Tapas are a long standing tradition in Spain, with recipes and dishes that reflect each region in which they came from. Once you’ve spent some time in Spain, you begin to wonder how you ever lived without Tapas. Rather than eating one designated meal you get to taste and share several different dishes with your friends over some refreshing drinks! If you find yourself at a traditional tapas tavern, all you have to do is order a drink and soon after a large plate will follow. The more drinks you order, the more plates will come!
To learn more about the history and origins behind this Spanish tradition, check out our article called What are Spanish Tapas and Where did They Come From?
These delicious, little, cream filled, fried, balls of goodness are a real fan favourite in Madrid. At traditional places they will be filled with a fluffy cream and chunks of jamon. While at the more modern, experimental spots they could be filled with anything from spinach and mushrooms to onions and fish! The tapas portions vary from place to place so you might get one big croqueta each or maybe a plateful of minis. Give them a try around town, but don’t forget you can always make it yourself!
Pimientos de Padron
So simple and so good! Pimientos de Padron are a tapas that come from Galacia, from the town of Padron to be exact! As with most classic recipes, they differ everywhere you go. Sometimes the peppers will be spicy, sometimes will be sweet, but either way they will be yummy! These green peppers are submerged in oil and fried until they are nice and soft with a crunchy exterior then sprinkled in sea salt! Though nothing beats having food served to you at a tapas bar, you can very easily make it yourself!
Meatballs aren’t necessarily Spanish by any means, but the Spanish abuelas have certainly added their own twist to the dish! With an excess of garlic, parsley and other spices, albondigas are a flavourful snack that should always be present at a tapas gathering! This is a great tapa to order because once you´re finished the meatballs you can dip you endless supply of bread in the yummy garlic, tomato sauce. Make it yourself!
Patatas Bravas are the closest relation to “fast food” that you will see at a tapas place. Mostly because the dish is just some fried potatoes chunks smothered in sauce. What makes these little taters delicious are the sauces that go on top. You can either have Alioli, a thick, garlic mayonnaise like sauce or Brava which is a spicy, tomato puree. Sometimes you might even get a little bit of both drizzled on top of warm, fried potato chunks. You’ll find patatas bravas at any taberna in town, but of course you can always make it yourself!
Gambas al Ajillo / Champiñones al Ajillo
As with many tapas recipes, gambas al Ajillo and Champiñones are a very basic mixes of simple ingredients. The dish is made of shrimp or mushrooms sautéed in a garlic oil, usually topped off with lemon and served in an earthenware bowl. Once you’re finished the delicious shrimp you can use a few slices of bread to clean up the rest of the delicious garlic oil. These dishes are so simply that you can easily make it yourself at home!
Pulpo a la Gallega
Seafood from Galicia is known to be the best of the best! With access to fresh fish from the beautiful Bay of Biscay each plate is as mouth watering as the next. Many traditional Galician dishes have made their way to the kitchen of Spain so you are more than likely to come across a few while tasting some tapas. Pulpo a la Gallega is one of them! This simple dish consists of boiled octopus covered in seasoning and served with oil and potatoes and it goes down well with a big pint of beer! Try it out at your next outing or make it yourself!
Tortilla de Patatas
Tortilla de Patatas might be the most common tapa out there. It’s also known as a Spanish Omelette however it really has no relation to the classic French dish. Tortilla is a perfect mix of softened potato slices mixed with egg that are fried into a cake like shape. It can be eaten cold or warm and comes in a variety of styles. If you grab a tapa of tortilla at a traditional bar it will probably be plain or mixed with onion (if you’re lucky). But you can make make your own tortilla and add literally anything you want to it, like peppers, bacon, sausage, spinach- you name it!
Chorizo a la Sidra
This dish is more popular in the south, but you’re likely to find it in most tapas bar that you visit. Chorizo la la Sidra is a mix of Spain’s famous spicy sausage cooked in a sweet sider (or sometimes just wine). The combination of sweet and spicy will rock your world and once again you can take the excess sauce and finish off a nice fresh baguette.
Jamon Serrano & Iberico
Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a simple tapa to kill your cravings while chit chatting with friends at a bar. That’s when a plate of assorted Spanish meats come in handy! The most famous of course, being Jamon! Jamon is a staple in Spanish cuisine and the traditional charcuterie plate will most likely be the first on any list of tapas. A leg of Jamon is like a bottle of fine wine, the taste, texture and quality all depends on it’s aging process. So, if you want the best Jamon you should head over to your local butcher. Of course, you could always try buying a whole leg and try to make it yourself!
This is a basic spread of the classic Spanish Manchego cheese. It pairs perfectly with bread and some Jamón Iberico or Serrano and a glass of Ribera red. It’s great for first timers because the cheese does not have a particularly strong taste and it’s also something that you will find on nearly ever menu across Spain!
Put simply, pintxos are tapas placed upon a slice of baguette bread. Pintxos can have almost anything on them, like tortilla, and ensalada rusa or a basic slice of manchego or jamon. Or they can be a bit more exciting with poached eggs, eels, anchovies, roasted peppers or really anything you can think of! You’ll find pintxos all around Spain, but it’s without a doubt that the best pintxos in the country come from the north, particularly in San Sebastian. That said, you will not have a problem finding a wide range of pintxos wherever you are in the country.
Tapas for first-timers in Madrid