How to do Meat Free Tapas In Marbella

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Vegetarians don't need to starve in Marbs

With more and more people choosing a meat-free existence, My Guide delves into the culinary minefield that is Vegetarian Tapas.  There are several superb Vegetarian Restaurants however, Vegetarian Tapas needs a little more local knowledge.

When most people think of Spain and the Mediterranean diet, they will have visions of Sardines merrily cooking on an open fire, and pigs, be they hanging from the ceiling of your favourite tapas bar or being skilfully sliced wafer-thin by the talented Paco, who dreams only of the finest Pata Negra Bellota sitting under the finely honed blade of his jamonero knife.

Although this is indeed true of all good tapas bars, the range of vegetarian alternatives is quite staggering, and indeed a quick glance into the tapero (refrigerated display cabinet) at your chosen tapas bar, will reveal as many vegetarian choices as meat, in fact sometimes more.

From its humble beginning as a lid with a few olives on to cover your drink, the Tapa has reached mighty heights in the culinary world, not just here in Spain, but globally, with some of the most famous of eateries constructing their own mini masterpieces. Now then, back to the brightly lit tapas bar.

For those of you unaccustomed to this form of dining, the rules are as such, there are no rules, you see what you like the look of and away you go, and if you are dining in a group, its a great way to order a pile of little plates and all share, if you don't like something just push it towards your neighbour!

The most famous of all the meat-free tapas is probably Ensaladilla Rusa or Russian Salad, which oddly enough was invented by a Belgian, Lucien Olivier, the chef of one of Moscow's most celebrated restaurant, the Hermitage in 1860. Consisting of diced potatoes, carrots, peas, egg and mayonnaise, this is the best tapa for a quick snack if you are in a hurry, but dear Vegetarian, some versions have tinned tuna added, so best ask at the counter! If this is the case then see if they have any Patatas Alioli, chunks of potato smothered in garlic mayonnaise, delicious but very garlicky, also on the potato theme you will find Patatas Brava, deep-fried potato wedges slathered in a spicy pink sauce...not the most healthy of tapas perhaps but a firm favourite if ordering a selection.

Staying with the potato theme but a dish that is often adapted with additional ingredients, the classic Tortilla Española or Spanish omelette is a super Vegetarian option.   This is generally cooked with potato, onion and eggs however you will often find Spinach, Red Peppers, Mushrooms or sometimes also asparagus. Don't confuse the Tortilla Española with the Tortilla Francesa though which is the version of an omelette that is more Internationally known and without the potato element. Our advice though is if you are going to try an egg dish, don't go with a Tortilla Francesa go with Huevos Revueltos which are scrambled eggs with different ingredients such as wild mushrooms, asparagus, spinach etc added.

A variety of marinated salads are also regularly found in quality tapas bars.  You do have to make sure that there hasn't been a bit of sneaky tuna added or some bite-size pieces of jamon serrano but often this is not the case. The following are regularly found and absolutely delicious if you are vegetarian or not! A Red Pepper and onion salad, Ensalada de pimientos which is a marinated cold red pepper salad...make sure you have plenty of fresh bread with this one as the sauce is delicious.  Also an avocado salad, Ensalada de Aguacates again with onions...the Spanish do love their onions, is a fresh and healthy dish that is found regularly in the tapas bars!

A pil-pil is a classic choice in a tapas bar but it doesn't mean it needs to involve seafood!  Many venues will offer a Mushroom pil-pil, loaded with garlic it has to be said but absolutely delicious!!

Croquetas are another firm favourite in most tapas bars and will be created in a variety of different flavours, some of the meat and fish variety but almost always you will find a vegetarian option too.  The customary vegetarian option is a Spinach Croqueta (Croquetas de Espinacas) or one with Wild mushrooms (Croquetas de Setas), both of which are delicious especially with a good dollop of Ali-Oli!

So, to recap these are some basic meat free options to look for on the menu:
  • Ensaladilla Rusa
  • Patatas Aioli
  • Patatas Bravas
  • Tortilla Española
  • Huevos Revueltos
  • Ensalada de pimientos
  • Ensalada de Aguacates
  • Croquetas de Espinacas
  • Croquetas de Setas
  • Pil-pil de champiñones

You will find that some Tapas bars are more adventurous than others and some of the more trendy Gastro Bars that have popped up in recent years will be more creative but if it's a touch of "Real Spain" that you want then the selection of dishes that we have highlighted are the beginnings of what you can feast on as a Veggie in Marbella!

Also feel free to browse other Vegetarian and Vegan restaurants here