calçot sauce recipe

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Calçots are a member of the onion family, typically grown around the town of Valls in Catalunya, At this time of the year the calçotada is a typical event in which family and friends get together to celebrate this glorious vegetable. Around 25 calçots per person are slowly grilled on a barbecue; when they are soft, the outer charred layers are peeled off and the white part is dipped in a romesco sauce and then bitten off the green part and eaten. A calçotada is a messy business and the participants usually wear bibs and traditionally swill wine from the typical Catalan drinking vessel, the porró.

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As you can see, calçots are usually cooked on a barbecue/grill. First clean off the outer layers and then grill them slowly to let all of that sweet taste flow.

You need to get on with your sauce before lighting up the fire and then let it sit. This recipe is by Carme Vidal who was born and brought up in Valls and it’s the best one I’ve ever tried. Remember that the quantities are for a large group and adjust them accordingly.


1 mature tomato per person.
100 grams of toasted almonds for each 3 people
1 entire bulb of garlic for each 2 people.
1 “nyora”(type of dried pepper) for each 2 people.
1 litre of olive oil for each 10 people.
A little parsley, vinegar, salt, a small chili (optional)

Blacken the tomatoes and garlic over the flames (not embers), make sure that the flame isn’t too “live” as they need to be cooked.
Scald the “nyoras”in boiling water .
Crush or blend the almonds with the parsley and the chili (if you want a spicy sauce). Then mix in the peeled tomatoes and garlic and the pulp of the nyoras (discarding the seeds). The sauce is made by slowly stirring in the olive oil. Add salt and vinegar to taste.

If you can’t find nyoras, Janet Mendel, in her book “Cooking in Spain”, suggests substituting them with paprika . This sauce is fantastic with any type of grilled vegetables, meat, poultry or fish. It is an important part of the Xato salad.

When the calçots are ready, peel off the charred outer layers and dip into the sauce and eat. Slurping and stains are expected. The calçotada is such an important tradition in Catalunya that most of the political parties were obliged to partake as part of their general election campaigns last weekend, with the socialist party even sporting campaign bibs…

salsa from Valls

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11 thoughts on “calçot sauce recipe

  1. Pingback: calçot season - salsa recipe « slow Spain

  2. Bugger me!
    if the sauce is anything like as appetising as the pictures, then the whole ensemble should prove to be a winner……
    tell me though- as i understand it, the calcot is part of the onion family that only grows in certain regions, what could you substitute for the calcot in a part of the world where they don’t grow (that would be as much fun to grill & eat)

      • Thanks Mike,
        I’d often wondered about leeks, but have never had to try them. Never had wild leeks – right now we’re also in the middle of wild garlic season, and they are sublime…

  3. Yeah homemade romesco is awesome. I’m not much of a fan of calçots but I adore that Tarragona sauce. We had it on fish at our wedding dinner!

  4. Hi Tom,

    that’s the great thing about romesco – it marries well with everything

    @ Booker T – it’s a pity calçots are not more widely available, I’d replace them with something equally messy to get the full calçotada experience

  5. This is all very nice but calçots shouldn’t be cooked slowly at all!! You should have a big fire and they should be right on the flames and get completely carbonized on the outer layer! Then you peel that layer and the inside part is juicy and tender, if you do it slowly they dry out and come out much worse. Well, at least this is the tipical way of cooking them.

    On the other hand, the traditional sauce you should use is not romesco but salvitxada. Here you have both recipes so you can compare (sorry is in catalan):

    A video about how to prepare the calçots sauce:

  6. Bon dia Catalan Gourmet,

    Thanks for your comments – of course when I say cook slowly, I mean on a hot grill, but making sure that the calçots are completely cooked, juicy and tender as you rightly say.

    I had never heard of salvitxada, so thanks for the links to the recipes & the excellent video. This sauce recipe is by a friend from Valls, but as it says in your video page, the great thing about cooking is that there are as many recipes as cooks!

  7. when we dug up our overcrowded leeks this week (march) they looked just like that! hooray fro the gourmet name! thx

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