We already spent a good amount of time traveling in Andalusia before arriving Malaga. I figured by that point we would have seen all of the typical Spanish tapas available in Andalusia. Boy, was I wrong. We ate some very typical Spanish tapas, but also tracked down some very typical Andalusian tapas while eating out in Malaga. In this post, we share our recommendations for the best tapas in Malaga Spain, those dishes you must track down during a visit to Malaga.
A Spanish Tapas Malaga Guide
Check out our Malaga Food Guide – Our top recommendations on Where to Eat in Malaga
I have one goal with all of our Andalusia travel guides. It’s to inform travelers to the region that there is more to Spanish cuisine than sangria, paella, and churros. Spanish food is regional. What you eat in Catalonia is different than what you eat in San Sebastian. All of that great food differs from the regional cuisine in Andalusia.
For any Malaga trips that are food focused, we want to share recommendations so that when you walk into Malaga restaurants and tapas bars you feel confident that you are ordering what you should be ordering. Most important, we want you to try some of the unique tapas in Malaga, those that can’t be found elsewhere!
Eating at The Bars in Malaga Old Town
One thing I recommend for all food travelers is to avoid eating at the restaurants that surround the main square or big touristy area of the city. This was one of the most surprising things about eating in Seville. We ate extremely well even at tapas bars that were within steps of the Cathedral. Unfortunately, we did not find this experience in Malaga.
The main shopping strip in Malaga, coming up from the port, is Calle Larios Malaga. The street ends at Plaza de Constitucion. From the plaza, there are a handful of streets that branch out to the north and east, with loads of Malaga bars and restaurants. Some of these are Spanish and Malaga tapas bars and others are Italian or international. There are also LOADS of Irish pubs. There are some good, local options in this area, but, at least to me, these are not the best restaurant options. My number one rule is to not eat at a restaurant where a server or host is outside with a menu trying to find people to eat there. There was a lot of this in Malaga.
In this tapas guide, I recommend specific restaurants to try most of the Malaga tapas we recommend below. Otherwise, check out our full Malaga Food Guide for recommendations on which restaurants you should try in Malaga Old Town.
Malaga Hotel Recommendations
We stayed at the Petit Palace Plaza Malaga during our stay in Malaga. It is part of a small collection of hotels in Spain called Petit Palace. It was contemporary and comfortable and had one of the best buffet breakfasts of any hotel during our trip through Andalucia. It’s steps from the center of Malaga and our room offered the most amazing views of the Cathedral. I would definitely recommend them. Check the best rates for Petite Palace here.
Another option, closer to the beach, is the Gran Hotel Miramar Malaga, one of the top Malaga luxury hotels with views of the water. This area of Malaga is a little too quiet for me during the winter months, but it is still only about 10-15 minutes away from the center of town. Check the best rates for Gran Hotel Miramar Malaga.
Get more recommendations for the best hotels in Malaga Spain with Tripadvisor Malaga Hotels or check out the best prices for Malaga Accommodations on Booking.com. For resorts near Malaga, check out these hotels along the Costa del Sol. Outside of the city center, along the beachfront, most of the accommodations focus on apartments. This is a great place to use Airbnb. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, get a discount on your first stay here.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
What Are The Best Tapas in Malaga Spain
In our list of the top Malaga dishes to try, we include mostly Malagan or Andalusian specialties. These are tapas or dishes that you can only find in the province of Malaga, or in nearby cities and towns within Andalusia, in the south of Spain. We also include some more “generic” Spanish tapas. These are dishes that can also be found on a list of tapas in Barcelona or other cities. I include these because if you are unfamiliar with Spanish food, then they are new to you! These tapas or dishes might include foods that are not all that local to Andalusia, but really do form the backbone of Spanish cuisine.
15 Must Eat Tapas in Malaga
In the end, we came up with a list of 15 dishes to look for on a Malaga tapas menu, which can be found at Spanish tapas bars and restaurants throughout the city. The good thing about eating out in Malaga is that tapas are small. That means that if you add each of these dishes on your list of what to eat in Malaga it’s totally doable, even if you only have a few days in the city. And, we will make a few recommendations for places to find these particular dishes so that you can track down some of the best food in Malaga.
