Weekend Entertaining: Spanish Tapas Feast

Cook, Dinner Parties, Entertain, Menu Ideas, Regional Spotlight

The Spanish know how to do party food. Small portions of bold, colorful dishes create an easygoing, communal feeling when passed around a table of friends.


Don’t fuss over place settings and plated dishes for this dinner party. Instead, have dishes that can be served at room temperature ready to go, and serve each hot dish just when it’s ready to eat. As new flavors come to the table in rounds, the gathering has a way of extending happily into the night.


Choose paella, the endlessly customizable one-pot Spanish dish, to anchor your menu. Feel free to substitute chicken or any seafood you like for the proteins in the recipe below. Then, scroll down for a list of festive tapas to mix and match, exciting guests’ palates again and again.




Serve this colorful Spanish dish family style for a casual get-together, either spooned onto a platter or directly from the pan. If the mussels at your fish market look good, use them in place of or in addition to the clams, being careful to remove their beards before they go into the pan.


2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb. Spanish dry-cured chorizo, cut into slices 1/2 inch thick

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 cups long-grain white rice such as basmati

1/2 tsp. saffron threads (optional)

4 cups chicken broth

1 to 2 lb. small clams such as little neck or Manilla, scrubbed

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup frozen baby peas

Lemon wedges for serving


In a large fry pan or paella pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the chorizo and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rice, crumble in the saffron (if using), and cook, stirring, until the grains are well coated, about 2 minutes. Pour the broth into the pan and stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the rice has absorbed nearly all of the liquid, about 20 minutes.


Press the clams, hinge side down, into the rice, discarding any that do not close to the touch. Spread the shrimp over the rice and top with the peas. Cover and cook until the shrimp are opaque and the clams have opened, about 5 minutes more. Discard any unopened clams and serve immediately. Pass the lemon wedges at the table. Serves 4 to 6.




Gazpacho with Serrano Chilies

Sizzling Shrimp with Garlic

Watermelon, Manchego & Serrano Ham Skewers

Peppers Stuffed with Salt Cod

Spanish Peperonata with Olives & Capers

Spanish Tortilla with Chorizo

Croquetas de Jamon


Party Tips


  • Serve crowd-pleasing cava and a deep berry-flavored, toasty Rioja along with the meal. If you’re inspired, mix up a pitcher of sangria, too, and float citrus slices inside.
  • Place a stack of salad plates and a tray of glasses on the table, along with napkins and a caddy to hold silverware.
  • Chose plates and platters in a variety of shapes and sizes when bringing dishes to the table, so the food looks diverse and abundant.
  • Cocktail picks are perfect for sharing bite-size portions.
  • Use gratin dishes and other oven-safe cookware to serve dishes in the same vessel you cooked them in, maintaining a casual feel.
  • Finish the meal with something sweet and authentic, such as Spanish flan. Bonus: the dessert can be made entirely ahead of time.


19 comments about “Weekend Entertaining: Spanish Tapas Feast

  1. Weekend Entertaining: Spanish Tapas Feast « onedadskitchen

  2. Connie Griffin

    All the preserving equipment you carry helps turn an economic necessity into an art form!

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  6. Heather

    My only issue is that our market did not have cured chorizo. I was hoping to substitute linguica but when they didn’t have that, and my reluctance to go to another market, I substituted with a dry hard salami. Good but I don’t think the flavor profiles matched. If I had the chorizo with the smoked paprika flavor this would have been superb. I will definitely make this again.

  7. Giana

    Do I cook the rice before I put it in the pan with the chicken stock? Or is the boiling chicken stock what cooks the rice? Making this tonight. Thanks!

  8. Rara

    Add the rice, crumble in the saffron (if using), and cook, stirring, until the grains are well coated, about 2 minutes. Pour the broth into the pan and stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the rice has absorbed nearly all of the liquid, about 20 minutes.

  9. Edna Gómez

    Hi, well I’m a spanish girl, and I can tell this is not paella at all, we don’t ever use chorizo or basmati rice, not at all. If you want a typical spanish recipe search for a good one or tell me and I will give it to you.

    1. maria

      would love an authentic paella recipe. will you please direct me in the right direction? I lived in Spanish in college for a year and was one of my favorite dishes. I want to make it authentically for my hubby and kids. Mil gracias.

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  11. Sarah

    I’m sorry but why on earth are you recommending Basmati rice? Rice from Pakistan/India? Why not recommended Paella rice? Rice specifically for Paella. And if that’s not available, maybe try Risotto rice? Which are both short, starchy rices If you tried any long grain rice of any variation you’d be laughed out of Europe, let alone Spain. It is obvious from this that you’ve never tasted paella, let along been to Spain to enjoy an authentic one. Try again.

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