People always ask me: what do vegetarians eat in Spain?
It's a valid question. Tapas menus are often full of pork and seafood dishes, but vegetarians traveling in Spain need not worry. There are plenty of great vegetarian tapas recipes out there (and even some delicious vegan options!) if you know what to look for.
Trying to decipher a tapas menu—especially if you don't speak Spanish—can be tricky enough. While adding in the extra layer of seeking out vegetarian food may seemingly make it more challenging, that's not necessarily the case.
Many of Spain's best traditional tapas are veggie-friendly, or can easily be adapted as such. After all, this is a land teeming with fresh, colorful produce, hearty legumes, and so much more.
Keep an eye out for these vegetarian tapas the next time you're in Spain—or check out the recipes to make them yourself at home in the meantime!
Vegetarian Tapas 101
Vegetarianism in Spain—and to a lesser extent, veganism—has been on the rise over the past few decades. In 2017, 7.8 percent of adult Spaniards identified as either "flexitarian" (eating a diet low in meat), vegetarian, or vegan. Of those, most are millennials living in larger towns and cities where vegan and vegetarian shops and restaurants are becoming more common.
Despite this, it's worth noting that some bar and restaurant owners in Spain have a loose definition of vegetarianism. It's not uncommon to see sandwiches described as vegetal (which can be understood as relating to vegetables) that sneak tuna or ham in among the veggies. Some older Spaniards may wonder why you don't eat jamón, though this often comes from a place of curiosity more than anything else.
Thankfully, as times change, it's getting easier to find vegan- and vegetarian-friendly eateries in Spain. And of course, many of the traditional dishes Spaniards know and love are meat-free or even entirely plant-based (vegano).
The following vegetarian tapas are all naturally meat-free. Many are also vegan or easily able to be prepared as such, which is indicated alongside each dish.
Top 25 Vegetarian Tapas Recipes
These are the most common Spanish vegetable dishes you'll find in Spain, available on tapas menus throughout the country. All are equally important and delicious as any meat-based dish you'll find!
1. Zanahorias Aliñadas (Marinated Carrots) —Vegan
This has to be one of my favorite vegetarian tapas in all of Spain.
The trick is to parboil the carrots so that they are just tender, but not at all mushy. Then it's just a high-quality extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, garlic, cumin, and other herbs and spices. A day or two in the fridge only adds to their flavor.
2. Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish Potato Omelet)
This potato omelet is one of the most popular dishes in Spain, and it also happens to be vegetarian!
With olive oil, eggs, potatoes, and onions (an often debated addition), this is a Spanish food that all Spaniards unquestionably know how to make and love to eat. Whether for lunch or dinner, served hot or cold, between bread or with ketchup and mayonnaise—a slice of tortilla is always a safe choice no matter how you enjoy it!
3. Calamares del Campo (Country Style Fried Vegetables) — Vegan
Don't get scared by the word calamares in the title. This veggie dish gets its name from onions and peppers that are cut into circles (like calamari rings) and then deep-fried.
4. Espárragos con Huevos (Asparagus with Eggs)
This popular Spanish dish is a winning combination of local asparagus and eggs prepared a variety of ways. I personally like it with a poached egg, but it can also be made with a baked egg or even shredded hard-boiled eggs (pictured).
5. Gazpacho (Cold Tomato and Vegetable Soup) — Vegan
Gazpacho is originally from Andalusia, although Spaniards throughout the country enjoy it year-round. (In fact, ask anyone and they'll tell you it's the BEST hangover cure on the market!)
Whether eaten in a bowl as a cold soup or sipped from a glass like vegetable juice, gazpacho is one of the healthiest and most refreshing vegetarian tapas.
Make it: Authentic Gazpacho Recipe
6. Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and Chickpeas) — Vegan
This wonderful combination is one of my favorite vegetarian tapas recipes. I don't make it nearly enough, but it is incredibly easy and super healthy. My secret: adding tomato and almonds so that it gets a truly special flavor.
Make it: Spinach and Chickpeas Recipe
7. Croquetas (Croquettes)
A croquette is hard to define but undeniably good. It's basically a small mish-mash of food fried together in some sort of ball.
Spain is famous for its ham croquettes, which are a wonderfully creamy mix of béchamel sauce and cured ham... but obviously not quite vegetarian! In any case, you can usually find vegetarian croquettes in most restaurants.
Among my meatless favorites:
- Wild mushroom croquettes (croquetas de setas)
- Made with a strong blue cheese (croquetas de cabrales)
- Roquefort cheese and walnut (croquetas de Roquefort y nuez)
- Spinach and pine nuts (croquetas de espinacas y pinones)
Make it: Potato Croquettes Recipe
8. Berenjenas Fritas (Fried Eggplant) — Vegan
Just writing about this dish makes me hungry! It starts with an eggplant, cut super thin and fried until perfectly crispy. Then, it's usually covered in a drizzle of local cane honey (similar to molasses and vegan, unlike regular honey) or served on top of salmorejo, a thick tomato soup.
