Spanish Banderillas (Simple, Tasty Tapas on a Stick)

In Spain, banderillas are small but tasty morsels on a toothpick or skewer. They’re a type of tapas that are meant to be a flavor explosion and a tiny serving for one. You’ll typically find pickled food like mini cucumbers, mildly spicy peppers, and olives placed onto a stick. Making these at home is simple and fun, and lets you choose your favorite ingredients.

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How to Make Banderillas at Home

There’s nothing tricky about these — choose what you’re going feature on your banderillas, cut the ingredients if you need, and then pop them on toothpicks or skewers. The hardest part is probably deciding on your flavor combo. So, we’re going to give you a list of the most common ingredients to use. Choose your favorite and go for it. 

In Spain, you normally have a combination of acidic ingredients like olives and slightly spicy items like pickled Guindilla peppers. You may like to offset this with some sweet pickled red peppers (which also add a splash of color) or cooked shrimp. 

The Most Common Ingredients for Banderillas

Pickled red peppersUse red for a sweet kick ✔️
Guindilla peppersMild chili pepper, pickled✔️
CapersPickled flower buds from the caper bush✔️
OlivesTypically green, but you can use black too✔️
Pickles (gherkins)Use the small version✔️
Cocktail onionsSmall, white pickled onions✔️
AnchoviesUse the fillets from a jar or tin✔️
Shrimp (prawns)Buy cooked shrimp or cook them first✔️
Cured hamUse a quality cured ham like Jamón Ibérico✔️
ChorizoUse cured chorizo✔️

Some banderillas are served on a colorful plate beside some other tapas and dips.

Where do Banderillas Come From?

You’ll find banderillas served all over Spain, although nowhere more than the Basque Country region. Banderillas are a type of pintxos, which are synonymous with the region. Banderillas are normally served with a beer, and not with wine or other drinks (except for maybe a Vermouth) since the flavors don’t complement each other.

The most well-known banderilla in the Basque Country, and probably all of Spain, is the “Gilda.” If the name rings bells, perhaps you’ve heard of or seen the movie called “Gilda” from the 1940’s! Apparently, this pintxo was named after the character played by Rita Hayworth.

How to Make the Famous Gilda

The Gilda is a simple but tasty little treat on a stick featuring green olives, salted anchovies, and chili peppers. The chili peppers used are normally the Guindilla peppers we talked about above — they’re nowhere near as spicy as most chili peppers in the US or other countries where hot food is popular. 

Their flavor is mild enough that you can pop the banderilla in your mouth whole and have no lingering burning aftereffects.

It helps that they’re served in bars and usually with beer so you get a nice warm kick from the pepper and can wash it down with a cool drink. Spanish cuisine typically isn’t overtly spicy and no one would dream of serving it with a spicy pepper that would ruin your tastebuds if you were about to eat lunch or dinner. 

You can buy pickled Guindilla peppers fairly easily. For those in Europe, you’ll likely find jars of guindilla peppers in the supermarket. For those in the USA, it’ll be best to search online or at a Spanish specialty foods store, depending on where you live overseas. A quick Google search should bring something up, otherwise, you can substitute them for a mild pickled green chili pepper available near you.

A plate of banderillas sits beside some tapas dishes and glasses of Cava

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