Great Tapas Recipes

The Spanish tradition of tapas is catching on, and you can easily give your own tapas party with these menu, recipe, and serving suggestions.

The Spanish tradition of tapas is becoming popular in the United States, both for the delicious types of foods that are served and for the style of eating they represent. Giving your own tapas party at home is a relaxing way of entertaining and a perfect experiment for even a novice host or hostess.

Start off with a little history, letting your guests know that the word tapas means cover or lid in Spanish. One theory is that the current use of the word derived from the custom of putting a slice of bread or cheese or ham over the top of the wine glass, possibly to keep out insects. These edible lids evolved into the vast array of appetizer-sized foods offered in tapas bars or tascas.

Any kind of food can be, and is, included in the tapas menu. It is the style of eating that is more definitive than the ingredients; knives are almost never used, with fingers, cocktails picks, or occasionally salad forks sufficing for utensils. A leisurely stroll from one tasca to the next, sampling one or two tapas at each with a glass of sherry or other beverage, punctuated with good conversation. This is the tradition your tapas party will recreate.

The simple tapas menu here includes some of the most common dishes and provides a good variety with a minimal amount of preparation. Serve homemade sangria*, sherry, or beer throughout. * Recipes to serve 6 are included. Remember, keep it casual and take your time.

First Serving: Garlic Shrimp*, Olives, Crusty Bread, Spanish Cheese

Second Serving: Tortilla Espanol*, Toasted Almonds, Tomato Bread*

Third Serving: Chorizo with Figs*, Ensaladilla Rusa*, Marinated Mushrooms


1 bottle burgundy

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 ounce Triple Sec

2 ounces brandy

1 orange, thinly sliced

1 lemon, thinly sliced

Combine first five ingredients and chill well. Add fruit slices before serving.

Garlic Shrimp

1 pound uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon Spanish paprika

1 tablespoon minced fresh coriander


Heat the oil in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron. Add garlic and cook until golden. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until shrimp are just pink, two to three minutes. Stir in pepper flakes, paprika, coriander, and salt to taste. Serve immediately, preferably in the skillet.

Tortilla Espanol

¾ cup olive oil

4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin

1 large onion, sliced very thin

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

salt to taste (about ¾ teaspoon)

Heat the oil in a large skillet and add potato slices to cover the bottom; top with a layer of onions and salt lightly. Continue to alternate layers until potatoes and onions are used. Cook over medium heat until potatoes are cooked but not browned. Remove the potatoes and onions from the skillet and drain them, reserving the oil. Add the potatoes to the beaten eggs and let the mixture rest 15-20 minutes. Using the same skillet, reheat two tablespoons of the reserved oil until very hot. Add the potato mixture and distribute it evenly in the pan. Lower the heat and cook until the bottom begins to brown and the edges of the egg begin to set. Slide the tortilla out onto a plate, cooked side down, and invert the skillet over the plate. Pick up the plate and skillet together and invert, letting the tortilla fall back into the skillet. Cook until the second side has browned. Transfer to a platter and let stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting into small wedges. This may be prepared in advance and held in a very low oven before cutting and serving.

Tomato Bread

6 thick slices crusty white bread

3 cloves garlic, halved

2 tomatoes, halved

Toast the bread lightly on one side. Remove from oven and immediately rub tops with garlic cloves and fresh tomato. Serve immediately. It is delicious and simple.

Chorizo with Figs

1 pound chorizo (Spanish sausage), cut into 1" pieces

1 small onion, sliced lengthwise

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup red wine

1 can figs

½ cup sugar

½ cup red wine vinegar

1 stick cinnamon

½ teaspoon cloves

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and add the chorizo and garlic; sauté until garlic in golden brown. Add red wine, sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, and cloves and simmer 30 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the drained figs. This can be made in advance and reheated just before serving.

Ensaladilla Rusa

4 large red potatoes, boiled, peeled, and cubed

¼ cup cooked carrots, diced

½ cup frozen peas, cooked and drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon vinegar

½ teaspoon sugar

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Mix the potatoes, carrots, and peas in a medium bowl. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper and pour over vegetable mixture, mixing gently. Let stand for at least two hours or overnight. At least one hour before serving, mix the mayonnaise and garlic, and then fold in the vegetable mixture. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

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