1. Prawns or Gambas al Pil Pil
When eating out in Malaga it’s probably going to be hard not to find this dish on a tapas menu. Prawns or Gambas Pil Pil is almost like the “national” dish of Malaga. It’s one of the most common tapas in Malaga Spain, and all along the coast of Andalusia. A clay pot is heated with good Spanish olive oil, along with slices of garlic and chili, then the prawns are added and coated in the spicy oil sauce. You can find langoustine pil-pil too. These are a little different from the typical garlic prawns found elsewhere in Spain, and even at seafood restaurants in Portugal, because there is a heavy dose of chili. They are a little spicy, which is surprising for Spanish cuisine. I attribute this to the African influence in the region.
Where to eat these Malaga tapas: It’s pretty easy to find gambas pil pil in Malaga. The most creative version we tried was at Uvedoblee Malaga, where they took the pil pil prawns and put them inside a wrap, like a kebab. Uvedoble Tapas Malaga is located on Calle Cister in Malaga Centro.
2. Porra Antequerana
It seems that each region of Spain has a form or cold soup or tomato soup to make its own. In the north of Andalusia, it’s salmorejo. In Malaga province and the immediate surrounding area it is Porra Antequerana. Porra is also made with tomato and dried bread to make it nice and thick. It’s normally served in a tapa size rather than in a large soup bowl like other soups.
Where to eat this Malaga cuisine: Similar to gambas pil pil, this is a common dish or at least a garnish on many dishes in Malaga. We ate this version along with jamon and local, seasonal artichokes at El Tapeo de Cervantes Málaga. I love gazpacho and enjoyed salmorejo in Seville, but I prefer this version, which was more smooth and less grainy than the salmorejo we ate in Andalusia.
3. Meatballs in Almonds – Albóndigas en Salsa de Almendras
Albondigas Almendras, or meatballs with almond sauce, are the most typical tapas in Malaga City Spain. You can find them on almost every Malaga menu, either as a tapa or as a racion, which is a larger portion than a tapa. The meatballs are generally made with pork or beef, or a combination. The sauce includes almonds, which are typical to the region, along with garlic, bread, olive oil, and white wine. The flavor is very mild but tasty and creamy. The white wine gives it a little bit of a kick.
Where to eat these Malaga tapas: We ate these a few times, but the best ones we ate were at Bodequita El Gallo, just across from the Picasso Museum on Calle San Agustin. We were stuffed to the brim, but ate them anyway, and sopped up the sauce with bread.
Tapas Malaga Pro Eating Tip: Unless traveling in a group, always go for the tapas portion of the Albondigas Alemendras. A tapas size normally comes with two, rather large meatballs. Certainly large enough for two. They are dense and hearty. They fill you up! Just go small. Use the bread to sop up the extra sauce.
I have simply fallen in love with boquerones since moving to Spain. I simply cannot get enough of them. Boquerones are fresh anchovies, and entirely unlike anchovies found in the tin can in the US. These are fresh, often served in vinegar, perhaps with a little garlic and citrus. They are so tasty, and filled with loads of good fish oils! If you suffer from high cholesterol eat as many of these as possible! I do!
Where to eat these Malaga tapas: It’s not hard to find boquerones on a Malaga menu. Sometimes you will see them on display on a bar tap. The boquerones in the photo above were a single dish that could have been some of the best food in Malaga Spain that we ate, boquerones with avocado and Porra Antequerana. In fact, overall, I think El Tapeo de Cervantes Málaga is one of the best places to eat in Malaga for its take on traditional Malaga tapas. It’s only a few minutes walk outside of Malaga city center. Tables fill up, so try to get there early.
5. Fried Boquerones and Fritura Malagueña
A little less cholesterol-friendly are boquerones or other deep-fried fish, which are commonly found in the Mediterranean, a combination called Fritura Malagueña. This dish is one of the dishes you must eat in Malaga, perhaps with a cold beer or a glass of vermouth. Particularly for smaller fish, it’s pretty common to eat the entire fish, head and all. If you are feeling a little squeamish, pop off the head, open up the fish, and remove the spine. Leave the tail on the plate. I’ve eaten so many of these I’ve perfected the process of popping off the head and eating the fish, sucking it right off the bone. I leave behind the bone and tail and nothing else. This really is one of the best things I eat regularly in Spain!
Where to eat this Malaga seafood dish: We ate some good, fried boquerones at Mercado Central de Atarazanas.
6. Berenjenas Con Miel de Caña
This dish was one of the biggest surprises from Andalusian cuisine, and a pleasant one at that. Fried eggplant drizzled in honey or molasses became a staple of our diet while traveling through the region. In Malaga, the eggplant is drizzled with miel de cana, or sugar cane honey. There is a long history of sugar cane production in Malaga and there continues to be some grown today.
