From little known backwater to up-and-coming gourmet destination. The reputation of food in Malaga has soared along with the city’s rise in the tourist scene.

But there’s one typical dish that Malaga has always been known for and always been best at. In this post about food in Malaga, we look at fried fish.

Called pescaíto in Spanish, fried fish literally form the backbone of typical Malaga cuisine. Served at restaurants and beach bars throughout the city, plates of pescaíto are part and parcel of any Malagueños lunch or supper. Pescaíto comes in lots of forms, although it’s all small (that’s where the ‘ito’ bit of the word comes in) and all fried to a crisp. It also comes whole so expect bones, eyes and fins on your plate, but don’t forget they’re all small!

Sardine espetos

Definitely the king of food in Malaga, the sardine espeto is a wooden skewer spiked with small sardines freshly fished from Malaga bay. Cooked over an open wood fire and grilled to perfection, the wooden skewers of sardines rule summer evening dining.

typical food in Malaga
Sardines roasting on the embers

When to eat them: Best in months without an ‘r’ in them so from May to August.

What to pay: A portion costs anything from €1.50 to €4. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better.

How to eat them: A challenge for first timers, but watch our video below for the best way to eat an espeto sardine.

Boquerones

Second in the fried fish league come boquerones (anchovies), such a vital part of Malaga that people born here are known as boquerones! They’re fried – whole (boquerones fritos) or in halves after being marinated in lemon (boquerones al limón)

When to eat them: A year-round staple.

What to pay: Between €4 and €8 a plate.

How to eat them: This one’s easy – with your fingers and whole!

best things to eat in Malaga boquerones
Plate of boquerones al limon

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Salmonetes and pescadillas

Slightly bigger than Malaga sardines and anchovies, salmonetes translate as red snapper fish and pescadillas as whiting. Both measure between 15 and 20cm, but taste very different. Salmonetes have a strong taste and lots of bones; whiting tastes like hake and just has one central backbone so is a bit easier to eat.

When they’re fried, pescadillas curl up on themselves and form a circle that’s so perfect they look as if they’re biting their own tails (that’s where the Spanish expression la pescadilla que se muerde la cola meaning Catch-22 or vicious circle comes from).

When to eat them: A year-round staple, but pescadilla is best in the summer.

What to pay: Pescadillas – between €5 and €10 a plate; salmonetes – between €6 and €12.

How to eat them: Locals usually pick them up with their fingers and tuck in as they would a sardine (see video above), but using a knife and fork for this one is allowed and that’s probably the best way to avoid the bones.

 

fresh fish at Malaga markets
Fresh fish at Malaga markets

Adobo

These bite-sized chunks of marinated fish (usually dogfish) are another essential on the pescaíto menu in Malaga. The marinade consists of vinegar, oregano, salt, pepper and parsley. Some restaurants add cumin to the mix as well. As you’d expect from the ingredients, this is a strong dish so we recommend ordering half a plate (media ración) to try first.

When to eat them: A year-round staple.

What to pay: Between €5 and €8 a plate.

How to eat them: Just pick up and pop in!

READ OUR GUIDE TO EATING OUT IN MALAGA

Top tips

  • Do use your fingers. Cutting up pescaíto with a knife and fork is a challenge and you miss lots of bits of fish. Fingers smell of fish? Rub them hard with a lemon.
  • Don’t order too much at once. It might be small but pescaíto is filling so order a few dishes and then gauge yourself. You can always order more.
  • Don’t eat pescaíto on Mondays. Fishermen don’t go out on Sundays so any fried fish on offer on a Monday won’t be too fresh.
  • Do go where the locals go so take yourself off the beaten tourist track.
  • Do eat it on the beach. The best espetos have a whift of sea air in them!
  • Be adventurous and try as many fried fish dishes as possible. After all, it’s the best food in Malaga.

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