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What are calçots? Find out how, when and where to eat them

What are calçots? Find out how, when and where to eat them

27.01.2022 Culture

During winter, calçots are undoubtedly the kings of Catalan gastronomy. The “calçotades” are tremendously popular during this time of year... An easy-to-cook, healthy, tasty, tender and absolutely delicious product. But what are “calçots”? Do you know when and where to find them? How are they cooked? And the “romesco sauce”? In this post, we explain you everything you need to know about them!


What are calçots?

Calçots are a vegetable from the onion family, with a mild flavor, which are normally cooked on the grill in the so-called “calçotadas”, a homemade event where friends or family get together to eat calçots. The most traditional way of eating them is by removing the outer layer burned by the fire and submerging the edible part in a sauce called “romesco sauce”.

This food offers many benefits for our health. It has diuretic qualities, which help eliminate fluids from the body; it is antioxidant, since it has anti-inflammatory substances that improve the immune system; it contains vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, essential to strengthen the bones and tissues of the body through proteins, and minerals such as sulfur, which helps to obtain energy in our muscles and tissues and has a very important role in the nervous system functioning.


When are calçots eaten?

For more than a century, calçots have been an integral part of Catalan cuisine in winter, especially when they are in season, which runs from November to April. And although they are considered native to the province of Tarragona, today they are found throughout Catalonia.

The cultivation of the calçot has two cycles: in the first, the onion bulb is obtained, which is cultivated between the months of October and December, and the plant is transplanted, while in the second cycle the calçot is obtained. Calçots are harvested when the plants are 15 to 20 centimeters long, which is usually between the months of November and April, depending on the area and territory where they are planted. In total, for each onion planted, between 4 and 12 calçots are obtained.


Where and how to eat calçots?

The most traditional way of eating calçots is attending a calçotada, which is the name given when a group of people get together to eat calçots. However, there are many Catalan and country food restaurants that, during the calçots season, offer this dish to share with your loved ones. And if you live in Catalonia, there are online companies that allow you to enjoy this product at home.

Although there are many ways to cook calçots, the most common way to do it is to grill them. Calçots are placed on top of a grill, with the roots on the same side, and placed on a flame created with vine shoots (long and thin branches, mainly from vines). They are toasted on both sides and once cooked they are wrapped in newspaper to keep them warm and left to rest on a tile.

They can also be made in the oven or on the electric griddle. To cook them in this way, their preparation is very important: they have to be cleaned to remove the dirt, cut part of the leaves and extract the root. In the oven, we will put them for about 15 minutes at 200°C with low heat and air on top, and on the electric griddle, we will leave them for about 10-15 minutes regardless of whether they turn black. Once cooked, you also have to wrap them with paper and let them rest so that they finish cooking.

Another way to cook them is battered. Once cooked with any of the above options, let them cool, clean them, cut them between 5 and 10 centimeters and coat them to taste, with egg and breadcrumbs, panko or chickpea flour. We fry them with olive oil, drying them with absorbent paper, and serve them hot.

This characteristic food has to be eaten with the hands. For this reason, it is very practical to have bibs and napkins to avoid getting dirty and to be able to enjoy this traditional gastronomic experience, the calçotada, in total freedom!


What is “romesco sauce” and how to make it?

The secret of calçots is in the sauce! Romesco sauce is known for being the faithful companion of calçots, although it also usually goes very well with fish, meat and other grilled vegetables. It stands out above all for its strong garlic flavor, a vinegary touch that contrasts with the sweet flavor that almonds and hazelnuts give it. Without a doubt, a delicacy that you should try at least once in your life!

Today it is relatively easy to find romesco sauce in the supermarkets in Catalonia. However, it is difficult to find outside the region. Therefore, we show you a simple way to prepare the romesco sauce at home. You only need: 1 kg of tomatoes, 6 cloves of garlic, 60 g of roasted hazelnuts, 60 g of roasted almonds, 1 1/2 tsp. of ñora (cultivated variety of capsicum), 40 g of vinegar, 400 ml of virgin olive oil, salt to taste and 1 piece of toasted bread.


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