According to legend, back in the 13th century, while King Alfonso X of Castile, The Wise King of Spain, was severely ill, he could only eat small portions of food at a time, accompanied by sips of wine. Once he recovered from the illness, he announced that wine should only be consumed with small portions of food, hence introducing the concept of tapas. In Spain today, following the centuries-old tradition, tapas are not meant to be a single meal, and they are rarely served without an alcoholic beverage.
From bars and taverns to restaurants and quaint delis located down the side streets of Spain, most will feature a delicious assortment of popular and hand-picked tapas on their menus. Meat (jamón o cerdo) has traditionally been a centrepiece in Spanish cuisine, but there is a vast array of big and bold vegetarian tapas to choose from if you have opted for the meat-free lifestyle. Of course, you do not have to be a vegetarian to enjoy these dishes, because they are all simply divine for any palette!
The following restaurants serve vegan friendly tapas that you can enjoy with your sangria, wine, or cocktails.
Vegetarian Tapas Restaurants & Bars
A hop, skip and a jump from Playa Mar Bella in Barcelona is a small, informal restaurant named Aguaribay. The close-knit staff offers a vegetarian and gluten-free menu that appeals to all palettes. This friendly establishment uses fresh ingredients and provides courteous service that extends a daily lunchtime deal including three courses and a beverage at a very low price. The environment is laid-back, and you can feel free to bring your laptop while you eat.
Celso y Manolo
If you love tomatoes, this tapas bar in Madrid is a must-visit. An entire section of the menu is dedicated to different versions of tomatoes that are grown in various areas of Spain. (Be sure to try their chuletón de tomate, tomatoes served with avocado, mango, papaya, red onion, olive oil, and fresh herbs.) Their travel between Madrid and New York City has inspired their Nuevo Latino style, utilizing papayas, mangoes, ceviche, and other brightly colored foods in their restaurant.
This alternative style space in Madrid has art décor that is constantly changing. While they are reluctant to share their recipes, all of their food is made from scratch and new items are always popping up on the menu. Therefore, you can expect a mixture of offerings on their menu, not all traditional Spanish cuisine, such as vegan Mexican style nachos that can be shared with someone else. Their croquetones won an award at the TapaPiés festival – not only are they larger than traditional croquetas, they are delightfully more tasty. Plan ahead and make a reservation, because this place is very popular!
Looking for a traditional Spanish bar in Madrid that actually has the space so you can sit at the bar and have a few drinks with your complimentary tapas? This is definitely the place to visit. They serve traditional tapas that are created vegan, including patatas bravas, bocadillos de chorivegano (chorizo), croquetas, and nocalamar. Most popular on the menu, however, seems to be the pizza with the extensive selection of toppings that can be specially ordered to suit your taste, or you can choose from one of their custom combinations.
El Perro Gamberro
If this Madrid restaurant has to be summed up in one short phrase, it would be: traditional Spanish tapas with a twist. This restaurant started out as a recipe blog, believe it or not. Of course, they offer the usual Spanish tapas, but the menu is much more creative than most other tapas bars or restaurants. Think: croquetas made with eggplant and apples or tortillas created with squash for the base. Their menu also includes taco tasting for two or three people. They bring you the ingredients for the tacos and then you make them yourself.
This restaurant and bar in Madrid is a bit on the pricey end of establishments, but they have to be complimented for their unique ability to bring a new, generous portion of appetisers every time you order a new round of drinks. If you are looking for a bar to have a few drinks at that will serve some tasty foods to enjoy along with those drinks, this is the place to go. Be prepared to spend a lot more here than other places, though.
If you are in the Raval area and need to grab a vegetarian bite to eat, this unique and quirky little place is where to go for a seven-course tasting menu that includes two drinks for merely €25 per person. They offer seasonal specials, as well as classic tapas on their menu. The cost alone should be enough to entice any vegetarian to step in and try out the menu.
You will not have to worry about portions of meat being served in this Madrid restaurant, because they recently made their menu completely vegetarian. However, do not expect to see free tapas on your table when they deliver your drinks, although you can request olives for free. They do offer a very inexpensive menu if you want food with your beverages. Craft beers are available, and they even have a vegan craft beer, cutely named Veer.
A bit different than the other places listed here, this is a fast food style restaurant in Barcelona, so be prepared to stand at the bar while you are devouring your food. Feel free to top off your pita at no extra cost, a small reason to stick around and eat your food near. If you need recommendations, their falafels are amazing and the salad bar is delectable, for starters.
Teresa Carles, Catalan chef, led the way for the health food and vegetarian scene in the city of Barcelona. Her menus encourage clean eating and are rich in fresh vegetables, superfoods, and cold soups. However, if you are looking for a meal that is a bit more substantial, her menus also offer home-made pasta dishes that could appeal to your palette.
