How to visually distinguish Jamón Iberico de Bello ta from Jamón Serrano


In my food tours in Barcelona, my guest very often  ask me: How to visually distinguish  Jamón Iberico de Bellota from Jamón Serrano? I am going to answer to that question:

Jamón means spanish ham and it is a jewel of Spanish gastronomy.

There are two kinds of jamón: jamón Iberico de bellota and jamón serrano.

Let’s talk about the first one jamón iberico de bellota or also known as pata negra.

It is considered the very  best quality. The price is about €160 per kilo.

Iberico means the breed  of pigThe Iberian pig is a black pig native to here, the Iberian Peninsula. It is a black pig. The ham comes from the hind  leg of the pig.


Bellota means acorns  as you know it comes from the  oak tree. The animals eat acorns and  live for a year and a half free to roam in the country side surrounded by nature. They get plenty of exercise.


After a year and a half the pigs are slaughtered and the legs are cured in salt for arounf ten days. Then the legs are put into a cellar where the temperature is controlled and everything like a wine cellar for around  three years and this is the final product “jamón iberico de bellota”.

On the other hand there is the jamón serrano or serrano ham.


Serrano means made in the mountain. Sierra means mountain. This ham comes from white pig and it is the most popular ham in Spain. 

Jamón is very popular food here in Spain taken in a sandwich, as a tapas or with cheese, olives with a glass of red wine…


How to visually distinguish  Jamón Iberico de bellota from Jamón Serrano.



Jamón Iberico de bellota has a stronger color,  more intense, more red than the serrano ham. Serrano ham is paler in color and has less fat and flavor. Generally we Spanish eat iberico ham on special occasions and serrano more often.


 –Jamón Iberico de bellota  also has what is called fat infiltration. They are small strips of fat that go through the ham. The fat has a lot of flavor and is very good for health because 70% is oleic acid which is monounsaturated fat and good for cholesterol. This kind of fat is given by the acorns that the animal eats.



The iberico ham leg is smaller, shapely and more elegant than the serrano ham leg and the “caña” (the “caña” is the cylindrical part next to the hoof).The “caña” is more narrow than the serrano ham. 



Another characteristic of pata negra or jamón iberico de bellota is the brightness. The fat is like butter. It melts and that gives the shine to the ham. 



The flavour of Jamón Iberico de bellota:

-The flavour of the ham is different in each animal it depends on where the animal is raised  and where the dry curing process is done. But there are some common features:

– Iberico ham tastes like nuts: almonds, hazelnuts. This flavor comes from the acorns that the animal eats. It also has a certain sweet taste given by acorns and sometimes we can find in the mouth a light taste of milk.



Iberian pigs are classified with four labels and the price varies a lot:

Black label:

 for Iberian pigs that have a purity of 100% breed. Pigs raised with acces to fresh air and pasture .The best ham in the world. They can roam  free. They are happier and healthier.


Red label: 

for Iberian pigs but not 100% pure. They are pigs fed with acorns and they grow in freedom. It is an excellent ham.


Green label:

 They are Iberian pigs mixed with other breeds. The feeding of the animal combines the acorn with grains. The animal lives in freedom. It is a very good ham.


White Label:

They are Iberian pigs mixed with other breeds. The animal combines the acorn with feed. The difference with the green label, is that the animal does not live in freedom. Live in a space of one and a half meters. Obviously there is a difference in quality. It is cheaper.


The experts say that it is better if the ham is cut with a knife rather than by machine because the high temperature of the blade affects the flavor of the meat. 


If you want to taste an excellent jamón iberico de bellota I recommend you “La Boqueria” food market in Barcelona or  the smalls shops surrounding the market. In my food tour in Bacelona I show different places where you can get jamón and If you want you can taste it!

© Looking Barcelona 2019