A Taste of Spain: Traditional Tapas Dishes You Can’t Miss

by | 7 Mar 2024

If there’s one thing nearly every traveler looks forward to in Spain, it’s the tapas.

The term ‘tapas’ is a Spanish word that refers to small dishes usually served with drinks at a bar. When you hop around from tapas bar to tapas bar, you’re ‘tapear’ (bar hopping). While you can say the word tapas in Spain and most people will know what you mean, it’s good to know that there are other Spanish words that define tapas in specific regions.

In the Basque Country, for instance, they call tapas “pintxos”; so in San Sebastian, you’d look for tapas like tarta de queso, boquerones, and anchoa frita under the pintxos part of the menu.

Cazuelas can refer to another type of tapas which are small sauced foods served in the traditional cazuelas bowl. Then there’s cosas de picar, which translates to “snack things”, that are different finger foods served at some tapas bars.


Basque pintxo dish of green finger chillies wrapped in anchovies


No matter if you’re doing a tapas tour of Madrid or just looking for a delicious lunch in Seville, these are our top 10 tapas dishes you should try in Spain on your next visit.

Allow Insight Vacations to tailor the perfect Spanish tapas tasting adventure for you. Our Highlights of Spain tour is a 9-day experience that showcases the best cultures, cities, and cuisines that this stunning country has to offer.

Patatas Bravas | Done Right in Segovia



Patatas bravas is easily on the podium for our top 10 tapas dishes, and is one of the most popular tapas in Spain. The beauty of this crispy dish is in its simplicity: patatas bravas are fried white potato cubes served with spicy sauces. Salsa brava is usually the standard hot and sweet sauce served with patatas bravas, though you shouldn’t be surprised to see it served with a garlic aioli.

Patatas bravas translates to ‘spicy potatoes’ and has been a Spanish staple ever since the 16th century Spanish explorers brought tomatoes back from Latin America. Segovia is an excellent place to try some patatas bravas because the local pilsner, Cruzcampo, is perfect for washing them down.

Learn more: Segovia and Salamanca, two of Spain’s most cultural cities

Chorizo | A Must in Cádiz


Strings of chorizo and other sausages hanging in a Spanish butcher's shop


Of the dozens of traditional Spanish tapas, chorizo is one that you’re likely familiar with. Chopped and cured pork meat is mixed with red pepper to create a mainstay on so many tapas menus. It’s a standalone dish and an ingredient in its own right which is one of the reasons why it’s so prevalent. You could try chorizo in dozens of different ways in a single restaurant.

The Iberian Peninsula is the opportune place to sample chorizo, due to the higher-quality and larger variety of sausages. Cadiz, the ancient port city with fewer tourists than you’d believe, is a great day trip from Seville that will show you why this peninsula is prime for chorizo.

Migas extremeñas | A Cherished Dish in Cáceres


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Migas might not be on your radar for top 10 tapas dishes, but it is a common dish throughout Spain and Portugal that may be tweaked from city to city. Migas is Spanish for bread crumbs, but that’s not the sole ingredient of ‘migas’ the dish.

These stale bread pieces are soaked in water and mixed with anything from oil and spices to chorizo and eggs. In migas extremeñas is the style of migas from the Extremadura region. Expect it to be served salty with chopped meat and served with roasted peppers.

Cáceres, and the whole of Extremadura in general, considers migas extremeñas a mainstay on tapas menus, so much so that you’ll find it made traditionally or with a creative twist in any bar you visit.

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Soldaditos de Pavia | A Madrid Mainstay



While Soldaditos de Pavía isn’t as popular as bocadillo de calamar, this dish – named for the similar-colored uniforms worn by Pavia soldiers – has a strong presence amongst Madrid’s tapas bars.

Soldaditos de Pavia are marinated cod strips that are battered, fried, then wrapped with a roasted red pepper. In Madrid, even traditional Spanish tapas like migas will make room for soldaditos de pavia on the menu. You may also find these “soldiers of Pavia” throughout Andalusia, though you’ll have zero trouble finding them on Calle Cava Baja.

