Spanish Colonial Recipes

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Below are my translations of selected recipes from books published during the Spanish colonial era.  Not only do these recipes provide an appetizing glimpse into the culinary arts of the colonial era, they also provide important clues as to the material culture and techniques used in preparing, serving, and storing food, which can be of considerable assistance to archaeologists in assessing what they can interpret from the broken ceramic and metal implements often found on colonial sites.

A digital scan of a comprehensive 1607 Spanish cookbook in PDF format can be found at the following link: Libro del Arte de Cozina.

The list of recipes included below will doubtless grow, so please check back periodically for updates.

Hot Beverages / Fish / Poultry

Hot Beverages

Translation by John E. Worth from:

Arte de Repostería, en que se contiene todo genero de hacer dulces secos, y en liquido, vizcochos, turrones, y natas: bebidas heladas de todos generos, rosolis, mistelas, &c. con una breve instruccion para conocer las frutas, y servirlas crudas, y diez mesas, con su explicación, by Juan de la Mata (Madrid: Imprenta y Librería de Joseph García Lanza, 1755), pp. 161-164. Digital copy available on Google Books here.

Of Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate

Of Tea

Tea is an herb that comes from China, or other parts of Asia, particularly from Japan, which is the most esteemed for its natural goodness.  This is distinguished from the other by its pallid green color, slightly discolored; the other has the color, although green, more dark and intense.  One should select, if possible, that which has the smallest and most delicate leaves, and a color of a clear greenish yellow.  Its flavor is somewhat bitter; its odor, although milder, of ambergris or violet.

It is prepared by placing some tea leaves in a pie pan [tortera], and half an azumbre [about one liter or quart] of boiling water are poured over them, leaving them to steep for the space of a little less than half a quarter of an hour [about 7 minutes], with which it is distributed to serve it in the cups, or xicaras [chocolate cups], adding to it in order to mitigate its natural bitter flavor sugar in power, or in little pieces (and the best is that from Holland) as is judged suitable.  If it is recognized that it has given too much flavor to the water, on the next occasion the dose should be moderated.

The Japanese commonly use powdered tea in order to prepare it with water, and in this manner it can be prepared with a much smaller portion.

Instead of common sugar, some make use of rock sugar, and they also make use of milk, pouring as much of this as the water in the tea at the time of drinking it.

The properties of tea are to dispel the vapors of the brain, and refresh the brain.  It is normally consumed in the morning in order to comfort the spirits, and at midday after having eaten, so that it aids in digestion.

Of Coffee

Coffee is a species of grain that comes from Persia, and other countries in the Levant, similar or little different from our broad beans or kidney beans.  That which leans to a light yellow color has preference over the white one, but the best of all is the light brown color, dark, or grey.  One selects the most clean, fresh, and small ones, and in order to make use of them they are toasted in a casserole, pan, or casserole dish over a charcoal fire, without flame, so that the heat penetrates equally throughout.  In order to know when it is done, one deduces by the color it has received, which will be a tawny light brown, and then placed on a napkin, it will soak up the oil, which naturally dissipates.  Lastly it is placed in a grinder, which is not explained, since it is well known.  In order to grind the coffee in the absence of a grinder, a mortar will suffice, passing it afterward through a sieve.  It should be noted that it is not useful to prepare a large quantity of coffee, but rather only that which is needed, and in order to store it once it is already powdered, it is placed in a box.

Its use as a beverage is by boiling half an azumbre [about one liter or quart] of water in a coffee pot of silver, copper, or pottery.  After having given it a pair of boilings, one adds three spoonfuls of ground coffee, which comprises a quantity of about two ounces, and mixed well with the water, it should be given a dozen very light boilings, so that it does not boil over, with which it should be removed from the fire and let repose.  If one is in a hurry, a small spoonful of cold water can be added so that the dregs settle more quickly.  After having reposed, it should be poured in cups, each one adding granulated sugar to taste.  Milk can also be used, adding it to the coffee at the time of drinking it.

Coffee dissipates and destroys the vapors of wine, helps digestion, comforts the spirits, and impedes sleep with excess consumption.

Of Chocolate

Nobody is ignorant of the composition of chocolate, which is a solid paste, composed of cacao (the variety of types of which is very well-known, among which that from Caracas enjoys superior preeminence), of sugar, and cinnamon.  The dose of each one is, for example, for eight pounds of sugar the same amount of cacao, and one ounce of cinnamon.  Since the ordinary manner of making it is so common, we will omit it as unnecessary since it is known.  If one should wish to make it more delicious, upon forming the paste one may add a few drops of orange blossom water, or vanilla, well-rinsed and passed through a sieve.  Nevertheless, although it has the characteristic of having a better taste and odor, it neither lasts as long nor is as healthy, on account of which it should be avoided as harmful, because of the vanilla being comprised of supremely hot qualities, and it serves no other function than to introduce into the body burning inflammations.  One may make use of the orange blossom water, which does not have these defects, in suitable portions; nevertheless, the wise and prudent man, spurning effeminate delights that only serve to destroy the constitution, consumes chocolate with only the composition of sugar, cinnamon, and cacao, without permitting any other circumstance, since in this manner, in addition to being perfect, has the quality of being healthful.  Foreigners are not ignorant of this virtue, for which reason, in particular the French, they call it chocolat de sante, which is the same to say in our common tongue, chocolate of health.

The manner of making it in a chocolate pot is also omitted, because there is no place, or house, even the most rustic villager, that does not know it.

Many make use of an extraordinary way of making chocolate, which is exchanging cold milk for the water, and when it is boiling in the chocolate pot, they add the finely grated chocolate (which must also be done with the water), and having brought it to boil once, it is removed from the fire.  The milk tempers the hot qualities of the chocolate.