Where to eat this Malaga cuisine: By the time we arrived in Malaga, we thought we had our fill of berenjenas con miel, but turns out we were wrong. We ate this plate of tapas at Mercado Atarazanas Malaga.
Bacalao is a salted codfish that is popular across Spain. It is used in a variety of dishes, including salads, or is served on its own as a main course. There is a salty quality to the fish, but it is often tender and sweet as well.
Where to eat this Malaga seafood dish: Many travelers to Spain are familiar with bacalao because it features prominently on many Spanish menus. (It’s also common in Portugal). If looking for something a little different, try this version at La Cosmopolita, a contemporary tapas bar in Malaga. The buñuelos de bacalao are light and creamy and the perfect way to try bacalao in Malaga.
8. Tortilla or Tortilla Sacramonte
Tortilla is another staple of Spanish cuisine and often is simply served as a potato and egg omelet. Some tapas bars add other ingredients, including onions or chorizo. For the more adventurous, try the tortilla sacramonte, which is made with pigs or lambs brains. I will admit we skipped this one in Malaga. If you try it, let me know how it is. Maybe we will try it during our next visit.
Croquetas are yet another typical Spanish dish to try in Malaga. A deep-fried ball is normally filled with potato or cheese along with various meats, jamon, or bacalao. Bodequita El Gallo, across from the Picasso Museum Malaga has an impressive selection of house-made croquetas. Try the rabo de toro, or oxtail croquetas, which are super rich and creamy. More local varieties at El Gallo include cabrales con nueces (blue cheese with nuts) and queso con pasas y almendras (cheese with raisins and almonds).
Best Tapas in Malaga City Pro Tip: Croquetas are on almost every tapas menu in Malaga and around Spain. They are eaten almost daily by the locals. At more touristy restaurants they can be frozen and reheated. Try searching for the home-made or house-made croquetas to get the best. Look for “croquetas caseras” or “producto casero.” Casero means house-made.
10. Jamon Iberico
There is no doubt you could find jamon of some sort at almost all Malaga tapas bars. It is served sliced, either by hand or with a machine, and served on its own. Jamon is also added to many other local and regional tapas dishes. Try the Jamon Serrano, Jamon Iberico, or the most expensive and highly-priced Jamon Iberico Bellota, made from the best pigs, who are fed acorns. The acorns give the ham a unique flavor. In the photo above, the streaky ham on the right of the first cutting board is the Jamon Iberico. If worried about cost, try ordering some at a local butcher or at the local market. For two people, 100 grams of jamon is a feast of ham. Try pairing it with the local dry sherry called fino.
11. Montadito Pringa
We ate montaditos daily when visiting Seville. These small sandwiches are definitely more of a thing in Seville than in Malaga, but it is worth it to add this sandwich to your list of best tapas in Malaga Spain. A pringa is normally made from yesterday’s meat scraps, including shredded pork and bits of morcilla, a blood sausage common in Spain.
Where to try this montadito in Malaga: This version was huge in comparison to the sandwiches in Seville. Try it at Las Merchanas Malaga, the most religiously-themed tapas bar we’ve ever been to. Visiting the bar alone is a must-have experience in Malaga.
12. Russian “Salad” – Ensaladilla Rusa
I’ve never really understood the fascination with “Russian salad” in Spain. Being American, I would refer to more traditional varieties of Ensaladilla Rusa as potato salad, with a mix of potatoes, mayo, and possibly carrots and peas, or ham. Many traditional versions include tuna, which is common in Andalusia as nearby Cadiz is a big tuna fishing port. It is such a thing that there are competitions held annually for the best Ensaladilla Rusa in Malaga, in Andalusia, and even in Spain. The largest is sponsored by the big Spanish department store, El Corte Ingles. It’s easy to find Russian Salad on almost every Malaga tapas bar, often sitting in a refrigerated case on the bar. This version was the best we had, though, at La Cosmopolita. Definitely a more contemporary interpretation, with creamy potato.
13. Malaga Almonds and Dates
This is the perfect example of the Morrish and Arab influence in Andalusia. Dates and almonds are quite common and locally grown. This version at the central market took a date and stuffed a salted almond inside. It was the perfect mix of salty and sweet. Even if you can’t find these dates and almonds (or you decide not to assemble them on your own) you can easily find salted almonds to pair perfectly with a cold beer or a glass of vermouth.
