Spanish tapas are the equivalent of appetizers here in America. But in Spain, tapas have developed into a sophisticated cuisine in which many different tapas are sometimes combined to make a full meal. In fact, dining on tapas is a significant part of the culture.
Dinner in Spain is customarily served late by American standards — between 9 and midnight — and lunch is usually served between 2 and 4 p.m. As a result, when Spaniards frequent bars they often dine on tapas after work and before dinner, or around noon before lunch.
Bars and small restaurants typically have 8 to 12 different kinds of tapas in warming trays flavored with garlic, chilies or paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron and olive oil.
A few years back, FriendsEAT founders Blanca Valbuena and Antonio Evans traveled to Spain and photographed some of the sumptuous tapas they enjoyed in Barcelona.
Here is a sampling of some of the tapas they enjoyed.
Since tapas are the perfect introduction to Spanish cuisine, we’ve handpicked 17 delicious recipes to get you started.
17 Luscious Tapas Recipes
Avocado and Prawn Cocktail – Cóctel de Gambas y Aguacate
Makes 4 servings.
3 large avocados
1 lb prawns
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 spring onion
1 clove garlic
5 oz whipping cream, unsweetened
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Optional: Shredded lettuce
Peel the prawns and remove the heads. Season the bodies and fry in the oil. (The heads can be used to make the stock).
Peel the avocados, remove the pits and crush the flesh with the chopped spring onion, the peeled and finely chopped garlic, the olive oil and the cream to form a velvety smooth purée. Season to taste.
Place shredded lettuce in the base of a cocktail dish (optional) then add alternate layers of prawns and avocado purée. Refrigerate until serving.
Sautéed Peppers with Garlic, Eggplant and Potatoes Recipe
Green peppers, garlic, and potato are the primary ingredients of this easy side dish. Combine them with olive oil and eggplant for a wonderful saute and serve with any type of meat.
4 long green mild peppers, such as Anaheim type
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
3 Japanese eggplants
3 potatoes, peeled, cut in half and sliced in 1/8” pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin Spanish olive oil for frying
salt to taste
This sautéed peppers with garlic, eggplant and potatoes recipe makes 4-6 servings.
Rinse the green peppers and cut off stems. Slice peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds and veins. Then, slice lengthwise again and cut in half. You should end up with pieces about 3” long and about 1-1.5” wide.
Rinse the eggplant. Cut in half length-wise and then in half again. Cut the long pieces in half cross-wise. You should end up with pieces about 2”-3” long and about 3/4” thick. If you cannot purchase Japanese eggplant, use about 1/2 to 3/4 of a regular eggplant and cut into 1” to 1 1/2” chunks.
Pour olive oil into a large frying pan. Heat on medium-high. When hot, put all ingredients in frying pan and stir often until potatoes are browned and soft. Salt to taste.
Serrano Ham and Manchego Croquetas with Smoked Pimentón Aioli
These croquetas use traditional Spanish ingredients like melt-in-your-mouth Serrano ham and Manchego cheese. Serve them with a side of aioli spiced with sweet smoked paprika.
Serrano Ham and Manchego Croquetas
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup finely chopped Serrano ham (can substitute prosciutto), about 1.8 oz
1/3 cup grated Manchego cheese, about 1.8 oz
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil for frying
Smoked Pimenton Aioli
1 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Spanish sweet smoked paprika such as Pimentón de La Vera
Heat the oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted. Add the flour and cook 1-2 minutes while whisking frequently. Gradually add the milk while whisking and continue to cook another 2-3 minutes. The mixture should be smooth.
Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the ham, cheese and nutmeg. Cook another 1-2 minutes while stirring- the mixture will pull away from the sides of the pan. Taste the mixture and add salt if desired- the ham and cheese are salty so you probably won’t need to add any additional salt.
Transfer the mixture to an 8×8-inch baking tray and spread it out so that it is even. Let the mixture cool, then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. When ready to cook the croquetas, lightly beat the eggs in a shallow dish.
Mix the breadcrumbs and ½ teaspoon salt in another dish. Scoop up tablespoons of the cooled filling and form them into balls. Dip each ball into the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Place the completed croquetas on a wire rack or baking sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
The croquetas must be chilled before frying otherwise they may fall apart in the oil. Meanwhile, make the aioli by pureeing the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, and smoked pimentón in a blender or mini food processor. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Pour enough vegetable oil into a large stockpot to reach a depth of 1 inch and heat over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the croquetas in the oil, turning them on all sides, until golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with the smoked pimentón aioli.
