Traditional Spanish tapas

Spain is known for a good many things: Flamenco dancing, siestas, bullfighting, and enjoying historically late dinners, to name a few. But if there is one prominent aspect of the Spanish lifestyle, it’s probably the tapa. Citylife Madrid calls tapas an integral part of Spanish culture, although it admits the origin story is murky. One story tells of how tapas were created by King Alfonso X of Castile in the 13th century, who decreed that all drinks be served with food after recovering from an illness that forced him to eat small bites. In another, the king decreed that food should be served with alcohol to keep the lower class workmen from getting drunk, and a third story found King Alfonso XIII being served a slice of ham to cover his drink (the Spanish word tapar means "to cover"), keeping sand from blowing into the beverage.

Regardless of their beginning, tapas are all characterized by being small plates of food that might be called "appetizers" or "snacks" in another country. They vary widely by region, with southern cities like Granada boasting free plates with every drink while northern cities like San Sebastian charge per bite, calling them pinchos (or pintxos) after the toothpick that’s used to secure them in place.

Whether you’re planning a trip to Spain to explore its famous wines or you want to throw a tapas-inspired party, these are the traditional Spanish tapas dishes you’ll want to get to know.

Tortilla española slices
Marinated Spanish olives
Thinly sliced jamon iberico
Mojama de atun tapa
Manchego cheese slices
Vinegar marinated anchovies
Fried anchovies on plate
Fried fish tapa
Papas bravas tapa
Bombas tapa on plate
Spanish meatball tapa
Catalan pan con tomate tapa
Gazpacho tapa topped with egg
Empanada Gallega stack
Croquetas in bowl
Spanish garlic shrimp tapa
Padron pepper tapa
Spanish tapa ensaladilla rusa
Spanish fried squid tapa
Sliced chorizo cooked in red wine
Spanish blood sausage
San Sebastian gilda pintxo
Spanish octopus tapa
Fried eggplant with honey
Spanish chickpea and spinach stew
Spanish tapa huevos rotos
Pisto manchego with egg
Spicy fried mussel tapa
Valencian steamed cod tapa