The Savory Addition That Makes Spanish Croquetas Unique

When you think of Spain, you may envision intricate architecture, traditional flamenco dancing, dazzling beaches, or even bull fighting. But do you think of the food? While nearby France and Italy have been internationally recognized for their elevated and flavorful dishes, Spaniards believe their food is the best. 

Spain is known for their wine, olive oil, and — everyone's favorite – tapas. Their proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean has deeply influenced their cuisines, and seafood is often incorporated into their most famous dishes (via The Traveling Cook Abroad).

Paella is widely considered the national dish of Spain. It is a one-dish recipe that includes rice, chicken, seafood, vegetables, and saffron. This end result is pleasantly salty, subtly saffron-flavored, and unmissable on your next trip (via Tastes Better From Scratch). This dish is popular internationally, but it has humble origins. According to The Paella Company, "Paella was originally farmers' and farm [laborers]' food, cooked by the workers over a wood fire for the lunchtime meal."

Another Spanish favorite, croquetas, also known as croquettes, was also started for practical purposes. Spanish Sabores says the dish is a traditional "poor man's food" and was started as a way to reduce food scraps. Luckily, this creamy and crispy dish is easy to make, and one ingredient can change the experience entirely.

Serrano ham is perfectly succulent

Just like juicy dumplings or saucy pizza, deep-fried foods are beloved globally. Many countries around the world enjoy their own version of croquettes. In Rome, braised beef croquettes are consumed as appetizers as tender beef mixed with vegetables and seasonings creates a savory center (via Saveur). American hushpuppies can also be considered croquettes with a corn-meal batter that is fried (via Food Network). But, the Spanish ham croquettes may take first place with the inclusion of Serrano ham.

According to The Spruce Eats, Serrano ham "is made from several different breeds of white pigs, such as Duroc, Landrace, or Large White," that have been fed cereal and cured for between seven to 16 months. Enrique Tomas adds that this particular ham consists of "everything that is produced with the hind legs of white pigs."

Along with the ham, the center of croquettes consist of a creamy, succulent filling that is neither cheese, nor potato. Instead, as Curious Cuisiniere explains, it is a velvety béchamel sauce made with olive oil, butter, milk, and flour.

You can make these appetizers at home or find them at your local tapas bar. Either way, you won't be disappointed.