We know a good amount about eating in Andalusia, Spain. I figured when researching Malaga food that it would be similar to the rest of the region. When checking out the Malaga tapas bars, though, we were a little surprised not only at some of the unique dishes in this coastal city, but just how good the food in Malaga really is.
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How To Find The Best Tapas Bars In Malaga
I was a bit concerned about what we would find when it came to food in Malaga. We knew Malaga as a winter destination for northern European snowbirds, including our friends and family from the UK and Ireland. It certainly is that. But, I thought what we would find would be Irish bars, chip shops, and a watered-down Malaga menu with generic Spanish tapas.
Not only did we eat traditional and authentic versions of typical Spanish tapas, but we also ate some unique Andalusian tapas. In this Malaga tapas guide, we share our recommendations on what to eat in Malaga and how to find the best tapas in Malaga city.
We might not share a comprehensive Malaga restaurant guide, but this should be everything you need to know to eat well during a holiday in Malaga city.
Check out our Spain Food Guide – What To Eat In Spain for more details on regional must-try dishes in Spain.
What Is Andalusian And Malaga Cuisine
I have one goal with all of our Andalusia travel guides. It’s to inform travelers to the region that there is more to Spanish cuisine than sangria, paella, and churros. Spanish food is regional in the same way American cuisine traditionally was. Lobster rolls from New England, gumbo from Louisiana, and seafood chowder from the Pacific Northwest. Similarly, Catalan food is different from Basque cuisine, and both are different from Andalusian cuisine.
For anyone traveling to Malaga for food and drink, we want to share recommendations on what to eat in Malaga. This is to avoid the trap of eating paella, patatas bravas, and sangria each and every night. There is so much more to Malaga food than that!
What To Eat In Malaga Spain – Must-Eat Tapas
In our list of the top Malaga dishes to try, we include mostly Malagan or Andalusian specialties. These are tapas or dishes that you can only find in the province of Malaga, or in nearby cities and towns within Andalusia. For us, it’s these local dishes that really are the best tapas in Malaga Spain.
Prawns Pil Pil
When eating out in Malaga it’s probably going to be hard not to find this dish on a tapas menu. Prawns or Gambas Pil Pil is almost like the “national” dish of Malaga. It’s one of the most common tapas in Malaga Spain, and all along the coast of Andalusia.
A clay pot is heated with good Spanish olive oil, along with slices of garlic and chili, then the prawns are added and coated in the spicy oil sauce. You can find langoustine pil-pil too. These are a little different from the typical garlic prawns found elsewhere in Spain, and even at seafood restaurants in Portugal, because there is a heavy dose of chili. They are a little spicy, which is surprising for Spanish cuisine. I attribute this to the African influence in the region.
Where to eat these Malaga tapas: It’s pretty easy to find gambas pil pil in Malaga. The most creative version we tried was at Uvedoblee Malaga, where they took the pil pil prawns and put them inside a wrap, like a kebab. Uvedoble Tapas Malaga is located on Calle Cister in Malaga Centro.
Montadito Pringa – Pork Sandwich
Montaditos are small sandwiches, which are found all over Andalusia. They are a perfect snack in the mid-morning before lunch or in the late afternoon before dinner. The montadito pringa is more common in Seville, but can also be found in Malaga.
A pringa is normally made from yesterday’s meat scraps, including shredded pork and bits of morcilla, a blood sausage common in Spain. Morcilla may sound a bit crazy to some travelers, but when added to a pringa sandwich, the taste is super mild. This is actually a good way to try morcilla without doing a deep dive.
One of the things we love about Spain is starting your day off with a cup of coffee and a small ham sandwich. In this case, it’s a pitufos. Spain is not known for massive breakfast like in the US or UK. Instead, most people start their day with coffee a pitufos. This sandwich is made using just three ingredients, tomato, olive oil, and jamón. So simple, so good and it saves room for lunch.
Boquerones – Fresh Anchovies
Don’t be scared! Even if you’ve never eaten an anchovy in your life, do so when traveling in Spain. Boquerones are fresh anchovies, and entirely unlike anchovies found in the tin can in the US. These are fresh, often served in vinegar, perhaps with a little garlic and citrus.
Where to eat these Malaga tapas: It’s pretty easy to find some form of boquerones at most tapas bars in Malaga. One of the best tapas bars in Malaga serves this version. Check El Tapeo de Cervantes Málaga is one of the best places to eat in Malaga for its take on traditional Malaga tapas. It’s small and popular so get there early or make a booking.
Fried Boquerones and Fritura Malagueña
A little less cholesterol-friendly are boquerones or other deep-fried fish, which are commonly found in the Mediterranean, a combination called Fritura Malagueña. This dish is one of the dishes you must eat in Malaga, perhaps with a cold beer or a glass of vermouth.
Particularly for smaller fish, it’s pretty common to eat the entire fish, head and all. If you are feeling a little squeamish, pop off the head, open up the fish, and remove the spine. Leave the tail on the plate. I’ve eaten so many of these I’ve perfected the process of popping off the head and eating the fish, sucking it right off the bone. I leave behind the bone and tail and nothing else. This really is one of the best things I eat regularly in Spain!
