When you think of Menorca, probably the first thing that springs to mind is its spectacular beaches and coves with turquoise waters and fine sand, its wonderful Mediterranean climate, perfect for enjoying the sea almost all year round, the Camí de Cavalls (a wonderful trail around the island), and its relaxed lifestyle that makes us enjoy the small things in this little Mediterranean paradise where time seems to go by much more slowly.
Menorca, however, is much more than that. It has a cultural legacy left behind by the many peoples who inhabited it, the Romans, the Arabs, the French and the British. This cultural wealth has left its mark on the island as well as on its gastronomy.
Rich, varied, fish- and meat-based, Menorcan cuisine will win you over as soon as you take your first bite. All thanks to its ancient culinary tradition that combines classic Mediterranean flavours with those of the Spanish hinterland.
But what should you eat in Menorca? Read this guide to discover the typical dishes of the island of Menorca that you should try if you are thinking of going on holiday there.
10 typical Menorcan dishes
Typical Menorcan cuisine has ancient origins and is the product of many cultures. It is a simple yet varied cuisine that will satisfy even the most picky of palates. Of course, fish and shellfish play a key role in the island’s gastronomy, but its meat dishes are delicious too.
Discover the most authentic side of Menorca through its traditional dishes.
1. Caldereta de Langosta
Without a doubt, the Caldereta de Langosta is one of the best-known dishes of Menorcan cuisine. The name comes from caldereta, the terracotta bowl the dish is still cooked in even today. It’s a lobster soup, preferably using lobsters that are female and not too young. In fact, the older the lobster, the better the broth. Along with the lobster, the dish also includes cherry tomatoes, onions, green chili, parsley sprigs and slices of bread.
Caldereta is not a dish to be eaten immediately: it tastes best 5 hours after it is made, and ideally should be cooked one day in advance. Although it can be enjoyed all over the island, the best place to eat it is said to be the fishing village of Fornells, where several restaurants boast it as their speciality. We would recommend Sa Llagosta, overlooking the sea, led by the well-known chef David De Coca.
Another typical Menorcan dish, ensaimada, has been part of the gastronomy of the Balearic Islands for centuries. It is an iconic dessert, and the most famous. Ensaimada is so beloved that it has its own Protected Geographical Indication, “Ensaïmada de Mallorca“.
Ensamaida is said to have Arab origins, and its characteristic shape, resembling a rolled turban, only serves to strengthen the argument. It is as easy to prepare as it is tasty.
Its main ingredients are flour, water, sugar, eggs, and lard, and is baked until it forms its characteristic shape. Sometimes they have icing sugar sprinkled on top and sometimes they have a filling. The traditional filling is cabell d’àngel, a sort of pumpkin jam, but it can also be filled with delicious custard. We have the feeling that once you’ve tasted it, you may well become addicted.
If you want to try the best ensaimada in Menorca, we recommend heading down to Can Pons (shop and workshop in Es Mercadal), the winner of the 2020 World Championship’s Best Ensaimada Award.
A must-try Menorcan speciality is oliaigua, a humble recipe that farmers would use when enduring hardship. Mainly made of up water, oil, and some aromatic herbs, it was a typical breakfast. Over time, it has become the first course in many meals, adding vegetables to make a tasty soup of water, oil, tomatoes, green pepper, and garlic, served in a bowl with layer of toast on the bottom.
It’s always eaten at room temperature or warmed up a little bit. The recipe has so many variations that Menorcan restaurants often have their own version, adding different ingredients depending on the season.
Oliaigua is served in most restaurants, but we would suggest going to El Faro di Cala Torret.
4. Mahon cheese
Another star of Menorcan gastronomy is Mahon cheese. This cheese, which has had its own Protected Designation of Origin since 1985, is made with unpasteurised cow’s milk, generally from Friesian cows, to which a small percentage of sheep’s milk is sometimes added.
It’s suitable for any occasion and can be easily found at multiple shops on the island. It’s ideal for breakfast or as a snack, accompanied with a slice of artisanal bread and a good wine, and is also an ingredient in some Menorcan dishes. You can buy it while visiting a Menorcan farm at La Subaida, in Alaior.
5. Menorcan stuffed aubergine
A Menorcan speciality baked stuffed aubergine is a very common dish on the island, so popular that you will often find it in bars and restaurants. Local aubergines are used, which are smaller and more tender than regular ones.
To cook them, the aubergines are emptied and their pulp is removed to be used alone or mixed with other ingredients. They are then baked in the oven with chopped garlic, parsley and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. Summertime is the best time to enjoy this delicious dish, as aubergine is in season.
Sobrasada is the most popular and most eaten sausage in Menorca. It’s made with selected pork meats, both lean cuts and bacon. The meat is stuffed and seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika, which gives it its characteristic red colour.
Spread onto a slice of bread, it is a delicious delicacy at any time of the day, although it can also be found in many traditional island recipes, such as the local rice.
7. Arroz de la Tierra
Arroz de la Tierra is a risotto made with semolina and wheat. It’s a typical rural dish, made by soaking the rice all night.The following day, it’s placed in a terracotta bowl and left to cook with finely chopped bacon, sobrasada, butifarrón and sausages. Then potatoes are added. It’s a real treat.
If you prefer pasta to rice, then fideuà will win you over. Originally an alternative to paella, it’s made by mixing a type of short and thin pasta, similar to angel hair, with chicken, shrimp, mussels or clams, fish broth, tomato, saffron and parsley.
9. Stuffed squid
Stuffed squid is another Menorcan culinary specialty you have to try. An intriguing version (particularly for a fish dish) also contains sobrasada.
Pastissets are shortbread cookies in the shape of a flower with rounded tips. They can be plain, sprinkled with icing sugar or filled with fig jam. In the olden days, these cookies were made at Christmas time and during other holidays. Today, they can be found all year round in any bakery. In Es Mercadal, you can try them atCas Sucrer, in the town centre.
Menorcan gastronomy is extremely rich and varied, and will satisfy everyone’s tastes. We recommend that you spend part of your holidays on the island enjoying these typical dishes and products: you will not regret it, and you will discover a very pleasant and tasty side of Menorca!