Food on the Camino de Santiago: What and Where to Eat
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a commission if you click a link and make a purchase. There’s no extra cost for you, and I only recommend products and companies I use. Learn more.
Food is one of the best parts of walking the Camino de Santiago. By passing through well-known cities and smaller towns across Spain, France, and Portugal, you’ll experience authentic cuisine that most tourists don’t. You’ll have delicious meals for cheap and be well-fed with pilgrim’s menus. But while there were a lot of culinary highs I had when walking the Camino Portugués, there were also a few lows. When you’re staying in a town so tiny there’s only one restaurant, you can only expect so much.
In this Camino de Santiago food guide, you’ll see what it’s like to eat on the Camino, the best foods you should try, and tips on how to eat for cheap.
- What do you eat on the Camino de Santiago?
- What is the pilgrim's menu?
- How much does it cost to eat on the Camino?
- How to eat cheaply
- How easy is it to eat on the Camino if I have dietary restrictions?
- Top foods to try on the Camino de Santiago
- More resources for the Camino de Santiago
What do you eat on the Camino de Santiago?
Remember there are different Camino de Santiago routes that pass through other countries besides Spain. The Camino Frances starts in France, and the Camino Portugués starts in Portugal. This section gives you a general idea of what meals are like, but there will be minor differences from country to country.
Breakfasts are surprisingly light on the Camino. If you’re used to hearty, protein or carb-packed breakfasts, you’ll need to adjust. Breakfast consists of coffee, tea, or orange juice and a pastry, tortilla de patata (a Spanish omelette made with eggs and potatoes), or toast with a variety of toppings (cold cuts, cheese, jam, butter, and tomato and olive oil).
Some albergues and hostels provide breakfast but it’s not the norm. Cafés and bars don’t open until 8 or 9 AM, and you’ll most likely start walking before then. If you know you need some food to get going for the day, check with your accommodation so you have time to make a trip to the grocery store if needed. Even if they don’t serve any meals, most accommodations will have a kitchen where you can store and prep food.
When I did the Camino, I started walking between 5 and 7 AM, depending on how much distance I had for the day and how hot it was going to be. Because I’m used to working out first thing in the morning at home, I didn’t mind walking on an empty stomach. I actually prefer it because I don’t feel weighed down with food. On long-distance days where I had to cover more than 28 km, it felt mentally great to take down 10 to 12 km before finally sitting down for breakfast.
For breakfast, I mostly had a café con leche (coffee with milk) with some sort of pastry. When I was in Portugal, it was usually a pastel de nata (Portuguese egg custard tart). If I found a bakery, I’d occasionally have cake for breakfast (no judgement – there are no rules on the Camino) or something savory. Once I crossed into Spain, I traded my pastel de natas for napolitanas (chocolate croissants) and tortillas.
For lunch, you can have something light or hearty. Sandwiches are a lunch staple you’ll find in all three countries along the Camino. In Spain, basic bocadillos (sandwiches) have ham and cheese, chorizo, or a tortilla sandwiched between two slices of crusty bread. Fancier, more inventive bocadillos have mushrooms, blood sausage, potato sticks, and other interesting ingredients.
If you’re looking for something more filling, you can sit down for a full meal. You’ll find pilgrim’s menus along the Camino, which are three-course meals served with bread, a drink, and coffee. Pilgrim’s menus are some of the best and most memorable meals I had on the Camino. The downside? You might be tempted to take a nap after. If you think the pilgrim’s menu is too much food for you, you can order a la carte.
Some pilgrims choose to DIY their lunch by popping into a grocery store and grabbing some bread, meat, cheese, fruit, chips, or ready-to-eat items. This is the cheapest option, and there are plenty of places to sit down and chow down along the way. You’ll just need to come prepared with travel utensils.
Lunches were the most flexible meal for me. Depending on how hungry I was, I had a small sandwich with a soda on some days. Other days, I enjoyed the pilgrim’s menu. On short-distance days, I would arrive at my destination in the afternoon. I’d grab lunch while waiting for the albergue to open. Or if it was open, I would check in to claim my bed, go out for lunch, and then come back to shower and do my laundry.
Dinner is the largest meal of the day for most pilgrims. After walking for hours, your body needs to refuel and rest for tomorrow.
There are lots of options for dinner. Some of the best albergues do a family-style dinner. If it’s offered, I recommend joining. The food is good, home-style cooking, and it’s a great opportunity to get to know other pilgrims. These communal meals create the feeling of connection and community that the Camino is well known for.
Pilgrim’s menus aren’t just for lunch – they’re also sometimes available for dinner. If you prefer not to stick to a set menu, dinner is the perfect time to try local dishes or something new. In cities and large towns, there are excellent restaurants at all price points, and you can ask your accommodation for recommendations. When you stay in a small town, there will only be a handful of restaurants – in some cases, just one or two. At least that makes your choice easy.
