Spain is world-renowned for its culinary delights, especially the popular tradition of tapas – small plates of food shared among friends over conversation and drinks. Yet, many associate tapas with Iberian ham, seafood, and other meat-based dishes. Recently, however, a growing number of Spanish chefs and foodies have been introducing delicious vegetarian alternatives.
With the global shift toward more plant-based diets, Spanish cuisine is not lagging behind. Chefs across Spain are harnessing their creativity to transform traditional tapas into vegetarian-friendly delights, adding a whole new dimension to the country’s rich food culture.
What are Vegetarian Tapas?
Vegetarian tapas adhere to the same philosophy as traditional tapas but without meat or fish. They often feature locally sourced vegetables, legumes, cheeses, and eggs. Popular vegetarian tapas include patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), pimientos de padrón (fried green peppers), and tortilla Española (Spanish omelet).
Barcelona: Vegetarian Tapas Hub
Barcelona, the vibrant and diverse city renowned for its art and architecture, is also a major gastronomic hub in Spain. The city’s culinary scene is a mirror of its cultural richness, attracting food lovers from all over the world. Barcelona’s acceptance of diverse cultures and lifestyles has helped create a welcoming environment for vegetarians and vegans, making it a premier destination for plant-based cuisine.
In the heart of Barcelona’s bustling streets, an array of vegetarian and vegan tapas bars have been steadily gaining popularity. These establishments are leading the way in the city’s vegetarian movement, breaking the mold by proving that tapas can be just as delicious and diverse without the use of meat or seafood.
BarCeloneta Sangria Bar
One such place is BarCeloneta Sangria Bar, located in the trendy seaside neighborhood of Barceloneta. This spot stands out with its creative and colorful array of vegetarian tapas. Among their many offerings, the vegan calamari made from king oyster mushrooms is a standout, cleverly mimicking the texture and flavor of the real thing. Their extensive sangria list pairs perfectly with the tapas selection, making for a delightful dining experience.
The Green Spot is another must-visit. Positioned in the vibrant area of La Barceloneta, close to the port, this stylish restaurant caters not only to vegetarians and vegans but also to those who appreciate good food. The menu is a testament to culinary innovation, with dishes like beetroot tartare, which turns a typically meat-based dish into a vegetarian delight, and spinach empanadas that offer a tasty, handheld vegetarian treat.
Located in the historic Gothic Quarter, Rasoterra is a vegetarian bistro that uses locally sourced and organic ingredients to create a diverse array of tapas. The restaurant places a strong emphasis on sustainability and even boasts a “kilometer zero” certification for its commitment to local produce.
Situated near Plaça de Catalunya, Teresa Carles is a well-established name in the vegetarian food scene in Barcelona. Along with a regular menu, the restaurant offers a variety of tapas, using ingredients like lentils, quinoa, and a plethora of fresh vegetables.
Flax & Kale
With several locations throughout the city, Flax & Kale is a trendy health-conscious restaurant with a menu that is 80% plant-based. While not exclusively a tapas bar, it offers small plates that blend traditional Spanish flavors with a modern, vegetarian twist.
Located near the MACBA museum, Veggie Garden is perfect for those looking for global flavors. This restaurant serves up a variety of international dishes, including vegetarian and vegan tapas options. It’s particularly loved for its fresh juices and smoothies.
This vegan-friendly spot near Via Laietana is known not only for its food, but also for its range of local craft beers. It serves up plant-based burgers alongside a small but delightful selection of vegan tapas.
In addition to these notable spots, numerous other tapas bars and restaurants in Barcelona are adding vegetarian and vegan options to their menus. This exciting trend is a response to a growing demand, as more locals and tourists alike seek out healthier and more sustainable dining options.
Madrid: A Veggie Tapas Paradise
Madrid, Spain’s vibrant capital city, is steeped in history and culture, which is also reflected in its evolving food scene. Madrid, known for its traditional Spanish cuisine, is now embracing the vegetarian movement, offering an array of delightful veggie tapas options that align with the city’s rich culinary heritage.
In the labyrinthine streets of Madrid’s city center, vegetarian and vegan tapas bars are becoming a regular sight. These venues cater to the health-conscious and environmentally aware locals and visitors, while still delivering an authentic tapas experience.
