Tapas Dictionary Guide

Tapas Dictionary Guide

Tapas Dictionary Guide: Every Spanish tapa at your fingertips described

¡Buen provecho!


Contributed By: Angie Grossman

Part of visiting and living in another country is enjoying and trying the local cuisine. However, the language barrier can cause quite an obstacle. No te preocupes! (Don't worry) bookmark this page the next time you are out eating around Madrid and your menu will be a savory journey verses a confusing roller coaster.

Let's size it up!

  • Ración: large plates to share; the size of a dinner plate or larger for more than 2 people
  • Media Ración: half-size portion of the full plate
  • Tapa: small plates to share; the size of a side plate, quarter size portion of large plate
  • Pincho: informal way to ask for ‘a bit of or a little of’ example: ‘un pincho de tortilla’


Meat Tapas

  • Chorizo: Spanish sausage (pork), somethings spicy (picante) cured to eat plain or mixed into dishes to add flavor
  • Lomo de Cerdo: pork tenderloin, usually in small slices ready to eat 
  • Jamón Ibérico: Iberian ham, cured (dried) ham cut into tiny slices and enjoyed, the most famous and typical tapa in Spain (more expensive ham)
  • Jamón Serrano: Serrano ham from the mountains of Spain, cured (dried) and cut thinly ready to eat pieces (less expensive but still delicious)
  • Albóndigas: delicious meatballs, dripping in a variety of sauces typically with tomato or garlic
  • Croquetas de Jamon: famous traditional dish, breadcrumbed fried food balls filled with mashed potatoes, cheese and little bits of famous Spanish ham
  • Morcilla: Spanish black budding; blood sausage  
  • Paella Valenciano: Spanish rice, mixed with pieces of chicken and rabbit, a few red or green peppers, onion, green peas and topped with freshly squeezed lemon, best on the beach in Valencia! 
  • Ternera: beef or veal meat
  • Pollo: chicken

Vegetable Tapas

  • Croquetas: breadcrumbed friend food ball usually filled with mashed potatoes, cheese, meat or vegetables and served with a pinch of salt on top. 
    • Corquetas de Boletus: breadcrumbed friend food ball filled with mashed potatoes, melted cheese, onion and mushrooms 
    • Corquetas de Queso: breadcrumbed friend food ball filled with mashed potatoes and melted cheese
    • Corquetas de Espinacas: breadcrumbed friend food ball filled with mashed potatoes, cheese and spinach
  • Pimientos de Pardón: sweet and/or spicy small green peppers (truly depends on the pepper!) sautéed in olive oil and bite size nibbles from Galicia (the north of Spain)
  • Queso: Cheese! Most famous Manchego cheese from sheep milk (white and soft), try also Cabrales cheese from a mix of cow, sheep and goat milk, similar to a gourmet blue cheese. 
  • Gazpacho: a cold vegetable puree; including peppers, tomatoes, cucumber and onion. Typical in the summertime by the bowl or easily sipped from a glass 
  • Aceitunas: variety of olives, usually bright green with garlic and oregano
  • Tortilla de Patata: traditional Spanish omelet, made with scrambled eggs, lighted fried potatoes and sometimes a variety of vegetables such as zucchini or spinach 
  • Patatas Bravas: deep friend potato wedges in olive oil and topped with a spicy paprika and tomato sauce 
  • Patatas Alioli: deep friend potato wedges in olive oil and topped with a special garlic mayonnaise sauce 
  • Huevos Rotos: Fresly fried french fries or potato wedges topped with the most perfectly fried eggs, break the yoke as sauce over the fries,  hence the name “broken eggs” mixed with pieces of salty Jamón (get all three ingredients in each bite, ideal for your taste buds)
  • Champiñones a la Plancha: deliciously grilled mushrooms, usually with garlic and salt
  • Aceitunas: Mediterranean olives, can be stuffed with fish or red bell peppers
  • Ensalada Rusa: ‘Russian Salad’ plate of boiled vegetables (chopped bite size), mixed with tuna, olives and mayonnaise 

Seafood Tapas: 

  • Gambas: shrimp or prawns sautéed in oil with lemon and/or garlic (most common)
  • Boquerones: White anchovies splashed with vinegar/salt and fried up crunchy 
  • Calamares: fresh pieces of battered and fried squid, served with lemon wedges 
  • Croquetas con Bacalao: breadcrumbed friend food ball filled with mashed potatoes and pieces of cod fish
  • Paella de Mar: Spanish rice, mixed with pieces of seafood: usually squid, shrimp, mussels and clams; add a few red or green peppers, onion and topped with freshly squeezed lemon
  • Empanada: Flakey pastries (not sweet but salty) stuffed with various vegetables and/or meat, usually stuffed with atún (tuna) and tomato sauce-served cold
  • Bacalao:  fried cod fish served with a fresh lemon wedge and oil 
  • Pulpo a la Gallega:  famous boiled octopus served with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika and a lot of finger licking sea salt 
  • Tortillitas de camarones: thinly sliced potato fritters with baby shrimp, dripping in olive oil


  • Allioli: oil, garlic, mayonnaise white sauce usually served with sautéed potatoes or boiled eggs
  • Brava: spicy tomato sauce, varies from place to place sometimes can be similar to ketchup or making your tongue tingle with a bit more spice (picante) 
Lisette Miranda

Written by Lisette Miranda

New Call-to-action