A visit to the fish market is one of the most quintessential of Spanish experiences, whether it's the raucous wholesale market, where fish are unloaded at quayside, or the shoppers' market in town. Here the fish in their incredible variety attest to the fact that Spain's hundreds of miles of coastline provide much more than a sunbather's paradise. For many newcomers to Spain this variety is both perplexing and just a little intimidating.

boquerón, anchoa

Fresh anchovies are a specialty of our coast. In fact, the people from the city of Málaga are nicknamed Boquerones by the rest of the country. This silvery fish has a protruding upper jaw, from whence it gets it Spanish name, boquerón, meaning "big mouth".


Fresh sardines are a treat, with little similarity to the tinned fish of the same name. Of the same family as herring, the sardine can be substituted for that fish.


A beautiful fish with dark wavy lines across its back and a silvery-blue belly. The high fat content helps keep it moist while cooking. Estornino, Spanish mackerel, is interchangeable with caballa.


Its name means "pretty", and is used for several members of the tuna family. A big, meaty fish which seems to have less wastage than any other.


A real treat when found fresh. Usually sold in steaks, the flesh of the tuna is darkly grained and firm textured like meat, with a flavour that's very good. The best meat comes from the belly section.

pez de limón

A really excellent fish, suitable for grilling or baking. It's a pretty blue fish with a yellow streak from cheek to tail.


Probably the best and most expensive of a variety of sea bream to be found in Spanish markets. Weighing a kilo or more, the dorada is a pinkish-gold colour and marked with gold spots on the cheeks and between the eyes. The flesh is firm and moist.

Red Bream

One of the favourite fish in Spain. Besugo is a traditional Christmas Eve specialty. It's pinkish-grey with a large black spot on the shoulder.


One of the most expensive fish in the market because it is scarce and so highly esteemed. The flesh is white, delicate and very slightly gelatinous.


Chances are, fish vendors will call any flat-fish that vaguely resembles a sole lenguado. The sole is usually a smooth brown or greyish-tan colour. The flesh is very delicate.


This is one of the least attractive specimens in Spanish markets, but very good eating. A grey colour and without scales, the monkfish or angler fish has a huge head and slim tail. The flesh is firm and sweet-flavoured and can readily be substituted in recipes which call for lobster.

Red Mullet

A superb fish. It is very rosy in colour and has a chin barb. The flesh is firm, moist and beautifully flavoured.


This must certainly by the favourite fish all over Spain, and for good reason. Its white, fine-flavoured, flaky flesh makes it a good choice for many preparations. A beautiful silver fish, it usually weighs in around a kilo, though smaller ones, called pescadilla, are very common. Hake which is hooked on a long line, anzuelo, is pricier and in better condition than that caught in a net.


Cod is not found in Spanish waters, but the far-reaching Spanish fishing fleet brings cod to northern ports where it is salted and dried. In this form it is a staple food, basis of many tasty dishes, throughout Spain.


Very bland, light and digestible. Fish similar to whiting are the forkbeard, brótola, which is quite good, the ling, arbitán, escolano or maruca, and the excellent rockling or lota.


These are usually brought to market alive, then skinned and cut into chunks for sale. The tiny baby eels, angulas, are very popular as a tapa, sautéed with lots of garlic. Congrio is the conger eel and morena is the moray.


Widely served in Spain, this fish is never found fresh, but only frozen or thawed. It is ocean catfish or wolf-fish, taken off the coast of South America and frozen at sea.


This is usually found in the market already dressed, as the wing flaps are the edible part. Somewhat strong in flavour, skate or ray responds nicely to well-flavoured sauces or poaching in a vinegar court-bouillon.

pez espada

The giant of the market, the swordfish often comes to market whole, where it is cut into steaks. Though expensive, there is very little wastage. The firm-textured, almost meaty flesh is only medium fatty and needs basting while cooking to prevent drying out.


Trout hatcheries in many regions of Spain provide a good supply of this delectable freshwater fish.


Fished in the north of Spain and also imported, fresh, frozen and smoked, from Norway and Canada. Salmon trout is trucha asalmonada, trucha del mar or reo.