The Bocadillo Is Truly Hamming It Up

Bocadillo - piles of serrano ham inside a baguette.
Stack of serrano iberico ham sandwiches on display at a local sandwich shop in Madrid, Spain. Photo by Svetlana Day, c/o

Travel west from Madrid into the heartlands of Castille-Leon and you enter what is firmly bocadillo country. No, it ‘s not a dance version for an Armadillo but a ham festival or feria in a baguette. For those of us desperate to overcome a growling belly, this particular snack just hits the spot. Given its size it cannot be called a light one but then it isn’t enough to be described as a meal. The idea is very simple: lots of Iberian ham wafers inside a simple long baked loaf. These are similar in shape but only half the length of a French loaf, however given the weight of the meat inside them you need very nothing much longer.  If you need something more substantial, add slices of one of the local semi-cured or cured cheeses which the region specialises in. 

The bocadillo is one of those simple fares that began as food for the relatively poor but went on like the Cornish pasty to dominate the fast food market in Spain. It’s a great vehicle for Iberian hams but not one for any vegetarian. Indeed, looking for vegetarian foods on the ground in the high plains of Spain is not straightforward but they do exist. I know that there are variants of bocadillos outside Spain but they do not taste half as good as those eaten in the hot arid climate that is this country’s Summer.

The other great thing about the bocadillo is that so many variants actually exist. I’ve only mentioned the basic form which most people buy at the street kiosk but there are many more artful forms to be had. Generally any filling will do ranging from omelette through to pate, hams and salami, pork loin or lomo cheese, varieties of salad and vegetables, seafood especially squid and so on. It has the same level of infinite variety as a sandwich which it clearly is not !

One of the key elements is the bread itself and for the Spanish bread is more than just a staple. The Spanish baguette is the long and rather tubular barra de pan

The Serranito Bocadillo

In the deep south which is Andalucia, there is a type of bocadillo called the Serranito. It was an invention of José Luis Cabeza Hernández who created this trademarked food. It contains pork loin or lomo, some cured Serrano ham, tomato with a green pepper that has been pickled or cured in some way. That makes for a great lunch time snack.

Having said the bocadillo is a great long sandwich why not try an empanada or even a slice of hornazo which also supplies all the meat you may need in a day.

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