Where to eat this Malaga seafood dish: We ate some good, fried boquerones and calamares fritos at Mercado Central de Atarazanas.
Berenjenas Con Miel de Caña – Fried Eggplant With Honey
This is a popular dish throughout Andalusia and became a staple for us when eating out in Malaga and throughout the region. Berenjenas con miel is fried eggplant drizzled in honey or molasses. In Malaga, the eggplant is drizzled with miel de cana, or sugar cane honey. There is a long history of sugar cane production in Malaga, which is why the dish differs just enough to a unique Malaga dish.
Where to eat this Malaga cuisine: It’s easy to find this dish at most Malaga bars. We ate this plate of tapas at Mercado Atarazanas Malaga, the Malaga central market.
Also, check out our recipe for berenjenas con miel.
Flamenquines – Fried Pork Roll
The flamenquín is more of a specialty of Cordoba, which is north of Malaga. But it’s pretty darn tasty and can be found on the menus at many Malaga restaurants. A flamenquine includes a slice of pork loin, a slice of jamon, and a piece of cheese, which is rolled up and deep-fried. This is certainly not a light dish. More often it is served as a racion, rather than a tapa, and is made for sharing.
Platos de los Montes de Malaga
Anything that loosely translates to mountain plater or dish gets our attention. In this case, the Platos de los Montes de Malaga is a heaping pile of french fries, chorizo, black (blood) sausage, fried egg, and green peppers. Certainly not a dish for travelers on a diet, but when you are traveling, the diet should also take a holiday.
Porra Antequerana – Cold Tomato Soup
People know gazpacho as the cold tomato soup that is popular around Spain. Just a few hours north of Malaga in Seville, the cold tomato soup is salmorejo. In Malaga, the southern Andalusian version is Porra Antequerana. Porra is also made with tomato and dried bread to make it nice and thick.
Where to eat this Malaga cuisine: Similar to gambas pil pil, this is a common dish or at least a garnish on many dishes in Malaga. We ate this version along with jamon and local, seasonal artichokes at El Tapeo de Cervantes Málaga.
Albóndigas en Salsa de Almendras – Meatballs in Almond Sauce
Albondigas Almendras, or meatballs with almond sauce, are the most typical tapas in Malaga City. You can find them on almost every Malaga menu, either as a tapa or as a racion, which is a larger portion than a tapa. The meatballs are generally made with pork or beef, or a combination of meats.
Although meatballs are pretty common tapas throughout Spain, the sauce is what sets them apart in Malaga. The sauce includes almonds, which are typical to the region, along with garlic, bread to thicken the sauce, olive oil, and white wine. The flavor is very mild but tasty and creamy. The white wine gives it a little bit of a kick. It’s super-rich, so stick to the tapas size.
Where to eat these Malaga tapas: We ate these a few times, but the best ones we ate were at Bodequita El Gallo, just across from the Picasso Museum on Calle San Agustin.
Tortilla is another staple of Spanish cuisine and often is simply served as a potato and egg omelet. Some tapas bars add other ingredients, including onions or chorizo.
In Malaga, there is a specialty version of tortilla. Look for the tortilla sacramonte, which includes eggs, potatoes, and some of the less desirable cuts. This includes pigs or lambs’ brains. Not for the faint of heart.
Bacalao is a salted codfish that is popular across Spain. It is used in a variety of dishes, including salads, or is served on its own as a main course. There is a salty quality to the fish, but it is often tender and sweet as well.
Where to eat this Malaga seafood dish: Many travelers to Spain are familiar with bacalao because it features prominently on many Spanish menus. (It’s also common in Portugal). If looking for something a little different, try this version at La Cosmopolita, a contemporary tapas bar in Malaga. The buñuelos de bacalao are light and creamy and the perfect way to try bacalao in Malaga.
Croquetas are yet another typical Spanish dish to try in Malaga. A deep-fried ball is normally filled with potato or cheese along with various meats, jamon, or bacalao. Bodequita El Gallo, across from the Picasso Museum Malaga has an impressive selection of house-made croquetas.
Try the rabo de toro, or oxtail croquetas, which are super rich and creamy. More local varieties at El Gallo include cabrales con nueces (blue cheese with nuts) and queso con pasas y almendras (cheese with raisins and almonds).
Best Tapas in Malaga City Pro Tip:
Croquetas are on almost every tapas menu in Malaga and around Spain. They are eaten almost daily by the locals. At more touristy restaurants they can be frozen and reheated. Try searching for homemade or house-made croquetas to get the best. Look for “croquetas caseras” or “producto casero.” Casero means house-made.
There is no doubt you could find jamon of some sort at almost all Malaga tapas bars. It is served sliced, either by hand or with a machine, and served on its own. Jamon is also added to many other local and regional tapas dishes.