Pa amb tomàquet | Cadaqués’ Coastal Cooking



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Catalan tomato bread seems like a straightforward Spanish tapas, but this dish has a deep cultural meaning in Catalonia. The dish translates to “bread rubbed with tomato”, though the original Catalonian dish used oil. When tomatoes arrived in Spain, the Iberian Peninsula embraced the change and it became a favorite on the tapas menu. it’s certainly one of the easiest top 10 tapas dishes to prepare.

La Bomba | Barcelona’s Best



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Fried mashed potato balls filled with meat: la bomba is one of the best Spanish tapas to enjoy with a sangria and cava.

Not to be confused with the bomba rice used to make paella, la bomba is named so because they resemble little meaty potato “bombs”. It’s one of the most popular tapas in Spain’s Catalonia capital, particularly down by the beach tapas bars. They’re also one of the few tapas that can call Barcelona home.

Start and end your visit to Spain in Barcelona when you join Insight Vacations’ Spanish Heritage tour. You’ll have two days on both ends of your balanced 18-day trip to uncover as many of Barcelona’s best tapas bars as you desire.

Carcamusa | Toledo’s Steamy Specialty


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Unlike many popular tapas in Spain, the carcamusa is one you’ll need silverware to eat, though it is through-and-through a tapas bar snack.

This traditional Spanish tapas is essentially the country’s version of a chili bowl: cuts of pork mixed in with seasonal vegetables, spices, bay leaves, and tomatoes, all stewed together. This warm bowl is ready to welcome you to Toledo, the Spanish city that considers carcamusa its specialty.

Discover: 9 reasons why a Spain and Portugal combo tour is unforgettable

Polbo á feira | Beloved in Santiago de Compostela



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A Galician-style octopus might not be the first thing you think of when listing the top 10 tapas dishes in Spain, but it’s one of the most popular tapas in Spain’s Galicia region. It’s a “fair-style” dish due to its origins as a literal fair food served to those completing the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Cooked, cut into snack-sized pieces, and heavily seasoned, polbo á feira is the under-the-radar Spanish tapas you’ll wish you tried sooner.

Spend two nights getting to know the cuisine of Santiago de Compostela when you join the Northern Spain tour through Insight Vacations. This 11-day journey takes you through just as many Spanish cities at a leisurely pace, perfect for those who love savoring Spanish tapas.

Carrillada de Cerdo | Seville’s Savory Pork


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Visit any city in Spain and you’ll notice that every single part of the pig is used in cooking; visit Seville and they’ll show you that the cheeks of the animal might not be the prime cut, but they can sure make a tasty snack.

Carrillada de cerdo translates to ‘pork (or beef) cheeks’, and when prepared in an Andalusian way in a sauce of wine and broth, becomes a must-have tapas while visiting Spain.

Paella | Valencia’s Gift to Spain


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Of the top 10 tapas dishes you have on your must-try list, we have a feeling that paella is number one.

Look into the origins of tapas like paella and you’ll discover how a humble rice meal shared amongst family became the national dish of Spain. It’s cooked in a flat pan called a paellera, which is where its name comes from.

Paella started out as a rural dish that filled the rice with whatever else was on hand. Today, you’ll find endless options for paella throughout Spain, though if you’re going to try this traditional Spanish tapa, why not do so in the city it originated in: Valencia.

Hungry for more? We invite you to eat your way through Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, and Morocco with a special tour through Insight Vacations. Our Treasures of Spain, Portugal & Morocco 17-day excursion takes you through 15 cities in 4 countries, offering ample time for grazing in Granada, munching in Marrakesh, and falling in love with Lisbon’s seaside cuisine.
About Nick Dauk
US-based Nick is a freelance writer with a special focus on travel and technology. Nick's stories are frequently published by leading publications across the United States and Europe.