14 Small Plates Perfect for a Tapas Party
Tapas are a Spanish tradition of little bites and small plates. It’s a great way to try many different things and it’s a social meal focused on sharing. They’re best with wine or sangria and a bunch of friends gathered around for a fun time and great conversation. Some tapas are hot, some tapas are cold, some are very simple, and some require a little more time and attention to prepare. Though many people only think of tapas as an option at restaurants because it involves a lot of coordination and planning to pull off so many dishes alone in your own kitchen, it’s perfect for a small party at home if everyone brings one or two to share with the crowd. Here, we’ve gathered a list of tapas to pick from for a great fiesta!
Single ingredient vegetarian tapas
These are dead easy and require little more than a hot skillet, a bit of good olive oil, and a dash of sea salt. Pick at least two of these to make for a party.
1. Padron peppers are a tapas staple, and known as Spanish Roulette. The peppers start off their lives sweet, and gain heat as they get longer. Typically, a padron pepper is sweet at 1½ to 2 inches and spicy once it hits 2½ to 3 inches, but every so often, you get surprised by a sneaky, wickedly spicy one! It’s a fun party dish and really easy to prepare. In this recipe from Bon Appétit via Epicurious, they’re simply blistered in a hot skillet and tossed with sea salt. If padron peppers aren’t available, look for shishito peppers, the Japanese equivalent.
2. For something a little more on the sweet and savory side, try these sautéed dates with olive oil and sea salt from Food52. As they cook, the warm dates get melty and the caramel notes really pop. Possibly the best way to serve them, as noted by Food52, is over a pool of Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of olive oil. Scoop them all up with toasty slices of baguette.
3. Fried herbed almonds like these from The Kitchn are a great little snack to have at a tapas party. They’re a bit smoky, have just a touch of herbaceousness, and they’re deliciously crunchy.
4. Marinated olives are a tapas staple. You could go and pick some up from the store, or you could try marinating your own. This recipe from The Food Network featuring rosemary, red chili, orange, and paprika yields many more olives, you can adjust for your own tastes, and it’s cheaper than buying specialty marinated olives from the store. We definitely suggest cooking with the oil left over after they’re gone!
5. Pan con tomate is one of the easiest and yet most delicious ways to eat bread. Fans of Italian bruschetta and saving time and effort will love Spanish pan con tomate, which is simply toasted baguette topped with grated a tomato mixture. It’s a winner. Check out this New York Times recipe for guidance.
Simple meaty tapas
Depending on where in the country you are, Spain is as serious about its pork products as it is about its seafood. Pick one or two of these for your tapas party.
6. Spanish chorizo, unlike raw, ground Mexican chorizo, is a ready to eat cured sausage. In this recipe from Martha Stewart, the chorizo is sliced and braised in wine steeped with herbs and orange zest. Serve with toothpicks, drizzled with the braising liquid.
7. Even if you don’t like typical anchovies, give boquerones a try. They’re Spanish white anchovies, and they’re fresher and much cleaner tasting than the brown ones you may be used to seeing. In this recipe from Serious Eats, they’re served on bread with charred, roasted peppers. It’s perfect with a glass of good wine.
8. For quick and easy Spanish-style calamari, look no further than this 15 minute recipe from the BBC. It combines fresh, sweet baby squid with a spicy tomato sauce. Serve with slices of crusty baguette.
9. Serrano ham is another cured pork product popular in Spain, much like Italian prosciutto. For a salty and sweet tapas dish, wrap little balls or chunks of honeydew melon in thin slices and secure with a skewer or toothpick, like Fine Cooking does. If you’d rather trade the melon for a vegetable, try asparagus, like La Tienda.
Main event plates
These tapas are the stars of the show. They take a little longer to put together and they’re more involved that grating tomato on bread or setting out some olives, but they’re well worth the effort. Aim for at least one of these at your tapas party.
10. Salt cod, or bacalao, is a mainstay of coastal Spain. Though it’s often eaten as a main in dinner entrees, it’s also made into delicious little bacalao croquetas, or fritters. These salty, fried snacks are great served warm or cold, so they can be made in advance if necessary. Try this recipe from Chow.
11. Forget what you think you know about tortillas, because in Spain, they’re deep dish potato and egg frittata-omelettes. Like the croquetas, a tortilla is served as often at room temperature as it is warm, so feel free to make this one from Smitten Kitchen ahead of time. Slice it into little wedges or squares to serve for tapas.
12. Patatas Bravas are crisp potatoes served with a garlicky mayo and spicy tomato sauce. It’s Spain’s answer to poutine, but without the squeaky cheese curds. It’s a favorite bar snack and tapas dish, and we love the recipe from Saveur.
13. Tigres, also known as mejillones rellenos, are Spanish stuffed mussels. If you’re down with mussels but not a huge fan of the texture — or just looking for a new and exciting way to eat them — try this recipe from The Traveler’s Lunchbox. Finely chopped mussels are cooked with tomato, pepper, and onion, then covered in luscious béchamel, and then fried. How can you go wrong?
14. Albondigas are Spanish meatballs, and meatballs are always a hit at a party. They’re served in a spicy red chile sauce, and the mixture itself is beef flavored with arugula, poblano pepper, and crumbly, salty cotija cheese. Get the recipe from Bon Appétit.