El Fogón Verde
One must-visit location is El Fogón Verde, a restaurant that has taken vegetarian and vegan food to new heights. Here, classic Spanish tapas are reimagined with plant-based ingredients. Their Patatas Bravas, crispy fried potatoes served with a spicy tomato sauce, is a crowd favorite, as are their Pimientos de Padrón, small green peppers typically fried and sprinkled with sea salt.
Another great vegetarian-friendly tapas bar is Viva Burger. While the name suggests it’s all about the burgers, they also serve up a variety of vegetarian and vegan tapas. Located in the trendy La Latina district, this eatery provides a warm, rustic atmosphere, perfect for enjoying plant-based bites like their signature Viva Tapas, a medley of the best vegan and vegetarian mini-bites.
El Sur de Huertas
Located near the Retiro Park, is El Sur de Huertas, a vegetarian-friendly eatery with a focus on Mediterranean cuisine. The tapas menu includes innovative plant-based bites, and the restaurant also offers an array of organic wines.
For something truly unique, Botanique, located in the Mercado de Antón Martín, is a vegetarian and vegan tapas stall serving a variety of dishes inspired by world cuisine. From their Andalusian-style ‘eggplant with honey’ to vegan ‘Russian salad’, Botanique’s imaginative menu will delight your taste buds.
Lastly, La Hummuseria, while not a traditional tapas bar, is a fantastic place to sample vegetarian and vegan small plates. As the name suggests, their hummus is the star of the show, but they also offer other Middle Eastern-inspired dishes which are perfect for sharing.
Read also: Best Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Madrid
These establishments and others throughout Madrid are revolutionizing the city’s culinary scene. They are making Madrid a veritable paradise for vegetarians and vegans, without losing the essence of traditional Spanish tapas culture.
Seville: Fusion of Tradition and Innovation
Seville, the enchanting Andalusian city, is known for its rich culinary traditions. As the birthplace of tapas, Seville holds a special place in Spanish gastronomy. Over the years, it has successfully combined this deep-rooted tradition with contemporary culinary trends, including the rise of vegetarian and vegan cuisine.
In the historic heart of Seville, you’ll find a burgeoning scene of vegetarian and vegan tapas bars. These eateries are skillfully marrying Seville’s food heritage with the innovative plant-based movement, contributing to a fascinating culinary fusion.
One of the standout locations is Gaia, situated in the city’s bustling city center. It offers a wide range of vegetarian tapas using locally sourced ingredients. From traditional Gazpacho to innovative dishes like vegan paella, Gaia is a testament to the fusion of tradition and innovation.
Another must-visit spot is Alameda Rock, located in the Alameda district, a neighborhood known for its bohemian atmosphere. This vegetarian-friendly spot offers a diverse range of tapas, with dishes like the popular stuffed mushrooms and the delightful spinach and chickpea stew known as Espinacas con Garbanzos.
Habanita, located near the city’s famous cathedral, is an eatery with a charming ambiance that offers vegetarian and vegan versions of traditional Andalusian tapas. Among its specialties are grilled vegetable brochettes and a delectable eggplant dip.
El Enano Verde
A short walk from the city center, you’ll find El Enano Verde, a tapas bar with a modern touch. Its vegetarian and vegan menu includes a variety of small plates, from marinated artichokes to grilled tofu skewers, all served in a warm, cozy setting.
For a delightful vegetarian breakfast or brunch tapas option, head to Milk Away, located near the iconic Metropol Parasol. Known for its dairy-free smoothies and acai bowls, it also offers a selection of plant-based tapas, perfect for a lighter bite.
These and other vegetarian-friendly establishments across Seville are pushing the boundaries of the city’s culinary scene. By blending traditional Andalusian flavors with modern plant-based cuisine, Seville is carving out a unique space in Spain’s vegetarian tapas scene. It’s a city where vegetarians and vegans, along with those seeking to explore new culinary horizons, can delight in the fusion of tradition and innovation.
Valencia: Valuing Vegetarian Variety
Valencia, the city famous for its paella and the architectural masterpiece of the City of Arts and Sciences, has a rich culinary scene that’s now embracing vegetarian tapas with open arms. This charming city on the eastern coast of Spain is expanding its food scene to cater to the rising vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, offering a wide range of options that do not compromise on taste or authenticity.
