One of the great aspects of traveling to Spain is spending time in a restaurant simply sampling the local cuisine.
There is a heavy focus on potatoes yet so many different ways of cooking that one vegetable that you may be tempted to go past the Patatas Bravas.
Then there are the stews, soups, and salads. With so much choice, you may want to stock up on some extra virgin olive oil to create a vast array of dishes.
In this guide, we will detail 21 tasty Spanish side dishes with a bonus section that is dedicated to dips.
As one of the most popular and renowned tapas dishes, you should be tempted to create Patatas Bravas.
Turn a few medium-sized potatoes, ideally Yukon Gold, into one-inch cubes and drizzle over olive oil and salt to toss them until coated then arrange on a lined baking sheet.
Bake the potatoes until golden brown and create the spicy Bravas sauce from mayonnaise, paprika, hot sauce, salt, and garlic powder then add water until viscous. Once the potatoes are done, pour over the sauce and serve.
Another way of serving Spanish potatoes is this smokey and slightly citrusy recipe. Mix together tomato paste, oil, thyme, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper in a bowl then dip in potato chunks.
Mix until well coated then bake until crispy and squeeze over some lemon juice.
Spanish Poor Man’s Potatoes are yet another tasty way of cooking potatoes. In this recipe, the potatoes are peeled and then finely sliced, the onion is transformed into julienne slices while the red and green peppers are cut into thin strips.
The vegetables are then slowly cooked in olive oil with minced garlic until crispy and browned then drained of excess oil and seasoned.
The Spanish have so many different ways of serving potatoes, here’s another one. Quarter the Yukon Gold potatoes then cut those quarters into six pieces.
Toss the pieces in extra virgin olive oil, sweet paprika, garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper then bake in a single layer. When crispy, sprinkle on some fresh parsley and toss until coated.
Papas Arrugadas translates to wrinkled potatoes which is pretty self-explanatory. The side dish is found in the Canary Islands and simply involves boiling potatoes in heavily salted water and then dry frying them in the same pot.
The potatoes come out seasoned with a salt frosting that you can serve with a sauce (Mojo Rojo or Mojo Verde work really well).
Yes, the name translates to Russian Potato Salad yet this is certainly a side dish in Spain. Boil up chopped potatoes, carrots, and beans until tender, and then drain to cool.
Add chopped onion and hard-boiled eggs into a mixing bowl then combine with the vegetables, canned tuna, white vinegar, salt, mayonnaise, sour cream, and olives. Right before serving, sprinkle over some chopped parsley as a garnish.
Of course, the Spanish have their own potato salad which has a lot more color. That comes from roasted red peppers and chorizo.
The dressing also comes packed with flavor from sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, and olive oil, as well as sweet and hot Spanish smoked paprika, and seasoning. Drizzle the dressing over the mixture and sprinkle with parsley.
Also known simply as Catalan roasted vegetables, Escalivada Catalana is another tasty vegetarian dish. Rub bell peppers, eggplants, and small onions with olive oil and then roast until the flesh is tender and the skin has blistered.
You can rotate the vegetables to get an even blackening yet ensure you place them in a Ziploc bag to steam and easily remove the skins and stems, as well as the seeds.
Cut the flesh into strips and toss in a dressing from extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and seasoning then refrigerate for an hour before serving.
Pisto is a Spanish vegetable stew that is rich in taste and color. Sprinkle cubed eggplant with salt to remove some bitterness and moisture then, meanwhile, fry onions, diced peppers, and chili until softened.
Add garlic, salt, sugar, and tomatoes then cook while covered while you rinse the eggplant and pat dry.
Fry the eggplant separately until slightly brown, remove, and fry the diced zucchini then add both ingredients to the main pan. Cook it all together under a cover then garnish with fresh herbs of your choice.
10. Mallorcan Tumbet
Tumbet may sound simple but some of the best side dishes are effortless. The dish is close to a French ratatouille in that vegetables are fried in olive oil and then baked in the oven.
You can use a range of fresh vegetables but stick to thinly sliced potatoes, onion, zucchini, red pepper, green pepper, and eggplant. Heat up some extra virgin olive oil in a skillet, fry the garlic cloves then remove.
Fry the vegetable slices, one vegetable at a time, then sprinkle over salt while they sit to dry on paper towels. End with the eggplant which is dredged in flour then fried to get a brown crust.
Layer up the vegetables in a pan, starting with tomato sauce then eggplant, followed by zucchini, onion, peppers, and ending with potato. Top with sauce and the cooked garlic cloves, then bake.
11. Padron Peppers
You should encounter Pimientos de Padron on many Spanish menus and you really should try them. The side dish is simply Padron peppers fried in hot oil, sprinkled with coarse salt, and served hot once the skins have blistered.
One side dish that you should be able to find all across Spain is Champinones al Ajillo, also known as Spanish Garlic Mushrooms. Clean and slice your mushrooms then fry in olive oil with finely diced onion and chili pepper.
Sauté until the mushrooms caramelize then add a drizzle of lemon juice at the end. Add some seasoning to taste and garnish with chopped parsley.
This is essentially a Spanish vegetable soup that has a long list of ingredients for a complex, delicious side dish. Sauté onions in olive oil then add mushrooms and garlic before adding sherry to evaporate.
Add chicken broth and chopped tomatoes then bring it to a simmer and add your baby potatoes. Next comes the green beans and asparagus before a healthy seasoning of salt, pepper, chili flakes, and paprika.