14. Queso Cabra al Pedro Ximenez
Pedro Ximenez is probably one of the most well-known sherry varieties from Andalusia. It is what most people think of when they hear the word sherry. It’s a sweet, fortified wine made from the Pedro Ximenez grape. This is not to be confused with the more dry varieties of sherry, including fino and manzanilla, which are some of the driest wines on earth. The sweetness of the Pedro Ximenez goes perfectly with local goat cheese. If you love cheese, try this!
I’ve saved the best for last, and this is only for the most adventurous of travelers. Zurrapa is essentially lomo (pork loin) or sausage covered in lard or fat. It is rich. There are different varieties depending on the meat inside, how the meat is prepared, and what kind of lard is used. Some of the lard is tinted with sweet or smoky paprika, which gives it the glowing orange or red color. The meat and lard combination can be served as a sandwich or spread on bread as a very traditional Malaga tapa.
Other Tapas to Try in Malaga
There are a few other dishes, which we did not get a chance to eat. First, if artichokes are in season, try alcachofas confitadas, or confit artichokes. Artichokes are in season in the fall. The preparation involves slow-cooking artichokes in local olive oil, over low heat, for over an hour. They come out tender and juicy. Sometimes they are prepared with rich foie gras or jamon. Another dish typical in the summer is Ensalada Malagueña. This Malaga-style potato salad also includes salted cod, local olives, and sweet oranges. That’s why it’s a typical summer dish.
Try a Tapas Tour in Malaga
Wondering how to eat the best Malaga food? Why not try a Malaga tapas and wine tour? We cover loads of options of things to do in Malaga in our Malaga Travel Guide. For us, though, the best Malaga tours are the ones that include food! We spent a morning exploring the city on a Malaga food tour with Spain Food Sherpas.
I like to think I know a good deal about Spanish cuisine, now that we live in Spain. But our Malaga food tour with Spain Food Sherpas taught me so much about the uniqueness of Malagan cuisine. On our food tour, we learned about some truly unique dishes, including some that are listed above. Our food tour included an extensive tour of the Mercado Central de Atarazanas, along with several tapas tastings. We tried some of the most traditional tapas and visited some more contemporary tapas restaurants as well. I would definitely recommend a food tour as one of the best things to do in Malaga.
Check out Spain Food Sherpas and their Malaga food tours and cooking classes
Want to Learn More About Malaga Spain Food and Spanish Food Traditions?
While traveling in Andalusia, I relied on this book Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding to learn not just about Andalusia but as I educate myself about Spanish foods. I think it’s important to learn about Spain foods because I now live in Spain. If you want to learn more, check out this book!
As soon as I returned home, I vowed to spend more time learning how to COOK Spanish food. So, I bought Claudia Roden’s the Food of Spain. The book includes the history of the regional cuisine of Spain as well as hundreds of traditional recipes from all over the country. The book is simply lovely too, with pretty photos and illustrations. I enjoy reading about food while sipping sherry, and yes, actually making some of the recipes too.
Get our recommendations for the Top Things To Do in Malaga Spain
FAQs – Best Food in Malaga
- What about the best paella in Malaga Spain? We talk about this more in our Malaga Food Guide, where we focus on where to eat in Malaga. The thing is that many travelers associate Spanish cuisine with paella, but Spanish cuisine is very regional. And, although it is possible to find paella in many touristy restaurants around the country, paella is really a Valencian dish. I can’t tell you where to eat paella in Malaga because I wouldn’t recommend it. If you must, ask at your hotel. And, above anything, don’t eat at the restaurants that have a sandwich board in front plastered with photos of paella. That is a corporate chain that sends out frozen paella around the country!
- Are there free tapas in Malaga? Generally, no. Although traditionally, tapas were something that came along with a drink order, that tradition is hard to find in large Spanish cities. The one exception is Granada, where this is still a thing. It is not uncommon, though, for drinks to come with olives or perhaps some potato chips.
- Where can I get more information about Malaga Tourism? The Malaga Tourist Office is located just between the port and Calle Marques de Larios, on Plaza de la Marina. The Malaga Spain Tourism office has all sorts of free Malaga tourist information including a Malaga tourist map.
- How do I get to Malaga? We traveled around Andalusia for two weeks using a RENFE Spain Pass. The RENFE Spain Pass allows travelers to book a train pass for 4, 6, 8, or 10 journeys for a set price, starting at €250. It’s a great way to explore different regions of Spain, to explore outside the big gateway cities like Madrid and Barcelona. And, it can save a lot of money, particularly on long train journeys. Learn more about the RENFE Spain Pass here.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER. We were supported by the Malaga Tourism office during our stay in Malaga.
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Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.