Few things excite me and my palate like Basque pintxos, and if there is an epicentre for them, it has to be my beloved Bilbao. Often referred to as the Basque Country’s tapas, these simple yet delicious delicacies elevate local ingredients into a highly sociable and incredibly moreish artform enjoyed in pintxo bars worldwide, including London’s lively Pix Pintxos.
How to make pintxos can be relatively easy though if you have authentic Spanish pintxo recipes and the right high quality ingredients.
I recently revealed my Top 10 Pintxo Bars in Bilbao and also the Best Pintxos Bars in San Sebastian. So when I decided to share my Top 10 Pintxo Recipes, I thought it would be an easy task, however, narrowing them down to my ten favourite ones was incredibly difficult. Here goes though… and enjoy recreating them for yourself!
This seemed like the best pintxo to start with as it is widely regarded as the first of the Basque pintxos. This is one of the pintxos San Sebastian is famous for thanks to brothers Blas and Antxon Vallés. The ingredients are wonderful – pitted manzanilla olives, Cantábrico anchovies and Guindilla pickled peppers skewered on a simple wooden toothpick and marinated in extra virgin olive oil. Perfect with a glass of txakoli, beer or sparkling wine. Gilda Pintxo recipe here.
Chistorra Sausage Rolls with Lemon Aioli
Now when you think sausage rolls, you don’t tend to think of Spain, but think again. I first discovered these delicious pintxo in Ganbara, a fabulous pintxo bar and restaurant in San Sebastian’s old quarter. Light crisp and buttery pastry gives way to the spices and satisfyling meatiness of chistorra sausage. I like to dip mine in a lemon aioli that’s delicately infused with saffron threads. They’re yours in just 30 minutes with my recipe here.
Bacalao en Aceite
Bacalao is salt cod and this recipe is one of the classic cold pintxos recipes. It may be served cold but there is plenty of heat there thanks to the fact that after being de-salted for 48 hours, it is marinated in garlic and guindilla chillis. I love these with a good glass of Rioja and some rustic crusty bread. 5 ins to prep, 30 to cook – my recipe is here.
Bonito Tuna Pintxo with Pepper Vinaigrette
The Cantábrico Sea on the Basque coast is where the star ingredient for these basque pintxos can be found. I use the ventresca flesh, which is from the belly of the Bonito tuna, as it has a delightfully delicate texture and is so succulent. It sounds difficult to come by, but it can be bought in both cans or jars. Spear chunks on toothpicks with a manzanilla olive, spoon on diced pepper and shallots then drizzle with olive oil. The salinity and acidity of a sprinkle of salt and a dash of cider vinegar really bring it to life. Serve with crusty bread and a glass of txakoli. Intrigued? Try the recipe here.
Pintxo de Txaka
Shellfish play an important part in the pintxo culture. Txaka are actually crab sticks – aka surimi sticks – which are classic Basque pintxos. Finely diced crab sticks are mixed with mayonnaise and a pinch of cayenne pepper, then served on a slice of toasted baguette with grated hard-boiled egg on top. Absolutely delicious. Click here for the full recipe.
Garlic Mushroom and Ibérico Ham Pintxo
What I Iove about this Basque pintxo most is the way the flavours and textures of the earthy mushrooms combine the nutty Ibérico ham. These are then elevated by the garlic oil flavoured with sherry vinegar. Incredibly quick and easy to prepare and cook, the mushrooms and ham are stacked and held in place with a wooden toothpick atop a slice of toasted baguette, cut on the bias. See how it’s done here.
Whilst this recipe takes a little more preparation, once you master how to make pintxos like these delicious pre-dinner canapés, they’ll be part of your repertoire. Inspired by the traditional Txangurro a la Donostiarra, these are one of the pintxos San Sebastian is famous for. The slow cooked spider crab meat, shallot, leek and tomato filling is flambéd with Cognac, spooned into crispy tartlets and baked under a hot grill. It’s a fabulous little pintxo recipe.
Fresh squid figure often in Spanish pintxo recipes. Rabas is a classic Sunday pintxo which is half inch strips of fried squid in a crunchy and light golden batter. What makes a real difference to this pintxo recipe is to make the batter the day before and also not to overcook the squid to avoid it turning rubbery. I always enjoy my Rabas with a liberal squeeze of lemon and an ice cold beer. My Rabas pintxo recipe is here.
Tigres Stuffed Mussels
There are numerous pintxos Bilbao is responsible for creating and these Tigres are an absolute classic that have been consumed in their hundreds in Baste Taberna in old town Bilbao for over 30 years. You need really good quality fresh mussels that are chopped and mixed with onions, paprika and tomatoes and stuffed into the mussel shells with a thick béchamel. They’re then rolled in breadcrumbs and golden fried to this easy step-by-step recipe.
Iberico Ham Croissants
This is a personal favourite recipe of mine and my wife. These are pintxos San Sebastian diners absolutely adore and we first tried these in Ganbara, a favourite restaurant and bar of ours in the town’s old quarter. The croissants are impossible to resist with their delicious buttery, golden, flaky pastry and salty nutty ham. Don’t be frightened to try making the croissants, my recipe takes you through every step to ensure you get perfect pintxos.