A quick history of Tenerife tells us that we can expect a rich culinary experience on the island: it is one of the seven Canaries Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean, ruled under the Spanish flag but belonging to the group of archipelagos of Macaronesia, which, although European, are geographically found along the African coast. The island’s first settlers were the Guanches, an Aboriginal people that came from northern Africa. Lately, the affluence of tourism has had an influence on the dining scene and nowadays you can find all kinds of cuisine from local to international and from casual to Michelin-starred restaurants.
Although tapas are not so common in Tenerife as they are in Spain, there are many bars and restaurants serving them. These small portions of food are perfect for starters or a quick lunch. The most popular Canarian tapas are:
- Churros de Pescado (fish fritters served with garlic mayonnaise);
- Fried goat cheese served with red or green mojos;
- Iberico or Serrano ham classically along with cheese and wine;
- Boquerones (anchovies seasoned with garlic, parsley and olive oil);
- Croquetas (made from fried fish or meat);
- Pimientos de Padrón (green peppers fried in olive oil and salt).
You will find tapas bars all over the island but the ones that have more variety are mostly in Puerto de La Cruz and Santa Cruz. However, some very good options are to be found all along the Adeje coast and down towards the south. In Adeje, near Puerto de Colon fancy beach, try the Toro Tapas & Grill. It has a nice view over the promenade along the sea from the terrace. If you just order tapas (don’t look for the menu but read what’s on the wall), you will spend around €50 for two people for several tapas, drinks, dessert and coffee.
Another good option is Tasca Tierras del Sur in Granadilla de Abona. It is a typical kind of Spanish tavern where the owner will guide you through the menu and recommend what to order. The price is reasonable at around €15 per person (note that ham is always expensive).
Potaje de Berros is a watercress soup, obviously made out of watercress but, depending on the restaurant and the leftovers it is made from it can change from a starter to the main dish. If you order the soup as a starter, go for Carne con Papas as your main dish. It is made from beef and potatoes cubes watered with a Mediterranean sauce made of garlic and tomatoes. While we are on potatoes. try Papas Locas, which literally are crazy potatoes! They are French fried potatoes served with three sauces (mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard) or sometimes more ingredients (chicken, ham, sausage, mushrooms, bacon, peppers, onions). A slightly healthier version is Papas Arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes) served with red or green Mojo (spicy hot pepper red or garlic and parsley green sauces).
Another typical dish is Puchero. The aspect is a bit messy because it is a mix of several kinds of meat and vegetables (pork, beef, chicken; corn, cabbage, carrot, potatoes) but it is the right choice if you need to refuel. You will find other different stews made of rabbit or goat and a number of fish dishes (parrot, wreckfish or grouper) also on a Tenerife menu, with the word Gofio constantly appearing. Its origin goes back to the Guanches and it is made out of flour that contains several grains. This mix of cereals then serves as a basis for several dishes like Escaldón, made with fish or meat stock that turns to a sticky paste which is extremely nourishing or Gofio Amasado, which looks like a big roll of bread and is made from olive oil, honey and almonds.
Try a True Local Guachinche
Guachinche is not exactly a restaurant. The term comes from the wine producers in the north of the island and originally it was a way to promote their product. The genuine Guachinche is a place where you can taste and buy wine but also eat some simple food. There is nothing fancy about these restaurants unless they have evolved towards a modern style and then they are only restaurants, not Guachinches. The service is very basic; you will probably have to get your own knife and fork and sit by yourself at a table where other people are already eating. The good news is that it is extremely cheap for an enormous quantity of food. You will not be presented with a wide choice as the owners are forced to use their own local products but these are certainly fresh. It is recommendable to speak or understand a little bit of Spanish if visiting a Guachinche. You will find these places in small towns like Tacoronte, Santa Ursula, and La Orotava near Puerto de La Cruz. However, they are not always easily found and may well be in a garage or a garden in the middle of nowhere. In La Orotava, we recommend La Casona which even offers an ocean view. For €15 to €25 for two people, you will probably be served enough to be able to take leftovers home. Try the goat cheese with Mojos or a meat stew, a Gofio made out of chickpeas (a variant of the original Gofio) or simply have eggs and chorizo, all washed down with house wine, of course.
Fine or Budget Dining – Canarian Style
With around five million tourists visiting the island yearly, it is expected that many great chefs are attracted to Tenerife. Therefore, a challenge is organised each year to reward the best restaurants and their chefs. The most traditional restaurant is certainly El Rincon de Juan Carlos, located in Los Gigantes on the west coast. It is a cosy establishment with fine and careful service; everything is perfect down to the details of the crockery. Order the tasting menu which is around €85 per person and includes 12 dishes (no drinks included). It is expensive but well worth the price.
La Cueva Caprichosa near Santa Cruz de Tenerife sits at the opposite end of the scale. It is set up in a cave, serves typical Canarian food and is a very cheap option. For a full meal you will spend €10 to €12 per person. On the famous Adeje coast, between Los Cristianos and Playa San Juan is Otelo. It is a simple restaurant located on the top of Barranco Del Infierno Mountain. It offers spectacular views and typical Canarian food at a reasonable price. You can expect to pay around €15 per person for a full meal. El Cine Bar in Los Cristianos is a must for seafood lovers. The chairs are made of plastic and you will queue up for hours. It is full of locals but it is the best and cheapest place in this usually pricey area. For €15 per person, you will be delighted with fried or roasted octopus. Finally, in San Cristobal de la Laguna, there is a wonderful place named Tapasté with great vegan and vegetarian options. The quality is extraordinary and the price just amazingly cheap. You will spend no more than €10 per person.
A special culinary experience is waiting for you in Tenerife in the form of some real genuine places. However, you need to prepare for simplicity. Some places have a real basic presentation. Except for fancy gourmet restaurants, sophistication is rarely present in a simple dish. Our advice: look at your neighbour’s plates and order the same, this way you will get exactly what you fancy.
Wondering what to do in Tenerife when you aren’t eating? Check out our article on 30 things to do on the island.