I want to start this with an important distinction, based on most English language articles we’ve seen about Spain’s appetizer choices, it seems to be in order – tapas and appetizers aren’t exactly the same things. You can virtually make a tapa out of anything you please (it’s an ever-evolving world, and the tapas scene in Spain is fascinating), and a tapas session can be a complete meal in and of itself (although it didn’t start like that).
For an appetizer (aperitivo) you’re just looking for something light to get the appetite rolling in preparation for the main meal (duh), though northern cuisine has dishes much more earthy and filling that you would not believe aren’t mains.
This distinction is important though as we’ve seen many traditional main dish-turned-tapa recommended as an appetizer but if you were to serve them at a many-course, proper sit-down meal in Spain, you’d probably get a funny look or two.
Ultimately the traditions around tapas are an entire subject of study on their own and to truly understand tapas, you might want to check out this other article:
Tapas – Origins, myths, and how to do tapas like a Spaniard.
With that let’s get into the list of the 50 most popular appetizer recipes in Spanish food culture, ranging from all-time favorites (that you probably already know, like patatas bravas) to regional delicacies that will transport your palate throughout every corner of the country (not just the peninsula!).
Here’s the Spanish-approved list:
50 Easy and Tasty Spanish Appetizer Recipes
1. Ensaladilla rusa – Cold Potato Salad
Ensaladilla rusa is a Spanish favourite appetizer that you will find in many traditional bars.
Although Russian Salad originated in Russia, and in fact, it is a traditional dish on New Year’s Eve, every country, including Spain, has its twist on this popular potato salad.
The Spanish cold potato salad is made with potatoes, carrots, hard-boiled eggs, tuna, peas and mayonnaise.
2. Manitas de cerdo – Pig’s Trotters (Madrid)
Pork is a popular meat in Spain, and you are going to find recipes with all sorts of cuts of meat from this animal.
In this case, manitas de cerdo refers to a stew whose main ingredient is pig’s trotters. They are slowly cooked with tomato sauce, white wine, vegetables like carrots and onions, and spices.
It is a hearty dish which you can serve with homemade chips or mashed potatoes.
3. Buñuelos de bacalao – Cod Fritters (Madrid)
If you like the salty flavour of cod, you will love buñuelos de bacalao. These cod fritters originated in Madrid and are delicious quick bites perfect for any occasion.
Salted cod, potatoes, flour, parsley, garlic and olive oil are the main ingredients you need to make these cod fritters.
They are often served with homemade mayonnaise.
4. Gazpacho andaluz – Cold Tomato Soup (Andalucía)
Cold, healthy and full of flavours, gazpacho andaluz is a traditional cold tomato soup from the region of Andalusia, in the south of Spain.
It is the perfect dish to cool down on a summer afternoon as well as a light start to your meal.
It is made with simple ingredients like tomatoes, green peppers, cucumber, stale bread, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, water, and a pinch of salt.
5. Ajoblanco – Cold Almond Soup (Andalucía)
Another cold soup from the south of Spain, and more specifically from Malaga, is ajoblanco. This is a cold almond soup often enjoyed during the summer months.
The soup contains blanched almonds, white bread, garlic, sherry vinegar, olive oil and water. It is also topped with green grapes.
It is light, refreshing and delicious.
6. Salmorejo (Andalucía)
Salmorejo is a traditional cold soup from Cordoba and is a very similar soup to the well-known gazpacho.
In this case, this cold tomato soup is made with ripped tomatoes, rustic or stale bread, garlic, and sherry vinegar. Once the soup is made, it is often topped with serrano ham, hard-boiled eggs and a drizzle of olive oil.
Like any cold tomato soup, salmorejo is the perfect appetizer for a summer day.
7. Tortilla de camarones – Shrimp Omelette (Andalucía)
Tortilla or tortillitas de camarones is one of the most popular appetizers in Cadiz, in the south of Spain.
These consist of a type of tortilla made with wheat and chickpea flour, small shrimps, spring onions, parsley and water.
They are crispy and so delicious that you won’t be able to stop eating them. They go perfectly with a cold drink.
8. Croquetas de jamón – Ham Croquettes
Croquetas de jamón is probably the classiest Spanish appetizer, who hasn’t heard of or eaten them? These ham croquettes are the perfect start to any meal.
Made with ham, milk, flour, breadcrumbs, eggs, butter, garlic and olive oil, these ham croquettes are to die for.
9. Pastel de cabracho – Fish Pate (Asturias)
One of the most typical fishes in Asturias is cabracho, a white fish that lives in salty water and it is very low in fat.
