Latin Tapas-Small Plates With New World Inspiration


If you’re looking for interesting appetizers for a cocktail party, consider tapas.  One of the possible origins of the word, which translates to “top or cover”, is that when you are standing to eat and drink, you would need to set your small plate on top of your drink in order to handle both.  While tapas originated in Spain, fusion cuisine has allowed inventive chefs to introduce flavors from all over the world to tapas dishes.  This type of food also lends itself well to tasting menus if you want to plan a themed dinner party with many small courses, each served with a different wine.

Having spent most of my adult life in Latin American countries, I find that my cooking is always more than a little influenced by Latin flavors.  It’s nice too, that the grocery stores, which cater to Mexicans where I live in California, are stocked with seasonings and ingredients that are rarely found in most big chain grocery stores.

Freestyle Latino Cuisine

When taking liberties with traditional recipes, it’s important to take into consideration flavors that are currently trendy.  You can never go wrong with bacon.  Add bacon to something that didn’t have it before and people will stampede to try it.  Latin flavors have recently had a surge in popularity, even snack food companies have been coming up with chips that taste like cracked pepper, chili lime, chipotlé, jalapeño, and buffalo wings.  Korean flavors have also become super popular so we’re seeing an interesting fusion of Korean and Latin.  One of my favorite happy hour places offers Korean beef tacos or quesadillas that are wonderful.

The controversy over small plates in restaurants has polarized diners.  People either love them or hate them.  Some complain that it is expensive compared to ordering a normal meal, others say they never feel satisfied.  Even cartoon characters have an opinion.  Marge Simpson rants, “They’re like appetizers for a meal that never comes.”  People that love eating this way say that it is way more social, and it’s a wonderful way to try new things without committing to a full sized portion.  I think the key is to have the right dining companions.  With so many people avoiding ingredients, it can be difficult to order dishes to share.  If you have a group of friends without food issues, it is fun and enjoyable.

If you are going to serve tapas at your party, here are some of my favorite small plates.

Ceviche Shooters – serve shrimp ceviche in shot glasses, garnished with a sprig of cilantro

Patatas Criollas Bravas – crispy yellow potatoes with spicy chili sauce

Shrimp al Diablo – spicy shrimp in garlic sauce with chipotle flakes

Fried Green Tomatillos – served with whipped goat cheese blended with arugula, walnuts, and lemon

Stuffed Dates – with chorizo, wrapped in bacon

Grilled Street Corn – skewered corn with salty paprika butter and cotija cheese

Empanadas – pulled pork and caramelized onion with chipotle mayo

Mojito Shrimp Pinchos – grilled skewered shrimp with a minty rum marinade

Hamburguesita – sliders with chimichurri and crispy onions

Mexican Albóndigas – meatballs, with tomato chipotle sauce

Crab Croquetas – savory fritters with adobo tartar sauce

Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes – with Pisco Sauce

Lizzie Lau is a culinary artist in love with Spanish cuisine. She often prepares Tapas at home to impress her guests.

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  1. Fernando says

    Wow, you do have some very good choices for tapas. I especially love the fried tomatillos, mojito shrimp pinchos and the crab croquetas. A good choice for the corn tamales is a bit of sour cream on the side