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Food in Spain: A Guide to Spanish Tapas

From potato omelette and wafer-thin ham to bite-sized peppers and marinated anchovies, Spanish tapas are the perfect accompaniment to an ice-cold drink. Here's our guide to popular tapas to try on your trip to Spain.
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What is tapas?

Whether you’re propping up the bar in a hole-in-the-wall tavern, grabbing a light lunch in a rustic cafe, or sitting down for an extravagant feast in a high-quality restaurant, tapas is a social affair. Served in small portions, you can order a plethora of delicious tapas dishes to share with fellow travellers and savour all of the different flavours of Spanish food. 

It’s also not unusual to be served complimentary tapas in Spain. Bars compete with one another to lay on the best tapas to accompany your beverages. So, sit back, enjoy your drink and tuck into some delicious homemade cuisine. And, if you’re impressed and want to try more, most eateries will have an extensive paid-for tapas menu from which you can order. 

What To Order - Popular Spanish Tapas

Tortilla Española

A far cry from the processed omelettes you’ll find in the supermarket, a traditional Tortilla Española is lovingly handmade from sauteed potatoes and onions mixed into a bowl of whisked eggs and gently warmed in a smouldering skillet. Walk into any bar or cafe in Spain, and you’ll likely see a tower of pre-prepared tortilla on the counter ready to go. Combine with a fresh green salad for a delicious light lunch or have it as a pre-dinner snack. 

Pimientos del Padrón

Pimientos del Padrón are small bite-sized green peppers tossed in oil and gently seared until they blister. The fresh yet bitter-tasting flesh combined with a generous sprinkle of salt makes these savoury treats hard to resist. But beware, you’ll be entering a daring game of Padrón roulette with these tender little morsels. Most of the peppers are mild, but watch out for the hot ones - one in five are said to have a spicy kick that may take you by surprise!

Patatas Bravas

Although not the most healthy option on the tapas menu, Patatas Bravas are guaranteed to please. Small cubes of potato deep-fried and served with lashings of garlicky aioli or a spicy tomato sauce, this tasty appetiser is an excellent pairing with a refreshing glass of beer, and it is a common sight in traditional Spanish bars. 

Jamón Ibérico

Feast on a plate of crimson-red wafer-thin melt-in-your-mouth Iberian cured ham. Jamón Ibérico is produced from a special breed of black Iberian pigs, and you’ll often see joints of cured meat hanging from Spanish market stalls and in bars and restaurants. Usually served with a chunk of crusty bread and some juicy olives, the sweet and nutty flavour is best washed down with a glass of smooth red Rioja wine.

Boquerones en Vinagre

Boquerones en Vinagre is a delicious small plate of marinated anchovies that is a very popular tapas bar snack throughout Spain. Bathed in vinegar, olive oil, garlic and parsley, these silvery little fish can be eaten on their own or with crisps and olives. The fried version, boquerones fritos, is also a must-try - the sumptuous crispy batter compliments the salty meat of the fish perfectly. 

Gambas al ajillo

If you love shellfish, don’t miss out on a bowl of Gambas al ajillo - fresh prawns sizzled in olive oil, garlic and chilli. This flavoursome tapas dish has a subtle fiery kick and is best enjoyed alfresco in the warm summer breeze. Indulge in these heavenly zesty bites with an ice-cold glass of crisp, dry white wine and mop up the juices with a slice of rustic white bread. 

Croquetas

Crispy on the outside and deliciously gooey on the inside, Croquetas are a classic Spanish tapas favourite. The traditional filling of Serrano ham mixed with a thick bechamel sauce that is chilled, rolled in a layer of egg and breadcrumbs and then deep-fried to perfection, can be found in most bars and restaurants in Spain. Look out for other flavours too, including spinach, mushroom, pulled chicken and shrimp.

 

Try for yourself

If this has got you feeling hungry and you want to sample these delicious Spanish tapas dishes for yourself, take a look at our wide and varied selection of tours to Spain. From discovery trips to the verdant countryside of Andalucia to wine tours in Madrid and cycling adventures through Murcia, we have plenty of small group tours in Spain to choose from. 
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