The Best Basque Food
A trip around the Basque country wouldn't be complete without tasting the Basque food. The Southwest of France offers a lot for food lovers. In the Basque country, people are called "bon vivant", enjoying life, food, parties...
So today, I'll introduce you the best basque food. You will find some entrance dishes, cheese, desserts and local recipes.
Fish and shellfish
The Basque Country is open on the Atlantic Ocean. Consequently, fish and shellfish are a big part of the Basque food.
∗ The French town of Saint Jean de Luz is the perfect place to try "ttoro". You will need hake, langoustines, mussels, garlic, onion... and red chilly to prepare it. Depending on the recipe, you can use another kind of fish.
Beware: It's different from "toro". You will find it in Camargue area and it means "bull". Marmitako is another Basque soup I'll tell you about later.
∗ Saint Jean de Luz is also the place to eat the delicious "chipirons" also called "xipirons". They prepare the squids (chipirons) "à la plancha" (grilled). It's served with rice and onion, tomato, bell pepper sauce... and red chilly again. The recipe is called chipirons à la Luzienne (squids in the style of Saint Jean de Luz). In Spain, it's generally prepared "à l'encre" (calamares en su tinta).
∗ "Marmitako" is another basque soup. The main ingredients are tuna and potatoes... and red chilly again. You can find it both in the French and Spanish part of the Basque Country.
∗ "Thon kaskarote": grilled red tuna, fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, leek, onions and... red chilly.
∗ "Merlu Koskera": hake with asparaguses, peas, mussels, clams, hard-boiled eggs.
∗ "Oiartzun daurade": grilled full and open sea bream, garlic - red chilly sauce and vinegar.
∗ Some other fish specialities: marinated anchovy (anchois marinés). Fresh cod served in the cider restaurants especially (morue fraîche). Crab (crabe).
∗ I will finish with "txangurro": spider crab stuffed with onions, carrots and leeks.
Meat has probably the most important place in the Basque food. Basque people like meat a lot, and they produce a lot of animals in the area. Therefore, we can buy some good products, from the farms or butcher's shops. I never buy it from the supermarket, as the quality is lower and it's not cheaper!
∗ "Zikiro": "méchoui" parties (barbecued whole lamb served with flageolet beans).
∗ In the South and Spain, the lamb is often served with piperade (see below in the local specialities).
∗ "Tripotx": lamb blood sausage generally served with "piperade".
∗ "Axoa" comes from Espelette but we eat it in the whole French Basque country. It's made from veal, sometimes mixed with lamb. We mince the meat with different ingredients and... red chilly. And guess from which place comes the red chilly? From Espelette! The juice is not fat and it's served with potatoes. Another delicious recipe I recommend you to try. My favourite place: Chiloa Gurmenta, 7 rue des Tonneliers in Bayonne. You will love it! The prices are low and the cooker / waitress (she is 70 years old and does everything alone!) will give you the best advice. When I went there with my Chinese brother and his wife, she told us to take only two menus as the portions are big. She only serves fresh typical menus. Cherry on the cake, it's situated in the area "Petit Bayonne" that is typical.
∗ "Pantxeta": Veal blood sausage.
∗ "Txuleta" or "chuleta": Rib of beef. As I told you before, the meat is delicious here and the "txuleta" is a must. It's popular in Spain and is part of the cider restaurant's menus.
Here is the typical cider restaurant's menu. Cod omelette, fried cod with red chilly, txuleta, ewe cheese with nuts and quince jam. + unlimited cider that the guests take in the big barrels. It costs from 25 to 35€. The atmosphere is friendly, as people eat on big tables and enjoy looking for the best cider's barrel.
∗ "Poulet basquaise" or chicken Basquaise served with piperade.
∗ "Tripota": Basque blood sausage from pork stuffed with onions.
∗ "Xistorra": Basque sausage.
∗ "Ventrêche" or "xingar": made from fat pork's belly.
∗ "Lukinke": dry sausage slightly spicy.
∗ "Chichons": rillettes with Espelette red chilly.
Funny fact: Don't mix up with the slang word "chichon" that means hashish!
∗ "Jambon de Bayonne" or Bayonne ham: Almost everybody think it comes from Bayonne, but it's not. Before, it was prepared in Salies de Béarn and exported through Bayonne harbour. This is the reason of its name. It comes from "Ossau" and "Aspe" valleys. Its origin is controlled and protected (AOC). Click on the name to read about the making process.