Spanish Omelet Sandwich To Go
Author Notes: My go-to road trip sandwich when I visit Spain is the ubiquitous and satisfying Spanish omelet (also known as tortilla española) on a sweet baguette. The mildly sweet omelet goes beautifully with the garlicky aioli and the tangy tomato. If you don’t want to make the aioli, you can make a fine substitute by toasting the inside of the bread under the broiler, rubbing it with garlic, and then spreading on store-bought mayo.
Bocadillo El Camino
Makes 4 sandwiches
1 1/2 pounds non-waxy potatoes, like Russet or Yukon Gold
1/4 cup virgin or extra virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
1 sweet baguette (the slightly wider rustic-style is great)
1 to 2 fresh, ripe tomatoes
Allioli, optional, recipe below
Peel the potatoes, and slice them about 1/4-inch thick. Lay them in the middle of a clean, cotton dish towel, and jumble the pieces around a bit. Fold the towel snugly around the potatoes, overlapping all the edges to make a burrito-like bundle. Microwave the bundle in 60-second increments, turning and flipping the bundle and shaking it around a bit after each cycle until the potatoes become translucent.
This should take 3 to 4 minutes. The potatoes should be tender, but not soft. Take care handling the hot bundle and the steam that will come out when you open it. Heat the oven to 400º F. Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully add in the onions and potatoes and cook until the onions are soft, stirring frequently, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Neither the onions nor the potatoes should be browned, but just softened. Adjust the heat as necessary. Beat the eggs and cream (if using) and pour them into the pan. Pull back the edges of the omelet to allow the egg to run to the bottom of the pan (a rubber or silicone spatula works well for this).
Repeat around the edges until you’ve gone all the way around the omelet a couple of times and the bottom begins to firm up about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the top with salt and pepper. Place the pan in the oven and cook the omelet until just set about 8 to 10 minutes.
Take care not to overcook; the top can still look a little shiny with egg and should not be brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. To prepare the sandwiches, slice the baguette into four equal lengths, then slice those pieces lengthwise.
Cut the tomatoes at their equators; on the bottom half of the baguette, smush the cut-side of the tomato, squeezing out the juice, seeds, and some of the flesh onto the bread. Top with slices of the omelet. On the top half of the baguette, spread some aioli. Assemble the sandwich, wrap it up in some wax paper, and pretend you’re in Spain. Unless you actually are in Spain, in which case, yay for you!
1 fresh egg yolk at room temperature
1 medium clove garlic, peeled
1 cup light, virgin olive oil, or a 50-50 mix of extra-virgin olive oil and a neutral oil like canola or sunflower
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Place the egg yolk in a tall measuring cup or tumbler with the garlic and a splash of the olive oil. Using an immersion blender, begin to blend the ingredients for a few seconds until they are mixed. Add in another splash of oil and mix again. Continue adding in oil a bit at a time until about half of it is incorporated.
From there, you can pour in bigger splashes of oil so long as you are making sure it is completely emulsified before adding in the next splash. At this point, you’ll need to move the blender in a slight up and down motion to be sure everything is being incorporated, but you also want to be careful not to overbeat the mixture. Finally, add in the salt and lemon juice and blend just to combine. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Char-grilled Artichokes – Alcachofas a la Parrilla
Makes 6 servings.
12 large, young artichokes
1 1/2 cups wine vinegar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup olive oil
Freshly milled black pepper
One by one, grip the artichokes by the stalk and strike against the work surface to open them up without breaking off the leaves. Then cut off the stalks, wash in cold water and drain.
Arrange a layer of artichokes in a large bowl. Season well and sprinkle generously with vinegar, then add a little lemon juice and a trickle of oil. Repeat the process until all the artichokes have been placed in the marinade. Stir occasionally with a long wooden spoon. Leave to marinate for 8 hours.
Burn olive and holm-oak wood and when the logs have turned to red-hot coals, place a rack over them and grill the artichokes, basting occasionally with the marinade mixture. Serve very hot, two to a plate, sitting with the leaves pointing upwards.