If you are in the Gothic Quarter, you should try out this casual bistro in Barcelona. They source their ingredients from local vendors conscientiously, and offer a completely vegetarian menu to their customers. Their menu is comprised of contemporary and exquisite vegetarian tapas recipes that vegetarians and meat lovers will both find appealing.
7 Exquisite Vegetarian Tapas Recipes You Must Try
Even if you are attempting to create a uniquely exquisite vegetarian dish, most tapas will not require sophisticated cooking techniques or a lot of effort to cook or fry. In fact, not much experience is required at all to throw together these delectable appetizers, whether you are cooking for yourself or for a large gathering. There is no reason to shy away from the kitchen when you are craving for a taste of some Spanish cuisine.
Cheese, eggs, fresh produce, and potatoes are some of the essential ingredients that Spanish tapas are often made from. These ingredients are already headed in the right direction for a vegetarian palette. Unless, of course, the particular cheese in question does not qualify as vegan, and you want to get into the vegetarian versus vegan discussion and which cheeses are suitable for vegetarians – which are topics for another day. For the topic at hand, the vegetarian recipes listed may include cheese.
Here are seven exquisite vegetarian tapas recipes that you can make and enjoy in the comfort of your own kitchen. The best part of the following recipes is that you can alter any of them to reflect your own personal tastes.
1. Champiñones al Ajillo: Spanish Garlic Mushroom Tapas
In the autumn, a wide range of wild mushrooms hit the markets, and special menu items that feature mushrooms start popping up in restaurants and bars. Not only is this delicious garlic mushroom recipe vegan, it is also gluten-free. You simply saute the mushrooms with vegan butter, lemon juice, garlic, and a pinch of salt and black pepper. It might sound easy to make, but the way it tastes is truly intense.
2. Patatas Aliñadas Andalusian-Style Potatoes
It may not look appealing at first sight, but the aroma that wafts through the kitchen while you are cooking Andalusian-Style Potatoes makes it difficult to keep from taste-testing it. These mashed potatoes are mixed with finely chopped onion and green pepper, plus a touch of salt, then topped with paprika. Typically served as a cold dish, most people welcome cold tapas like patatas aliñadas in the heat of summer in Spain.
3. Pisto Con Huevos
This is essentially the Spanish version of the healthy and filling vegan dish known as ratatouille. Red and yellow bell peppers, squash, zucchini, onions, and eggplant are chopped and cooked in a tomato sauce infused with fresh basil, parsley, garlic, and thyme. Top it all off with a few fried eggs and mix the runny egg yolks into the vegetables for added flavour. Go one step further with garlic bread on the side, and you have an entire meal.
4. Patata Croquetas with Saffron Aioli
These delicious golden bite-sized tapas come in all types of flavors and can be fine-tuned to any palette, since you can stuff the inside of the bread-crumb-and-egg fried outer batter with just about any ingredients you desire to roll together. For these potato-stuffed croquetas, however, the chosen dipping sauce is a Spanish favourite, Saffron Aioli, an oil, mayonnaise, and garlic emulsion.
5. Tortilla Española – Spanish Potato Tortilla
The Spanish Potato Tortilla is more like a mixture of a potato omelet or a potato pancake than what most people typically imagine when the word “tortilla” is mentioned. Unlike the Mexican corn or flour tortilla, this tortilla is made with eggs and potatoes and visually resembles an omelet. Seasoned with onions, garlic, salt, and black pepper, they are simple in presentation, yet when cooked perfectly, taste amazing. You can come up with your own additional ingredients to create a personalised potato tortilla, or make one for someone else with their desired elements for a special treat.
6. Berenjena con Vinagreta: Grilled Eggplant in Tomato Vinaigrette
This vegetarian eggplant dish is so whimsical on the plate, it might be difficult to decide where to cut into it before you start eating. Eggplant, tomatoes, capers, mushrooms, all garnished with parsley, make up the different colors of the recipe. Before you take a bite, be sure to enjoy the aroma – fresh spice, lemon, basil, and rosemary can all be detected. The flavour is a delightful mixture of a little bit salty, a little bit spicy, and some sour, all in the same bite.
7. Mallorcan Tumbet – Spanish Sabores
A scrumptious combination of zucchini, potatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers, all fried together in olive oil to maintain as much of the natural flavour of the ingredients as possible, this tapas is a popular Mediterranean dish from the Balearic Islands. Also called Tombet, this Mallorcan (or Majorcan) dish can be found in just about every restaurant on the island because it is so popular. If you have yet to devour this exquisite vegetarian tapas, it might be time to try your hand at cooking your own version of Mallorcan Tumbet.
Tips for making Spanish recipes: Remember to preheat your oven before you put any of your tapas in to bake. This will ensure that your tapas cook thoroughly and within the approximate cooking time frames. If you are cooking in a frying pan, use a non-stick pan, and always use excellent quality Spanish extra virgin olive oil if you want to taste true Spanish flavour. Finally, your recipes are only as delicious as the ingredients that you start with, therefore, be sure to use only fresh vegetables that are in season.