Calçots: All About Catalonia’s Famous Native Wild Onion
The late winter and early spring months in Catalonia are an exciting time for one special reason: calçots! What in the world is a calçot?, you might be asking yourself. Calçots are wild onions that grow in Catalonia, typically from December through April. Locals love to gather calçots when they are ready for picking and celebrate by having a calçotada, or a Catalan barbecue. Want to know more about this fun and unique cultural celebration? Read on to learn everything you need to know about calçots!
Calçots and the tradition of calçotada
Calçots are a variety of green onion that have a sweeter and milder taste than your average white or yellow onion. The flavor is comparable to leeks or spring onions. Once these onions are ready for picking in the spring, Catalans love to bring friends and families together to have a calçotada. Everyone enjoys grilled onions and other Catalan specialties while drinking local wine straight from a porrón.
To properly enjoy this vegetable in the traditional way, calçots are thrown over an open fire or grill and cooked until the outer layer is a little bit charred. Remove the outer layer to reveal the tender layers beneath, which are nice and sweet. To eat like a true Catalan, throw your head back and drop the whole calçot straight in! Don’t worry about appearances because everyone gets a little messy at a traditional calçotada.
Traditional calçotada cuisine
While calçots are delicious on their own, many Catalans prefer to generously dip them in some homemade romesco sauce: a sauce made from garlic, roasted tomatoes, and crushed nuts almonds and hazelnuts. Slather it all over the onions and you’ll be eating like a true Catalan! No calçotada is complete without some botifarra sizzling on the grill alongside the onions. This pork sausage is a Catalan specialty that comes in a handful of different varieties. Juicy and delicious, botifarra is often served with white beans that are similar to navy beans, forming one of Catalonia’s most iconic dishes: botifarra amb mongetes.
And let’s not forget the about the wine! Slurp down local wine from a porrón, a pitcher that is held high above your mouth as the wine flows out and drops into your mouth. It may be tricky at first if you’ve never used one, but this clever invention lets everyone share the wine without the necessity of glasses and nobody’s mouth ever touches the porrón. With a little practice, you too can be drinking like a local in no time!
Where to enjoy calçots in the Barcelona area
If you want to try calçots without getting your kitchen messy, there are several traditional restaurants in Barcelona that have special calçotada menus during the season. Casa Pamplinas is a restaurant in the heart of Eixample that has a great calçotada menu for 26€ that comes with all the trimmings. Choose your favorite grilled meat, accompanied with calçots, beans, potatoes, dessert, and wine. El All i Oli, a traditional Catalan eatery in the Sant Andreu district, has an unbeatable calçotada menu for 35€ per person. Complete with bread, vegetables, grilled onions, meat, dessert, wine, coffee, and cava, you will definitely get your money’s worth here!
Lastly, check out trendy Vía Granados which has two different calçotada menus depending on your tastes and appetite. Both menus fall between 30-32€ per person and include all of the items you would expect to find on the traditional calçots menu. So forget about dishes and cooking, let any of these restaurants be the site of your next calçotada!
If you love Catalan food and traditions, join Food Lover Tour in Barcelona and really eat like a local! No matter the tour, we always take our guests to the best hidden gems, local hangouts, and amazing eateries. Explore Barcelona through cuisine with Food Lover Tour!