Patatas Bravas or Bravas Potatoes is one of the classic Spanish tapas dishes and is served in bars all over Spain. The sauce has a slight bite from Tabasco, hence the name bravas, which means “fierce.” This is a quick and simple tapa recipe.
Yield: 4 Servings
4 medium potatoes
salt to taste
1 1/2 – 2 cups Spanish olive oil for frying
1 – 16 oz can of tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp mustard
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 tsp sweet Spanish paprika
toothpicks for serving
Peel the potatoes. Cut potatoes into 1/3″ to 1/2″ chunks as follows: Cut the potato lengthwise, then cut it lengthwise again. You should have four long pieces. Now, cut each of those pieces into 3-4 pieces, cutting crosswise. This should give you nice bite-sized pieces, small enough to use a toothpick to skewer. Sprinkle with salt.
Pour olive oil in a wide, deep frying pan, with a heavy bottom. Heat the oil on medium-high until hot. To test the oil, carefully place one piece of potato in the oil. It is hot enough if the potato immediately fries. If there is no bubbling/frying, the oil is not hot enough and the potato will absorb too much oil. Once the potatoes are fried(about 10 minutes), use a slotted spoon or spatula to remove and set them aside to drain.
Using a small 8-inch frying pan, put 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the pan. Heat over medium heat. Pour tomato sauce into the pan and “saute” the tomato sauce for 5 minutes. Turn heat down and add the mustard, stirring well. Finally, add the Tabasco and paprika, and mix well. Taste the sauce and adjust as necessary with salt, more Tabasco, etc.
Place the potatoes on a plate or in a wide open dish. Pour the sauce over the potatoes and serve warm, with toothpicks.
Gazpacho with Olives and Lobster
Makes 10 servings.
2 lobsters, weighing about 14 oz each
4 oz pitted black olives
10 organic tomatoes
1 organic red pepper
2 organic green peppers
1 organic onion
1 organic cucumber
1 organic garlic clove
2 oz bread
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
2 cups virgin olive oil
1 organic tomato
1 organic red pepper
1 organic green pepper
1 organic onion
1 organic cucumber
Steam the lobsters for 2 minutes at 250°F.
Chop the olives en brunoise (in small cubes) and finely chop the chives. Cut the vegetables into small pieces and place in a bowl. Soak the bread in water and add to the vegetables along with the sherry vinegar and 3/4 cup virgin olive oil.
Season with salt, cover with water and leave to macerate for 4 hours in the refrigerator. Blend this mixture then strain twice, pushing the vegetables through the strainer to extract their full flavor.
Bind the gazpacho with the remaining virgin olive oil, adding salt or vinegar as required. Wash all the vegetables for the garnish and chop en brunoise.
Place the vegetable brunoise at the center of the plate. Around it, arrange three thin slices of lobster and sprinkle with chives and the chopped black olives.
Serve the gazpacho separately.
Cantaloupe or melon of choice
Jamon Serrano or any cured ham of your choice
Sliced baguette or crusty bread, optional
In the photos, you’ll see that the melon and ham served two ways. Either wrap the jam around the melon slices or for smaller bites place small slices on top of baguette brushed with olive oil.
Shepherd’s Potatoes – Patatas Aborregás
A hearty old fashioned side dish for beef or lamb.
3 or 4 large potatoes
3 tbsp chopped garlic
1 large onion
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp bittersweet pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika)
3 tbsp rosemary
Peel and dice the potatoes. In an earthenware dish, fry the finely chopped onion and garlic with the rosemary in a little olive oil until golden. Add the potatoes and toss the mixture in the oil. Add the pimentón and enough water to cover the ingredients. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Can be served with meats and covered in your favorite dressing.
Shrimp in Trenchcoats – Gambas en Gabardinas
Makes 8 as tapa servings.
1 pound raw jumbo shrimp, peeled
A few threads of saffron
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup flour
Virgin olive oil for deep frying
Make a batter with the egg, water, salt, bicarbonate, flour, and saffron. It should have the consistency of pancake batter. Let it rest for one hour. Dip the peeled prawns in the batter and fry them in hot oil until they are golden on all sides. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.
