I’m Paula López Herrera

Conference interpreter, translator, language lover and with a zest for helping others.

Soul food

Every Spaniard is as sure as eggs are eggs that Spain’s gastronomy is one of the best in the world because who can resist an excellent Cordoban salmorejo, a paella, a Spanish omelette, some croquetas or a cocido from Madrid?

Language reflects culture, and Spanish is full of expressions and idioms related to food and nourishment. We all know that a language is not mastered until the idioms are learned. But don’t worry, learning these expressions doesn’t have to be complicated.

These expressions will make your mouth water, and you’ll be torn between memorising them, ordering food or preparing some food.


Literally translated: have a seed.

Have a great time, have a fantastic time.

Spaß haben/ eine tolle Zeit haben

have a ball/ have a blast

(Me) importa un comino

Literally translated: care a cumin.

Care too little, care nothing.

Das ist mir Wurst

It’s all the same to me

Ser pan comido

Literally translated: to be an eaten bread.

Being very easy, very simple – is there anything easier than eating bread?

ein Kinderspiel sein

to be a piece of cake

Ir pisando huevos

Literally translated: go treading eggs.

Go too slow.

Sich im Schneckentempo bewegen

As slow as molasses (US)/ slow as a snail (UK)

Ser más bueno que el pan/ ser un cacho de pan

Literally translated: be better than bread / be a piece of bread.

To be very good, to have no malice.

herzensgut sein

to be all heart

Estar más fuerte que el vinagre

Literally translated: be stronger than vinegar.

To be very strong.

bullenstark sein

to be strong

Comerse el coco

Literally translated: eat the coconut.

Thinking things through.

sich den Kopf zerbrechen

to rack one’s brains

Tener mala leche/ mala uva

Literally translated: have bad milk/ bad grape.

To have a bad temper, to do things with bad intentions.

fies sein/ etwas in böswilliger Absicht tun/ in böser Absicht tun

to have bad temper

Montar un pollo

Literally translated: ride a chicken.

To make a fuss, to start an argument.

ein Fass aufmachen/ Wirbel um etw machen

to kick up a shindy/ to make a fuss

Mandar a alguien a freír espárragos

Literally translated: send someone to fry asparagus.

It’s used as a way of avoiding an annoying person, to keep them occupied for as long as possible.

jdm den Laufpass geben/ den ganzen Kram hinschmeißen/ jemandem den Buckel runterrutschen/ jdn zum Teufel jagen/ jdn in die Wüste schicken

to send someone packing/ to kick someone to the curb

No hacer ni el huevo

Literally translated: do not even make the egg.

To do nothing.

absolut gar nichts tun

to do fuck all

Cagarse en la leche

Literally translated: shit on the milk.

Expresses anger or irritation.

Himmel, Arsch und Zwirn/ Heilige Scheiße!

Holy shit/ bloody hell/ for fuck’s sake

Dar la vuelta a la tortilla

Literally translated: turn the tortilla.

To change a situation completely.

das Blatt wenden/ umkrempeln/ von Grund auf ändern

to undergo a radical change/ to turn the tables/ to change things up

Cortar el bacalao

Literally translated: cut the cod.

To be in control, to have the last word.

das Sagen haben/ den Ton angeben/ das Heft in der Hand haben

to give the orders/ to be in the driver’s seat/ to be in charge/ to call the shots

No ser trigo limpio

Literally translated: to not be clean wheat.

It is used to refer to a person or an issue that is not as clear or honest as it seems.

nicht ganz einwandfrei sein/ nicht ganz koscher sein

to be shady/ to be fishy

Ponerse como un tomate

Literally translated: get like a tomato.

It’s used when someone blushes with embarrassment.

knallrot werden/ puterrot anlaufen/ so einen Ballon kriegen/ einen roten Kopf bekommen

to go red/ turn as red as a beetroot

Pillar con las manos en la masa

Literally translated: catch someone with its hands in the dough.

Catching someone doing something they shouldn’t.

jdn auf frischer Tat ertappen

to catch sb with their hands in the cookie jar/ to catch sb with their pants down/ to catch sb red-handed

Pedir peras al olmo

Literally translated: ask the elm for pears.

An expression indicating that one should not pretend or ask for something impossible.

etwas Unmögliches verlangen

to ask for the moon/ to ask for impossibilities

Temblar como un flan

Literally translated: tremble like a flan.

It’s used to refer to people who are very nervous.

wie Espenlaub zittern

to tremble like a leaf/ to quake in one’s boots

The list could go on and on, but I believe we’ve seen enough examples, and I think by now you could eat a horse, so it’s about time you eat something.

Please let me know in the comments what expressions you believe are missing from this list and their translations into English or German (if you know them).

Take a look at the video on my homepage to find out which of these expressions I used.

2 thoughts on “List of Spanish food-related expressions translated into English and German”

  1. Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he just bought me lunch as I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch! "One who's our friend is fond of us one who's fond of us isn't necessarily our friend." by Geoffrey F. Albert.

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