A night out on the town for tapas is one of the most fun ways to eat like a local!
But what exactly should you order? Even if you’ve studied Spanish, you might not recognize some of the things on the menu in many tapas bars across Madrid. Luckily, if you’re at an authentic place, it’s pretty hard to go wrong no matter what you order! Here are just 10 of our favorite tapas in Madrid that you can’t leave the city without trying.
1. Tortilla de patatas
Looking for the quintessential Spanish food? Hint: it’s not paella. In fact, it’s much simpler to make! Tortilla de patatas is a simple omelet made with potatoes, eggs, salt and occasionally onion (this is a heated debate topic in Spanish foodie circles)! It’s proof that you don’t need a ton of fancy ingredients to make something delicious.
Another of the most iconic tapas in Madrid, unsurprisingly, is Spain’s famous jamón! From everyday favorite jamón serrano to cream-of-the-crop jamón ibérico de bellota, you can’t go wrong with cured ham in Madrid. While not the cheapest tapa (a plate of jamón ibérico will set you back about €20, give or take a few euros), it’s the perfect indulgence while visiting Madrid.
Insider’s tip: Traveling on a budget? Skip the tapas bars and buy some jamón at one of Madrid’s vibrant local markets.
3. Patatas bravas
Patatas bravas are another relatively simple potato-based dish (are you noticing a theme here?), this time with more of a kick. Crispy, fried-to-perfection potatoes covered in a spicy, tomato-based sauce—what could be better? Many bars serve their bravas with mayonnaise or alioli as well, which adds a creamy touch and gives the potatoes a more mild taste.
While these spicy potatoes are one of the most popular tapas in Madrid, watch out for tourist traps! Places using frozen potatoes or store-bought sauce are a no-go if you’re looking for quality bravas.
4. Pimientos de padrón
Hailing from the lush, green region of Galicia in northwestern Spain, these perfect little peppers are great for sharing! Most have a relatively mild taste, but be careful! As the popular refrain goes, “some are hot and some are not,” so you never know who will be the lucky winner that ends up with the spiciest pepper on the plate.
Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, croquettes are a staple on tapas bar menus across Madrid. There’s no right or wrong way to fill a croqueta, so fillings can range from the classic—ham, vegetables, or bacalao—to the gastronomically creative. They’re a favorite in Spanish homes as well and perfect for the youngsters in your group!
6. Gambas al ajillo
Despite its landlocked location, Madrid is home to the freshest seafood in Spain! There’s no better way to see for yourself than by ordering a tapa of sizzling gambas al ajillo. These piping hot garlic shrimp are one of the most popular tapas in Madrid for good reason. They’re especially perfect when washed down with local wine or an ice cold beer.
7. Champiñones a la plancha
This is one of the best vegan tapas in Madrid, but you don’t have to follow a plant-based diet to enjoy it! These perfectly grilled mushrooms are one of the simplest and yummiest tapas in town, and you’ll find them on menus across the city. If you’re especially hungry, order a ración and share them with your friends!
These tasty little meatballs are usually served swimming in a delicious sauce and make for one of the yummiest tapas in Madrid. If you’re looking for tapas in the form of comfort food, albóndigas are what you’re looking for. They’re especially perfect in Madrid’s chilly winters when you duck into a tapas bar to escape the cold!
9. Calamares fritos
Another one of Madrid’s favorite seafood tapas comes in the form of battered and lightly fried squid rings. A tiny drizzle of lemon juice makes it perfect! Madrileños love their calamari so much, in fact, that they even invented a way to take it on the go. The bocadillo de calamares is a typical sandwich from the city and one of the most popular tastes on our Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour!
You’ve tried Spain’s famous olives, now put a delicious twist on it! Banderillas are tasty little skewers that include olives and other savory ingredients such as anchovies, quail eggs, peppers and more. Even if you’re not normally an olive lover, they’re still worth a try as the flavors all combine perfectly. Slide the entire thing directly into your mouth from the toothpick, then wash it down with a glass of local vermouth!
Ready to really eat like a local? Join us on our Tapas, Taverns & History Tour and experience some of the best tapas in Madrid with us! In addition to tasting the city’s best dishes, you’ll also learn the ins and outs of how to order drinks and food, experience the lively and vibrant culture and meet new foodie friends. We can’t wait to see you soon!
Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.