Everything You Need To Know: How To Order Tapas In Malaga

From Basque pintxos to tasty seafood bites along the Costa del Sol to classic tortilla de patatas throughout the country, tapas are more than food—they’re a way of life.

In fact, referring to tapas by their common definition—small plates eaten in Spain—almost does them a disservice. The food is important, of course, but so is how you eat it. Going out for tapas in Malaga means participating in a full-on social experience as you make your way from bar to bar and share a meal with friends. Our guide to how to order tapas in Malaga will show you how to have the best experience possible as you enjoy the city’s best bites.

Not sure how to order tapas in Malaga? Our guide will walk you through the process.

1. No Freebies

You might have heard a lot of things about tapas. They’re small! They’re Spanish! They come free with your drink! Forget about that last one when in Malaga. While free tapas are the norm in places such as Granada, you’ll have to cough up a few euros per bite here on the Costa del Sol. Luckily, you can’t go wrong with any of the most popular tapas in Malaga, and none of the dishes are that expensive, so you can keep your tastebuds and your wallet happy.

Ajo blanco is one of the most traditional plant-based foods in our vegetarian guide to Malaga.
Not sure what to order? Ajo blanco always hits the spot.

2. One Size Doesn’t Fit All

When you glance at the menu, you might notice several different columns listing various prices for the same dish. That’s because each dish tends to come in various sizes, and knowing which size to order depends on how many people are in your group and how long you plan on spending at that particular bar.

Our suggestion: keep it to just one or two tapas at a time. This allows you to linger over your drink and conversation without feeling rushed, and the food won’t get cold as you chat and enjoy your meal.

Oh, and as for those confusing sizes, here’s a quick primer:

  • Tapa: The smallest size available, usually an individual serving (or, at most, something that could be shared among two people).
  • Media ración: A half portion. This is the next step up from the small but mighty tapa, and is ideal for sharing among three or four people.
  • Ración: A full portion. This full plate of food is great for sharing among a crowd.
Not sure how to order tapas in Spain? A quick tip: pay attention to the sizes!
When deciding which size of a dish to order, consider how many people will be sharing it.

3. Sharing Is Caring

This is possibly the most important part of our guide to how to order tapas in Malaga, particularly because it embodies the essence of going out to eat in Spain. Food is meant to be shared in good company and complemented by plenty of conversation. It’s a true community experience that goes far beyond whatever’s on your plate. Instead of having everyone order their own individual dish, embrace the Spanish style and order several plates for everyone to enjoy.

Insider’s Tip: This doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to enjoy tapas if you’re traveling solo! A handful of tapa-sized portions, or even a media ración, are perfect for a light individual meal.

Our guide to how to order tapas in Malaga will help you understand the importance of sharing food in good company.
Tapas taste even better when shared with good friends.

4. Sip N’ Snack

Here in Malaga, the drink you order is almost as important as the food itself. From sweet Malaga wine to delicious tinto de verano (more on that in the video below—our hearts are breaking at the thought of fellow foodies mistakenly ordering overpriced touristy sangria!) to refreshing ice-cold beer, be sure to choose wisely when it comes to your drink.

Insider’s Tip: When dessert rolls around, you’ll likely want to indulge in a quick caffeine fix as well. But even if you think you know how to order coffee in Spain, forget everything you’ve already learned. Ordering coffee in Malaga is practically an art form thanks to the creative names we’ve come up with, so brush up on the local terms so you can tell your nube from your sombra.

5. Translating Tapas

You don’t think we’d send you off without some key phrases for ordering food in Malaga, do you? Just like with our coffee, we malagueños have come up with our own unique foodie lingo as well. Here’s how to decipher some of the foodie expressions from Malaga you might hear.

  • PitufoThis word literally means “smurf,” but there aren’t any whimsical blue characters involved here. Instead, it’s a sandwich made with a miniature loaf of bread, eaten for breakfast. Toppings vary widely, including olive and tomato, butter and jam, and ham.
  • ChacinaRefers to deli meats or cold cuts such as ham, salami or chorizo.
  • MoragaBeach barbecue. Since the 19th century, people have been fishing in shallow water and cooking their catches right on the beach.
  • ChiringuitoAny restaurant located right on the beach. Typically serves fish.
  • Espeto A skewer. Chringuitos are famous for sardines skewered and roasted over a pit of coals.
When figuring out how to order tapas in Malaga, you'll have to know how to decode some of the city's unusual foodie terms. When in doubt, just go with espetos (trust us).
Nothing tastes better than freshly grilled espetos in summer.

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