Spanish tapas: our top 10 favourite tapas
Tuesday April 27, 2021 | Spanish Culture | Posted by studyspanishinspain
Tapas are an essential culinary part of the Spanish lifestyle and culture. The eating habit of the Spanish tapas culture has not only conquered Spain. Having tapas is a trend that is emerging in more and more countries. There are hundreds of different Spanish tapas that can be eaten before lunch or dinner, and many times are a complete dinner on their own.
Let’s talk a bit more about the Spanish tapas culture before giving you our top 10 favourite tapas.
You know what tapas are, right?
For sure, you know what tapas are. Just in case… tapas those little appetizers on tables, terraces or in restaurants in Spain….? Those are tapas. But they are now much more than just ‘an appetizer’. Spanish tapas have evolved into sophisticated cuisine throughout the years and are mostly combined to make a complete dinner.
|Tapear or: ir de tapas
First, tapas were a tiny snack or appetizer to eat before their dinner. As you may have noticed when living with a host family during a Spanish immersion course in Spain: most people in Spain have dinner later, later than in other European countries. The Spaniards eat around 9 or 10 pm (or even later).
Today, the tapa is much more than an appetizer. It’s popular for Spaniards to consume an entire meal of tapas, which they refer to as tapear. When people plan on visiting a few different bars and have tapas and drinks in each bar, they call this: ir de tapas.
How and when do you eat tapas?
Going out to eat tapas and have drinks is a ‘must do’ activity for those living in Spain to learn Spanish. The Spaniards love to have a few tapas and drinks in a bar and talk, while after an hour or so they repeat the same in another bar, and after that, in another. This can go on for hours, in groups of relatives or friends. Eating tapas is part of the social traditions of Spain; it encourages conversation and sharing. People are less focused upon eating meal set in front of them, as when dining on a more traditional setting.
As you see, the tapas culture is about more than just the tapa; it’s about the way you share, where and with whom.
Tapas: cold or hot
Even in the smallest cafes in Spain, you will find tapas such as olives, anchovies, patatas bravas or a potato omelette. Some tapa bars specialize in fish and seafood; others in meat. Tapas are generally divided into two main categories: hot and cold. The hot tapas you can often see on a sign outside or in the restaurant or on a menu. The cold tapas (olives, chorizo, cheese etc.) can be seen on the bar or behind a display case.
Try the delicious Spanish tapas out and find a nice spot in the bar or right outside, with your friends or family: order approximately three tapas per person and a drink.. and it’s a guarantee you’ll feel ready to socialize for the next few hours. When you’ve finalized the tapas, you can order other ones or go for a short walk before ending up in another bar where you can order more and different tapas.
Origin of tapas
Where does the tapa come from? The origin of tapas lies in Andalusia. Andalusia was the heart of the sherry production, and a tapa was initially served with a glass of sherry or another drink. The verb tapar in Spanish means “to cover”; and tapa means “cover”.
We don’t know if people wanted something to cover the glass, or if they meant something else … but the tradition of tapas (small portions of food on a small plate) was born.
There are several other stories about the origin of the tapa culture in Spain. One other thing is sure: tapas are now an essential part of Spain’s Spanish culinary tradition and daily life. Finally, it’s safe to say that tapas is probably the most famous aspect of Spanish cuisine, best known worldwide. Or do you think it’s paella or sangria? Or ham, e.g. the famous jamón ibérico?
How much do tapas cost?
The price of a tapa varies approximately between € 2,50 and € 5 of € 6. To your surprise: there are bars or restaurants, where you can get tapas for free: they come with the drinks as an appetizer. Especially in the region of Granada, the cafes and bars offer free tapas with a drink. This is not the case in all Andalucia: in Malaga or Sevilla, the tapas are charged separately. We can say the tapas culture is very much alive in Madrid, Salamanca, and Andalucia; but not in Barcelona and northern Spain).
- The famous British cook Jamie Oliver has this article about Spanish tapas.
- Do you already speak (some) Spanish? Check this article of Spain’s official tourism website and see the beautiful photos of the tapas: 20 recommended and highly popular tapas
Spanish tapas: our top 10 favourite tapas
Are you travelling to Spain any time soon, for a holiday or a Spanish immersion course in Spain? We have compiled a list of the tastiest meat, fish and vegetarian tapas. All of them are highly recommended!
Spanish tapas: our Top 10 favourite tapas
1. Pinchos or Pintxos
You can see these cute sandwiches mainly in the northern regions, including the Basque Country. They are topped with, for example, pieces of ham and tomato tapenade or fish, but they also come in a vegetarian version so that there is something tasty for everyone.
Albondigas are meatballs in a bowl served with a homemade tomato sauce with peas and sometimes potatoes. We personally like Albondigas when they are a bit spicy and well-seasoned.
3. Boquerones and vinagre
The two main ingredients for “boquerones and vinagre” are fresh anchovies (the fresher, the better) and vinegar. Preparing this dish can sometimes start two days in advance since the fish is first marinated in vinegar for a day. Later it is sprinkled with oil, garlic and parsley. The spine and head of the anchovies must be removed in advance.
4. Pan (or Patatas) al Aioli
This delicious sauce originally consisted only of garlic and oil, but other ingredients such as mayonnaise have been added over the years. It’s used as a sauce for squid rings, prawns, potatoes etc. Aioli can even turn a simple piece of bread into a delicious indulgence. We warn you that you may develop an aioli addiction because once you eat this sauce with your tapas, you can’t stop!
5. Chorizo al vino tinto
Although we can also find chorizo a tasty snack on its own, the flavours of this dish make it even more special. Simply stated this tapa exists of chorizo marinated in red wine. This is one of the easiest tapas dishes to prepare yourself. It is definitely worth making or ordering.
Nothing is as good as fresh squid rings with a thin crispy layer around it. This is why you can find it in many restaurants in and outside of Spain. Tip: delicious with aioli.
7. Patatas bravas (fried potatoes in spicy tomato sauce)
It sounds so simple, but when done correctly, this is a delicious, filling dish. They are crispy, spiced potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce on top. This is undoubtedly one of the most famous and popular tapas in Spain, and tourists enjoy it as much as locals.
8. Pulpo a la Gallega
Polpo a la Gallega is a typical regional dish from Galicia. This tapa also needs a few days of preparation if you want to get the octopus tender and soft. The whole octopus goes into the pan with cups and tentacles and is then cut into pieces and served with potatoes, olive oil and paprika.
9. Gambas al Ajillo
You can easily make this yummy dish at home, but for some reason, it never tastes as good as in Spain on a terrace. The prawns are marinated in garlic and olive oil and are baked perfectly “juicy” with a nice sauce in which you can also dip your bread. You can’t go wrong with this tapa!
10. Berenjenas fritas con miel de caña
Even if you are not an eggplant lover, this vegetarian tapa could just change your mind. This dish consists of fried aubergine with cane sugar syrup, a speciality from Andalusia that you will find in every restaurant or tapas bar.
Spanish traditional tapas culture
There are also the classic tapas that you will find in most restaurants in Spain. Examples are the thinly sliced salty ‘ibérico or serrano jamón’ (ham) or the Tortilla Española (Spanish potato omelette), which is also called “Spain’s national dish”.
For sure, your Spanish guest mum – if you live with a host family while learning Spanish in Spain – has prepared some delicious Spanish food for you. Has she?
And if you’ve been living and learning Spanish for a few weeks now.. …. what is your favourite tapa? Post in the comments and let us know!
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