Spanish Food vs. Mexican Food: What’s the Difference?

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Spanish and Mexican food are rich and diverse culinary traditions, but they have distinct characteristics and flavors that set them apart. Flavors and traditions from Spanish cuisine made their way into Mexican food to create the cuisine we love today. However, Spanish food is still distinct from traditional Mexican fare.


Here are some key differences between Spanish food and Mexican food.


Culinary Influences

Spanish cuisine has been influenced by various civilizations throughout history, including the Romans, Moors, and other Mediterranean cultures. On the other hand, Mexican cuisine is heavily influenced by indigenous ingredients, cooking techniques, and Spanish colonization.



Spanish cuisine often relies on olive oil, garlic, saffron, tomatoes, and seafood such as cod, anchovies, and squid. Mexican cuisine makes abundant use of ingredients like corn, beans, chili peppers, tomatoes, avocados, and a wide range of fresh herbs and spices.


Spice Level

Mexican cuisine is generally spicier compared to Spanish cuisine. Mexican dishes often feature a variety of chili peppers, both fresh and dried, adding heat and complexity to the flavors. Spanish cuisine tends to have more subtle and balanced flavors, using herbs and spices like paprika and saffron.


Regional Varieties

Spain has diverse regional cuisines, each with its own specialties and flavors. Spanish cuisine offers a wide variety of regional delights, from the seafood-rich dishes of Galicia to the hearty stews of Castilla, the paella of Valencia, and the tapas culture in Andalusia. Mexican cuisine also showcases regional variations, with distinct styles like Yucatecan, Oaxacan, and Poblano, each offering unique ingredients and cooking techniques.


Preparation Techniques

Spanish cuisine often incorporates techniques like grilling, roasting, and baking. Traditional Spanish dishes like paella, tapas, and cured meats like jamón are popular examples. On the other hand, Mexican cuisine includes techniques such as simmering, stewing, and braising. Iconic Mexican dishes like mole, tamales, and enchiladas often involve complex preparations and long cooking times.



Spanish desserts are known for their delicate flavors and textures. Popular Spanish desserts include flan (caramel custard), churros, and turron (nougat). Mexican desserts are bold flavors and ingredients like chocolate, cinnamon, and tropical fruits. Examples of Mexican desserts include tres leches cake, churros with chocolate sauce, and arroz con leche (rice pudding).


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Try both at El Tapatio!

While there are similarities between Spanish and Mexican cuisine, they have distinct characteristics that reflect their respective histories, cultures, and regional variations. Exploring the flavors and dishes of both traditions can be a delightful culinary journey. At El Tapatio, we have Spanish food along with our Mexican offerings, so you can try both and enjoy a medley of flavors.


Contact us at (603) 262-5801 or visit us at 707 Milford Road in Merrimack.

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