‘Lunch’ in Spanish: Everything You Need to Know!!

Did you know that the word for lunch in Spanish varies from country to country?

In Mexico and Spain, it’s referred to as ‘la comida’ (yep, just like the word for ‘food‘!), while in most other Latin American countries it’s ‘el almuerzo’.

Here’s a super useful infographic showing exactly how to say ‘lunch’ (AND what time it’s eaten!) in several different Spanish-speaking countries –

Infographic showing the different words for lunch across the Spanish-speaking world



Unfortunately, other lunch-related vocab (like ‘lunchtime’ and ‘lunch box’) varies from country to country too!

So, if you wanna become a veritable expert on all things lunch, make sure to get the full lowdown below!


Different ways to say lunch in Spanish


Almuerzo

‘Almuerzo’ is one of the two most common ways to say ‘lunch’ in the Spanish-speaking world!

And if you wanna say ‘lunchtime‘, the phrase you’re looking for is ‘la hora del almuerzo’.

Costa Rican girl ready for an "almuerzo" of platano macho


As you can see from the above infographic, ‘almuerzo’ is used in most Latin American countries and is normally eaten at noon.

Julián – ¿Qué trajiste de almuerzo?

Lucía – Arroz con pollo, ¿y tú?



Julián – What did you bring for lunch?

Lucía – Chicken and rice, and you?

*Expert tip – it’s worth mentioning that the word ‘almuerzo’ IS used in Spain and Mexico as well, but it normally refers to a light meal or snack between breakfast and lunch.


Comida

According to the Royal Academy of the Spanish language, ‘comida’ is ‘what you eat and drink to nourish yourself.

So, in layman’s terms, ‘comida‘ means ‘food’!

Spanish man ready for a "comida" of paella


HOWEVER, the RAE also defines it as ‘food taken at noon or early afternoon’, meaning it’s a synonym of ‘lunch’ as well (but only in Mexico and Spain!).

En una oficina en México

Isabel – ¿No vas a salir a comer?

Beto – ¿Ya es hora de la comida? ¡No me había dado cuenta!



At an office in Mexico

Isabel – Aren’t you going to eat something?

Beto – Is it lunchtime already? I hadn’t noticed!


¡Qué rica se ve tu comida! ¿Tú la preparaste?

Your lunch looks delicious! Did you make it?

Rupert’s pro tip – as I mentioned before, ‘comida’ is the word for ‘lunch’ in Spain (although I personally found out the hard way (don’t ask!) that Andalucía is an exception), but DON’T expect people from Latin America to use it too!

If you’re not sure which word to use in the country (or region!) you’re in, you can always ask!

A good way of doing so is by saying one of the following –

¿Aquí se dice almuerzo o comida? = Do you say almuerzo or comida here?

¿Cómo se dice lunch aquí? = How do you say ‘lunch’ here?


Lonche / Lonch / Lunch

Don’t be surprised if you hear Mexicans using the English word ‘lunch’ or a similar-sounding word such as ‘lonche’ (which is also popular in Peru!).

Peruvian girl ready for a "comida" of ceviche


Many people use this anglicism to refer to a light meal between breakfast and lunch, a snack, a lunch break, or the time of day when kids eat a sandwich and play in the schoolyard.

En la escuela

Caro – ¿Quieres uno de mis molletes*, Gus?

Gustavo – ¡Sí, gracias! Tu mamá prepara los mejores lonches.



At the school

Caro – Would you like one of my molletes, Gus?

Gustavo – Yeah, thank you! Your mom makes the best lunches.

*Rupert’s pro tip – a MOLLETE is a traditional Mexican sandwich topped with beans and cheese!

Useful phrases about lunch


¿Qué hay de comer? – What’s for lunch?

In my experience, the closest translation of ‘what’s for lunch’ is ‘¿qué hay de comer?’


Hijo – Mamá, ¿qué hay de comer?

Mamá – Hice pozole.

Ale – ¡Qué rico!



Son – What’s for lunch?

Mom – I made pozole.

Ale – Yummy!

Boy asking his mum, "¿Qué hay de comer?"


Yep, the expressions ‘de comer’ and ‘algo de comer’ often (but not always!) translate as ‘for lunch’ –

Melissa – ¿Qué trajiste de comer, Sebas? ¡Se ve delicioso!

Sebastián – Empanadas de atún, ¿gustas?



Melissa – What did you bring for lunch, Sebas? It looks delicious!

Sebastián – Tuna empanadas, do you want some?

Rupert’s pro tip – tread carefully because ‘de comerDOESN’T refer to any ol’ meal at any ol’ time of day! I remember getting some rather funny looks from my in-laws when I asked them if there was ‘algo de comer’ at 07:00 in the morning.

You actually have to say ‘de desayunar’ (‘for breakfast’) in the early morning and ‘de cenar’ (‘for lunch’) in the evening!