What time is dinner on the Camino de Santiago?
Dinner usually starts between 6 and 8 PM on the Camino, but it differs depending on which country you’re in.
When I was in Portugal, I ate dinner around 6 or 7 PM. But in Spain, dinner starts late. This was the biggest adjustment I had to make when I crossed over from Portugal. Restaurants in Spain don’t open until 8 or 9 PM.
When you’re going to sleep at 9 or 10 PM, it’s tough to wait that late. There’s not much you can do about this except cook your own dinner to eat earlier or scope out a restaurant that opens earliest. I chose the latter and filled my stomach with snacks and beer until it was time for dinner.
Water and drinks
It’s important to stay hydrated on the Camino, especially if you’re walking in the summer. Water is easily found in towns. There are some fountains with potable water. You can also ask cafés and restaurants to fill up your water bottle.
It’s recommended to carry 2 liters of water and to fill up whenever you have an opportunity. There are some long stretches on the Camino where there’s no place to top up, so always look ahead at your route and be prepared.
Coffee, tea, orange juice, soda, iced tea, wine, and beer are common drinks on the Camino. If you like electrolyte drinks, the best place to find them are in convenience stores. Otherwise, stock up on electrolyte powders or dissolvable tablets before you start.
Even if you aren’t much of a snacker, it’s a good idea to always carry some snacks. You never know when you’ll feel like you need a boost of energy. Snacks also come in handy when you don’t want to sit down for lunch and would rather carry on walking. There were a few times where I snacked for lunch because I preferred to get to my destination as soon as possible.
While I definitely enjoyed some chips and cookies, your snacks should ideally provide you with healthy protein, carbs, and fats. Nuts, crackers, fresh or dried fruit, and granola bars are better choices, and you can easily buy them at grocery stores.
What is the pilgrim’s menu?
The pilgrim’s menu (menú del peregrino) or menu of the day (menú del día) is the best value you can get on the Camino. For between €8 and €12, you’ll get a starter, entree, dessert, bread, a drink (which includes beer and wine), and coffee. There’s three to four starter, entree, and dessert options to choose from.
It’s easy to find these prix-fixe menus. You’ll see them advertised outside on chalkboard signs with the price and menu options for that day listed out.
Pilgrim’s menus are incredibly cheap and delicious. Every single one I tried was good. Here are a few pilgrim’s menus/menus of the day I had on the Camino Portugués and recommend:
- O Lagareiro – O Lagareiro’s pilgrim’s menu was exactly what I needed on a rainy day. I had a comforting vegetable soup, plate of rice, beans, and pork, and chocolate mousse for only €8. I showed up at the start of lunch and by the time I left, the restaurant was filled with locals (a good sign).
- Mamá Peixe Taberna – Mamá Peixe Taberna is a nice restaurant in Santiago de Compostela that specializes in Galician seafood. For a slightly pricier place, they offer an affordable €14 menu of the day for lunch every Tuesday to Friday. It’s popular, so I recommend making a reservation via WhatsApp. If you arrive in Santiago de Compostela in the morning, Mamá Peixe is a fantastic option for a celebratory lunch.
- Mesón O Galego – If you continue on after Santiago de Compostela to Fisterra, Mesón O Galego has a yummy menu of the day and indoor and outdoor seating. I started with their tuna salad, which sounds simple but was surprisingly very good. Then, I had their fish and flan.
How much does it cost to eat on the Camino?
Your food costs on the Camino will depend on how much you eat out versus preparing your own food from the grocery store. If you stick to grocery shopping and cooking, you can eat for less than €20 a day.
However, if you eat out, it costs about €25 or more per day, depending on the types of restaurants you go to for lunch and dinner. A breakfast of coffee and a pastry is about €3 to €5. For lunch, a pilgrim’s menu is typically around €10. Dinner will most likely be your most expensive meal and can range from €10 to €15.
How to eat cheaply
- Shop for all your meals – Grocery shopping for your breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks is the cheapest way to eat. You’ll still be able to experience local food, just in a different way. If you plan on doing this, make sure you pack travel utensils, a plate or bowl, and reusable snack bags. You’ll need them when you stop for lunch and in case your albergue doesn’t provide dishware.
- Drink locally or not at all – The cheapest way to drink is by choosing local beers and wines. Luckily, you’re in some of the best countries for them. If you’re on a very tight budget, go alcohol-free even. Although beer and wine are incredibly cheap, you’ll save yourself a few euros each day by not drinking.
- Take advantage of the pilgrim’s menu – Like I said above, the pilgrim’s menu is the best deal you can get for food on the Camino. No one ever leaves still feeling hungry. For some, it’s even too much food.
- Fill up on sandwiches – If you eat out for lunch, go for a sandwich. They’re cheap, filling, and always tasty.
