For food and drink lovers, Granada Spain is something of a legend. It’s a city known not only for tapas but for free tapas. Although it’s not where tapas originated, the city is famous for being one of the last cities to offer tapas when ordering a drink. In this guide, we share our tips on how to find the best tapas in Granada.
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Granada Tapas Guide
Traditionally in Spain, tapas were offered free when a patron ordered a drink. Although you can still find this type of tapa at small country bars in Andalusia and around Southern Spain, it’s not common in the larger cities.
That’s why Granada is a bit of a legend with culinary travelers. Every drink you order, alcoholic or not, comes for a free tapa. Although we also recommend spending a few Euros for some better tapas, if eating on a budget, Granada is a great place to visit.
In this post, we share our tips on how to eat tapas like a local in Granada. This also includes our advice on how to eat great food in Granada, even if that means skipping a freebie. I also share our recommendations on some fun tapas bars in Granada. In the end, you will feel confident about how to order and eat tapa like a local.
Check out our Spain Food Guide – What To Eat In Spain for more details on regional must-try dishes in Spain.
A Brief History of Tapas
Let’s start with a little history of tapas. Learning about the history of tapas is certainly not scientific. Instead, it is a collection of tall tales passed down over the years. These are cobbled together to create what is understood to be a history of the origin of these tasty small treats.
Kings And Tapas
One tale from the 13th Century involves a king who could only eat small portions of food. Another tale is of a king in Cadiz, in Andalusia, in the 19th Century. The king apparently requested a slice of Jamon, the cured meat, to place on top of his drink. The goal? To keep the sand out.
Flies And Tapas
I had never heard these king tales until I started to research the history of tapas. What is most understood to be the originating tale is from Seville. Seville is located near Granada.
In Seville, bartenders would put a saucer or a coaster on top of a drink to keep the flies out. Eventually, they offered a little snack on top, like olive or Jamon. Bar patrons started to like the free food on top, a tapa.
The practice spread throughout southern Spain, but Granada is the one place where food travelers are guaranteed a free tapa. In Granada, they are a lot heftier than just a slice of Jamon or a few olives.
What Are Tapas Today
Today, tapas are assumed to be small portions or plates of all types of cuisine served at Spanish restaurants across the country and the world. Although it is still possible throughout Spain to order a drink and receive a small plate of potato chips or olives, generally patrons will purchase tapas and drinks separately. Granada is the exception to this rule.
TAPAS TO EAT IN GRANADA
Before sharing our tips on how to survive a tapas bar in Granada, here are some tapas you must track down. Some of these tapas will be provided free with a drink, but some will need to be ordered. Typically, a tapa will cost between €3-5 or a racion (larger plate) will be between €5-10. They are totally worth it!
Caracoles – Snails
I’ve eaten snails before, on occasion. Mostly escargot. But, since moving to Spain, I’ve eaten a lot of snails, or caracoles. I simply love them.
First, they are fun to eat. Use a toothpick to gently glide the snail out of its shell. Second, it is all about the sauce they are served in. It’s usually a tasty mix of olive oil, garlic, and other seasonings.
If you’ve never tried snails before, go for it! It’s a small investment and totally worth it. A plate will often cost between €5-7, sometimes less.
Where to eat caracoles in Granada: We tried the caracoles at Bar Casa Julio. The snails were amazing. I asked the grandson of the owner what was in their sauce, and he replied: “it’s a secret.” Minimally it includes a mix of red pepper, black pepper, garlic, and almonds, and something secret that made them zing.
Migas – Spanish “Stuffing”
Migas is an incredibly delicious dish made from some of the most simple ingredients. It is made using stale bread, kind of like American stuffing. It is then fried with garlic, green pepper, and local sausages. It’s a good dish to soak up all the alcohol during a beer and tapas crawl in Granada.
Where to eat Migas in Granada: Everywhere. You won’t need to track this dish down. It will just come to you, often as a free tapa. It might not be the best tapa in Granda, but it is certainly one of the most common.
Habas Con Jamon – Beans With Ham
Habas are Spanish broad beans, stewed with Jamon. Yes, the Spanish put ham in everything. The dish is flavored with garlic, onion, and olive oil. It’s not a good-looking dish, but it is pretty tasty. Although a friend we were traveling with did not appreciate the flavor, it grew on me for sure.
If you love beans, make sure to check out our espinacas con garbanzos recipe. Much like the habas con Jamon it’s an Andulacian-inspired dish and super healthy.
Where to eat habas con jamon in Granada: Try habas con jamon at Bar Espadafor.
Cazon – Marinated Fish
We first tried cazon in Seville, and it quickly became one of my favorite Seville tapas. Cazon is marinated and deep-fried whitefish, normally dogfish.
At their very basic, they could be described as fish nuggets, but are oh so much more than that. The fish is tender and juicy, the breading light. They are the perfect accompaniment to an ice-cold beer in Granada.
Where to eat cazon in Granada: We had cazon at Los Diamantes, which was good, and at Bar Casa Julio, which was sublime.
Rabo de Toro – Oxtail
Rabo de toro is oxtail, which when cooked well is fabulous. Rich and tender. It can be served as a stew or deep fried in croquettas. In Andalusia, many restaurants, both traditional and contemporary have come up with interesting ways to serve oxtail. It’s all good.
