Tapas vs Pintxos: The main differences



Both pintxos and tapas are designed to be quick bites. However, while tapas is traditionally served on a plate as a smaller variation of other Spanish dishes, pintxos are made using a small piece of bread topped with an array of different ingredients - ranging from cheese, ham, and other cured meats, to peppers and even fish.

Tapas and pintxos also differ in their history and etymology (although they’re both equally delicious!). Tapas, from central Spain, comes from the word tapar in Spanish meaning ‘to cover’. There are a few different theories about the origin of the term, but one suggests that tapas were originally served on small plates on top of wine glasses, to keep the drinks fresh.

Pintxos, meanwhile, is a creation rooted in the Basque region in the far north of Spain. (Both the Basque spelling, pintxo, and the Spanish, pincho, are common.) The name itself comes from the verb pinchar (to pierce), as these little bites come with a small skewer keeping the bread and toppings together. So all pintxos can be served as tapas, but not all tapas can be pintxos.

One final important difference is while tapas are often shared, pintxos are for individual consumption - something to keep in mind at the dinner table!

Iconic Tapas Recipes

It’s time to take a look at some of the best tapas recipes, or categories of recipe. Tapas marineras involve everything seafood-related, with prawns, lobster, and squid featured heavily.

Tapas con carne, embutido, y casquería are your meat-dominated tapas. Serrano ham, chorizo and other speciality meats make these tapas tantalising and filling!

Finally, tapas vegetarianas showcase vegetables, with iconic examples being patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy bravas sauce), though mushrooms, chickpeas, and even eggs are popular in this type of tapas.

Famous Pintxos Recipes

For pintxos, we have the classic gilda, made with a combination of olives, anchovy, and pickled green peppers.

Smoked salmon and cream cheese pintxos is also a Basque favourite - simply place your salmon and cheese on a baguette, and you’re set!

Finally, an old classic is the pintxo de tortilla, involving an egg-based tortilla placed on a piece of bread - delicious!


Have these mouth-watering dishes got you keen to do some cooking? Join a Tapas and Pintxos workshop, either Elementary or Intermediate +to make these classic dishes with your classmates - and practice your Spanish at the same time!

Not sure which course is right for your Spanish level? Test your Spanish level now!

Ready to start learning? Find a class and enrol now!

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Each month we'll send you Spanish language tips, practice exercises, useful links, special offers and fun upcoming events.

View past newsletters

Join our online community!

Become our friend on facebook or follow us on twitter. Connect with us and become part of our online spanish community.