Islanders of Lanzarote take pride in the excellence of the basic ingredients from which the rich gastronomy of the island is produced. From the delicious vegetables grown in the immaculate fields of black volcanic gravel, to the wide variety of both fish and shell fish caught in the seas off the island, the quality of Lanzarote’s cuisine comes as a surprise to many visitors.
The vital staple of any meal on Lanzarote are papas arrugadas - literally wrinkled potatoes - which are always served with mojo - a rich sauce of garlic, olive oil, vinegar, herbs, and a selection of spices. The potatoes, which have a very distinct almost nutty flavour, are grown in the neat fields of black gravel, the volcanic picón, which retains vital moisture in the semi desert climate.
A prized delicacy are tiny Papas Crías (wild potatoes) which grow on the rocky hillsides and which compensate in their lack of size for the richness of their flavour.
Two kinds of sauces are always served with the papas arrugadas, the spicy red mojo which is based on chillies and peppers, and the green mojo which flavoured with parsley or coriander and which is served to complement fish dishes.
The most common fish served in Lanzarote are dorada, (sea bream), vieja (parrot fish) and cherne (sea bass). Usually grilled (a la plancha), the fish will have been caught not far from the restaurant and could hardly be fresher.
Gofio is another vital staple of the island’s cuisine. Made from toasted corn and maize flour, in the past it would have been ground in the many windmills which once dotted the landscape of the island. Until the end of the 19th century when bread was a luxury eaten only at special occasions, gofio would have been an important part of every meal. Today it is used to thicken and flavour soups, stocks and stews. A speciality here is Escaldon de Gofio de caldo de pescado - a rich fish stew made with gofio and vegetables.
An excellent place to try the traditional cuisine of Lanzarote is in the restaurants of the Centres of Art Culture and Tourism designed by Manrique throughout the island.
The “El Diablo” Restaurant in the view point of the Timanfaya National Park has stunning views over the Montañas del Fuego. Open only at lunch time, guests can try chicken and sweet potatoes grilled over a natural vent where superheated air at a temperature of 300 degrees centigrade rises from deep within the volcano.
There is a menu of the day, which includes delicious goat and sheep milk cheeses and the rich traditional sweet desert Bienmesable (sweet almond syrup) served with ice cream.
Tito Gonzalez Medina, Cheese maker
"It's a special kind of cheese because it's 100% natural and it's hand-made. We use traditional, old methods"
The Castillo De San José (lunch 13 to 15.30 - dinner 19.30 to 23.00) in Arrecife is one of the best restaurants on the island which serves excellent fish dishes (supplied by the fishermen’s cooperative just around the corner). A speciality of the house is shellfish soup with azafranillo (local grown saffron). The glass fronted restaurant has wonderful views over the port where the interisland ferries and large cruise ships dock just metres from the ramparts of the 18th century castle.
The Manrique inspired Casa-Museo Al Campesino (open for lunch only, from 12.30 to 16.00) in Mozaga has a wide range of typical Lanzarote cuisine on the menu and guests can eat in the large cool restaurant set in a vast Jameo - a dome shaped space in the black lava rocks formed during the volcanic eruptions. Try the Tortilla conejera - an omelette with fish and onions - or the traditional salpicón - a pickled dish of fish or prawns and roe. Sancocho - a rich dish of salted fish and sweet potatoes - is a speciality here. A special tasting Menu Monumento combines small portions of the most typical dishes for 18€
Roman Mendez, Head chef at Al Campesino
"Really you can say that our gastronomy in Lanzarote is a healthy kind of cooking –the finished result is really delicious – because the basic ingredients are always so fresh"
At the Jameos del Agua (dinner served from 19:30 - 23:00 Tuesday’s, Friday’s and Saturday’s) there are both set and a la carte menus within the extraordinary complex formed within the lava tube. Light tapas lunches are also available but islanders tend to come here for dinner to enjoy the cool of the evening in the splendid setting of the restaurant overlooking the interior of the Jameo. Here calamari stuffed with prawns and grilled sea bass with mojo are specialities of the house.
For more simple food in the evenings try the Teleclubs which are found in most villages and small towns. Catering for local people, the Teleclubs are friendly places serving vino pata (local wines) plus excellent tapas and meals at prices which will not break the bank.
The huge eruptions of the 1730s, which blanketed the third of the island with thick layers of fine black gravel were initially seen as an absolute disaster for the island but today the Malvasia wines grown here regularly win international prizes and are amongst the best in the world.
Find out more about Lanzarote wine