Pan con tomate or Spanish tomato bread is a humble Catalan dish featuring lightly toasted bread, fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and sea salt. It can be served as a traditional Spanish breakfast dish or as a simple yet delicious tapa or appetizer.
Background of the dish
Pan con tomate originates from Catalonia, an autonomous community in the northeast of Spain. This Catalan tomato bread is locally known as pa amb tomàquet, pan tumaca or pantumaca and literally translates as ‘bread with tomato’. The origin of this dish was first described in 1884, where tomato pulp was used to give old and stale bread a bit of a revamp.
Nowadays it is one of the most popular Spanish bread recipes in the country and especially in the region of Catalonia where it is served at every possible meal. Spanish tomato bread can be eaten for breakfast, as part of a brunch table, appetizer, or it can accompany a main course. It is also often served alongside various Spanish tapas dishes like these garlic mushrooms, Spanish chorizo in cider, grilled Padrón peppers or to eat with salmorejo soup or gazpacho.
Which ingredients to use
This Spanish breakfast dish is made with just 5 basic ingredients, which means it is key to only use high quality ingredients for the best flavour.
- Bread: Use a rustic style loaf of bread, like ciabatta, long farmbread or other long crusty loaf. The key is to give it a sturdy base and the top lightly grilled.
- Tomatoes: You will need very ripe and juicy tomatoes that are easy to grate. In this recipe we will use the tomato pulp (without skin) and not sliced or diced tomatoes.
- Olive oil: Make sure to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil brand that you like.
- Garlic: You will need one large unpeeled clove of garlic for that extra punch.
- Salt: I prefer to use flaky sea salt or ‘fleur de sel’ to sprinkle over the bread.
How to make pan con tomate?
This pan con tomate recipe comes together in just 10 minutes and hardly involves any cooking. Just follow the steps below to make your own homemade tomato bread, Spanish-style.
- Slice the bread:
Cut the bread in slices between 1/2 and 1 inches thick (between 1,5 – 2,5 cm). Thin enough to comfortably eat the slice of bread but thick enough to be able to assemble and hold it without falling apart.
- Toast or grill the bread:
The bread should not be too hard. Just the top needs to be nice and crispy to be able to rub the garlic over it and to hold the tomato pulp. Put the slices in the toaster or brush with a bit of olive oil and put under the broiler (just a few minutes maximum) or in a grill pan.
- Grate the tomatoes:
Cut the tomatoes in half and rub over a grater to collect the tomato pulp in a mixing bowl. Discard the skin.
- Drizzle the olive oil:
Drizzle a splash of olive oil in the tomato pulp and mix well. You can opt to drizzle the olive oil on top of the bread after having spread the tomato on it. I prefer to mix it with the tomato before so it gets evenly mixed.
- Rub the garlic:
Cut a clove of garlic in half. Leave unpeeled in order for your hands not to smell too much like garlic. Give each slice a good rub, preferably when the bread is still hot from the grill.
- Assemble the tomato bread:
Spread the tomato and olive oil mixture over each slice of bread and sprinkle richly with flaky sea salt or fleur de sel.
Serve immediately before the bread gets too soggy.
There are a few other ways of preparing traditional pan con tomate. When in Spain you will often see a very thin layer of tomato on the toasted bread. In this case, the tomatoes are rubbed directly on the warm toasted bread instead of grated. So after toasting the bread, rub with the garlic, slice the tomato in half and give each slice a rub. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle flaky salt over it. Ready, serve!
I prefer the recipe as described with the tomato pulp as it gives the tomato bread more body and flavour. But this is just personal preference.
- Garlic: When rubbing the garlic over the toasted bread when it’s still slightly hot from toasting, it will make the garlic melt into the bread, which will make the garlic taste less pungent.
- Grater: Use a box grater or a good hand grater to be able to separate the skin from the pulp of the tomatoes. So no need to first peel the tomatoes.
- Leftovers: Once the tomato bread is already prepared it is not possible to safe the leftovers for later. Or rather, it is possible, but as the bread will be very soggy due to the tomato juice drained into the bread, it will no longer be pleasant to eat anymore. Therefore, when making a larger quantity of Catalan tomato bread, it is best to serve all elements separate for each person to assemble.
This Spanish tomato bread can be served for breakfast, brunch, as an appetizer, Spanish tapas dish or to accompany a main course. As you can see it can be served all day long with various types of meals, making it a very versatile dish. It is an integrated part of Spanish food culture, especially in the region of Catalonia. In the rest of Spain this bread is mainly served for breakfast.
To make it more substantial, when served as brunch for instance, you can add a slice of Spanish ham, or jamón serrano on top. Or consider adding anchovies or a slice of Manchego cheese.
This pan con tomate is best served immediately in order to avoid the bread becoming soggy due to the tomato juice, or you can make it in advance as part of a DIY platter. Toast or grill the bread, then put the other ingredients in small bowls alongside the bread so everyone can assemble their own slice of Spanish bread. Or prepare all the ingredients in advance and assemble just before serving.
Recipes to serve with tomato bread
This recipe goes really well alongside soup, salads or main course recipes like:
- Burrata caprese salad
- Grilled halloumi and sweet potato salad
- Fresh fig and feta salad
- Little gem and anchovy salad
- Dogfish stew with fennel and tomatoes
- Grilled lemon and herb chicken skewers
- Spanish omelette with potatoes
Pan con tomate – Spanish tomato bread
- 4 slices rustic bread toasted
- 2 ripe tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- kosher salt or fleur de sel
- optional pepper and fresh parsley
- Toast the slices of bread in the toaster, in the oven, or in a pan (with a drizzle of olive oil).
- Cut the tomatoes in half, no need to peel. Place a grater over a mixing bowl and grate the tomato halves. Hold the peel in your hand and grate until all the flesh is grated and only the peel is left. Dispose of the peel. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil in the tomato mixture and stir.
- Cut the garlic clove in half and rub it over each piece of toast, on 1 side only.
- Spoon some of the tomato mixture over each toast and finish off with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt or fleur the sel.
- Optionally serve with some chopped fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Bread: Use either a hard crusted rustic loaf, ciabatta, baguette, or a rustic farmers’ bread.
- Salt: Traditionally flaky sea salt or course salt is used. Don’t use table salt for this recipe. Instead, use Kosher salt, fleur de sel, or any other coarse salt.