Roasted Padron Peppers
Author Notes: Until last summer, I’d never heard of nor seen padron peppers. And then, I couldn’t turn around without seeing a basket of them at every stand at the farmers’ market or on the menu of every restaurant here in Napa Valley. Originally from an obscure region in Spain, they’ve made their way to the U.S. in abundance and I hope they are around for a very long time.
Padron peppers look like a green, thick-skinned cross between a jalapeno and a habanero. They are exceptionally easy to cook and make a great snack with a glass of wine or as a side dish on the dinner table.
A few tips: If you wash the peppers, be sure to dry thoroughly and do not remove the stems. Also, use a thick-bottom, heavy skillet. I like to use my vintage cast-iron skillet.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound padron peppers
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Heat a heavy skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Reduce the heat slightly and add the olive oil and the peppers. Stir to coat the peppers If you have a mesh cover, use it to keep any oil from splattering. Let cook until the peppers begin to burn, 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir and continue to cook until the peppers are browned on all sides and soft, about 5 minutes total. Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Eat with your fingers.
Chorizo Poached in Red Wine
A favorite at their restaurant, Jimgermanbar, is this smoky Spanish sausage with garlic, cooked gently in red wine until it’s plump and juicy.
2 4-ounce pieces dry Spanish chorizo
6 cup(s) dry red wine, about two 750-milliliter bottles
10 clove(s) garlic, peeled
4 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon(s) cayenne pepper
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large skillet. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderately low heat, turning once, until the chorizo are plump, about 15 minutes. Uncover and let stand for 5 minutes.
2. Transfer the chorizo to a work surface and slice on the diagonal 1/4 inch thick. Return the chorizo slices to the skillet and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Transfer the chorizo slices to a shallow serving bowl and pour in enough of the poaching liquid to reach halfway up the side. Serve the chorizo with toothpicks.
Brie Cheese with Roasted Garlic-Paprika Filling Recipe
Smoked Spanish paprika has an intense and unique flavor that is a basic ingredient in many Spanish dishes. This “tapa” combines roasted garlic, dry sherry, and paprika with baked Brie cheese to make a soft, rich appetizer that could almost make a main dish itself. Serve atop slices of a rustic baguette or allow guests to spread it.
1 head garlic
2-4 Tbsp Spanish virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp smoked Spanish paprika
2 Tbsp dry Spanish sherry
1 wheel (16.9 oz/555 gr) Brie cheese
2 rustic baguettes
This Brie with Roasted Garlic-Paprika Filling makes 8 servings.
Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. (Toaster ovens work well for roasting garlic, do not heat up the kitchen and keep your larger oven free for other baking.) Remove brie from refrigerator and packaging, allowing it to warm to room temperature.
Using a whole head of garlic, rub off excess skin, without breaking off the cloves. Roast whole head if desired, however only half of the cloves will be used in this recipe. Place on a square of aluminum foil about 10-inches square. Drizzle about 1 Tbsp olive oil over the top of the head and wrap the head in the aluminum foil. Place in hot oven for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, check garlic and if soft, remove from oven and leave oven on. Squeeze garlic from the skins into a small mixing bowl. Place paprika in bowl and measure in the sherry. Smash the garlic with a fork, mixing together until a paste is formed. Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and mix.
Once the brie is at room temperature, cut in half horizontally as if you were making a two-layer cake. Place on a sheet of aluminum foil. Remove top and spread roasted garlic-paprika mixture on the lower half, like frosting. Replace the top of the cheese and wrap the entire brie wheel in aluminum foil and place in a hot oven for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven when brie is soft and allow to cool a few minutes. Cut the baguette into thin slices. Cut small slices of brie and place on top of sliced bread to serve.
Notes: Brie will be slippery and may be difficult to slice if too warm. If you prefer, cut the brie in half and serve on a plate with a small knife, allowing your guests to spread warm brie on slices of bread.
Spicy Spanish Pork Recipe – Picadillo
This recipe is popular in the region of Castilla-Leon. Cubes of pork are marinated overnight in a spicy mixture of paprika, garlic, and white wine. Then the pork is quickly stir-fried and served with bread and/or fried potatoes. This is a very easy Spanish recipe that can be made as a “tapa” or a main course. If you do not eat pork, substitute beef.
2 lbs lean pork, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Tbsp hot paprika
2 Tbsp sweet paprika
3 cloves of garlic, diced very small or put through a garlic press
1 cup white wine
pinch of oregano
pinch of salt
French-style bread and/or fried potatoes to accompany
Serves 6 as a tapa or 4 as a main course.