Make it: Fried Eggplants with Cane Honey
9. Pisto con Huevo (Ratatouille with Fried Egg) — Vegan-Adaptable
Pisto is basically slow-cooked vegetables (onion, pepper, eggplant, and tomato) that break down into a sort of chunky sauce. Spaniards usually fry an egg to their liking and plop it on top.
Visually stunning? No! But delicious, healthy, and vegetarian? Of course!
Vegan adaptation: This dish can easily be adapted for vegans by omitting the egg (order it sin huevo, por favor).
Make it: Traditional Spanish Pisto Recipe
10. Ajo blanco (Chilled Almond Soup) — Vegan
Ajo blanco is another cold soup originating in Andalusia. (Go there in the summer and you'll realize why they have so many cold soups!)
It is a creamy and delicious blend of almonds, bread, olive oil, garlic, salt, and water, usually served with grapes or melon cubes on top.
Make it: Ajo Blanco Recipe
11. Tombet (Mallorcan Ratatouille) — Vegan-Adaptable
If you're a fan of pisto, you'll love tombet (also spelled tumbet). This Mallorcan take on the Spanish classic involves thinly sliced eggplant, red peppers, and potatoes, stacked and roasted to perfection. Top it with a garlicky tomato sauce and you have a veggie delight!
Vegan adaptation: Double-check that the tombet you ordered doesn't come with a topping of eggs or cheese and order sin huevo and/or sin queso in order to make it vegan.
Make it: Mallorcan Tumbet Recipe
12. Salmorejo (Andalusian Chilled Tomato Soup) — Vegan-Adaptable
Something that surprises a lot of visitors to Spain is that gazpacho is usually drunk from a glass, not eaten from a bowl. If the idea of drinking cold tomato soup sounds too weird for you, go for salmorejo!
This Andalusian classic is a summer staple, given that it doesn't need any cook time at all. Just blend together fresh tomatoes with garlic, olive oil, vinegar (optional), and day-old bread for a refreshing vegetarian tapas dish.
It's worth keeping in mind that salmorejo is traditionally garnished with bits of diced hardboiled egg and cured ham. However, you can eliminate either of the above by asking for it sin jamón and sin huevo.
Make it: Antonia's Salmorejo Recipe
13. Setas a la Plancha (Grilled Mushrooms) — Vegan
This is without a doubt my favorite vegetarian tapas recipe. Gigantic wild mushrooms are tossed onto a hot grill and served sizzling in garlicky olive oil and parsley. It's the perfect accompaniment to a glass of bold Rioja red wine!
Make it: Try these champiñones al ajillo for a similar garlic mushroom dish
14. Patatas Bravas (Potatoes in "Bravas" Sauce) — Vegan-Adaptable
Patatas bravas is a dish you'll see on every tapas menu in Spain! Unfortunately, most of the time it's not done well. All too often you get served soggy potatoes with bad ketchup and mayo.
That's not patatas bravas.
When done well, patatas bravas are crispy, with a bravas sauce full of spice and umami and fresh garlic alioli. Make sure to research where the good ones are before you order them!
Vegan adaptation: Order your bravas without the garlic mayonnaise (many bars already serve them this way) by specifying "sin alioli, por favor."
Make it: Best Patatas Bravas Recipe
15. Tomates Aliñados (Fresh Tomato Salad) — Vegan
It might sound simple, but this dish is hard to beat. During the warmer months, bars throughout Spain serve this classic dish of sliced fresh tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and oregano. Eat it and enjoy!
16. Pimientos de Padrón (Padrón Peppers) — Vegan
In the north of Spain, a humble pepper reigns supreme.
Pimientos de Padrón are small, bittersweet green peppers. But be careful! One in a hundred is super spicy, making every dish a game of Russian roulette.
The peppers are deep-fried in olive oil and served hot and whole with big flakes of rock salt. Try them and you'll see why it's one of the best vegetarian tapas recipes around!
Make it: Best Padrón Peppers Recipe
17. Paella de Verduras (Vegetable Paella) — Vegan
Thinking you couldn't try the most Spanish dish of all? Think again!
While traditional paella uses rabbit and chicken (not seafood!), vegetarians go for a paella de verduras. You'll find it cooked with peppers, onions, artichokes, beans, and anything else in season.
Make it: Easy Spanish Vegetable Paella Recipe
18. Calçots con Salsa Romesco (Spring Onions with Romesco Sauce) — Vegan
Visit Catalonia in winter and you'll see locals gobbling up (very early) spring onions like they were...well, like they were anything other than onions!
Calçots are a type of local onion grown specially to be extra sweet and fleshy, perfect for a barbecue. Enjoy them whole alongside plenty of nutty romesco sauce. You can use any sweet onion if you're not in Catalonia!
