Street eats: Basque talos in San Sebastián

October 10, 2014
Tomasz Kolinski

The Basque Country and city of San Sebastián are not traditionally known for street food — you won’t find lots of stalls cooking and selling on the street like you will in, say, Southeast Asia. (But you will find lots of places specializing in pintxos, which we highly recommend.) However, there is one traditional dish, talos, that is mainly consumed as street food. But talos can be difficult to find, even for locals.

Talos are basically pancakes made with corn flour (similar to Mexican tortillas). They are a special treat because corn flour is hardly ever used in Basque cuisine — you could say that, indeed, it is only used for making talos! As rare as they are, talos are one of the most popular street foods, and definitely an important part of traditional Basque gastronomy.

Why are they so popular? Probably in part because they have an unusual taste. But the main reason talos are so loved is because you can only buy them during important events and festivals — so, for locals, talos mean special holidays, parties, joy and celebration!

Traditionally, talos are filled with txistorra, a Basque sausage similar to Spanish chorizo, but thinner and always fried. But nowadays you can find many variants: bacon, cheese, and even chocolate!

talos with sausage

Another factor that makes eating talos so charming is the place where they are bought. The customer can see the whole cooking process in talos workshops, from dough-making, to shaping the pancake, to frying the ingredients. Not only that, but cooks are usually dressed in traditional Basque costumes. (And because everything is better with beer, we recommend getting even more into the San Sebastián scene by pairing your talos with some locally produced Gross beer.)

So, now that we have convinced you that talos are definitely something you should try if you want to explore Basque gastronomy, a big question remains: where can you get them?

We cannot provide exact directions, because these workshops move from town to town, from festivity to festivity. But here’s a hint: wherever there is a festival or celebration or big sport event (like the rowing competitions in San Sebastián), you will find talos. During the summer months in the Basque Country, there are several fiestas celebrated in San Sebastián and nearby towns (see our events calendar for a line-up of events). If you visit during the winter, don’t miss Santo Tomás market day (December 21) or San Sebastián Day (January 20).

Just look for the place where everyone is celebrating, then find the queue in front of one of these pancake workshops. The smell of corn flour will for sure catch your attention!

talos cooks

Hungry for more San Sebastian foods? Explore the local scene on one of our city tours!