Entertain With Tapas! Spain's Small Plates Are Tiny Treasures
Spanish tapas are natural-born party plates! Small plates of tantalizing bites -- assorted snacks and nibbles -- typically enjoyed over a drink with friends, sometimes as a leisurely first course, or even in place of a main meal.
These small bites are perfect for entertaining. To create your own tapas party, try a variety of tastes and textures: salty, savory dishes, warm and chilled foods, and an assortment of crisp, chewy and soft, succulent textures. You can't go wrong with a simple, colorful array of marinated olives, marinated red peppers, and traditional Marcona almonds. Cheese, bread, and seafood -- sardines, anchovies, tuna, cod -- are also classic tapas dishes. They're also supremely simple to prepare!
Tapas are always a smart choice for entertaining. For one thing, you can make many of these dishes ahead of time and serve them chilled or at room temperature.
"Living in Spain I have come across a literal plethora of tapas," says La Cocina de Redondita. "This is a light, healthy tapa that goes best with crisp white wines and crunchy bread. This recipe is great for experimenting with a variety of different vegetables, spices, and vinegars."
"Unlike most omelets, a Spanish tortilla is served at room temperature," says sjmoraes. "It is the classic tapa, prepared all over Spain."
Spanish sheep's milk cheeses, like Manchego, are often served with dried fig cake or Membrillo, a thickened, sliceable quince jelly. Serve breadsticks (picos) or crackers. Lavosh -- a crisp flatbread -- is Armenian, not Spanish, but it is a perfect accompaniment on your tapas table.
"Spanish potato salad is an important dish in Spain's culinary history," says lutzflcat. "There are many versions, and this is the way we like ours. Goes so well with so many things! This is good served warm or at room temperature."
"This is an easy gourmet appetizer," says Anne. "I've brought this to several parties and it is always a hit! I often add some chopped green olives to the olive mixture and a little more balsamic. Goat cheese may also be used in place of the cream cheese. Serve with slices of French bread or crackers."
"This recipe is inspired by Woolgrowers Restaurant in Bakersfield, California," says MARILYN PERZIK. "Among the many appetizers they give, there is one that is very much like this salad which is handy to have in the refrigerator. It is very good and close to my inspiration."
"This is a cold garlicky soup," says DAY-STAR. "In fact, it is never cooked at all! In Spain they use fresh almonds, just out of their shells, so the taste will be different than the soup you had in Spain unless, of course, you have access to fresh almonds. You can also substitute melon for the green grapes."
Once your guests have awakened their appetites, bring on the hot stuff.
"Every Spanish restaurant serves this dish of shrimp cloaked in garlic-infused olive oil with smoky hints of paprika and a touch of sweetness from sherry," says Chef John. "Make sure you have all your ingredients together before you head to the stove since, start to finish, this cooks in mere minutes. It's great for a tapas party, since you can prep everything ahead of time. Just spoon the shrimp and sauce over toasted bread and sprinkle more cayenne and parsley on top to enjoy."
"I had this at a tapas bar in Spain way back and was able to figure out how to mimic it," says DC Girly Girl. "It's an easy way to clean out the fridge and pantry. And, perfect for a low carb diet. I was introduced to this as a tapa. But you could always pair it with a salad or other veggie side dish for dinner."
"These things are the best beer food ever," says Chef John. "They're almost too easy to make."
For a big finish to your small plates extravaganza, break out custard cups of Spanish Flan -- or any of these sweet treats.
Caramelized sugar, milk, and eggs add up to a sweet and simple baked custard. "The best dessert ever invented!" raves Bobby.
Sherry is a classic wine to pair with tapas. In addition to dry sherries (Fino and Manzanilla) or medium-dry (Amontillado) sherry, serve cold pitchers of sangria and chilled Spanish or Portuguese white wine (Vinho Verde). Here's more on the different styles of sherry and their perfect food pairing partners.
Incidentally, the word tapas comes from the Spanish tapar, "to cover," which refers to the tasty nibbles (maybe a piece of toast or meat) that were laid over a glasses of sherry or other wine, as they were brought to the table.
"This is an authentic version of the popular wine drink," says Lisa. "You can add any fruit that you want, but I find that apples and pears absorb all the rum. This one is not diluted with carbonated beverages. I have much success with red Burgundy wine and white rum, though spiced rum is nice too."
"When I was living in the Basque region of Spain, this was a traditional drink served everywhere," says LORIKAE. "It is pronounced 'Cali-mot-cho' and is traditionally served over ice with a slice of lemon."
Explore our collection of tapas recipes.