How easy is it to eat on the Camino if I have dietary restrictions?
The Camino isn’t the most accommodating if you have dietary restrictions. Most meals are centered around meat or seafood, with a small side of salad, rice, or potatoes. If you’re vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, or have food allergies, there are ways to make it work. It just requires some planning.
For vegetarians and vegans, eating out can be difficult because there aren’t many veggie options offered. Instead of having every meal out, make your own meals and pack lots of snacks. Most accommodations have a kitchen you can use. I met a few vegetarians on the Camino who would pick up breakfast and lunch items from the grocery store the day before. Then, they would either eat out or cook something basic, like pasta, for dinner.
Pescatarians won’t have as much trouble as vegetarians or vegans because of how much seafood is served in Spain, Portugal, and France. On the Portuguese Camino, there was usually a meat and fish option on the menu. In Galicia, you’ll see all types of seafood, including octopus, shrimp, scallops, clams, and mussels.
Top foods to try on the Camino de Santiago
- Tarta de Santiago – The cake of St. James is a dessert on nearly every menu along the Camino. It’s made from ground almonds, eggs, and sugar. After baking, a cutout of the cross of St. James is placed on top of the cake and powdered sugar is dusted on top. The cutout is removed, leaving behind the image of the cross. Tarta de Santiago is the quintessential Camino dessert that you have to try once.
- Caldo gallego – Galician broth is a soup with turnip greens, potatoes, white beans, ham, and chorizo. The savory stew is perfect for a rainy day or the winter. When done right, it makes a lovely lunch paired with bread. But a disappointing caldo gallego that’s watery and lacks flavor is the worst.
- Pulpo a la gallega or polbo á feira – Galician-style octopus is a simple but tasty dish where the taste and texture of the octopus shines. The octopus is boiled and then chopped up with olive oil, salt, and paprika.
- Pimientos de Padrón – You can’t possibly pass up padrón peppers when you’re in Galicia, the region Padrón is in. These small, green peppers are fried until they blister and sprinkled with coarse salt. They’re a delicious small plate that pairs well with beer.
- Tortilla de patata – The Spanish omelette is a traditional dish you’ll find everywhere in the country. It’s one of my favorite Spanish breakfast foods since it combines two savory breakfast must-haves – potatoes and eggs. Some tortillas also include onion. No two tortillas are the same and some are runnier than others, so it’s fun to try tortillas as you go and see which ones are your favorite.
- Jamón Ibérico – You’ve never had melt-in-your-mouth cured meat until you’ve tried Iberian ham. And after trying it, I say it’s the best ham in the world. It’s fatty, smooth, and has a slight nuttiness, which comes from the acorns that Iberian pigs feed on. You can eat it on its own as a small dish or in a sandwich.
- Pastel de nata – One of the foods that Portugal is best known for is the pastel de nata, or Portuguese egg custard tart. It’s a crime to not have one when you do the Portuguese Camino. And why would you skip it when it’s sweetly eggy and the perfect textural mix of creamy and flaky? Every café and bakery has them so there’s many chances to try one. But if you can find them when they’re fresh and still hot, that’s the best.
- Bifana – The humble bifana, or Portuguese pork sandwich, was a surprise hit for me. Marinated and saucy thin-sliced pork is sandwiched in a soft roll. Bifanas are small but pack a lot of flavor. Have one as a small snack, or double or triple it for a meal.
- Francesinha – When doing the Camino Portugués, you’ll either start in Porto or pass through it. The francesinha originated in Porto and is the Portuguese take on the croque monsieur. The thick sandwich is made with layers of ham, steak, and sausage. Then, topped with a melted slice of cheese, an egg, and a tomato-based sauce. Most francesinhas come with fries, as if the sandwich wasn’t enough carbs. It’s a mountain of food that’ll put you in a food coma. So if you don’t think you can take one down on your own, split it with someone.
- Bacalhau – Salted cod is a popular ingredient in Portugal that’s featured in many dishes. Bacalhau à brás is a heavy but delicious dish that combines shredded salted cod, potatoes, and eggs. Pastéis de bacalhau, or salted cod cakes, is a starter or small dish that’s the perfect introduction to this ingredient.
- Sardinha assada – Sardines are celebrated and treasured in Portugal. So much that they actually have their own festival – the Feast of St Anthony, which is celebrated in Lisbon on June 12. Aside from canning sardines, another common cooking method is grilling. The skin crisps up while the inside of the fish stays flaky. Sardinha assada, or grilled sardines, is usually served with potatoes, bread, and salad.
More resources for the Camino de Santiago
- Ultimate Camino de Santiago Packing List for Women
- Complete Guide to Albergues on the Camino de Santiago
- Camino Portuguese Coastal vs. Central Route: How to Choose
- Best Albergues on the Camino Portuguese