¿A qué hora es la comida/el almuerzo? – What time is lunch?

If you wanna know when lunch is gonna be, you need to say ‘¿a qué hora es?’ followed by either ‘la comida’ (if you happen to be in Mexico or Spain) or ‘el almuerzo’ (if you’re in another Spanish-speaking country).

En una oficina en Mexico

Andrés – ¿A qué hora es la comida con los clientes?

Nadia – Tenemos que estar en el restaurante a las tres.



In an office in Mexico

Andrés – What time is lunch with the clients?

Nadia – We have to be at the restaurant at three.


Una pareja en Costa Rica

Mariam – ¿A qué hora es el almuerzo con tus padres?

Juan – A las doce.



A couple in Costa Rica

Mariam – What time is lunch with your parents?

Juan – At noon.

Salí a almorzar / Salí a comer – Out for lunch

The Spanish equivalent of ‘out for lunch’ would be ‘salí a’ (meaning ‘I went out for’) followed by ‘almorzar’ or ‘comer’, which are the verb forms of ‘almuerzo’ and ‘comida’!

Sign saying, "Out for lunch"


En la oficina

Majo – ¿Sabes dónde está Raúl?

Gibrán – No sé, pero su estado en línea dice ‘salí a almorzar’…seguro regresa a la una.



In the office

Majo – Do you know where Raúl is?

Gibrán – I’m not sure, but his online status says ‘out for lunch’ … I’m sure he’ll be back at one.


Lunch break – Descanso / Lunch break

A ‘lunch break’ at work is mostly referred to as a ‘descanso’ (which literally means ‘rest’ in English).

You might even hear ‘lunch break’ in certain countries (yep, I’m looking at you Mexico!).

En una oficina

Leticia – Tenemos programado un descanso de quince minutos, en el que pueden ir por refrigerios y café.



At the office

Leticia – We have a fifteen-minute lunch break scheduled during which you can go grab snacks and coffee.

Related Vocab


Refrigerio – Snack / Box lunch

Depending on the country and region, a ‘refrigerio’ can refer to a ‘snack’ (which you can eat at any time of the day) OR a ‘box lunch’.

En El Salvador

Niño – Mamá, ¿por qué a Santi le empacan dulces en el refrigerio?

Madre – No sé, hijo, será porque a sus papás no les preocupan las caries.



In El Salvador

Kid – Mom, why is Santi getting candy in his box lunch?

Mother – I don’t know, son, maybe his parents don’t care about cavities.


En un paseo guiado

Guía – Al mediodía haremos una pausa para el refrigerio.



On a guided tour

Guide – At noon we’ll stop for a snack.


Vianda – Snack / Box lunch

‘Vianda’ is another VERY common term for a ‘box lunch’ in Latin America, particularly in Argentina; it can often be used interchangeably with ‘refrigerio’.

Sofía se sentaba diario con el mismo grupo de amigos a comer viandas y platicar de lo que fuera.

Sofía sat with the same group of friends every day to eat their boxed lunches and chat about anything and everything.

Rupert’s pro tip – during my time in Latin America, I’ve noticed that international or foreign TV series often get dubbed in a specific country’s variation of Spanish!

This means that sometimes certain words and expressions don’t reflect those actually used by the viewing public!

For example, Mexican children might hear the word ‘vianda’ in their favorite cartoon, while never really using such a term themselves.


Tentempié – Snack / Light meal

When talking about a ‘light meal’ or ‘snack’, ‘tentempié’ is more common than ‘refrigerio’ in countries like Spain and the northern regions of Mexico.

En una excursión en el bosque

Luz – ¿Podemos parar para un tentempié?

Martín – Claro; empaqué UNAS TORTAS en la mochila.



On a hike in the woods

Luz – Can we stop for a snack?

Martín – Sure, I packed some sandwiches in my backpack.

Piscolabis – Snack

A rather old-fashioned synonym of ‘refrigerio’ is ‘piscolabis’.

It originated in Spain, but even the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language considers its etymology a bit of a mystery.

Although it’s a fun word to pronounce, ‘piscolabis’ is often associated with older generations across the Spanish-speaking world.

En el pizarrón de bienvenida a una conferencia

Para su disfrute, disponemos de café y piscolabis durante todo el evento.



On the welcome board at a conference

For your enjoyment, we have coffee and snacks available throughout the event.


Before you go …

Wanna learn more about Mexican food culture?

If so, DEFINITELY check out our INTERVIEW WITH MEXICAN CHEF DAVID SOLÓRZANO; you’ll improve your Spanish and learn A LOT about Mexican food culture in the process!


Or if you’re heading out for lunch in a Spanish-speaking country, maybe take a quick look at our article on all the different ways to say ‘STEAK’ IN SPANISH first!

It’s pretty darn helpful and is sure to get you salivating 😉

¡Hasta la próxima!

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

And some cheeky vids ...

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