It is very useful, made with the suitable purity, to comfort the stomach and chest; it maintains and re-establishes the natural heat; feeds, dissipates, and destroys the malignant humors; fortifies and sustains the voice.

If there is no way to make the chocolate comfortably, as occurs many times to travelers, in order not to miss this healthy benefit, one may eat the chocolate paste in the quantity of one ounce, or an ounce and a half, more or less, according to the regular custom that one has, drinking afterward a glass of water.  Nevertheless, this should not be done many times, because it can cause constipation.  Chocolate should be stored in dry place, and wrapped in paper.

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Translation by John E. Worth from:

Nuevo Arte de Cocina, Sacado de la Escuela de la Experiencia Economica, by Juan Altamiras (Barcelona: Imprenta de Don Juan de Bezáres, dirigida por Ramon Martí, Impresor, 1758), pp. 102-105.  Digital copy on Google Books availablehere.

Of Trout

Trout are very stupendous fish, and a great delicacy; in order to cook them, nothing more is needed than water, salt, and some sprigs of parsley, as much water as covers them.  After they are cooked, pour a little sour [lemon juice] over the top, a pinch of pepper, and thus you can serve them.

Trout in Another Manner

Take trout that are large, well-cleaned, and scaled, clean them and dry them well, and place them to cook with water, salt, and oil with fried garlic cloves, with every spice, and when they are half-cooked, remove that broth from them and add another new broth.  When they are finished cooking, seasoned with every spice, mix up a sauce of egg yolk with lemon juice, and serve them in this manner.  From the broth that you removed first you can make a good soup, to which can be added hard boiled eggs, sauce, and some pieces of candied citron as garnish for the soup.  It will be very tasty.

Trout in Stew 

Fry the trout with oil, and if it is lard in whichever fish it is better, but you can adapt to your condition.  Next chop all types of vegetables, parsley, mint, tender lettuce, and sorrels if they are in season; chop everything in a mortar like for a parsley sauce.  Place a little bread to soak in cold water, grind it all up, add sugar, and season it with every spice.  Next mix it with a little vinegar and water so that it is sweet-sour, and place it over fire, stirring it all with one hand until it cooks.  Add a little fried onions, finely chopped.  Place the trout in a dish [vasija] and pour the sauce on top, so that they cook a little with it, and serve them hot.

Dish of Trout and Herbs

Take the trout, which should be large, scale them, and open them in the middle, and cut them into pieces and fry them with lean, thick bacon.  Take white hearts of lettuce, which are the best, which should be cooked with seasoned water.  When they are finished frying, fry some slices of white bread, then place the hearts [of lettuce] in the pan [sarten] with the grease that remained, and fry them in a manner that they do not dry out.  Remove them and place them on a bed of slices of bread, others of hearts of cabbage, and pieces of trout.  Add pepper and oranges, and in the middle pieces of the bread that you fried, some pieces of lean bacon between the cabbages and trout, and serve hot.  If you want to make this dish more tasty, use lard instead of oil, but I am already hearing your qualms, which are founded thus: You, brother cook, are dealing here with a fish dish, in which bacon is prohibited; how can we licitly use lard and bacon?  This little scruple, which, if not noted, would be very pleasurable to you, I want to eliminate in this manner: It is true that my intention is to pursue fish dishes in this chapter, and for this I discuss trout, which, attending to their nature, can be eaten on a day of abstinence from meat, but the manner of stewing them mentioned above is normally done as a delicacy on days that one does not fast, with which you will not burden my conscience, which, though that of a cook, cannot permit you this pleasure, even being of such little expense, because the pleasure and expense of this poor cook is very aligned with Evangelical Law, as you will note.

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Translation by John E. Worth from:

Arte de Cocina, Pastelería, Viscochería, y Conservería, by Francisco Martínez (Barcelona: Imprenta de María Angela Martí viuda, 1763), pp. 23-24.  Digital copy on Google Books available here.

Of All Types of Roasts

A turkey should be broiled over a grill, after being well-cleaned, and it should be skewered with two skewers of cane or other wood that will not spoil the taste.  Then it should be placed on its roaster, and wrapped in paper, placing beneath the paper some thin strips of bacon; it should be salted, and cloves may be stuck in the breasts, although some do not use them. 

For the sauce of this turkey, take two ounces of shelled almonds, toasted in a pan, and ground.  Roast two hen livers, or that of the turkey, and when they are very dry, crush all of it together, and add two ounces of sugar.  When everything is well ground, it should be dissolved in broth that has no fat, and pour it in a small saucepan [cacillo] and cook it in a manner that it boils two or three times, stirring constantly with a spoon.  Next strain it through a sieve or cloth, and add a little ground cinnamon and a little lemon juice.  This sauce is served cold.

A capon is roasted in the same manner, except it does not have to be broiled, or wrapped in paper, or stuck with cloves.  The most ordinary sauce that is served for capons is made from pomegranates.  This is made in this fashion: take two sour pomegranates for each capon, and remove the seeds and place them in a cloth or sieve and squeeze them with a spoon until they release all the color and sour that they have.  Next add two ounces of sugar, a little red wine, and some slices of cinnamon, and three whole cloves, and cook until it is done, and serve it in its little plate [platillo] or bowl [escudilla] cold with this sauce.  A roasted capon may be served by toasting chops on the grill, and placing them on some slices of toasted bread.  Then make the pomegranate sauce (as is stated), adding more pomegranates and more sugar, and pour it over the top and serve it hot.

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