Food You Can Eat: Basque Pintxos

Why have half a box of dry cereal or the last of the Häagen Dazs for dinner when you can have pintxos?

Image and recipes via Curious Cuisiniere

The Basque area of Spain is in the northeast corner. It straddles the Pyrenees and also encompasses the chunk of France around Biarritz and Pau, south of Bordeaux. The Basque language is a linguistic “puddle,” meaning that it bears no resemblance to the languages spoken around it. Hungarian, Turkish, and Finnish are other examples.

The Basques may not share a language with Spanish speakers but they share a love of “small bites.” In Spain these are known as tapas, which is derived from the verb tapear, to cover, and it’s thought that bartenders used to cover patrons’ drinks with bread and something on the bread to keep flies and dust away, hence the term. In the Basque region they’re called pintxos, which means skewers. You’ll see why.

Here are three pintxos recipes I found on Curious Cuisiniere that do indeed require skewers, or wooden toothpicks, to hold them together. CC tells us that these are three of the most popular, and I have no reason to doubt them. This make 27 altogether, nine each of the three kinds. You know how sometimes you just snack for dinner? With a little foresight, you can instead enjoy a pintxos meal, which sounds better. For research purposes I made and ate all of this. All of it. Every single pintxo. And they were delightful.

Start with 2 French baguettes, approximately 2” in diameter, sliced 1” thick. Make this yield 27 disks, which will form the bases of your pintxos.

27 small wooden toothpicks

Now you will need:

For 9 smoked salmon pinxtos:

1 (4 oz) package Lox-style smoked salmon, so sliced, not chunked

3 hard boiled eggs, sliced into thirds

For 9 tuna and roasted red pepper pinxtos:

8 oz tuna, solid and packed in water. This is an inconvenient amount, so use more and pile the pintxos a little higher. Drain these really dry. See header image for why.

2 red peppers, cut into halves and seeded

9 Spanish olives (if you can, get Spanish; use your favorite type)

For 9 Manchego and roasted tomato pinxtos:

3 oz Manchego cheese, sliced. No Manchego? Parmesan comes close, but get it a block and slice it yourself, don’t get the grated or shredded kind.

9 cherry tomatoes

1 tsp olive oil

1/8 tsp salt


Preheat your oven to 400F. To roast the red peppers and cherry tomatoes, toss the pepper halves and tomatoes with 1 tsp olive oil and 1/8 tsp salt. Place them on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, or until soft and slightly charred. Remove from the oven and let cool.

While the peppers and tomatoes are roasting, prepare your other ingredients and start assembling the salmon pinxtos by placing a hard boiled egg slice on top of a slice of baguette and topping the egg with a roll of lox. Use a toothpick to hold the ingredients in place.

When the peppers have cooled slightly, cut the pieces so they will fit nicely on top of a baguette slice. Place a bit of tuna over the roasted pepper and top it off with an olive. This is the messiest pintxo.

Once the tomatoes have cooled place a tomato on top of a slice of Manchego or Parmesan cheese on a baguette slice. Secure the tomatoes in place with a toothpick.



  1. Now I am hungry, Cousin M!

    I have a coworker, US expat living in Basque country, married to a native. Her 6-year-old twins are fluently multilingual, speaking Basque, Spanish, English, and tiny bit of French.

    • What I like about these pintxos is that they’re so simple and can be eaten anytime, as snacks, or as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There are other, more elaborate ones (the Basques eat a lot of cod, for example, and really spicy peppers) but you could really have these any hour of the day or night.

  2. Those old desaturated food photos are so unappetizing. It’s unfortunate they didn’t spring for a regular illustrator because I’m sure these don’t taste like the plastic and particleboard versions they’re showing.

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