How-to: Throw a Tapas Potluck

Summertime and tapas are a match made in heaven. The very nature of small dishes lends well to dinner parties and potlucks. So, with the sunny weather, now's a great time to host a tapas potluck! And while you want your soiree to feel casual and easy, you're still going to need a plan. Here are a few tips for planning a successful tapas potluck:

Meal Plan:

This may seem counter-intuitive to a potluck, but if the host does a little meal planning things will run a whole lot smoother. Potlucks should include every course—from appetizers to dessert. Assign two guests to each course. This way if someone is a no-show or brings an unpopular dish, there are options. As the host, you want to make a main dish with enough for everyone. A large charcuterie plate is great. This way, no matter what happens your guests are guaranteed something to eat!

Provide Portion Guidelines to your Guests:

If you're having ten guests, ask each person to bring five servings of their assigned course. By having two guests per course you are once again assuring variety and relieving some of the pressure of having to cook for a crowd. 

Prep Time/KitchenSpace

With tapas dishes often there isn't a lot of prep time needed. However, if your guests are bringing seafood or something that requires grilling or heating, be prepared to give them some kitchen space. Don't have the space? Let guests know you that they should bring cold dishes. 


Often its a good idea for the host to provide a drink for each guest. For a tapas potluck, making a few pitchers of sangria will do nicely. If you'd rather not provide alcohol, make pitchers of lemonade or iced tea. Have pretty jugs of water with herbs and ice. Whatever you do, just let your guests know what to expect. Ask them to bring their own wine or let them know it's a non-alcoholic shindig. 

Set the Scene

Outside in the early evening is ideal for a summertime tapas party. Keep your decor simple and allow all the beautiful food take centre stage. Think candles, a simple wooden table with a runner of flowers or herbs down the centre and lots of space for the food. Decide if you want to eat family style or have smaller tables set close together. Either way, having the food set out buffet style on a separate table may make it easier for guests to serve themselves. Provide small plates, glasses, real cutlery and cloth napkins. And put some thought into a music playlist beforehand. 

Clean Up & Good Night 

Ask everyone to bring food containers to spirit away leftovers. Encourage guests to help you clean up. In the spirit of the potluck, one person shouldn't be stuck dealing with dishes at the end of the evening. Pro tip: At the end of the evening, open a good bottle of wine in the kitchen—for helpers only! And if your guests are drinking, have the phone number of a taxi cab handy or invite the over-imbibers to stay over.