Where to eat Rabo de toro in Granada: In Granada, the best oxtail we ate was at Los Manueles, which serves a pimientos rellenos con rabo de toro, or red peppers stuffed with oxtail. This is a great example of a racion that we purchased because it looked so darn good. It cost about €8, was a giant plate, and was well worth it.
While not technically a tapa, we could help but include it. After all, a plato alpujarreño consists of fried potatoes, eggs, blood sausage, fried pork, and ham. All the things we love. If you need a break from the smaller tapas make sure to enjoy one of these.
Boquerones and Pescaitos Fritos – Fried Fish
If you love fried fish, Granada is the place for you. In addition to cazon, you can find all sorts of fried fish at fish fry tapas bars or take away stalls. Look for boquerones (fried sardines), choco (small squids), and bacalao (cod).
Where to eat pescaitos in Granada: Try the fried fish at Los Diamantes, which is well known for its fish. They have a few locations.
If you are looking for a little something healthy, this is the dish for you. A signature dish from Granda, remojón granaíno consists of locally grown oranges, salted cod, and hard-boiled eggs. Toss in local olive oil and olives and you’ve got a tasty break from tapas.
TIPS ON HOW TO EAT TAPAS IN GRANADA
At first glance, it seems that all you need to do in Granada is walk into a bar, order a drink, and receive your free tapa. To some extent that is true.
But there is an element of chance to it all. You don’t get to choose your tapa. The chooses. So, what tips can we share to help you make the most of the experience? How can you eat well in Granada?
The Concept Of A “Free” Tapa
First a note on the concept of “free” tapas. We live in Spain and know the country well. I know how much a beer or a glass of wine costs in many cities.
The drink prices in Granada tend to be a bit higher than in Seville or other cities. This is because, presumably, the bar owners built the price of the “free” tapa into the cost of the drink. After all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, or in this case, a free tapa.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that drink prices in Spain are a lot lower than elsewhere in Western Europe. It is cheaper to drink in Spain than it is in Italy, France, Scotland, Ireland, or England. Expect to pay between €2-3 for house wine or a glass of beer.
When walking into a tapas bar in Granada, take a look at what people are eating at the bar. If you see several people eating the same tapa chances are that is what is being served at that time. An hour later, it might be something different.
You are not guaranteed to receive what other patrons are eating, but it’s a good indication. That said, don’t be afraid to let them know if you are a vegetarian or have other restrictions. If you don’t speak Spanish pull it up on your phone and show it to them.
Stand Don’t Sit
When moving from bar to bar, most locals eat standing at the bar and then move on. This is also a great way to try several tapas bars for one meal. And, it’s a lot more fun.
Particularly on the weekend, many Granada tapas bars will expect you to order food when sitting down. This means ordering and paying for larger portions. Some more touristy restaurants might have a sign up saying this. Others have a bit more patience with travelers who might not know.
Although you don’t get to choose your free tapas, the longer you stay the better the tapa will be. The first tapa is often something cheaper. In Granada, the best tapas can even be seafood.
At one bar, we received the basic tapa first. With the next round, we ordered a plate of something tasty to share with friends. Along with our paid tapa came a giant platter of shrimp. Yes, we paid for a tapa, but we had a good return on our investment.
Avoid Saturdays If Possible
There is an element of chance in accepting what tapas comes along with the drink ordered. On Saturdays, the bars are packed all day. Many tapas bars tend to serve plates that are easy to serve to a lot of people, and that means a lot of Migas (see below) and rice.
Going out to “tapear” on a Saturday is a risk that might involve a lot of Migas. If you are in Granada on a Saturday, my suggestion would be to stay in one place and to keep ordering drinks to receive better tapas. That said, the bars have such great energy on a Saturday, it might be worth it to eat some extra Migas.
On a Saturday the bars served us so many Migas I had to finally say enough is enough. I politely refused the round of Migas saying we were full, even though I know we get something for free. The server actually made us a plate of Jamon and olives, which were a welcome relief.
Don’t Be Afraid To Pay For a Tapa
The dirty secret of the Granada tapas scene is that in a lot of cases the free tapa is not of the highest quality or might not be the specialty of the house.
Included above are some recommendations for must-eat traditional dishes in Granada. But some of the best Spanish food on offer might not come free with your drink.
You can wait to see if you receive tapas which are a specialty of Granada. To be safe, just go ahead and order a tapa of one of the dishes recommended above. This is much easier to do if traveling in a group.
Granada Food Guide Pro Tip
Here’s a top secret to eating in Granada. If you do decide to pay for a tapa, don’t do it until after the bartender or server brings the free tapa. After receiving it, and seeing what you get, order a ración (full plate) or a media ración (half plate). Raciones normally range in price from €5-10.
Order Small Beers
If you really want to make the most of your Euro, order small beers. A tapa will come with each drink, so the more drinks you order the more food arrives. You will receive the same tapa with a small beer as a large beer.
Order a caña, which is a small beer, versus a tubo, which is a big beer. Be prepared for the consequences.
We tried this and I filled up pretty quickly. Between all the plates of food and all the beer, my belly just couldn’t keep up. Do what works for you.