Food in Spanish: The Basics

The basics of food in Spanish are simple to learn. To begin with, you already know the Spanish words for ‘taco,’ ‘pasta,’ and ‘enchilada.’ Then there is a list of the the top 15 Spanish food words, the foods people order the most, and even more useful, a quick guide on how to use articles in the Spanish language. You’ll need the right articles when referring to specific foods, but as soon you understand how articles work in Spanish you’ll be all set.

As opposed to English, nouns in Spanish have gender, and articles are the ultimate tool to tell them apart. Nouns in Spanish hate being alone, articles are their loyal companions. When we learn a new word in Spanish, pairing it with the right article is key to learn both the word and its gender.

‘The’: ‘El’ and ‘La’

‘El’ is ‘the’ in the masculine form.

The menu = El menú (meh-NOO)
This means that ‘menú’ is a masculine noun.

‘La’ is ‘the’ in the feminine form.

The bill  = La cuenta (koo-ENN-tah)
This means that ‘cuenta’ is a feminine noun.

Usually, Spanish words that end in ‘a’ are feminine, and those that end in ‘o’ are masculine. And we say ‘usually’ because this is not always the case, unfortunately. Let’s take a look at a couple masculine nouns:

The menu = El menú (meh-NOO)

But…

The map = El mapa (MAH-pah)

See? This one ends in ‘a’ but it’s a masculine noun.

Now that we’re at it, let’s learn some more masculine nouns in Spanish:

The tea= El té (TEH)

The lemon = El limón (lee-MON)

Note that the ‘j’ in Spanish sounds like the ‘h’ in English.
The juice = El jugo (HOO-goh)

In all countries but Spain, the ‘z’ in Spanish sounds like an ‘s.’
The sugar = El azúcar (ah-SEW-kar)

The letter ‘ñ’ (EH-nyeh) gives the Spanish alphabet one more letter than the English alphabet. It sounds like the ‘ny’ we find in ‘canyon’ or ‘Kenya.’
The restroom/bathroom = El baño (BAH-nyoh)

The coffee = El café (kah-FEH)
The dish = El plato (PLAH-toh)

Now let’s jump into feminine nouns. You already know:

The bill = La cuenta (koo-ENN-tah)

Here are a couple more:

The milk = La leche (LEH-cheh)
The beer = La cerveza (ser-VEH-sah)
Note that in C + E the ‘c’ sounds like an ‘s.’

Now that we know how articles work, let’s combine them with 15 of the most ordered food in Spanish:

EnglishSpanish
The beefLa carne
The chickenEl pollo
The hamEl jamón
The cheeseEl queso
The beansLos frijoles
The porkEl cerdo
The saladLa ensalada
The soupLa sopa
The riceEl arroz
The fishEl pescado
The cookieLa galleta
The hamburgerLa hamburguesa
The vegetablesLos vegetales
The eggsLos huevos
The pastaLa pasta

‘A’ or ‘one’: ‘Un’ or ‘una’

Now that we know how to say ‘the’ in Spanish, ‘a’ is the next step. Just like the previous case, there is a masculine form and a feminine form.

With masculine nouns, we say:
A menu = Un menú
A juice = Un jugo

With feminine nouns, we say:
A bill = Una cuenta
A beer = Una cerveza

‘Un’ and ‘una’ can mean either ‘a’ or ‘one’ in Spanish.
Una cerveza = One beer
A beer = Un té
One tea = A tea

So far so good! Adding on, here are four more words that will add depth to what you just learned:

And = Y (EE)
Or = O (OH)
With = Con (KONN)
Without =  Sin (SEEN)

In context:

A coffee with milk, please = Un café con leche, por favor
A juice and a water, please = Un jugo y un agua, por favor
A coffee without sugar, please = Un café sin azúcar, por favor

Check out what you can already say:

Do you want the tea with or without milk? = ¿Usted quiere el té con o sin leche?

Remember that, for now, in order to ask questions just add question marks to a statement and change the intonation when you say it.

Finally, to ask for the restroom in Spanish you can simply say the following sentence and someone will show you the way:

The restroom, please = El baño, por favor

Now that you know the basics of food in Spanish, you’re ready to eat the world! Exciting, right? Seize this opportunity to dig deeper into this topic by checking out my next video and article.

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