“What is tapas?” is probably one of the first questions you’ll have before travelling to Spain. The gastronomy is one of the most important aspects of Spanish – and Sevillian culture. If you want to truly experience this culture, you need to read more about what and why is food and wine one of country’s cultural pillars.
The following questions summarize some of the most common doubts any tapas beginner like you would have prior to coming to Spain. After reading them you’ll have completed a short beginner’s course and you will be a tapas expert!
There is only one final step: going to a bar and enjoy some delicious tapas…
What is tapas? Prices and regular eating times
The price of a tapa varies depending on its ingredients, the complexity of its elaboration, the bar, and the city or region. But as a rule of thumb you can expect tapas to cost from 1,5 to 4 €. The media racion (half plate) and racion (full plate) are bigger and cost a bit more as they are intended to be shared by a group.
At lunch you can have tapas from around 13:00 up to 15:00. At dinner people start eating tapas around 21:00 and end at 23:00 or even midnight. I told you, in Spain the usual eating times in other parts of the world are not respected!
If you are starving or really can’t make it until then, you can still go to plenty of bars to eat. But most of the time you’ll end up in a bar full of tourists (yes, other people couldn’t make it too) or at an almost empty bar without any atmosphere.
What is tapas? Ingredients
Similar to the rest of Spanish gastronomy, tapas are part of the Mediterranean diet. Therefore, the basic ingredients are olive oil, garlic, onion, all sorts of fish and seafood and a wide variety of pork products. Now that tapas have evolved into a more sophisticated dish you’ll find almost every ingredient you can think of (from white truffle to foie).
In terms of fish the range is really broad (e.g. salt cod, tuna, squid, prawns…). Regarding the meat, depending on the regions beef and lamb will be included in the menu although the big star is pork. Every single part of the animal is used.
And if you are a cheese lover you’ll be happy to know that there are more than 100 different types of cheese in Spain? (from the goat, the sheep and cows).
What is tapas? Vegetarians
Unfortunately, it is very rare to find a Spaniard who is a vegetarian. As a consequence, the food has not been adapted in this regard. Even those tapas that look “undoubtedly” vegetarian will have some meat or fish.
Just to give some examples, the classic ensaladilla (potato salad) comes with prawns and the grilled mushrooms are served with dices of jamon serrano. Not really veggie, huh?
The best solution is to ask the waiter for tapas without meat or fish. In Spanish that would be: “Soy vegetariano/a. ¿Qué tapas tiene sin carne ni pescado?”. Or, you can always take the non-vegetarian stuff out as one of my best friends does!
What is tapas? Recipes
There are no specific tapas ingredients, you can make your tapas with anything you like. So you can keep it simple or you can make it as complicated as you like.
Actually, there are thousands of tapas recipes! Just pick the one that appeals the most to you and give it a try…
The whole point of tapear (bar hopping) or organizing a tapas party at home is to enjoy the company of friends while eating some delicious food. So even though the food and cooking are important, tapas are basically a way to eat in a social setting.