This wonderful, classic Spanish fare is served in a traditional manner with many small dishes. Everywhere in Spain you will find a wide selection of tapas restaurants. Our advice is to seek out those hidden gems where the locals can be found relaxing, wining and dining. This is where truly great culinary experiences unfold. Here’s a list of our top 13 tapas picks!
- Jamón: A quintessential part of Spanish cuisine and one of the most distinguishing culinary sights in all of Spain, especially in the many tapas and wine bars. In Spain, jamón (translated: ham) is the characteristically salty and flavorful dry-cured-ham. It’s salted, wind-dried ham hung up to develop color, texture and flavor. There are two main types in Spain – jamón serrano and jamón ibérico – and their name refers to the breed of pigs. There are multiple grades of ham, categorized primarily by the pig’s diet and the length of the curing process. The finest grade, which is often quite pricey, is called jamón ibérico de bellota and is produced of black-footed, semi-wild Iberico pigs that are fed purely on a diet of acorns. Regardless of the grade you choose, jamón is a delicious local treat that is always served temperate and best eaten with your fingers. No cutlery needed here!
- Tortilla española: Classic Spanish egg-and-potato omelet, cooked in a large iron pot. Roughly chopped potatoes are gently roasted in olive oil and then turned with whipped eggs. As soon as the surface begins to set, the cook flips the omelet and bakes it in the oven. As a tapas dish, this thick and hearty omelet is typically served at room temperature, cut into wedges.
- Croquetas: Classic Spanish croquetas are fried nibbles of deliciousness, which are prepared with creamy bechamel sauce or perhaps milk; then can be filled with minced ham, shrimp, vegetables or cheese. They’re carefully breaded, fried crisp and served smoking hot.
- Gambas al ajillo: Fresh shrimp tossed in olive oil with flavorful garlic and chili; then cooked quickly in a terracotta cazuela dish. Also known as “gambas al pil pil”, this dish arrives to your table sizzling hot and packs a serious flavor punch!
- Patatas bravas (or papas bravas): Medium-sized potato pieces, either deep-fried or sautéed and served with a spicy, garlic-tomato sauce. Perhaps the simplest, but also one of the most popular, tapas dishes!
- Boquerones en vinagre: The central ingredient of this dish is boquerones, or fresh anchovy fillets, which are marinated in a bath of vinegar, olive oil, garlic and finely chopped flat-leaf parsley. Sweet, firm, tart and full of flavor! Served with fresh, crusty bread or crackers.
- Albondigas en salsa: Often referred to as Spanish meatballs, these delicious mouthfuls are braised in a slightly spicy tomato-based sauce. Chopped parsley, fragrant saffron or almonds can also be included.
- Higados de pollo al vino de Jerez: Chicken liver braised in sherry. A combination that seems divine!
- Pinchitos morunos: A Moorish-derived food in Spanish cuisine, similar to kebab. Cubes of pork marinated in olive oil, garlic and spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric and/or chili; then skewered and grilled.
- Pulpo a la gallega: This is one simple, yet flavorful dish! The octopus is cooked in boiling water; then tossed with olive oil, finely chopped garlic, paprika and a generous round of delicious pimento.
- Gazpacho: Originally from the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, this cold soup is full of ripe, refreshing, summery flavors. Usually made from a blend of chopped raw vegetables like tomato, onion, pepper and cucumber. Served chilled – and with fresh bread!
- Gambas a la plancha: Whole, unpeeled shrimps that are salted and cooked on a flat iron grill. Sprinkled with fresh lemon juice during and after cooking. The heads are left on for extra flavor.
- Pimientos de Padrón: These small, green peppers that originate from Galicia, in the northern part of Spain are fried until the bright, green skin blisters. Served with a drizzle of fresh lemon juice and sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Spaniards often say: “Los pimientos de Padrón, unos pican y otros no”, which translates to “Peppers from Padrón, some are hot and some are not”. So, diners beware - know your heat tolerance before indulging!