Sampling Spanish Food: Five Must-Try Tapas

As Seville competes for the World Capital of Tapas, a nod which would give the city another UNESCO World Heritage mention, restaurants and tapas bars around the city are adapting to an eating culture that is evolving towards gastrobar-meets-down home atmosphere. Seville’s tapas culture is a major city attraction.

Many stories about its origins exist, but the practice is universal: bar patrons hop from one bar to another, sampling small plates of food. These can encompass hot dishes or cold, and can be meat, fish, vegetables or anything in between. While Spanish cuisine is considered important, Basque and Catalàn tend to be the heavy hitters in this category.

What sets Seville apart is the participation, making every day special enough to eat out. Tapas can take on so many different forms, making it impossible to get a real taste for Spanish food in a quick trip. Here are five-star dishes that will give you a starter tutorial in Spanish gastronomy:

Pulpo a la Feira

What it is: Boiled octopus served over boiled potatoes, with drizzled olive oil and sweet paprika.

Where it’s from: Typically eaten in the northern region of Galicia, popular varieties include al horno (baked) or a la plancha (grilled).

Where to get it in Seville: Casa Miró is perhaps one of the most famous Galician style restaurants in Seville, but try the pulpo at La Azotea (C/Jesús del Gran Poder, 31), served over mashed potatoes with a mozarabe sauce.

Goes perfectly with: pimientos del padrón, a sometimes-spicy-sometimes-not flash-seared green pepper.


What it is: A thick, cold soup made with tomatoes, bread, olive oil, garlic and vinegar. Often served with chopped bits of ham and boiled egg.

Where it’s from: This dish is one of the most typical in Córdoba and is a thicker, sweeter version of gazpacho.

Where to get it in Seville: Salmorejo is a staple in most well-established bars in Seville, though not all of it is homemade. It’s pretty good at Bodegas la Pitarra, especially when dipped in even more bread!

Goes perfectly with: Fried eggplant, a ham and cheese mini-sandwich, Córdoba’s other famous dish, the flamenquín.


What it is: A rice dish that’s often made with seafood, meat and vegetables.

Where it’s from: Believed to have been created in the Albufera region of Valencia, paella is a common dish on the Mediterranean Coast and at barbeques (I mean it!). Rice is a common crop is Spain, and the availability of cheap flights to this region, like from Belfast to Alicante, make it an easy weekend trip.

Where to get it in Seville: On Sundays, La Cocina del Dr. x (Evangelista, 36, Triana) serves rice or paella. If you’re willing to go a bit further out, the duo from L’Albufera in Los Bermejales (Avda. de Europa, 19) cooks their rice to perfection and even serves it to you from the flat, cast-iron dish. Paella takes a while to make and is ordered by the person, so allot enough time or call ahead .

Goes great with: itself. Since paella is a dish that encompasses the major food groups, just keep digging in.

El Serranito

Pepito de Berenjena and fried cheese

What it is: a hearty sandwich stacked high with a pork sirloin or chicken breast, tomato, a slice of ham and a fried green pepper between two hunks of bread.

Where it’s from: This is the Andalusian of fast food. It’s especially common in Seville (I only wish my host mom in Valladolid packed these for me instead of mortadella sandwiches!).

Where to get it in Seville: I’ve found that the biggest and best Serranitos come from the roadside bars in small towns. Many bars in the city serve mini versions of the sandwich for a taste.

Goes perfectly with: A cold beer. It’s hearty, so you’ll need something to wash it down!

Tortilla de Patatas

What it is: This list would not be complete without perhaps the most Spanish dish of them all – the venerable Potato Omelette. As simple as eggs, potatoes and onions, the dish can be tricky to master (especialy when you have to flip it and cook the other side!).

Where it’s from: This is perhaps the only Spanish dish common throughout the entire country.

Where to get it in Seville: Some like it cooked, some like the eggs runny, but I love the tortilla from Bodeguita A. Romero, served with mayonnaise (Calle Gamazo, 16).

Goes perfectly with: Just about anything. It’s actually eaten for breakfast in Madrid!

