Salmorejo, a taste of Andalusia
Updated: May 31
Where can I get the best Salmorejo in Marbella? What is the difference between Salmorejo and Gazpacho? How you you make Salmorejo? Discover this delicious and ancient recipe during your stay in the sunniest corner of Europe. Everyone knows Gazpacho, the summertime cold tomato and cucumber based soup found in every Spanish restaurant. Less well know is it's hearty country cousin, the orange hued rich and unctuous Salmorejo.
Intriguingly, Salmorejo can be served as a soup or also used as a sauce or a dip. It is often accompanied by other ingredients, which makes everything even more scrumptious. After researching Salmorejo's history and recipes, we went on a Salmorejo sampling spree in Marbella, and here is what we found. If you come to Marbella, and you can do this self-guided Salmorejo crawl, any time of year.
A classic, heirloom dish
The ancestor of Salmorejo was a dish called Mazamorra, which was fed to Roman troops in the area. Mazamorra is a white, made of dry bread crumbs and ground almonds, very creamy and smooth - the texture of a thick porridge. It is served with sweet grapes on top, or raisins, but also with chopped egg and olive oil. Quite surprising if you were not expecting it! Amazingly we recently found authentic Mazamorra on the menu at a picturesque tapas bar called Taberna la Nina del Pisto in the center of Marbella. Apparently the Romans were specialists in this kind of hearty porridge. We prefer Cordoba Salmorejo even if it is interesting to try Mazamorra when you are here if you like a taste of history. In the 18th century tomatoes were introduced as food in Spain (until then, the plant was only considered to be decoration!). This porridge-soup turned from white, to red when people came up with the idea of using their ornamental tomatoes to make the soup go further! Salmorejo was a typical "poor man's lunch" for the farmers tending the olive groves.
Salmorejo, Gazpacho, Mazamorra: What's the difference?
Gazpacho is the most well known of the Spanish cold soups. It's light fresh texture is perfect in the summer - it is often served in juice glasses as a cocktail. Gazpacho does not usually have garlic in it, but is based on tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and onions. When you order Gazpacho at a Spanish restaurant the waiter usually comes and heaps a few spoonfuls of fresh chopped vegetables into your soup: chunks of peppers, onion, tomato, cucumber to give it a fresh texture somewhat between a salad and a soup.
Mazamorra is the ancestor of Salmorejo, white and creamy with no tomatoes and often served with a sweet and savory touch. The garnish on Mazamorra is often raisins or grapes, in addition to hard boiled eggs and olive oil. Salmorejo is a bread and oil emulsion, often with a touch of garlic. The olive oil is the star in this dish, so it has to be top notch. Instead of a fresh vegetable garnish, chunks of Iberico ham, slices of boiled egg, and/or bits of tuna are presented on top.
Poor man's bread
Salmorejo is made from leftovers - day-old bread! Hence its name "poor man's bread" . Start with day-old bread and ground it to fine crumbs, and add other typical and inexpensive Spanish ingredients like garlic, olive oil, tomato flesh, vinegar and salt. The key is in the preparation of a perfectly smooth emulsion. The tomatoes, bread and olive oil blend to make a creamy thick consistency - it does not have cream or other thickener in it. The final touch is garnishing the fresh soup with other bits you might have in the kitchen: ham, cooked egg, and tuna are the most common. Salmorejo shares the basic ingredients with it's cousin Panzanella from Italy. Panzanella is a chunky, salad version with virtually identical ingredients but completely different preparation and presentation.