This fish is the key ingredient to make pastel de cabracho. This pate has other ingredients such as carrots, onions, celery, eggs, tomato sauce and cream.
It can be enjoyed with a few slices of bread.
10. Chipirones afogaos – Drunk Squids (Asturias)
If you love seafood, you must try chipirones afogaos, a traditional recipe from the region of Asturias.
Baby cuttlefish is cooked with green peppers, onions, white wine, cayenne pepper, rum and parsley. The combination of these ingredients really works, and it is one of those appetizers you don’t want to stop eating.
Serve them straightaway with a side of rice or homemade chips, and a good piece of bread.
11. Chorizo a la sidra – Chorizo in Cider Sauce (Asturias)
Are you looking for an easy and quick appetizer to put together in no time? Chorizo a la sidra is the answer. This typical dish from Asturias is loved by anyone who likes the smoky and meaty flavours of chorizo.
This recipe is made with fresh chorizo, cider, bay and olive oil and is enjoyed with a few slices of bread to dip in the sauce.
12. Papas arrugadas – Wrinkled Potatoes (Canarias)
Papas arrugadas, also known as arrugás, is a simple but delicious potato recipe that originated in the Canary Islands.
To make these potatoes, you will only need two ingredients: papas negras (black potatoes which are found in the Canary Islands but can be swapped with small potatoes), and salt.
They are always accompanied by the traditional sauce from the area: mojo picón, a sauce made with olive oil, peppers, garlic, paprika and other spices.
13. Cold cuts & cheeses
One of the most common Spanish appetizers is cold cuts and cheeses. They often include Iberian or Serrano ham, cured pork tenderloin, chorizo and Manchego cheese but these can be different depending on the person’s preferences.
Cold cuts and cheeses are always accompanied by slices of baguette or any other bread.
14. Asado de verduras – Oven Roasted Vegetables
Asado de verduras is a simple and light recipe which consists of simply roasting your favourite vegetables.
However, there are some variations of cooking oven-roasted vegetables, for example, escalivada. This one is a typical dish of Catalonia and is made with aubergines, red peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil and salt.
15. Salpicón de bonito (Cantabria)
A summer refreshing recipe is salpicón de bonito originated in Cantabria, but there are other variations which are also popular in Andalusia. This delicious seafood and fish salad are very easy to make too.
The main ingredients of salpicón are bonito, langoustines, hard-boiled eggs, green and red peppers, spring onions, sherry vinegar and olive oil.
16. Atascaburras (Castilla la Mancha)
Atascaburras, also called ajoarriero manchego, is a traditional dish from Castilla la Mancha as its name suggests.
It consists of a type of mash made with potatoes, cod, eggs, ñora peppers, sweet paprika, garlic, nuts and olive oil.
Serve this delicious appetizer with bread and accompany it with a good glass of wine.
17. Zarajos (Castilla la Mancha)
Although this recipe is traditional in Castilla la Mancha, it is also enjoyed in other regions like Madrid. Zarajos are lamb intestines which are grilled or fried and served in a skewer.
They are a fantastic appetizer for any house party or occasion.
18. Pisto manchego (Castilla la Mancha)
A vegetarian Spanish appetizer is pisto manchego. This recipe is packed with vegetables and flavours.
To make this recipe you will need green and red pepper, courgettes, plum tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil and salt. If you want to make it a more consistent dish, you can add a fried egg on top.
19. Caracoles – Snails
Did you know snails are also popular in Spain? They are often served as an appetizer, and you can find different variations of this recipe – snails with a spicy sauce, snails with almond sauce, Basque-style snails and much more.
20. Corazones de Pollo – Chicken Hearts (Ceuta y Melilla)
A classic recipe in Ceuta and Melilla is corazones de pollo translated as chicken hearts.
The key ingredients for this appetizer are chicken hearts, spices for meat skewers, onions, garlic, parsley, coriander, olive oil and salt.
The chicken hearts are marinated in spices, put in skewers and grilled.
21. Cuscús – Couscous (Ceuta y Melilla)
Ceuta and Melilla have a lot of influences from Moroccan cuisine, and this is why couscous is a traditional recipe in these two Spanish regions.
Couscous is often cooked with beef and chicken meat, chickpeas, a wide range of vegetables like carrots and courgettes and cumin.
It is a hearty but delicious appetizer.
22. Pastela (Melilla)
Another Moroccan dish which is linked to Melilla’s cuisine is pastela. This is a savoury pie made with filo pastry, chicken, onions, and spices like cinnamon, ginger and turmeric, almonds, salt and sugar.
It is the perfect recipe for anyone who loves the combination of sweet and savoury flavours together.