Place cubes of pork in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle hot paprika, sweet paprika, oregano and garlic over top. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands. Add the white wine and mix thoroughly. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
When ready to cook the meat, place 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan and heat on medium heat. Remove meat from the refrigerator and fry in a pan. Salt to taste.
BBQ Method: To cook on the barbecue, simply slide meat cubes on skewers and grill, careful not to overcook.
Serve with French-Style bread or fried potatoes.
Spinach Andalusian Style – Espinacas a la Andaluza
Makes 4 servings.
3/4 lb cooked chickpeas
2-1/4 lb fresh spinach
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 slices bread
2 hard-boiled eggs (optional)
1 pinch of ground cumin
A few drops of vinegar
scant 1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp sweet paprika
Fried triangles of crusty bread for garnish
Wash the spinach and chop. Blanch in boiling, salted water for eight minutes. Drain and set aside. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the 2 slices of bread and the garlic cloves. Remove the pan from the heat, take out the bread and garlic and crush them together in a mortar.
Return the pan to the heat, place in it the crushed bread and garlic mixture with the paprika and cumin. Stir, then add the drained spinach and the chickpeas. Add the vinegar and a little of the stock from the chickpeas, check for salt and heat together for a few minutes.
Remove from the heat and serve in individual earthenware dishes, decorated with the finely chopped hard-boiled eggs and with two pieces of fried bread on each dish.
Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Potato Omelette)
I have made this dish previously, but a good tortilla is worthy to be blogged again. I remember a short conversation I had with Dan Hunter, head chef of Royal Mail who spent several years working at some of Spain’s top restaurants, including two Michelin starred Mugaritz.
I asked him what his favorite Spanish dish to eat was… it wasn’t any of the fancy dishes he must have cooked or eaten at the number of Michelin starred restaurants he worked or dined in, his answer was the Tortilla. Once you taste a great tortilla, you will understand why.
125 ml olive oil
4 large waxy potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
1 onion, sliced
4 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
Heat some of the olive in a 20 cm skillet. Add some of the potato slices so that you cover the skillet with a layer of the potatoes. Next, add some of the onions and season with salt.
Alternate the potatoes and onions, adding olive oil as you go. So basically it is potatoes, then onions, the salt, then a drizzle of olive oil before you add on the next layers. Potatoes, onions, salt, olive oil, etc. Cook this over medium heat, turning the mixture once in a while until the potatoes are tender but not browned. This took me around 15 minutes but cooking times can vary.
When the potatoes are done, they should be tender enough to be pricked with a fork without any resistance, drain them in a colander, reserving the olive oil to use for cooking the rest of the omelet. If there is more oil than what you need, don’t throw it away – this can be used for cooking other things as well so save it for future use.
Cool the potato mixture slightly, around 10 minutes and place this in a bowl with the beaten eggs. Allow the mixture to rest for around 10 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
Clean the skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of the olive in the large skillet until very hot and add the potato mixture, rapidly spreading it out in the skillet. Lower the heat to medium and shake the pan often to prevent sticking. Use a thin spatula to run along the sides of the skillet so that some of the egg can run under and cook more evenly. This takes around 6 to 8 minutes.
When the mixture begins to brown and just before you flip the tortilla, loosen it by sliding a thin spatula between the egg and the side of the skillet walls. Place a plate slightly larger than the skillet over the skillet. Remove the skillet from the heat and flip the omelet on to the plate so you can brown the other side.
Add about 2 tablespoons more to the skillet, and then slide the flipped omelet back on to the skillet so that the cooked side is facing the top. Cook the omelet for another 5 minutes over medium heat.
Flip the omelet 2 or 3 more times (this helps to give a good shape), cooking briefly on each side.
Transfer to a plate, use some kitchen paper to drain the excess oil. Sprinkle with chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
Green Leaves with Grilled Goat Cheese
11 oz goat cheese
1 tbsp oil
1 bag baby green leaves
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp honey
Vinaigrette: Dissolve the salt, pepper, and honey in the vinegar and beat in the virgin olive oil until an emulsion forms.
Cut the cheese into 3/4 inch slices and grill until golden. Place on plates, add the salad and dress with the vinaigrette.