Skip to main content

Entertain With Tapas! Spain's Small Plates Are Tiny Treasures

Spanish tapas are natural-born party plates!

Avocado and Tuna Tapas

Photo by bd.weld

Originating in southern Spain, tapas are 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.

Roasted almonds, olives, cheese, bread, and seafood -- sardines, anchovies, tuna, cod -- are classic tapas dishes. They're also supremely simple to prepare!

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.


You can't go wrong with a simple, colorful array of marinated olives, marinated red peppers, and traditional Marcona almonds.

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.

Quince Paste

Photo by Doughgirl8

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.

Basque Salad

Photo by Allrecipes

Hot Plates

Once your guests have awakened their appetites, bring on the hot stuff.

Tortilla Espanola

Photo by LovingLimes

Explore our collection of tapa recipes.


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.

Classic Spanish Sangria

Photo by Soup Loving Nicole


For a big finish to your small plates extravaganza, break out custard cups of Spanish Flan -- or any of these sweet treats.

Flan II

Photo by sanzoe

You Might Also Like

Follow Me to More Articles & Tips

Carl Hanson

About Carl Hanson

Carl will eat that. Share with him @CarlNo9 on Twitter.