23. Champiñones al ajillo – Garlic Mushrooms
Easy, healthy and light, champiñones al ajillo is the perfect appetizer before a big meal.
The dish consists of mushrooms cooked with garlic, white wine, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. It is also presented with a bit of fresh parsley.
Champiñones al ajillo can also be a great side dish for meat and fish.
24. Gambas al ajillo – Garlic Prawns
Gambas al ajillo or gambas al pil pil is a favourite appetizer, especially for anyone who loves prawns.
To make this dish, you will only need prawns (either fresh or frozen), garlic, dried chilli and olive oil. They are cooked at a high temperature until sizzling.
You can serve it in a terracotta dish if you have one, and with plenty of bread to dip in the spicy but irresistible sauce.
25. Patatas Bravas
Patatas bravas are incredibly popular in Madrid, but you can find them anywhere you visit in Spain. Everyone loves them.
These are diced potatoes which are fried and served with a delicious sauce made with flour, sweet and spicy paprika, chicken stock, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and a pinch of salt.
They are easy to make but the most important thing when making this recipe is to get the sauce right.
26. Zorongollo (Extremadura)
A very straightforward and refreshing appetizer originated in Extremadura is zorongollo.
This dish consists of a salad made with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, garlic, spring onions, sherry vinegar, olive oil and salt.
You can prepare it in less than an hour.
27. Pulpo a Feira – Galician-style Octopus (Galicia)
A popular appetizer in the north of Spain is pulpo a feira, also called pulpo a la gallega. You are likely to find this dish in any traditional bar, not only in the north but across Spain.
Pulpo a la gallega is made with octopus (ideally fresh), potatoes, paprika, olive oil and coarse salt. The result is incredibly delicious.
28. Lacón con grelos (Galicia)
Lacón con grelos is a synonym for comfort food. This typical dish of Galicia is ideal for the winter months.
The main ingredients for this dish are lacón (a type of dried ham) and grelos (broccoli rabe), but it also contains fresh chorizo, potatoes and olive oil.
It is an easy recipe to make and please everyone.
29. Ensalada murciana – Murcian Salad (Murcia)
If you ever go to Murcia, you need to try ensalada murciana, also known as mojete murciano. This is the most traditional salad in the region.
However, if you don’t have any plans to visit Murcia, you can bring Murcia cuisine home by making this easy and delicious salad.
You’ll need peeled plum tomatoes, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, spring onions, black olives, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and salt.
30. Magra con tomate – Pork & Tomato Stew (Murcia)
The combination of tomato and pork is simply delicious. This recipe originated in Murcia, it is a favourite dish, even for the little ones.
Magra con tomate is made with lean pork meat, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, white wine and olive oil.
The stew is a great appetizer to serve on any occasion.
31. Matrimonio (Murcia)
If you want a Spanish appetizer that you can put together in a few minutes, this recipe is perfect for you.
Matrimonio consists of a toast with olive oil, tomato, two different types of anchovies (one salted, and one marinated in vinegar) and a pinch of salt.
Easy, delicious and a great dish to get your tastebuds ready for the next meal.
32. Caballitos (Murcia)
Another delicious recipe from Murcia is caballitos, a very popular appetizer that you will absolutely love.
Made with prawns, flour, beer and salt, these crispy battered prawns are mouth-watering. They don’t take long to prepare and your guests will want more.
33. Calamares fritos – Fried Calamari (Andalucía)
When it comes to fried fish, Andalusian people know how to do it. Calamares fritos is one of those recipes that you will spot in any beach restaurant or tapa bar in the south of Spain.
This fried calamari is only battered in wheat and chickpea flour and fried. Then they are served with a slice of lemon which gives it a bit of freshness.
Alternatively, you can also enjoy them with homemade mayonnaise or aioli.
34. Esgarraet (Comunidad Valenciana)
Paella is without a doubt the most popular dish in the Valencian Community, however, there are other traditional recipes like esgarraet you might want to try too.
This recipe is straightforward and only contains four ingredients: roasted red peppers, flaked cod, garlic and olive oil.
35. Delicias de Elche – Almond-stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon (Comunidad Valenciana)
Elche, located in the Valencian Community, has some delicious dishes and some of these include Delicias de Elche, a great appetizer.
This traditional dish is made with bacon, dates, toasted almonds and olive oil. The dates are stuffed with almonds, wrapped in bacon and fried.
The combination of these ingredients is delightful.
36. Cocas (Comunidad Valenciana)
Coca valenciana is one of the most traditional recipes in Valencia and its surroundings. They consist of a type of bread similar to Italian focaccia.