19. Mel i mató (Cheese and Honey)
On the subject of Catalan vegetarian dishes, you can't go wrong with mel i mató. Fresh, unsalted cheese (normally cow or sheep milk) is drizzled with local honey and... that's it! This is one of the earliest recorded recipes in Spanish cooking, first appearing in a cookbook in the 15th century.
20. Fruta Fresca (Fresh Fruit) — Vegan
Okay, so this isn't only Spanish and you're probably asking yourself why I would include it. Well, here in Spain many restaurants have fresh fruit on their printed menu as a dessert option. Depending on the season I've seen mandarin oranges, watermelon, green melon, peach slices, strawberries and cream, and grapes.
You might think you'd prefer a slice of cake until you try the fruit! I'm always shocked at how delicious seasonal fruit is here. It (almost) deserves to be called a dessert!
21. Lentil Salad — Vegan
Lentil soup with chorizo is a staple of the Spanish diet, but refreshing (and plant-based!) lentil salad has quickly become one of the most popular vegetarian recipes in Spain. Fresh, bright vegetables, perfectly cooked lentils, and a zesty dressing bursting with Spanish flavors make this an easy and healthy option everyone will love.
Make it: Lentil Salad Recipe
22. Winter Salad with Orange & Pomegranate — Vegan-Adaptable
Based on a traditional red cabbage salad served in Madrid around the holidays, this winter salad is always a winner. It uses easy-to-find seasonal products and an orange vinaigrette to tie it all together.
Vegan adaptation: Simply omit the Manchego cheese and replace with your favorite vegan cheese if you like!
Make it: Winter Salad Recipe
23. Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts & Raisins — Vegan
This tasty vegetarian tapas recipe from Catalonia is proof that when done right, spinach can be one of the most incredible things you'll ever eat. Local products like golden raisins and toasted pine nuts really take this dish to the next level.
24. Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Pintxos
In this case, we've got a vegetarian pintxos recipe rather than a vegetarian tapas recipe! This tasty bite comes from the Basque Country and is as simple as it sounds: just crusty bread topped with soft goat cheese and sweet caramelized onions.
25. Patatas Alioli (Potatoes with Garlic Mayonnaise)
Last but not least is one of the absolute best vegetarian tapas recipes to enjoy on a sweltering summer day. You could think of patatas alioli as a sort of Spanish potato salad: perfectly boiled potatoes smothered in a garlicky alioli mayo and garnished with fresh parsley. So easy—yet so delicious!
Make it: Patatas Alioli Recipe
Helpful Vegetarian Vocabulary
Use these handy words and phrases to help you order vegetarian and vegan dishes in Spain and explain your dietary needs.
- Soy vegano/a: I am vegan.
- Soy vegetariano/a: I am vegetarian.
- No como ni carne, ni pescado, ni huevos, ni productos lacteos. I don’t eat meat, fish, eggs or dairy products.
- No puedo comer… I can’t eat…
- Carne: Meat
- Cerdo: Pork
- Jamón: Ham
- Pollo: Chicken
- Pescado: Fish
- Atún: Tuna
- Mariscos: Seafood
- Leche: Milk
- Queso: Cheese
- Mantequilla: Butter
- Nata: Cream
- Huevo: Egg
- Miel: Honey
Vegetarian City Guides
Use these guides to eat like a local throughout Spain—no meat necessary!
- Vegetarian Guide to Madrid
- Top 10 Vegetarian Tapas in Madrid
- Complete Vegan & Vegetarian Guide to Barcelona
- 10 Delicious Vegetarian Tapas in Seville
- Vegetarian Guide to San Sebastian
- Where to Eat Vegetarian Tapas in Valencia
- The Complete Vegetarian Guide to Malaga
- 5 Vegetarian Restaurants in Santiago de Compostela
Vegetarian Tapas FAQs
Tapas in Spain can vary widely depending on where you are. Some common favorites include fried croquettes, cold soups like gazpacho and salmorejo, garlic shrimp, or simply a plate of cured meats and cheeses.
Spain is starting to take vegetarianism more and more seriously. Many traditional dishes are already vegetarian or even vegan, and most bars and restaurants are able to adapt dishes to be veggie-friendly if asked.
Larger Spanish cities like Madrid and Barcelona will have more specifically vegan and vegetarian restaurants and shops than smaller towns. However, you can find good traditional vegetarian Spanish food at most bars and restaurants around the country if you know what to look for.
In recent years, Spain has become one of the most vegetarian countries in the world. Approximately 3.8 million Spaniards follow a vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diet.
Most vegetarians in Spain follow an ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet, but veganism is on the rise. Many traditional Spanish dishes, like gazpacho and spinach and chickpea stew, are vegan; others, like pisto, can easily be made vegan by omitting animal products such as egg. As long as you communicate your needs, many bar and restaurant employees will be happy to ensure you get plant-based food.
Update Notice: This post was originally published on January 9, 2012 and was republished with new text and photos on March 21, 2021.
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