Try the Jamon Serrano, Jamon Iberico, or the most expensive and highly-priced Jamon Iberico Bellota, made from the best pigs, who are fed acorns. The acorns give the ham a unique flavor. In the photo above, the streaky ham on the right of the first cutting board is the Jamon Iberico.
If worried about cost, try ordering some at a local butcher or at the local market. For two people, 100 grams of jamon is a feast of ham. Try pairing it with the local dry sherry called fino.
Russian “Salad” – Ensaladilla Rusa
I’ve never really understood the fascination with “Russian salad” in Spain. Being American, I would refer to more traditional varieties of Ensaladilla Rusa as potato salad, with a mix of potatoes, mayo, and possibly carrots and peas, or ham.
Many traditional versions include tuna, which is common in Andalusia as nearby Cadiz is a big tuna fishing port. It is such a thing that there are competitions held annually for the best Ensaladilla Rusa in Malaga, in Andalusia, and even in Spain. The largest is sponsored by the big Spanish department store, El Corte Ingles. It’s easy to find Russian Salad on almost every Malaga tapas bar, often sitting in a refrigerated case on the bar.
This version was the best we had, though, at La Cosmopolita. Definitely a more contemporary interpretation, with creamy potato.
Malaga Almonds and Dates
This is the perfect example of the Morrish and Arab influence in Andalusia. Dates and almonds are quite common and locally grown. This version at the central market took a date and stuffed a salted almond inside. It was the perfect mix of salty and sweet.
Even if you can’t find these dates and almonds (or you decide not to assemble them on your own) you can easily find salted almonds to pair perfectly with a cold beer or a glass of vermouth.
Queso Cabra al Pedro Ximenez
Pedro Ximenez is probably one of the most well-known sherry varieties from Andalusia. It is what most people think of when they hear the word sherry. It’s a sweet, fortified wine made from the Pedro Ximenez grape. This is not to be confused with the more dry varieties of sherry, including fino and manzanilla, which are some of the driest wines on earth. The sweetness of the Pedro Ximenez goes perfectly with local goat cheese. If you love cheese, try this!
Also, check out our recipe for Solomillo Al Pedro Ximenez Recipe- Pork With Pedro Ximenez Sauce
I’ve saved the best for last, and this is only for the most adventurous of travelers. Zurrapa is essentially lomo (pork loin) or sausage covered in lard or fat. It is rich.
There are different varieties depending on the meat inside, how the meat is prepared, and what kind of lard is used. Some of the lard is tinted with sweet or smoky paprika, which gives it a glowing orange or red color. The meat and lard combination can be served as a sandwich or spread on bread as a very traditional Malaga tapa.
Other Tapas to Try in Malaga
There are a few other dishes, which we did not get a chance to eat. First, if artichokes are in season, try alcachofas confitadas, or confit artichokes. Artichokes are in season in the fall. The preparation involves slow-cooking artichokes in local olive oil, over low heat, for over an hour. They come out tender and juicy.
Sometimes they are prepared with rich foie gras or Jamon. Another dish typical in the summer is Ensalada Malagueña. This Malaga-style potato salad also includes salted cod, local olives, and sweet oranges. That’s why it’s a typical summer dish.
Eating at The Tapas Bars in Malaga Old Town
One thing I recommend for all food travelers is to avoid eating at the restaurants that surround the main square or big touristy area of the city. This was one of the most surprising things about eating in Seville. We ate extremely well even at tapas bars that were within steps of the Cathedral. Unfortunately, we did not find this experience in Malaga.
The main shopping strip in Malaga, coming up from the port, is Calle Larios Malaga. The street ends at Plaza de Constitucion. From the plaza, there are a handful of streets that branch out to the north and east, with loads of Malaga bars and restaurants. Some of these are Spanish and Malaga tapas bars and others are Italian or international. There are also LOADS of Irish pubs.
There are some good, local options in this area, but, at least to me, these are not the best restaurant options. My number one rule is to not eat at a restaurant where a server or host is outside with a menu trying to find people to eat there. There was a lot of this in Malaga.
FAQs – How To Find The Best Food In Malaga Spain
There is really only one city that still offers free tapas with each drink purchase and that is Granada. Granada is located just north of Malaga. Sometimes a drink will come with some free olives or potato chips, but generally not a free hot tapa.
The great thing about eating at tapas bars and restaurants in Malaga is that tapas are generally not that expensive. At a traditional tapas bar, a tapa-sized plate will cost between €2-4. A larger portion, or a racion, might cost between €7-10 a plate. Some restaurants will offer an in-between option, called a 1/2 racion or media racion priced between €4-7. The sizes are clearly marked on most Malaga tapas menus. This means that the cost of eating out in Malaga can be pretty reasonable.
Not really. European Union regulations has meant that most food preparation and service has moved indoors. The only time you will see a lot of street food will be during a festival or similar event. That said, at most Malaga bars, it’s acceptable to eat and drink just outside the door. Many bars offer a little ledge or some high-top tables even if they don’t have official outdoor seating.
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How To Find The Best Tapas In Malaga Spain
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