The bread is often topped with different roasted vegetables, fish or even cold meats.
Cocas can also be sweet, but these are better for breakfast or a snack in the afternoon.
37. Frito Mallorquín (Baleares)
Meat lovers will want to try frito mallorquín, a typical recipe of the Balearic Islands.
This dish is made with asadura de cordero (lamb heart, lungs and liver), red pepper, cauliflower, potatoes, onions, garlic, bay and olive oil.
Serve with a few slices of bread and a glass of red wine.
38. Pica-pica (Baleares)
Pica pica is a traditional stew which is often served as an appetizer or tapa, although it can also be a main course when served with rice or mashed potatoes.
To make this recipe you will need squid, tomatoes, onions, garlic, white wine, paprika, salt and pepper.
39. Pimientos piquillo rellenos – Stuffed Piquillo Peppers (Navarra)
If you visit Navarra, you need to try pimientos piquillo rellenos, it is a delicious appetizer that will impress you.
They are made with Piquillo peppers, ground meat, carrots, leeks, onions, milk, flour and garlic.
Serve by adding the sauce first, and then the peppers on top. Don’t forget a few slices of bread to dip in the sauce.
40. Guisantes con jamón – Peas with Serrano Ham (Navarra)
Guisantes con jamón is a light appetizer or dinner which won’t take much of your time to prepare and enjoy.
It is made by simply cooking peas with chopped onions, and diced Serrano ham and adding a little bit of flour.
41. Menestra con espárragos (Navarra)
Menestra con espárragos is an easy, healthy and green recipe originated in Navarra. This is a light appetizer perfect for anyone who loves vegetables and those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
This dish is made with asparagus, broad beans, peas, artichokes, garlic and olive oil.
42. Patatas a la riojana – Rioja Style Potatoes (Rioja)
Patatas a la riojana is a synonym for comfort food. This appetizer is perfect for those cold winter days and contains cheap ingredients you can find in any supermarket.
The potato stew is made with fresh chorizo, potatoes, onions, garlic, paprika, bay leaves and olive oil.
43. Cardo a la riojana – Rioja Style Artichokes (Rioja)
A vegetarian appetizer typical of La Rioja is cardo a la riojana, which is often eaten during Christmas.
This is a simple dish made with cardo, a type of artichoke, flour, milk, butter and almonds. It is creamy and full of flavours.
44. Bonito en escabeche – Marinated Bonito Tuna Belly (País Vasco)
If you are looking for a fish appetizer, you will love bonito en escabeche, a recipe that originated in the Basque Country.
This recipe is made by cooking and pickling tuna belly with vegetables like carrots, peppers and onions.
It is perfect to serve alongside salad, potatoes or rice.
45. Gilda (País Vasco)
The most popular appetizer in the Basque Country is gilda. This pintxo consists of pickled green chilli pepper, anchovies, olives and olive oil which are all put together in a skewer.
It is very easy to prepare and a light appetizer. The best way to enjoy gildas is with a glass of beer, wine or cider.
46. Bacalao al pil-pil – Cod with Oil, Garlic, and Chilli (País Vasco)
An easy but fantastic recipe for a fish appetizer is bacalao al pil pil which is made with four basic ingredients: salted cod, chilli pepper, garlic and olive oil.
You can accompany this fish with roasted peppers and potatoes or a side of rice, and a piece of bread to dip in the creamy sauce.
47. Torreznos de Soria – Fried Pancetta (Soria)
Torreznos is a very popular appetizer in Soria, located in north-central Spain.
It simply consists of pancetta (a type of unsmoked bacon) fried in sunflower oil until golden and crispy. It is often served with a few slices of bread.
48. Coquinas al ajillo – Garlic Clams (Andalucía)
Coquinas al ajillo is a traditional recipe of Andalusia, more specifically of Cadiz and Huelva, although you can find similar recipes in other parts of Spain like Galicia where these are called tellinas.
This appetizer is only made with coquinas (small clams), white wine, garlic, parsley and salt.
49. Papas aliñás – Andalusian-style Potatoes (Andalucía)
A humble and delicious dish is patatas aliñadas, also called papas aliñás by Andalusian people.
This appetizer consists of boiled potatoes which are served with tuna, hard-boiled eggs, spring onions and parsley and seasoned with sherry vinegar, olive oil and salt.
It is very easy to make and your guests will love it.
50. Huevos tontos – (Aragon)
Huevos tontos is a tasty appetizer that originated in Aragon. It is made with bread, eggs, tuna, milk, garlic, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper.
The combination of these ingredients is incredibly delicious, and they are perfect with a good glass of wine.
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