There Are Thousands Of Tapas, Where Do you Start? Here's Your Hungry Help guide to Spain's Small Plates

Tapas are extremely much a part of Spain's culture (not just food culture) that entire meals revolve around them. With that being said, there are literally thousands of different tapas that you can find through the country, which makes it difficult to know all of them. They also range drastically in flavor, composition, and ingredients, making them even difficult to resolve as just one, general food group.

In short, a 'tapa' is anything that's served in small portions and passes like a snack. It's usually smaller than an appetizer but will the trick when it comes to tiding one over until lunch or dinner. Sometimes, tapas are even served after dinner. So, where to start?

Where Did Tapas Come From?

In order to understand where the idea of a small plate originated from, it's important to be aware of good reputation for tapas. It's believed that, according to legend, the dish took its start throughout the 20th century. Eventually when King Alfonso XIII stopped into a bar, he was given a glass of wine. However, a windstorm was kicking up a terrible amount of sand so, to keep debris out of the king's glass, the bartender supposedly covered it having a plate of cured ham. Since tapas comes from the Spanish word tapa or tapar, 'to cover,' it makes sense. The non-literal definition of a 'small plate' originates from the thought of serving a little snack with wine.

Another theory goes back to the Dark ages when it is believed that people would drink mead or wine in order to keep warm. To temper a few of the alternative results of drinking a lot, small plates of food were served throughout the day to help keep one's stomach full.

Kinds of Tapas And Restaurants

There are several different types of tapas that one might encounter during a visit to Spain. In fact, many of these ideas regarding tapas happen to be adopted all over the world – therefore, one might even encounter them without ever leaving their city, state, or country.

Traditional Tapa

The most traditional kind of small plate may be the tapa. While this varies from location to location, vacation, if a person asks for a tapa, they'll likely be brought a very small plate filled with olives or cured meat. It'll be more of a little bite than a small plate – just something enough to whet the appetite and give diners an idea of something refreshing.

Media Ración

This is the second-largest tapa that can be ordered and it'll be slightly bigger than the typical small plate. This is exactly what many people think of when they think of tapas, and it usually includes enough for up to three people to share among themselves.


The largest of all of the kinds of tapas one can order, normally, this is enough for the entire table. Often, including whether slightly larger plate with one style of tapas or perhaps a mix of a number of different smaller tapas plates. This usually comes with a price whereas the tapa (the tiniest plate) might come free with a meal.

Tapas Restaurants

There are a couple of kinds of tapas restaurants: a tapas bar, as well as an actual tapas restaurant. A tapas bar is a restaurant that – because the name implies – serves strictly small plates. Rather than getting them around the menu free of charge with a meal, they'll all have a price and will range in dimensions and elegance. In Spain, many of these are stand-up only however in Barcelona, visitors will find that tapas bars have tables and lots of people will spend hours eating, drinking, and conversing there.

In contrast, a tapas restaurant is found more commonly beyond Spain. Since the idea of a little plate has became popular, many countries have entire restaurants dedicated to the idea of small appetizers. These are usually places with a full bar, serving a menu full of small appetizer-sized options to select from.

Tapas Classifications

There are hot and cold tapas, and each type fits into one of these two categories. Hot tapas are usually cooked to order given that they must be served warm and can include everything from fried food to something pan-sauteed. Cold tapas are a bit more convenient since they could be prepped in advance, and therefore are served chilled or at room temperature. Including any type of salad or anything that's marinated or pickled. When it comes to the design and style and kind of tapas it's possible to order, they're divided into four main dishes.

  • Tostas. These are simple and simple, and contain a slice of excellent bread that's topped with a few type of meat, jam, or spread. It may be eaten with the hands and is a well known option at bars because it negates the requirement for utensils.
  • Pintxos. This kind of small plate includes a slice of excellent, crusty bread, but a skewer is served atop it. Pintxos can be served as skewers by themselves, as well – it all depends around the restaurant.
  • Conservas. Often based in the type of seafood, conservas are usually something that arrives of a can. We're referring to the highest quality tuna one will discover, that's been marinated inside a delicious mixture of herbs and spices.
  • Tablas. The most typical form of tapas – and also the one which many people recognize immediately – is tablas. This is a traditional serving of charcuterie and cheese, generally served having a glass of vino.