There are about as many different recipes, as there are Spanish families. Every area has it's own, and everyone's Grandma makes the best! Here are the basic building blocks, that you can tweak to make your own. Salmorejo is basically a bread-and-tomato smoothie. So you will need a powerful blender or mixer, or you can improvise with a hand-mixer. The ingredients given here are approximative: you have to make the tomato and bread pulp first, then only add enough oil to emulsify it and get the consistency you want. Add enough vinegar, salt and garlic to get the intensity that you want. 1 kilo of ripe tomatoes (peel them first if you are a purist)
150 g dry bread (baguette or white bread) 150ml olive oil (or add more or less if you want it thicker or thinner) 1 clove of garlic Vinegar - to taste Salt and pepper Cut the (peeled) tomatoes, garlic and bread into chunks and put them in a powerful mixer. Some say: put the bread and tomatoes overnight in the fridge to soften the bread. Some say: puree the fresh tomatoes first and mix with the bread chunks to soften the bread. Some just put it all in the mixer and leave for 10 minutes! Leave it on full power until you have a smooth pulp. Add a few pinches of salt and a spot of vinegar. Gradually add the olive oil while the mixer is running. Stop adding oil when the consistency is as you'd like (mayonnaise consistency). Add salt and vinegar to taste. Garnish with bits of hard boiled egg and shreds of ham or bacon. If you need video assistance, here is the best recipe we've found on youtube. He does everything properly, but we think you can cut some corners by not peeling the tomatoes, not using ice cubes...
Self-guided Salmorejo Tasting Tour
If you are staying with us in Marbella we highly recommend exploring the many local tapas bars and let us know - where did you find the best Salmorejo! Here is our list of favorites, that you can hit all in one night or spread over your stay at Sunny Corner apartment.
1. We start off with Taberna la Nina del Pisto, in a picturesque tiny street in the old town, which has some of the best Salmorejo we have tasted, a thick olive-oil emulsion that your spoon stands up in, garnished with egg and ham. Pure olive oil taste. Delicious to dip your bread in. The only problem with starting off at Taberna del Pisto, is that you might not want to leave. Everything is delicious here, including the roasted goat, fried eggplant, seafood dishes... It will be hard to tear yourself away!
2. Next stop, just across the beautiful Alameda Parque on the beach side of town (admire the fountain and the variety of tropical trees). De Jamon y Vinos near the Paseo, but it is not a tourist trap. Here you will sit with locals and Spaniards who enjoy this tapas bar when in their 2nd home in Marbella. The reason we recommend it, is not for the Salmorejo as such, but because they use Salmorejo as a sauce for... Cantabrico Anchovies on toast. This is one of our favourite dishes in the whole area. It is not cheap, but worth it in our opinion. The anchovies are delicacies in Spain, large, boneless, not bitter or fishy tasting. They are at their best here served on a fresh toasted baguette garnished with delicious Salmorejo. While you are here, try a plate of Iberico ham before heading off to the next stop!
3. After trying anchovies and ham, if you still have some room left you can head over to the stools around the Jerez barrels in the business district of town. La Sacristia is on a commercial street in center city, near the lawyers and notaries offices. Once again, not a tourist trap you will hear mostly Spanish spoken here. The Salmorejo is one of the best we have tried, and you can get it as a "tapa" portion for just a few euros. Or if you're in love with the dish by this time, go for the full "racion". Other things we love here: french fries with broken eggs and gambas pil pil, cured bacon (chicharrones), fresh tomato salad with ventresca tuna, meatballs with Malaga style almond sauce, .... This tapas bar also has a lovely list of Jerez wines to choose from.
4. Now we head over to Fontanilla street, which has an amazing assortment of fantastic restaurants and tapas bars. If you are staying at Sunny Corner, you will be living in the heart of this fantastic restaurant district. Our fourth stop is San Francisco restaurant, because they have an unusual twist on Salmorejo. They serve it with lightly smoked sardines, which gives a wonderful flavor. Their version is not classic but delicious.
5. Just around the corner, La Venencia de la Fontanilla is a neighborhood reference. They have a large variety of tapas, and they pour a generous glass of wine or sherry to accompany your food. It's pleasant to sit below the plane trees and try a few specialties here, including Salmorejo.
6. And finally - We included Gaspar last, simply because after 5 tapas bars you will have to save one for the next day. Gaspar should be visited on it's own for a full meal, with Salmorejo as the first course. Reservations necessary. Spanish hours (not open before 8pm). Gaspar serves traditional Grandmother food from the garden, all fresh, huge portions, reasonable prices. A local loved favourite not to be missed. Their salmorejo is fresh, served in a deep bowl, and fragrant with the best olive oil. You will mop up every drop!