Everything You Need to Know About Espetos

This blog post was originally posted on April 4th, 2016 and was updated on June 22th, 2017

Everything you need to know about espetos

If you come to Malaga, there are several foods that you will see everywhere. There are the fried, salted almonds that multiple vendors will try to sell you on Calle Larios, as well as in the Atarazanas market. We also have some excellent olives and sweet wine. However, today I want to talk about the “espeto.” You might be asking yourself what the heck I’m talking about. That’s okay. We are going to tell you everything you need to know about eating espetos in Malaga.

Espetos in Malaga

Espetos cooking over a fire

What is an espeto?

The verb “espetar” means “to skewer.” In Malaga, an “espeto” refers to 6 fresh sardines (although you can also use other kinds of fish and meat, in Malaga, an espeto usually refers to sardines), skewered and cooked over a pit of coals. The only seasoning is a bit of olive oil and sea salt. The result? Delicious! To be eaten with your fingers, and enjoyed as close to the beach as possible!

Have people always eaten fish this way?

Grilling fish over open fires has been around in Malaga since the time of the Phoenicians. It was common for fishermen to grill themselves a quick meal just after returning from the sea. They would build a small fire in their boats and carefully grill the fish over the hot embers. That is why you will see espetos being grilled over old fishing boats along the sand. Perhaps the modern espeto came to be thanks to King Alfonso XII. The story goes that King Alfonso XII was introduced to the espeto back in 1884. Miguel Martinez Soler is credited as the chef and he was known as “Miguel, the Sardine Man” (Miguel, el de las Sardinas). He insisted that the king use his hands to eat the sardines, and the king thoroughly enjoyed his dish!

Eating Espetos in Malaga
Sardine Espeto in Malaga

Do you have to prepare the sardines in any special way?

An espeto is usually made up of six sardines skewered on a bamboo spit. The best ones are medium sized (the big sardines aren’t usually found in the Mediterranean. You should also firm up the sardines before cooking by sticking them in a bucket of ice and salting them for at least 30 minutes. If you want to add extra flavor, you can add some herbs such as thyme, rosemary or bay leaves to the fire. Traditionally, they use olive wood for the fire, as that also adds flavor.

Are sardines healthy?

Yes! Sardines are a good source of vitamin B and iron. They are also high in Omega 3 and low in calories. One serving is about 200 calories and gives you 23 grams of protein. Also, because sardines are lower on the food chain, they have very little mercury, so they are a good choice for kids or pregnant women. All the more reason for eating espetos in Malaga

When is the best time for eating espetos in Malaga?

In Malaga the popular wisdom is that sardine espetos are best in the months that don’t have an “r” (May, June, July and August). There is another saying that they are best from “Virgin to Virgin.” I know that sounds a bit odd, but they are making reference to the Virgin del Carmen (which falls on July 16th) and the Virgin of the Victoria (which falls on the 8th of September).

Cooking Espetos in Malaga
Cooking Espetos in Malaga

Where are the best places for eating espetos in Malaga?

El Tintero II

We love El Tintero for all kinds of seafood. Right on the beach, this restaurant is famous for the unique way of ordering. The waiters will come around with different plates of food shouting whatever they are offering such as “paella” or “espetos” and you flag them down for a dish. When you’ve finished, flag down one of the waiters shouting “mira mira mira y yo cobro” They will take your credit card or cash! Don’t be frightened away by the seemingly chaotic atmosphere. This is where the locals go. And you won’t be disappointed!

Playa del Dedo, Malaga

Chiringuito La Farola

The classic place to eat an espeto is at a chiringuito (small restaurant located close to the sea or ocean) on the beach. If you are lucky enough to be in Malaga on a summer evening, I can’t imagine a better plan than heading down to the shore a bit early, enjoying a relaxing drink before dinner and then listening to the waves as you enjoy an espeto.

Paseo de la Farola, Malaga

Miguelito el Cariñoso

This is a favorite in my house, although it is farther out towards the neighborhood of Pedregalejo. With fresh caught seafood, simple decoration and proximity to the beach, there really isn’t much else that you will need!

Paseo Marítimo del Pedregal, 77

 

We love espetos, but we also love all the other local specialties to be found in Malaga, and the best of them we share with you on our Tastes, Tapas & Traditions of Malaga Food Tour. Join us for a delicious 3+ hour exploration of the historic center of Malaga to discover delicious food and wonderful local wines.

15 Comment

  1. Christine says: Reply

    For me, it is Chiringuito Maria located on Paseo Maritimo Antonio Banderas (playa Misericordia). Espeto and a chilled glass(or 3) of manzanilla while watching the waves crash, can’t think of a better way to spend the day.

    1. Lauren Aloise says: Reply

      That sounds delicious Christine! Thanks for the tip 😉

  2. […] is known for its sardine skewers. They are called “espetos” because the fish are skewered (the verb “espetar” in Spanish means “to skewer”). These […]

  3. […] paper to burn so it will come true. In Malaga we also bring along sardines so that we can enjoy “espetos.” At midnight they burn the “júas,” which are big rag dolls filled with sawdust or paper. […]

  4. […] in Pedregalejo are simple and remind you of Malaga’s roots along the sea. Make sure to enjoy an espeto and the sunset on the beach while you are there! We suggest Miguelito el Cariñoso and Bar La […]

  5. […] things to do in Malaga in August! We’ll see you at the fair…and later at the beach for an espeto or two! Do you have any other ideas for things to do in Malaga in August? Let us know in the […]

  6. […] before the fireworks. We’re not sure that you could have a better evening between the sea breeze, eating espetos and the official start to the August […]

  7. […] lunch like a local in Malaga, the best option is to head to the beach. Our favorite place for a sardine espeto is the Playa del Dedo in the neighborhood of El Palo. Miguelito El Cariñoso has delicious fried […]

  8. […] at El Tintero II 12. Visit the Pompidou Museum 13. Enjoy craft beer at Arte & Sana 14. Eat an espeto at Miguelito el Cariñoso in Pedregalejo 15. Have ice cream at Heladeria Inma or Heladeria […]

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  10. […] people think of tapas in Malaga, most often the foods that come to mind are fried fish, espetos of sardines, and little else. It’s logical considering that Malaga has always been a fishing city […]

  11. […] outdoor seating, lots of chiringüitos (restaurants along the beach that often serve fried fish and espetos), and now rooftop bars, as […]

  12. […] My favorite dish is sardine espetos. I remember when my grandmother took me, just the two of us, to have espetos by the sea. We used to try to see who could eat more espetos when I was little! […]

  13. […] You can enjoy a walk along the sea and find a chiringuito (a restaurant by the beach). This is the best place to enjoy the first espeto of the season, as well as some delicious fried fish. Our favorite chiringuitos are at the Playa de […]

  14. […] Learn More: Everything You Need to Know About Espetos […]

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