food is about so much more than just sustenance; it’s a way of life. That’s why every ingredient, down to the smallest drop of olive oil or the tiniest dash of pimentón, is nurtured with love and care. If you’re looking to liven up your cooking with a taste of Spain, condiments and spices are the way to go for an injection of flavour with minimal effort. These are just some of the wonderful staples you should add to your pantry.

Olive oil

Spain’s extensive mountain slopes, mild winters and long, hot summers have made it a prime spot for olive cultivation. Indeed, more than 350 million olives are harvested across the country every year, so it’s little surprise Spain is the world’s largest supplier of olive oil. One of the most distinguished varieties is the Picual from Andalucia, adored for its herbaceous aromas, that include olive and grass leaves, as well as figs and tomatoes. Cornicabra, grown mainly in central Spain, is also a popular choice thanks to its zesty flavour and fuller consistency, while Catalonia-born Arbequina is revered for its agronomic qualities and the delightful sweetness of its oils. Whether you’re using them for something simple like a Spanish omelette or going all out with a seafood-heavy paella, these oils will undoubtedly elevate your dish.


Sweet and bitter vinegars are also prevalent in Spain – in fact, the average Spaniard consumes between 1.4 and 2 litres a year of the stuff! From salads and gazpacho to pickled vegetables, vinegar can add an aromatic element to every type of cuisine. If you prefer sweet varieties, the PDO Vinagre de Jerez is a deeply fragrant, mahogany-hued sherry vinegar that’s aged for a minimum of six months, while PDO Vinagre de Condado de Huelva is sharp and dry with a dark, chestnut colour. For something in between, try PDO Vinagre de Montilla-Moriles, a sweet and sour variety made from Pedro Ximénez grapes.


Before the arrival of the Moors, seasonings other than salt were used sparingly in the Iberian Peninsula. Today, it’s a very different story. Famed for its subtle flavour (some say it’s floral, while others detect notes of honey), saffron is intrinsic to Spanish fare and is a key ingredient in the Valencian paella. Obtained from the stigma of the saffron crocus, a bulb which flowers for just a few days in the month of October, cultivating saffron can be rather laborious as everything has to be done by hand. Nevertheless, Spain is the world’s largest producer of top-class saffron, with its PDO Azafrán de La Mancha considered the best in the world due to its bright red colour and heady aroma of flowers and dry hay.

Pimentón, a red powder that’s formed by drying and crushing certain varieties of red peppers, is equally celebrated. As with most Spanish ingredients, its flavour varies slightly by region. Two of the most popular production areas are PDO Pimentón de Murcia, which is made using Bola or Ñora peppers that are dried in the sun, and PDO Pimentón de La Vera, which combines Bola peppers and varieties from the Ocales group to create offerings that can be sweet, sweet and sour, or spicy. This wonderfully intoxicating spice is often used to give cured meats, like chorizo, a rich flavour and colour. The spice is also used to season Galician-style octopus, traditional stews and plenty more, while also acting as a natural preservative.