Tapas, Pinchos or Pintxos?


TAPAS, PINCHOS and PINTXOS – what’s the difference?


When you are in Spain, you see and hear people talking about tapas, pinchos and pintxos. While at first they sound like completely different things, they have nowadays come to be associated as small portions of food that are consumed together with a drink. So is there a difference between them, and if there is, what’s the difference between the three?



Are small portions of food that are served as aperitif, so prior to a meal, in bars and restaurants, and are consumed together with a drink. Traditionally, these small portions of food were offered “on the house”, so free of charge. There are a great variety of tapas, but traditionally these were usually salty, ranging from jamon (spanish ham), chorizo, tortilla to vegetables and rice. Presentation is varied and they can be served on a small plate, bowl or other receptacle.

Whereas in some traditional bars customers are still served a small tapa with their drink, it has become a custom that customers order the tapas they want and pay for it, much like pinchos. The portions are then also much larger, as is their variety. Nowadays, people often “go out for tapas”, meaning that they visit several bars in which they consume drinks and different types of tapas.



Is a slice of bread on which is served a small portion of food. They are called pinchos because traditionally it was held together with a toothpick and “pinchar” means to pinch. Traditionally the difference between tapas and pinchos was that for tapas you did not pay, whereas for pinchos you did.

Nowadays, the traditional presentation has changed a lot and often pinchos are served without the characteristic toothpick. Pinchos can be made from all types of ingredients and range from simple to very elaborate.



Is very similar to pinchos but is typical of the basque country. Traditionally only ingredients local to the basque country have been used for pinxtos, but nowadays also ingredients from other parts of Spain are used. PInxtos are usually consumed with a glass of red wine (txikito) or beer (zurito). When you enter a bar in the basque country you will find the Pinxtos displayed on the bar and you can just take a plate and serve yourself as much as you like. When you have finished, the tab is calculated based on the amount of toothpicks that are on your plate.

As you can see there are traditional differences between tapas, pinchos and pintxos. However, all three have nowadays become associated with small portions of food that can be consumed with a drink. Often eating several portions constitutes eating a whole meal, with the advantage that you get to try many different flavours and types of food!
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