I still remember my first “tapas” meal in Malaga back in 2007. I was visiting Malaga for the first time and had no idea what to expect– I’d barely been in Spain a month. Three minuscule clay dishes later, I made the conclusion that tapas in Malaga left a lot to be desired. Little did I know that nearly ten years later Malaga would become one of my favorite cities in Spain for tapas.
Today Malaga is a wonderful place to taste some of Spain’s best tapas. The tapas in Malaga are generally not free (though you may receive a complimentary tapa with your drinks in some establishments), but they’re well worth paying for. The city is an exciting mix of traditional tapas bars and modern tapas bars, each offering a unique spin on Spain’s famous small plates.
But Malaga isn’t all about the tapas! This gorgeous city is also home to a handful of fantastic places for a hearty Andalusian breakfast, Spain’s most colorful local markets, delicious fried fish shops, and some of the best chiringuitos (beachside seafood restaurants) in the country.
If you’re wondering where to eat in Malaga, rest assured that there are plenty of wonderful places to choose from! I visit Malaga various times throughout the year, as it is one of my favorite cities for great food, and only two hours from Madrid by train! These trips are the perfect excuse to do lots of eating (I mean research!) for my food tour company and this blog!
Here are some of my personal favorite places to eat in Malaga, which I update each time I visit Malaga.
Malaga Tapas 101
Malaga’s tapas follow what I call “the Seville system” (though perhaps we should just say the Malaga system here!).
- In Malaga tapas are basically a serving size. They are small dishes (though not as small as the tiny clay dishes I received back in 2007!), and on many local Malaga menus you will find three columns:
- Media raciones (half plates/portions)
- Raciones (full plates/portions)
These are three serving sizes of the same dish. Media raciones and raciones are meant to be shared, and tapas are generally individually sized, although many people share a few tapas among close friends or family. Spaniards don’t mind double dipping!
- Usually in Malaga, you pay for your tapas unlike in cities such as Granada or even Madrid where “free tapas” are included in the price of your drink. This allows you to have full control of what makes it to your table, and the quality is generally better than free tapas places. Of course, it all depends on where you go!
- Tapas prices in Malaga range greatly between the traditional tapas bars, where a small tapas of potato salad may cost under €2.00, and a more modern bar, where a tapa could be closer to €6.00. Unfortunately, modern “gastro bars” have become quite trendy in recent years, so you really have to know where to go so that your money doesn’t go to waste!
- Never rush your tapas experience. Order little by little when out for tapas in Malaga. Tapas in Andalusia usually come out quickly, as they are prepared in advance and reheated when ordered. Often they’re even microwaved to heat them up (this is not considered a bad thing in the right place). The best way to enjoy tapas in Malaga is to order little by little, pairing each tapa with a drink. This ensures you won’t over order and you’ll be able to enjoy everything while still hot!
What to eat in Malaga
Before I get to where to eat in Malaga, it’s important to know what to eat! And sorry, but paella isn’t on the list…
Literally translated to “smurf” these are little breakfast sandwiches that are usually filled with tomato and olive oil, and often jamón— Spanish cured ham. When they’re made properly, the freshly grated tomato and local olive oil work their magic and it is one of the most satisfying ways to start the day!
Another breakfast option (or an afternoon snack) is the Malaga version of churros, called tejeringos. Just don’t order these for dessert– the locals will look at you like you’re crazy!
If you want to get daring with your toast toppings, try zurrapa, a rich lard spread with ground meat.
Malaga is famous throughout Spain for its top quality fried fish. I especially love pintarroja, or sand shark, which is covered in a cumin-lemon batter and deep fried to perfection.
Anchovies are especially important in Malaga (the locals even call their football team boquerones— anchovies!). They are prepared many ways, but I love them butterflied and fried.
The best sardines in Malaga are called espetos after the sticks that they’re grilled on. Head out to the fishermen’s neighborhoods of Malaga for the best espetos— and don’t forget, only order them in the months without an ‘r’!
This traditional Malaga salad (ensalada malagueña) is made with salt cod and oranges. It is a refreshing (but filling) tapa that you’ll find in most of the city’s traditional tapas bars.
Before tomatoes came to Europe with Spanish conquistadors (they were a food brought from the Americas), Spanish dishes like gazpacho and salmorejo didn’t exist. What they ate instead is called ajo blanco, a delightful cold soup made with garlic and blanched almonds. You’ll still find this Andalusian specialty in some of Malaga’s most traditional restaurants.
And after tomatoes were introduced, porra came about! Porra is similar to salmorejo, and is made with tomatoes, stale bread, vinegar and olive oil. But instead of being topped with hardboiled egg and ham, it’s usually topped with tuna. It is delicious and refreshing!
It might sound crazy, but yes, you must try raisins in Malaga! Visit the Atarazanas Market (we go there on our daytime Malaga food tour) and sample the delicious local Malaga raisins, used to make some of the famous sweet local wines.
While visiting the market (or while strolling the city center) pick up some local almonds, some of the best I’ve ever had. This is another Malaga specialty that sounds simple enough, but is truly wonderful when you taste it. The almonds are perfectly toasted and salted and make the best snack.
If you have a sweet tooth you must taste Malaga turrón. This sweet nougat is the perfect snack or dessert. It’s usually full of nuts (most likely almonds, of course) and isn’t too hard to bite into.
Malaga has some excellent ice cream shops (check out the historic Casa Mira or delicious Heladería Freskitto), which often offer seasonal flavors as well as the classics (turrón is one of those!).
Malaga is world-famous for its sweet wines, mostly made from the Moscatel and/or Pedro Ximenez grapes. Even if you aren’t usually a fan of the sweet stuff, give them a try, as some have a cutting acidity that leaves you wanting another sip. And if you must, there are plenty of dry fortified wines in Malaga as well!
Modern wines in Malaga are becoming a big deal. People are straying from the bulk wine of the past and really dedicating themselves to producing some of the best dry wines in the region. Try the whites made with the Moscatel grape– the same grape used in the sweet wines. On the nose you’ll be expecting honey, but then you take a sip and it’s as crisp and dry as can be!