A Guide to Tapas

Not strictly speaking take-away food, but Spanish style tapas nevertheless qualifies as “food on the go” because of its nature as a “filler” served up with drinks.

A tapa in Spanish cuisine is a hot or cold appetiser or snack, traditionally served upon dinky little plates in bars to fill a corner while waiting for the main meal of the day, which in Spain is eaten as late as 10 or 11pm.

Like many other tasty continental cuisines, tapas have found their way across the Channel and for many years now have been growing in popularity, with a proliferation of Tapas bars in British cities and towns. Here in the UK, we tend to combine several of the various different tapas dishes to make a full meal. On nights out many tapas devotees like to mix and match a tapas selection with their friends or family members so that everyone gets to try a little of everything.

Most tapas bars or restaurants are happy to supply a selection of Spanish take-away tapas – after all, it is certainly a very portable form of food, ideal for a picnic.

Essentially tapas are sociable foods, associated with good times, so it is not surprising everyone enjoys these culinary cuties. Being made up of a selection of different snack-like finger-foods, even fussy eaters can find a tapa to suit the palate.

Most popular Spanish tapas that you will find in most Tapas bars in the UK. 
Spanish meatballs


  • Aceitunas (olives), usually pitted and stuffed with anchovy or peppers.
  • Albondigas (meatballs), made of pork and beef and served with a sauce.
  • Alcaparrones: pickled capers.
  • Bacalao is salted cod, sliced thinly and served on fresh bread with tomatoes.
  • Banderillas are small skewers containing a selection of pickled vegetables like onions, gherkins, peppers and olives, with the odd anchovy.
  • Berenjenas rebozadas is aubergine/eggplant, battered and fried in olive oil.
  • Calamares a la Romana, rings of battered, fried squid.
  • Caracoles are snails, usually cooked in the shell in a herby broth and served with bread. When eating toothpicks are used to remove the snails from the shell.
  • Chorizo al vino is chorizo sausage slow-cooked in red wine. An alternative is Chorizo a la sidra, chorizo slow-cooked in cider.
  • Cojonuda & Cojonudo – the male and female of a similar dish! The first consists of a slice of morcilla (Spanish blood sausage) topped with a fried quail egg and served on a slice of bread. The second (male version) replaces the morcilla with chorizo sausage.
  • Croquetas are breaded potato croquettes usually stuffed with ham. Variations are filled with wild mushrooms, king crab, squid, prawns, cod or a strong cheese like Cabrales (a Spanish blue cheese).
  • Empanadillas are pastry turnovers filled with meats and vegetables.
  • Ensaladilla Rusa (Russian salad) consists of chopped boiled potatoes and carrots, canned tuna, chopped boiled eggs, peas, roasted red pepper strips, green olives and mayonnaise.
  • Espinacas con garbanzos, spinach and chickpeas mixed with garlic, olive oil & sometimes cumin.
    Russian Salad Tapas


  • Gambas (prawns) come sautéed in either salsa negra (pepper sauce), al ajillo (garlic) or pil-pil (chili).
  • Gildas is a mix of anchovy, olives and chilli peppers served on skewers.
  • Gazpacho is a cold tomato soup that contains cucumber and garlic.
  • Huevos codornices: quail eggs.
  • Huevos Rellenos are hard-boiled eggs filled with tuna.
  • La Bomba is delicious deep-fried potato balls with a meat or vegetable filling. Usually served with a dipping sauce.
  • Mejillones Rellenos (also known as Tigres) are stuffed mussels, breaded and deep fried, with a spicy flavour.
  • Montaditos are small sandwiches, often served toasted with a variety of meat, fish, and vegetarian fillings.
  • Paella is a savoury saffron rice dish that originates from Valencia. It comes in various forms, mainly with a mix of vegetables, or seafood, alternatively various meats.
  • Papas arrugadas are new potatoes, boiled in salt water, then slightly roasted and served with a red sauce called Mojo, containing garlic, paprika, red pepper, olive oil and wine vinegar.
  • Spanish Meat skewers


    Patatas bravas are crisp, olive oil-fried potato wedges topped with a spicy tomato sauce.

  • Pimientos de Padron are deep fried chili peppers.
  • Pulpo a la galegga is a Galician dish of boiled octopus, seasoned with paprika, served in olive oil.
  • Pinchos Morunos are skewered kebabs of grilled, marinated pork.
  • Queso con anchoas is a canape topped with mature sheep’s cheese and anchovies.
  • Raxo is chunks of fried pork loin seasoned with garlic and parsley and spiced with paprika, served on a bed of fried potatoes.
  • Sepia a la Plancha is grilled cuttlefish.
  • Solomillo al Whisky is grilled pork tenderloin marinated in whisky and garlic.
  • Tortilla is a thick potato & egg omelette served in wedges.
  • Tortillitas de Camarones are shrimp fritters. The batter contains wheat flour, chickpea flour, onion, parsley and shrimp and is fried in olive oil.
  • Zamburinas are a small variety of scallops from Galicia, cooked in a tomato sauce.


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