In homage to a city where the tapeo culture trumps even bullfighting and flamenco (read: it’s accessible and likeable to everyone), I’m starting a weekly Tapas Thursday section that will feature different small plates and where to find them in Seville. Hungry? Read on…

[this post was also selected as a part of the Best World Food posts on The Nomadic Family. More yummy scoop here.]

What’s your favorite Spanish dish? What tapas would you like to see promoted on Sunshine and Siestas? Feel free to upload pictures of dishes to Sunshine and Siestas’s Facebook page!

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. mmmmm, love salmorejo!
    Reg of The Spain Scoop recently posted..No Car Needed (no. 11): Madrid To SegoviaMy Profile

  2. Can you elaborate on the UNESCO/World Capital of Tapas angle? Sounds fascinating. Is it an award/competition?

  3. Yum! On the information sheet I give people after a food tour, I have some “Must Try Spanish Dishes” and Tortilla, Salmorejo, and Pulpo are on there! Paella isn’t, since it’s tricky to find a good one in Madrid, and the Serranito would be, if it existed in Madrid! I miss the Serranito so much…
    Lauren of Spanish Sabores recently posted..When Night Falls: La Ruta de la CroquetaMy Profile

    • Fiona – From what I’ve understood, the tourism industry is trying to make a bid to UNESCO to recognize it as the Ciudad de la Tapa. I’m working on uncovering more info, because it’s interesting. Could just be a Cruzcampo ploy, though! Take a look at this page:

      And Lauren – Paella is hard to find in Seville, to, as you probably remember. The photo is actually from Alicante!

  4. Drool… Where was this guide during the months I spent in Spain??? Yum.
    Lillie – @WorldLillie recently posted..How Much Would YOU Pay to Pet a Charmed Snake?My Profile

  5. oh – i am so hungry now! especially for that last one – LOVE potatoes.
    wandering educators recently posted..Artist of the Month: Jennifer MartinMy Profile

  6. Interesting…I’ve always associated Barca as the center of tapas style dining. Guess that’ll have to change if they earn the capital distinction…
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island ResortMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Believe it or not, Barca is not on the same wavelength! We didn’t find many decent bars the last time we were there, despite having gone with loads of suggestions. Can’t beat the tomato bread, though!

  7. I had so much fun tapas bar hopping in Madrid. I’ve also been to Alicante and had some of the best food of my life. Coincidentally, I was just talking with a friend about that fantastic sandwich, Pepito de Berenjena and I don’t eat pork! I couldn’t remember what it was called. Cool article.
    Penny Sadler recently posted..Postcard: Piazza FarneseMy Profile

  8. One of the best meals we had in Spain was a tapas lunch at Bar Laredo on the Plaza San Francisco. We were trying to order “light” so we would have room for one of the fabulous pastries. An elderly Spanish gentleman sat next to us and ordered the potato torta and insisted we share it with him! Sinful and heavenly :)

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      I’ve always been a bit put off by that place because it looks so costly, but the sun that the plaza gets is incredible! And tortilla is one of my favorites, I just can’t make it well!!

  9. Oh, the salmorejo looks good! Too bad we’re in the far south right now, so we probably won’t get a chance to taste it :(.
    Micki recently posted..The Little Things We Love about Spain (And What Drives Us Crazy)My Profile

  10. Dios mio, me gusta mucho las tapas! I’d do anything for El Serranito… not so fussed on el pulpo, though.

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      They’re are truly a tasty gift to the world! And the pulpo needs to get tried. I didn’t eat fish until I moved to Spain, and octopus is tops in ym book!!

  11. It’s almost lunch and I’m drooling over those pictures, I love Spanish cuisine….now how do I get to taste over cyber space?
    noel recently posted..Travel Photo Mondays – photo tour #1My Profile


  1. […] tell me which ones you’d like to see featured on Sunshine and Siestas? Here are my picks for the Five Must-Try tapas in Spain. Alternately, there are more pictures on Sunshine and Siestas’s Facebook […]

  2. […] known as the pescaíto. Seville’s isn’t exactly the gastronomical gem of Andalucía (minus its tapas scene), though fried fish, pescado frito, is one of its most typical […]

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