Basque food specialities
In addition to the fish and meat, we also have some local specialities
∗ "Piments d'Espelette": Red chili from the beautiful and typical French village of Espelette. The name is also protected (AOC). Basque people are fond of red chilli as you could notice in the previous recipes. We use both fresh red chilli or chili powder. We use chilli jam (delicious with the cheese), chilli jelly, salt + chilli... And even some chocolate with chilli! It's available in the little basque shops. Some people also use a chili's plait to decorate their kitchen. Espelette is also famous for its house's facades decorated with the local chilli.
∗ "Pimiento del piquillo": From Spain. This is a triangular Pepper that came from South-America. Don't cook with water as it would loose its taste. It's delicious, especially when it's stuffed with cod. It's meltingly soft and fits the taste of the cod's stuffing. Look for "pimientos rellenos" and "baccalao".
∗ "Omelette piperade": eggs with piperade (onions, tomatoes, red chillies, garlic, olive oil).
∗ "taloa": A bit like fajitas and made from corn flour.
∗ "Pintxos": the Basque word for tapas. The best place to eat pintxos is the Spanish coastal town of San Sebastian. Go in the old district and enjoy the atmosphere of the basque cafés, going from one to another. Try one or two pintxos with a local txakoli (slightly sparkling white wine) in each place. Finish your evening walking along the ocean. Perfect evening, right? Maybe you will also witness a pintxos competition. Yes, we have also some pintxos' champions, both in the French and Spanish part!
Due to our mountains and nature, we have a lot of herds in the Pyrenees mountains. As a result, the Basque food is also famous for cheese.
∗ The main one is Ardi-gasna: ewe cheese from raw milk, made in the "etxola" or sheepfold. They filter the ewe milk in a sheet then put it in a 30° cooking pot. There is a long process I won't detail. But once made, they keep the cheese in a "gasnategia", a cold room, during 4-5 months, or more. Some of the most famous ones are Ossau-Iraty, Roncal and Idiazabal (from the name of the valleys). But I find much more interesting to buy some in the Basque mountains during a hike! We eat Ardi-gasna with black cherry jam or chili jelly (French side). Spanish people eat it with nuts and quince jam.
∗ "Fromage de chêvre": Goat cheese, often mixed with ewe milk.
∗ Cow (vache) cheese, alone or mixed with ewe milk.
Dessert and sweet
Finally, these are the desserts and sweets. But I'm not sure you will still be able to eat something after such starters and main dishes.
∗ "intxaursaltza" : sweet creamy nut soup. From Spain.
∗ "kanouga" : toffee with coffee, chocolate or hazelnut chantilly cream inside.
∗ "muxu" : macaroon made with almonds. Muxu means kiss.
∗ "gaztanbera" ou "mamia" : ewe curd we generally eat with honey.
∗ "pettanmamia" : apple, cooked with curd and black cherry jam.
∗ "Chocolate": as you read my article on the chocolate festival in Bayonne, you know it's a speciality of Bayonne. There's an infinite variety of chocolate, but don't forget to try the one with red chilly!
∗ "Basque cake". The most famous dessert of the Basque country. You will find everywhere "le Roi du gâteau basque" (the King of the Basque cake) or "le meilleur gâteau basque" (the best Basque cake). We prepare the traditional one with black cherry jam, but cream is another possibility.
So now, you're ready to enter a Basque restaurant and order the best Basque food from here!
Did you notice I added some recipes? Just click on the name of the food and you will be able to cook it by yourself.
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Stephanie Langlet is called Indie, the female Indiana Jones by her French readers.
She helps the travellers to feel comfortable outside of their comfort zone and to travel closer to the people and culture.
She is a Trip Planner and a Hospitality and Management Consultant.
Fond of the Tribes and Minorities, she’s specialised since 2012 in the tribes and festivals of Central India and have collaborated with Chhattisgarh Tourism Board to promote it. She’s often interviewed by the Indian medias.
In 2015, she was recognised as one of the Top 6 foreign bloggers about India by Holidify, and as an influencer for Chhattisgarh by Chhattisgarh Tourism Board.
She also runs her own guesthouse in the south-west of France, from May to October.
From November to April, she will be in India to work on a social guesthouses project with her Indian associates.