A Friend on the Camino

a helping hand on the camino frances


Spain has some of the most fabulous food in the world. You may not experience it every day if you only eat pilgrim’s menus, but if you venture out past the Camino itself and the tourist bars and restaurants nearby, you can sample some of the most delish food Spain has to offer.

Of course, after a month of eating the same kind of food (sometimes over and over and over – flan anyone?) you will probably miss your home comfort food.

Remember too that you are burning huge quantities of calories walking each day. This is NOTa good time to be on a diet – believe me I’ve been on a medically necessary diet (not calorie restricted but fat restricted) and it was very, very difficult to get enough calories to walk a decent distance every day. By all means, be sensible about what you eat, but don’t try to deprive yourself. It’s a good idea to use a calorie counter to guesstimate how much extra food you’ll need so you don’t under or over eat too much. But ultimately, listen to your body. If you are hungry it’s probably because your body needs fuel – not because you are comfort eating. I always bring snacks and chocolate just in case I need a little pick me up to get through the last couple of kilometers (and I don’t even like chocolate that much).

Delicious Spanish food!

Sharing a Pilgrim’s meal at a restaurant

What food will I find on the Camino?

Menu del Dia and/or Pilgrim’s menu

This meal can be found in restaurants or albergues. Sometimes there is a distinction between the two – one being specifically for pilgrims and served earlier and the other being offered to both pilgrims and locals. Sometimes a menu del dia is a little more expensive and nicer than the pilgrim’s menu. Whatever it’s called, it’s generally a three course meal that is cheap and packed with calories. Most of the time you’ll have some choice over what you get for each course. If you have dietary restrictions (even just not eating pork) this can sometimes get tricky and you may end up eating a lot of salad or a lot of french fries with nothing on the side. Below are several examples of menu del dias.

Cook your own!

Many albergues have kitchens – however they will be at very different levels of equippedness (is that even a word?). I have seen kitchens with a fridge, a microwave and nothing else. Not even a plate. I’ve also seen kitchens with enough gadgets that a chef would be satisfied. Most often they’ll be sparsely equipped and you’ll have to plan simple cooking and improvise. You may also end up carrying some food basics – like oil, salt or garlic so that you don’t have to keep buying them in each town. Check to see what’s been left behind by other pilgrims before heading out to buy food at the tienda!

This is by FAR the cheapest option – especially if you meet friends and travel together to share the cost of groceries. It is also often the most genial. People cooking and breaking bread together is a gesture of warmth and friendship across most cultures and the Camino is no exception. Some of the best meals have been simple vegetarian stews shared with 20 of my closest Camino friends.

A La Carte

Of course, you can always buy food at any restaurant A La Carte. This option is most expensive and affords the most choice of food. Not every little town will have a wide variety of restaurants, but most have a restaurant/bar/cafe. If you have a restrictive diet of any kind this may be your best bet on an evening when you’re tired and can’t be bothered cooking or can’t find an albergue with a decent kitchen. However, there are some places that only serve a pilgirms menu until much later in the evening (the Spanish typically don’t eat dinner until at least 9pm). If you want to try out regional specialties this is one of the very best ways to find the best of each – but that may take some planning!

Most people do a mixture of these eating choices along the way depending on their budget and restaurant/kitchen availability!

Fresh Galician scallops on the shell

a friend on the camino

© Tara Cleveland, 2018

The fine print