Twelve classic dishes to celebrate World Tapas Day

Twelve classic dishes to celebrate World Tapas Day
The bite-sized dishes are now famous across the world. Photo: AFP
In honour of World Tapas Day on June 20th, we've put together a list of 12 tapas you absolutely must try at least once in your life.

Spain’s tourism agency Turespaña has declared the third Thursday of every June as World Tapas Day.

We’re sure anyone would agree that tapas deserve their own day of celebration, especially those of you who have feasted on cheesy, melt-in-your-mouth croquetas in a little Spanish bar overflowing with people and food.

The word ‘tapa’ – meaning ‘lid’ – is thought to derive from a 13th century law passed by a Castilian king requiring taverns to serve food with alcohol, perhaps in a bid to avoid inebriation of the serfs.

READ MORE: The stats that explain Spain's love affair with tapas

A ‘tapa’ was then a small plate of ham or olives used as a lid to keep insects and dust away from a drink. Centuries later, tapas have become a symbol of Spanish culture.

So to mark what has officially been declared the first ever World Tapas Day, we've put together a list of classics  from Iberian ham to sliced octopus generously sprinkled with paprika.

Which is your favourite?

Patatas bravas

patatas bravas
Patatas bravas. Photo: leo gonzales/Flickr.

A classic, these bite-sized pieces of potato are typically pan-fried or deep-fried and then drizzled all over with a spicy tomato sauce. This brava sauce is a medley of red pepper, paprika, chilli, and other spices depending on which region of Spain you’re in. One of the cheapest and tastiest tapas Spain has to offer, you can get this dish with a generous helping of chopped chorizo on top if you like.

Classic Iberian ham

Iberian ham
Iberian ham with cheese. Photo: Hideya Hamano/Flickr.

A finely sliced melt-in-the-mouth peice of quality Iberian ham is a firm favourite. In many bars, the jamon is freshly cut into delicate slivers in front of you, and served by itself or with a bit of bread and cheese.


Croquetas. Photo: gorka arcocha/Flickr.

Spanish croquettes are bite-sized, deep-fried snacks usually loaded with chopped ham, cheese mixed in béchamel, a sauce of butter, flour, and milk. They’re deliciously crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and loved for their versatility. A croqueta can be stuffed with any combination of cheeses, shellfish, potatoes, meat, and vegetables, making it the perfect go-to tapa for vegetarians. 

Fried cuttlefish

fried cuttlefish
Fried cuttlefish. Photo: stu_spivack/Flickr.

Choco – the Spanish word for cuttlefish – is a tender, delicious fish usually cut into long slices and fried. This gives them a satisfying crunch on the outside and an incredibly soft texture on the inside.


Chorizo. Photo: Jeremy Keith/Flickr.

This smoked, spicy Spanish sausage is served in many different forms across the country, often sliced and accompanied with bread. There’s a vast variety of ways to eat it; an especially delectable one is chorizo covered in a garlic, honey, and red wine glaze.


A tortilla with potatoes and garlic shoots. Photo: su-lin/Flickr.

The tortilla de patatas is Spain's unofficial national dish.

The simple yet hugely satisfying potato omelette is the staple of practically every Spanish menu, from the hole in the wall bars to the fanciest of restaurants. 

But it is also a dish that divides opinion like no other – onions or no onions? and runny or dry? being the two most debated questions when it comes to the popular dish.

READ ALSO Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas 


Montaditos with ham and cheese. Photo: Erik Jaeger/Flickr.

These small sandwiches consist of a savoury filling between two slices of toasted bread. Fillings range from all kinds of meat – with the most popular being chorizo and ham – to a variety of vegetarian options, like avocado and tomato.


anchovies with olives
Anchovies with olives. Photo: Javier Lastras/Flickr.

This fish is served in the form of tender filets known for their distinctly tangy, salty taste. This is because they’re usually fried or marinated in vinegar as well as liberally salted. Sometimes flavoured with lemon, garlic, or parsley, this tapa makes a healthy dish with some Mediterranean olives because it’s packed with vitamins and beneficial fatty acids.

Pulpo a la gallega

pulpo a la gallega
Pulpo a la gallega. Photo: Javier Lastras/Flickr.

Freshly caught octopus is softened by boiling in salted water and then sliced up, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with paprika for a spicy touch. Although often served as a entire plate, you've lucked out if you are offered it as a tapa. A typical dish in Galicia it can now be found all over Spain, but retains its distinct Galician-style flavour.

Gambas al ajillo

gambas al ajillo
Gambas al ajillo. Photo: Bill Couch/Flickr.

Fresh shrimp cooked in garlic and olive oil, lightly crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, is a delicacy especially popular along Spain’s coastline. To add a punch, they’re sometimes finished off with a dash of red pepper and parsley.


Albóndigas. Photo: ccho/Flickr.

An albóndiga is a rich, savoury Spanish meatball loaded with pork or beef. Ideal for warming up in colder weather, a couple of these make for a satisfying tapa, along with a sauce of lightly seasoned tomatoes, parsley, or almonds.


Sliced flamenquín. Photo: Juanjo R/Flickr.

Popular in Córdoba and the rest of southern Spain, flamenquín is a long roll stuffed with slices of Iberian ham wrapped in pork loin. It’s breadcrumbed and fried to give it that perfect golden-brown colour.

Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.