You can leave the soup to simmer until the vegetables are tender yet firm and then add red bell pepper, artichoke hearts, Spanish olives, and white beans. Finally, add a dash of sherry vinegar and serve warm.
14. Spanish Rice
If you have it, you can use saffron in this Spanish rice recipe to give the dish a twist and an indulgent color. Fry the rice in extra virgin olive oil then add onion and garlic until softened.
In another pan, bring chicken broth, tomato paste, oregano, and salt to a simmer and then combine with the rice. Simmer, place on a lid, and then cook until the rice has absorbed the liquid, then fluffen up and serve.
Bean salad is a great, healthy side dish to accompany any main meal. In this recipe, the Spanish use dried Gigante beans, but you can also soak some giant Lima beans or butter beans overnight in salted water.
Drain the beans, cover them in water in a pot and add a shallot, bay leaf, thyme, garlic cloves, and seasoning. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the beans are tender.
Sauté the minced garlic and shallot in olive oil until golden then stir in smoked paprika and tomato paste.
Finally, add the celery, sherry, or red wine vinegar, more olive oil, and the beans. Stir until every component in the pan is coated then season and serve warm.
Instead of beans, you can create a delicious salad with cooked chickpeas. Add a couple of cups to finely chopped green bell pepper, tomatoes, red onion, black olives, parsley, and seasoning.
Pour on a dressing of extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, garlic, and more seasoning then leave it to chill in the refrigerator. So simple.
17. Pan Con Tomate
Bread with tomato may also sound really simple yet it is a classic recipe. Toast some baguette slices, rub on some garlic then a cut tomato and sprinkle on some salt with a drizzle of olive oil.
For the central-Spanish version, use grated tomato and garlic to mix and then spoon over the toasted bread.
18. Fried Calamari
Not all Spanish side dishes have to include vegetables or focus on potatoes. Fried calamari is a great example of simple and exquisite Spanish cooking. Coat the sliced calamari tubes in a mixture of milk and salt then refrigerate for half an hour.
In a bowl, whisk together cornstarch, flour, oregano, baking powder, black pepper, and Cayenne pepper to evenly coat the calamari. Deep fry the calamari in hot oil until golden brown then keep warm in the oven with a sprinkling of salt.
You may be surprised at how well broccoli and prawns go together. With Kalamata olives, dill pickle, red and yellow bell peppers, there is a lot going on.
The vinaigrette also includes Dijon mustard, freshly squeezed lemon juice, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Combine it all together and you have a colorful, extravagant side dish.
Gazpacho is another tasty Spanish side dish that barely requires any effort. Blitz together tomato (canned and ripe), with celery, red pepper, red onion, zucchini, cucumber, garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro.
Once combined and chunky, add seasoning, cumin, and freshly squeezed lime juice to taste. Serve with fresh corn, diced avocado, and a dollop of sour cream.
21. Zucchini Soup
For a vegan side dish, try Crema de Calabacin which is from Andalusia. Fry up garlic and onion in olive oil then add cumin, and turmeric with salt.
Add the chopped potato and then zucchini with even more salt then bring to a boil under a lid. Simmer until cooked through then leave to cool then blitz to your desired consistency.
Bonus Section: Dips
If you desire something simple to go with bread then consider creating a dip to form an easy Spanish side dish. There are several to choose from yet White Bean Dip, Black Olive Tapenade, and Mojo Verde remain great choices.
You will need a specialist Spanish ingredient for this tasty dip which is a fair few Hojiblanca olives.
Place them in a food processor with white beans, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and water then blitz until smooth. Add a bit more water for your desired consistency then pour the dip into a bowl.
For a dip that goes really well when spread on toast, try a Black Olive Tapenade. You will need the suitable Mezzetta Greek Kalamata olives with an equal amount of Mezzetta Spanish Queen olives which are pimento stuffed.
Add a few sun-dried tomatoes, anchovy fillets, garlic, capers, fresh parsley and basil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and grated Parmesan cheese. Throw all that into a food processor, blitz it up and it should form a thick paste.
3. Mojo Verde
Some sauces are so versatile that you will want them atop almost every main and side dish you can find. One of them is Mojo Verde, or simply Spanish green sauce.
This has a herby tang that comes from a green chili, sherry vinegar, and a lot of cilantro. Simply blitz those ingredients with garlic, cumin, salt, avocado, and a final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Gently pour the mixture into a dish and get dipping.
Though the Spanish do main meals really well, eating out can typically mean having a variety of tapas to choose from.
That should mean sharing so if you are in a group consider having at least a couple of small plates each and ensure there is a dip and some bread for the table.
Popular dishes include Patatas Bravas and Fried Calamari though there are so many potato recipes that you may end up having several.
Frequently Asked Questions
Paella is known as Spain’s national dish and there are plenty of variations across the country. The side dishes that go with Paella do vary across regions yet you can expect a Caesar salad, Broccolini Salad, and quick French bread to be offered as side dishes.
If you are going to a Spanish tapas party, certain dishes transport well including Garlic Shrimp with Lemon and Parsley, Chorizo on its own, or on a skewer with Manchego cheese and olives.
Certain dips like a Black Olive Tapenade and White Bean Dip can be prepared in advance and stored in an airtight container to be transported.
However, you should consider the host of a Spanish tapas party as there are many dishes that should be prepared fresh. These include a Spanish Tortilla, Patatas Bravas, Fried Calamari, and Pan Con Tomate.