Food spotlight: Basque in one of the world’s most fascinating cultures



The Basque people, who live in a semi-autonomous region of northern Spain as well as in southwestern France, are believed to be the direct descendants of farmers who settled in the area some 35,000 years ago, making them perhaps the oldest ethnic community in Europe. Their language, called Euskara, is unrelated to any other language in the world.

While its cuisine has been influenced by neighboring French and Spanish dishes, Basque food is a unique mix of seafood and fish especially salt cod as well as cured ham and other meats, and the region is host to some of the best restaurants in the world. Among the most iconic Basque foods and dishes (and our favorites) are:

  • Marmitako: A hearty fish stew made from potatoes, onions, peppers and tomatoes, marmitako which means “from the pot” was originally eaten on fishing boats along the coast.
  • Gateau Basque: Called Etxeko biskotxa in Basque, this traditional dessert is made from layers of wheat flour cake and filled with vanilla cream, almonds or cherries.
  • Jambon de Bayonne: Taking its name from the port city of Bayonne in southern France, this ham is cured for seven to ten months. It’s slightly sweet and has a chewy texture.
  • Gerezi beltza arno gorriakin: This one-of-a-kind cherry soup is served warm or cold. The cherries are poached in wine with sugar and served with sour cream or even ice cream.
  • Fish soup: This hearty soup is made from onions, garlic, tomatoes, celery, parsley, white wine and thyme. Local fish, squid or shrimp are then added.
  • Pintxos (the “tx” in Basque is pronounced like “ch”) are the Basque equivalent of Spanish tapas or finger food snacks and usually consist of small slices of bread topped with ingredients like cod, anchovy, peppers or potatoes and fastened with a toothpick.

Have you ever tried Basque food? Here and here are a couple of delicious and simple-to-prepare recipes. And please share your thoughts with the Shop Talk Blog community forum!




Did you know: Bilbao’s Guggenheim

The Basque Country’s largest city, Bilbao, has seen a cultural renaissance in recent years, thanks in large part to the iconic Guggenheim Museum, which opened there in 1997.


55 thoughts on “Food spotlight: Basque in one of the world’s most fascinating cultures

  1. The Basque region is known for a dish called BASQUE BEANS, and they bake their bread in heavy pots, NOT loaf pans like most of us do. The Irish don’t come close enough, but they got creative dishes too.

  2. Spain has always been on my bucket list. My YDNA on my father’s side takes me back to the Basque Country and I don’t have a paper trail beyond North Ireland.
    I would love to know more about those people. Maybe a form of my surname exists there. I live in Mesa, AZ, USA, i’ll try to find a restaurant close by that serves their food.

  3. Yes, very interesting! I wish we had the dessert and cherry soup recipies. I did sign up for the newsletter from yr first link. Thanks.

  4. Northern Nevada has been a gathering place for people of Basque heritage for 100 + years , their food & culture notwithstanding .
    It has been speculated that the Basque’s arrived in waling ships ( boats ) to settle in Spain / France , possibly from N. Japan .

  5. i love to try new foods especially if they Are appealing and affordable, nothing like variety in foods to keep life interesting.

  6. I love the Basque region of Spain. San Sebastián is my favorite city and the pintxos are amazing! Of the four times I’ve been lucky enough to visit I have yet to complete a pintxos crawl…. just too many to choose from. And Michelin star restaurants are concentrated in this area. Akelare not only has a great view but fantastic chefs. You cannot go wrong with a trip to Northern Spain. Agur!

  7. If you haven’t visited San Sebastián, on the northwest Atlantic coast of Spain in the Basque region, put it on your bucket list! Beautiful old town with narrow street after street of little pintxo bars, many serving only one specialty. You bar hop all night having one drink, one taste, and move on to the next. Because of the Michelin starred restaurants in the area, the overall quality of all food is exceptional.
    You must go!

  8. I am not familiar with Basque cooking, I usually only like my seafood or fish by itself. I will say some of these recipies sound very intising to me. And as my Dad would have said, just try it, and if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it. But I know I surely will love one of them!

  9. I wonder if there are any places to try such food, hete in Las Vegas. Sounds yummy! I will check it out and let you know!

  10. In my culture sitting at long tables with strangers was done at least once a day, usually at lunch time, you had your choice ring your own lunch, or have the cafeteria lunch, they would sure have a problem at benni Hanna’s I look forward in going, never enough time to meet everbody on thus planet, what better way then sharing a table!

  11. I am also a full blooded Spaniard my dad was born in Salamanca, SPAIN and my mother was born in Hawaii in 1913 and my dad was born in 1912. We have a little close to where I live it’s called the Basque Restrauant. Never eaten there and I heard there food was not very good.
    Have you ever heard of the Spanish potato pancake. It’s made with sliced potatos onion, and scrambled eggs?

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