Tenerife’s Gastronomy: An Oceanic and Land Bounty

Discover the savory delights of Tenerife, an island where gastronomy is an art form deeply intertwined with its rich culture and history. From the freshest seafood from the Atlantic to the exquisite cheeses and exceptional wines with a heritage celebrated by Shakespeare, Tenerife offers a culinary journey as diverse and captivating as its landscapes. Indulge in the traditional flavors of gofio, explore the sweet confections influenced by La Palma, and celebrate the harvest with the locals at a guachinche. Tenerife’s gastronomy is a true feast for the senses, a testament to the island’s bountiful resources and its people’s culinary ingenuity.


Tenerife’s rich waters yield a diverse bounty of fish, making seafood a staple of the island’s diet. The most commonly consumed species include the colorful Combtooth blennies, locally referred to as “viejas,” and a variety of breams such as the flavorful sea bream (“sama”), the robust red porgy (“bocinegro”), and the delicate goldlined bream (“salema”). Grouper (“mero”) and several species of Thunnus, including the Atlantic mackerel (“caballa”), sardine (“sardina”), and Jack mackerels (“chicharros”), are also prevalent in the local cuisine. The moray eel (“morena”), typically fried, is a unique delicacy. Seafood is often enjoyed in its purest form, either boiled or grilled (“a la espalda”) or baked in a crust of sea salt (“a la sal”), and typically served with the iconic “mojo” sauce and “papas arrugadas,” or wrinkly potatoes, to complement the dish.


The gastronomic scene in Tenerife also includes a rich variety of meats. Marinated pork tacos are a traditional favorite during local festivities, savored in street stalls (“ventorrillos”), bars, and at home. Rabbit stewed in “salmorejo,” a type of Canarian marinade, along with goat, beef, pork, and poultry, constitute the island’s regular meat fare, reflecting the agricultural diversity and culinary traditions of Tenerife.

Canarian Wrinkled Potatoes

“Papas arrugadas” are a quintessential representation of Canarian cuisine. These “wrinkly potatoes” are small potatoes cooked in their skins with a generous amount of salt. The water is then allowed to evaporate, leaving behind a characteristic salty crust. This simple yet delectable dish perfectly accompanies fish and meat dishes, epitomizing the island’s culinary simplicity and reliance on high-quality, locally sourced ingredients.


The term “mojo” likely stems from Portuguese influences and is synonymous with various traditional Canarian sauces. These are integral to Tenerife’s culinary identity and are served alongside many dishes, offering a spectrum of flavors from the verdant, herb-filled green mojo, rich with coriander, parsley, and garlic, to the fiery red mojo, a blend of both hot and sweet peppers. Additional varieties incorporate diverse ingredients such as almonds, cheese, saffron, and even fried bread. Mojos are versatile, enhancing the flavors of meats and fish. They can be used as a condiment for potatoes or a dip for bread, allowing diners to adjust their meal’s flavor intensity to their preference.


The island of Tenerife is not only a haven for tourists but also a prolific producer of cheese, exporting approximately 3,400 tons annually. This accounts for half of the island’s production and a quarter of the cheese output from the entire Canary Islands. Following the conquest of the Canary Islands, cheese production quickly became a significant commercial activity. It was so integral to the local economy that it was even used as a form of currency in trade. Cheese production, deeply rooted in Tenerife’s agricultural heritage, has evolved into a staple of the island’s cuisine, commonly served as an appetizer or snack.

The traditional cheese-making farms, particularly in Arico, La Orotava, and Teno, craft a variety of cheeses including soft, cured, and smoked types, predominantly by hand. The primary focus today is on goat cheese, though there are varieties made from sheep’s and cow’s milk. The general health registry notes that the island produces around 75 different artisanal cheeses. Internationally, Canarian cheeses are acclaimed for their distinctive sweetness, setting them apart from other European cheeses. In a testament to their quality, a Tenerife cured goat cheese was named the world’s best at the 2008 World Cheese Awards in Dublin, Ireland. To ensure continued excellence and recognition, the Fundación Tenerife Rural promotes a quality mark for Tenerife cheeses, aiming to standardize their quality and enhance their market presence.


Gofio, a traditional Canarian flour, is a cornerstone of Tenerife’s culinary identity. Wheat is commonly used from roasted and ground cereal grains, though variations include blends with chickpeas or other grains. This ancient food was the mainstay of the indigenous Guanches and became a vital nutrition source during periods of scarcity. Nowadays, gofio is versatile, served as a main dish, side, or ingredient in soups, stews, and desserts. Innovative chefs on the island have even crafted gofio ice cream, receiving acclaim from culinary critics.


Tenerife’s confectionery scene is influenced by its neighbor, La Palma, and includes delicacies such as bienmesabe, leche asada, Príncipe Alberto, frangollo, huevos moles, and quesillo. These sweets reflect the island’s love for rich flavors and traditional recipes, often enjoyed as a treat or to mark special occasions.


The history of viticulture in Tenerife dates back to the times of the Spanish conquest, with the 16th and 17th centuries marking a boom in wine production, significantly impacting the economy. The malvasía variety from the Canary Islands, particularly Tenerife, was once among the most coveted wines globally, praised by literary giants such as William Shakespeare and Walter Scott. Today, Tenerife boasts five primary wine-growing regions: Abona, Valle de Güímar, Valle de La Orotava, Tacoronte-Acentejo, and Ycoden-Daute-Isora, each producing wines with unique characteristics reflective of the island’s diverse terroir.

The local wines and gastronomy are celebrated in guachinches, informal eateries that traditionally open on San Andrés Day, November 30, to coincide with the Festival de Vino Joven, or young wine festival. The new season’s wine is served with seasonal specialties like roasted chestnuts and grilled sardines, capturing the essence of Tenerife’s gastronomic culture. These festivities, typically extending from late autumn to early spring, offer a glimpse into the island’s culinary traditions and the communal spirit of its people.


Tenerife’s gastronomy is as dynamic and varied as its volcanic terrain, blending old-world traditions and innovative culinary practices. Whether it’s the complex notes of a locally produced malvasía wine, the rustic charm of freshly made gofio, or the unparalleled quality of artisanal cheeses, the island’s flavors bridge its storied past and vibrant present. This culinary heritage, celebrated in the convivial atmosphere of Tenerife’s guachinches and festivals, invites food lovers worldwide to partake in a timeless gastronomic experience.