Recommended starters and tapas for paella

When preparing a hearty meal, it’s customary to serve an appetizer, tapa, or snack while the main dish is being cooked.

Paella is often served as a standalone dish, but if you’ve ever visited a Spanish restaurant or bar, you’ll know that there are appetizers to complement the paella.

In more personal and informal settings, such as family and friends gatherings, it’s common to serve something to drink and nibble on while chatting and laughing with the cook preparing the paella.

In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to some classic Spanish appetizers, sides, and snacks that you can serve to your guests while preparing your paella. Whether you’re hosting an elegant meal or a casual backyard gathering, these recommendations work perfectly as starters for both meat and seafood paella.

Valencian salad

The Valencian salad is a fresh and light option ideal to accompany any type of paella. Originally from the Valencia region, it is made up of simple and fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, lettuce, onion, and olives.

This salad is perfect for whetting your appetite without taking away from the main dish. Its simplicity and freshness make it the perfect accompaniment for an outdoor meal or an elegant dinner.

Steamed clochinas

Steamed clochinas are a classic Valencian starter that perfectly complements a paella, especially a seafood one. Clochinas, which are small, tasty mussels, are steamed with a touch of lemon and herbs, highlighting their natural flavor.

This dish is simple but delicious, and its light preparation does not overpower the main dish. Served hot, steamed clochinas are a great way to start a meal, adding a touch of the sea to the menu.

Shrimp Scampi

Garlic prawns are a classic and delicious tapa that is perfect to accompany paella. This dish consists of prawns sautéed in olive oil with garlic, chilli and parsley, which highlights their natural flavor and adds a spicy and aromatic touch. Garlic shrimp are quick to prepare and are always a hit with guests.

Its robust and succulent flavor wonderfully complements both seafood and meat paellas, making this dish a versatile and appetizing option for any occasion.

Roman-style squid

Roman-style calamari is a classic of Spanish cuisine that is often served as a tapa or starter. These battered and fried squid rings are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, offering a contrast of textures that makes them irresistible.

They are ideal to accompany any type of paella, especially seafood ones. Served with a little lemon to squeeze over the top, Roman-style calamari is a simple and delicious option that is sure to be a hit with your guests while they wait for the main course.

Grilled cuttlefish

Grilled cuttlefish is another classic of Spanish cuisine that serves as an excellent starter to accompany paella. This dish consists of fresh cuttlefish pieces grilled with a touch of olive oil, garlic and parsley, which highlights its mild and natural flavor.

Grilled cuttlefish is light but full of flavor, and its tender texture makes it an ideal accompaniment to both seafood and meat paellas. This dish is perfect to start the meal with a touch of the sea, delighting your guests while the main paella is prepared.

Valencian Esgarraet

The Valencian esgarraet is a traditional tapa from the Valencian Community that wonderfully complements any paella. This dish is made with strips of roasted red pepper and crumbled cod, all seasoned with good olive oil and garlic. Its flavor is a delicious combination of the sweetness of the pepper and the salty touch of the cod, creating a perfect balance.

Esgarraet is fresh and light, which makes it an excellent option to whet your appetite without overloading the palate, preparing you to fully enjoy the main course.

Squid tips

Squid tips are a delicious and crunchy tapa that is often served as an appetizer before paella. These small pieces of squid, also known as chopitos, are lightly battered and fried to a perfect golden brown. Their crunchy texture on the outside and tender inside, along with their delicate flavor, make them irresistible.

Squid tips are perfect to accompany both seafood and meat paellas, and are best served with a touch of lemon to enhance their flavor. This tapa is a simple but delicious option that your guests will love while they wait for the main course.

Cod meatballs

Cod meatballs are a tasty and traditional tapa that combines perfectly with paella. These meatballs are prepared with crumbled cod, mixed with garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs, and then fried until golden and crispy on the outside, but tender and juicy on the inside.

Cod meatballs provide a delicate marine flavor that complements seafood paellas especially well, although they can also be an excellent option to accompany meat paellas. Served hot and accompanied by a light sauce, they are a delicious and comforting option to start the meal.

Spicy potatoes

Potatoes bravas are a classic of Spanish cuisine that cannot be missing from a good selection of tapas to accompany a paella. These delicious potatoes are cut into cubes, fried until golden and crispy on the outside, and served with a spicy brava sauce and a mild aioli sauce.

The combination of flavors and textures, with the contrast between the spiciness of the brava sauce and the softness of the aioli, makes the patatas bravas irresistible. They are perfect for whetting your appetite before the main paella and are a guaranteed hit with diners.

Potato omelette skewers

Potato tortilla skewers are a creative and delicious option to accompany paella. These skewers are prepared with pieces of traditional potato omelette, interspersed with roasted peppers, onion and cherry tomato. The contrast between the softness of the tortilla and the freshness of the vegetables creates a combination of flavors and textures that is irresistible.

Served as a starter or accompaniment, potato omelette skewers add an original and tasty touch to any meal. They are easy to eat and perfect to share with friends and family while enjoying homemade paella.

Pickled anchovies

Pickled anchovies are an exquisite and flavorful option to accompany paella. These anchovies are marinated in a mixture of vinegar, olive oil, garlic and spices, which gives them a unique and delicious flavor. The pickle enhances the natural flavor of the anchovies and gives them an acidic and aromatic touch that makes them irresistible.

Served cold as an appetizer, pickled anchovies are an elegant and tasty option that perfectly complements homemade paella. Their intense flavor and soft texture make them a delicious snack that all diners are sure to love.

Octopus at the fair or Galician-style octopus

Octopus at the fair, also known as Galician-style octopus, is a traditional dish of Galician cuisine that can be an excellent option to accompany paella. This dish consists of octopus tenderly cooked and then cut into thick slices, which are served on a base of boiled potatoes and seasoned with olive oil, coarse salt, sweet paprika and sometimes a touch of hot paprika.

Octopus at the fair is a tasty and comforting dish, with a combination of flavors that will delight any lover of good food. It is an ideal option for an informal meal or a special celebration, and its colorful and attractive presentation makes it a perfect dish to share with friends and family while enjoying homemade paella.

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