What are tapas, and where did they originate? You can enjoy this appetizer and explore many more tasty home recipes with us at Jow!
Do you ever wish you could eat several miniature plates of food instead of one large one? If you relate, you'll probably like the idea of tapas! Learning about this dish is one way to enrich your knowledge of food history.
Keep reading, and we'll share more about the purpose of tapas as well as this dish's origins. Then, we'll talk about how you can prepare tapas and other quick, tasty recipes.
What Is the Purpose of Tapas?
Tapas are essentially small plates at restaurants and bars meant to enjoy with your drink, and they're perfect for enjoying after a long day at work. This type of Spanish dish is usually served as a snack before dinner or with drinks at the bar.
Have you ever tried to enjoy a drink outside only for flies to buzz around your beverage constantly? The word "tapas" means "to cover," or "lid," and the original purpose of meat and bread tapas was to cover your drink from flies. The contents of tapas could range from sharable finger foods to multiple small plates.
Where Did Tapas Originate?
Are you curious about the origins of tapas? While you might be able to find this dish at certain specialty restaurants in the United States, this dish is most authentic in Spain.
As we mentioned, the original purpose of tapas was to cover drinks at the bar. Eventually, servers at the bar added food on top of these plates, and the tapas we know and love today were born.
There’s also a legend about their creation which involves royalty. The story goes that King Alfonso XIII stopped to rest in a tavern and ordered a drink but was concerned about the dirty air impacting the quality of his beverage. To avoid this, the waiter covered his glass with a piece of ham. We’re not so sure if this is true, but eating tapas has certainly stuck around either way.
The Different Kinds of Tapas
Similar to appetizers, Spanish tapas may include a variety of food. Still, there are a few main types of tapas people tend to enjoy.
Depending on where you visit, you may experience different varieties as well. For example, the classic tapas listed below are most common in places like Barcelona and Madrid, but up north in areas like San Sebastian, they’re called pintxos and are often served on small slices of bread.
Keep reading to get familiar with different types. Then, we'll talk about how to make tapas and prepare quick dinners from home.
One of the main tapas styles is cold tapas. These can range from salads to cold snacks like olives and cold soups. Cold tapas can also include potato salad and seafood. These make excellent pre-dinner snacks for your household or yourself after a long day.
You’ll often find cold meats and cheese served as cold tapas — think manchego and jamón Iberico.
Tapas can also be sizzling hot. If you're in the mood for a warm, salty snack, hot tapas are a fantastic idea. Here is a brief list of typical tapas served hot:
- Gambas al ajillo (shrimp in garlic)
- Patatas bravas (potatoes with a spicy paprika sauce)
- Chorizo al vino (chorizo sausage prepared in wine)
- Paella (one popular version is called arroz negro.)
- Albondigas (Spanish meatballs)
- Tortilla de patatas (an omelet made of potatoes and egg)
Most hot tapas include meat of some kind, so you may want to remember that if maintaining a vegan or vegetarian diet is essential to you.
Cheese and Charcuterie Platters
If you've been to a party in the past decade, you've probably noticed the rise in cheese and meat platters. This glorious tapas dish, known as the charcuterie board, traditionally includes local cured meats and cheeses. That's right — you can enjoy hard and soft Spanish cheeses, including well-known manchego cheese.
If you're a fan of variety, this dish is right up your alley. Charcuterie platters often differ from bar to bar, meaning you'll probably get a unique flavor experience every time you order one.
Pintxos or Pinchos
This type of tapas is what you might picture when you imagine traditional tapas. While other kinds may include various finger foods or small plates, pintxos tapas are sliced bread topped with varying foods. The Basque Country in Northeast Spain is well-known for its bars' devotion to this style of tapas.
What Type of Foods Can be Tapas?
If you're brainstorming a meal with your household or dinner guests, you'll likely wonder what you can serve as tapas before the main course.
When it comes to preparing tapas, nothing is off-limits. You might opt to set out a bowl of crisp fries or a platter of chicken bites with toothpicks or skewers. Although the decision of what to prepare before dinner is up to you, you can still gain some inspiration from our list of typical tapas.
Let's check it out:
- Croquetas: This fritter-type snack often includes cheese, spinach, ham, or seafood inside.
- Tortilla española: If you order this traditional tapa, you'll experience the combination of salty potatoes with onions and fluffy eggs. It's a popular tapas dish served in Spain.
- Patatas bravas: These fried potatoes might surprise you with their appetizing texture and taste.
How To Make Tapas Yourself
If you're entertaining guests, tapas are an excellent option to offer your friends and family a variety of food. Making this kind of dish at home isn't difficult, either. As long as you're preparing small snacks someone can enjoy with their beverage, you're on the right track.
More Spanish-inspired Recipes To Make at Home
You may not have a tapas bar in your area. If you're in the mood for Spanish cuisine, you don't have to drive hours to find it. By following simple recipes, you can enjoy small dishes and main courses in no time. Here are a few recipes you can prepare when you want Spanish food at home!
Spanish Chickpeas and Peppers
This simple dish can be prepared as a side dish or snack! Enjoy the combination of filling chickpeas with crunchy bell peppers in this twenty-minute meal.
Try our Spiced Chickpeas & Pepper Bowl for yourself, and you'll see how easy it is to put together a quick meal that tastes amazing.
Ever tried cold soup? This Spanish dish is full of tomato decadence and refreshing veggies. Our Classic Gazpacho is ready in under ten minutes, so you can prepare this dish and try it out without waiting too long.
Chickpea and Roasted Red Pepper Salad
Here's another tasty salad that incorporates protein-rich chickpeas with perfectly-roasted bell peppers. Our Chickpea and Roasted Pepper Salad only takes five minutes to prepare. You can spend less time over a stove and more time savoring every bite. Talk about a major win in the kitchen!
Speedy Beef Soft Tacos
Are you in the mood for flour tortillas filled with ground beef, flavorful salsa, cheese, and crème fraîche? This Speedy Beef Soft Tacos recipe is the way to go! It’s an ideal solo dinner when you need to put something together quickly, but it also makes for a crowd-pleasing spread at larger gatherings.