One of the most popular vegetarian-friendly locations in the city is Copenhagen, a chic, modern restaurant located in the trendy neighborhood of Ruzafa. Despite its name suggesting a Northern European influence, the menu offers a variety of Spanish vegetarian tapas, such as Espinacas con Garbanzos (spinach with chickpeas) and Pimientos de Padrón (Padrón peppers).
Next on the list is Restaurante Almalibre, a charming vegetarian restaurant located near the iconic Valencia Cathedral. With an exciting and creative menu, Almalibre offers a range of vegetarian tapas that appeal to all taste buds. Don’t miss their vegetarian version of the traditional Valencian dish Paella – it’s a culinary delight!
Just a stone’s throw from the Turia Gardens is The Nature, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant with a diverse menu of tapas and main dishes. They offer a wide range of tapas, from Patatas Bravas to grilled vegetables and tofu skewers, all inspired by Mediterranean flavors.
Located near the bustling Central Market is La Tastaolletes, a vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurant that prides itself on using organic and locally sourced ingredients. The tapas menu here is inventive and varied, featuring dishes like almond-stuffed mushrooms and stuffed bell peppers.
Dulce de Leche Boutique
Dulce de Leche Boutique in the Ruzafa district is worth a visit not just for their vegetarian tapas but also for their delectable desserts. It’s the perfect spot for a leisurely brunch or afternoon tea, serving a wide variety of sweet and savory vegetarian tapas options.
In the heart of Valencia’s old town is Kaña Makan, which translates to “Eat and Drink” in Arabic. This vegetarian-friendly restaurant blends Spanish tapas with Middle Eastern flavors, creating a unique culinary fusion.
These spots and others throughout Valencia are elevating the city’s culinary scene, contributing to a diverse and innovative vegetarian tapas culture.
How to Order Vegetarian Tapas in Spanish
When in Spain, it helps to know some Spanish phrases.
“Soy vegetariano/a” (I’m vegetarian) is a handy phrase. Always confirm by asking, “¿Esto lleva carne o pescado?” (Does this contain meat or fish?). Here are a few additional phrases that might be helpful:
- “¿Tienes opciones vegetarianas?” – Do you have vegetarian options?
- “¿Esto lleva pollo?” – Does this contain chicken?
- “¿Esto lleva caldo de carne?” – Does this contain meat broth?
- “¿Este plato contiene productos animales?” – Does this dish contain any animal products?
- “¿Podría reemplazar la carne con verduras?” – Could you replace the meat with vegetables?
Remember, Spanish restaurants and tapas bars are usually quite accommodating to dietary preferences, but it’s always good to ask and make sure.
Recipe for Vegetarian Tapas You Can Make at Home
Spanish Spinach and Chickpeas (Espinacas con Garbanzos) Recipe
A popular vegetarian tapas dish in Spain is Espinacas con Garbanzos, which is a flavorful combination of spinach and chickpeas. Here’s a simple recipe to try at home.
- 2 cans (about 15.5 ounces each) of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 pound of fresh spinach leaves
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon of paprika (smoked paprika if available)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1-2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
- Salt to taste
- Bread, for serving
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until it becomes translucent, which should take around 5 minutes.
- Add the minced garlic, cumin, and paprika to the pan and sauté for another minute until the spices are fragrant.
- Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas to the pan, stirring to combine them with the onion, garlic, and spices. Cook for about 5 minutes until the chickpeas are heated through.
- In the meantime, wash the spinach leaves thoroughly. Add the spinach to the pan in batches, waiting for each batch to wilt before adding the next.
- Once all the spinach is wilted, add the sherry vinegar and salt to taste, and stir to combine. Cook for another 2-3 minutes to let the flavors meld together.
- Serve your Spanish Spinach and Chickpeas hot, with slices of crusty bread on the side.
Enjoy this simple, healthy, and delicious Spanish tapas dish at home. Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, this hearty recipe is sure to impress!
The availability and variety of vegetarian tapas in Spain are a testament to the country’s culinary adaptability and innovation. So, if you’re a vegetarian considering a Spanish vacation, fear not! Spain’s vegetarian tapas scene has never been richer or more exciting.