A Country of Food Lovers
Portugal has an impressive variety and vastness in its cuisine. We are still quite amazed that its food is not as well known as the Italian or Spanish cuisine. But what we like about this fact is that the dishes are still very authentic and kind of secret. And maybe that’s a beautiful reason to keep it this way…
Here you can find some of the most famous dishes including some of our favorite ones!
- Francesinha: If you’re on a diet better resist to try this traditional dish from Porto. Something between a club sandwich and a massive American toast, this dish is made of pão de forma (supermarket-style white bread), sausage, cured meats, steak, cheese and egg. It is topped with a delicious wine-and-tomato sauce.
- Tripas à Moda do Porto: This is a dish made out of animal guts added with beans and other meats. Check the recipe here for this traditional dish from Porto city.
- Arroz de Pato: Literally meaning “Duck Rice”, this super tasty dish comes from Alentejo (the region between Lisbon and Algarve). A tasty rice made with duck meat, choriço and eggs to golden the top. It’s simply delicious, check the recipe here.
- Carne de Porco Alentejana: Another dish coming from Alentejo region is one of Portuguese’s most beloved dishes. The combination of pork and clams is especially popular in the capital. Check here for the recipe.
- Frango no Churrasco: “Grilled chicken”, “barbecue chicken” or simply “Nandos” for those coming from the UK. It comes seasoned with piri-piri hot sauce. Even though there’s the option to keep the hot sauce aside, Portuguese tend to eat it very hot. It’s traditionally served with french fries, rice and a simple salad of lettuce, tomato and onion. When asking about the secret about this simple dish? It’s grilled on charcoal! We absolutely LOVE THIS!!
- Bifanas: A pork meat sandwich which is cheap, easy and ready to go! Old folks even tend to having this for breakfast! The particularity is that the meat is marinated for a few hours or even overnight in a spicy, garlic sauce with red pepper. Here is the recipe.
- Cozido à Portuguesa: If someone asked about a very traditional dish apart from cod this would be the one. The dish is very popular in Azores, where it is very often cooked in Furnas. It’s heavy, rich in flavours, full of different types of meat, vegetables and animal parts. Probably this is why it is not exactly our cup of tea. Cozido is nothing less than a “medley” of boiled potatoes, carrots, sausages, cabbage, leafy greens, beans and beef. It’s believed that its roots go back to remote villages and farmers that would put in pans and pots whatever they can find. If trying this dish don’t be surprised to even find pig ears and pig feet. For the recipe or more check here.
- Arroz de Cabidela: This dish from Alentejo is comparable to risotto but cooked in a very unconventional way. It is made with chicken and cooked in its own blood. Yep that’s right, the rice and all ingredients are cooked with the animal’s blood. However, it doesn’t taste like blood at all since a good dosage of vinegar and sometimes wine are added. See the recipe here.
Fish and Seafood
- Polvo à Lagareiro: Just like cod or clams, Polvo (octopus) is another national ingredient. Polvo à Lagareiro means “Octopus and Olive Oil”. It is grilled and served with potatoes, sprinkled with cooked garlic and drizzled with olive oil. Read the recipe here.
- Caldeirada: It means stew and can be made out of any ingredient. The fish stew, for instance, is a mix match of several different fishes combined with potatoes, onions, peppers, tomatoes and herbs. For more check here.
- Cataplana de Marisco: Just like Caldeirada, a Cataplana can be made out of pretty much any ingredient. This dish is actually named after its cooking tool – The Cataplana. All the ingredients are placed in this lookalike shell pot and cooked slowly. For recipe or more check here.
- Arroz de Marisco: Sea Food Rice Casserole is what we considered the Portuguese version of risotto. It combines a variation of shellfish and rice with a very tasteful and heavy sauce. The dish usually contains crab, shrimp, clams, mussels, garlic, piri-piri, and parsley. Read more.
- Sardinhas: THE national dish of Portugal is mainly consumed during summer. There’s actually a study that says that Portuguese eat 13 sardines per second, more than anyone else in the world! This healthy fat fish is broadly consumed in the coast regions like Algarve and in Lisbon during St Anthony festivities. There is no complicated recipe for this. The secret is to get the freshest sardines in the morning, splatter them with salt and leave them for few hours before grilling the sardines on charcoal.
Bacalhau – Cod Fish
It is believed that Portuguese have 365 different recipes with Bacalhau – one for each day of the year. True or not, it’s certain that they hold a world record in terms of cod fish recipes. Whether it is a cod stew, roast cod or char-grilled cod, Portuguese have it. Interesting enough that they cannot even fish it in the warm Portuguese waters but instead are dependent on imports from northern countries. These are some of the most popular dishes:
- Bacalhau com Natas: Cod with double cream”, as weird as it can sound, is actually a mouthwatering dish. A mix of fried cod, fried cubed cut potatoes, bechamel and double cream is baked in the oven and topped with cheese as well as breadcrumbs. See here.
- Pataniscas de Bacalhau: Definitely not everybody’s cup of tea, the easiest way to explain this dish is a piece of cod wrapped in a dough made of egg, flour, pepper, parsley and fried in vegetable oil. Check the recipe.
- Pastéis de Bacalhau: Cod and potato croquettes are a delicious snack.
- Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá: The provenance of this dish comes actually from an old story of resilience. José Gomes de Sá, son of a rich cod trader in Porto, saw his empire falling when a fire consumed their warehouse. Afterwards he was forced to look for a “normal” job as chef. It was in Restaurante Lisbonense in Porto that he created the recipe, which was therefore named after him.
- Bacalhau à brás: Another popular cod dish is probably the simplest one to prepare. Shredded cod with fried potato, onion and scrambled eggs are sprinkled with black olives and chopped parsley. Find more about it here.
Tapas and Petiscos
Small bites are very traditional in Portugal. While the Spanish call it Tapas, the Portuguese call it Petiscos. Whether the occasion is a family gathering, a football match or even a business meeting, Petiscos are a must!
- Caracóis: “Há caracóis”, “Temos caracóis” or “Caracóis Aqui” is a sign that you can find all over the country in front of pretty much every restaurant from May to September. It’s tiny snails that Portuguese are crazy about. They are cooked in boiled water with oregano. The dish is served with lots bread and (garlic) butter butter. You suck the snails out of their shell or fish them with a toothpick. Believe it or not, even we foreigners enjoyed them, just not big fans of the very big ones called Caracoletas. For the recipe or more check here.
- Bolinhas de Alheira: Alheira is a type of Portuguese sausage made out of bird meat (chicken, duck, or turkey). It appeared during the period of inquisition, when the Portuguese jews were chased by the catholics. In order to keep things calm and not being throw to public fire, the jews created this type of sausage that looks and tastes similar to Portuguese pork sausages. Bolinhas de Alheira are croquettes in the form of small balls which are made out of this sausage. You won’t want to stop eating it!
- Migas à Alentejana: This dish from Alentejo is made out of leftover bread, tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, pork fat and meats. For the recipe of this very filling dish check here.
- Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato: One of Lisbon’s most beloved dishes is usually served as a starter or appetizer. Natural clam juice, white wine, lemon zest and garlic are what gives the clams so much extra flavor. For the recipe or more check here.
- Chouriço na Brasa: When ordering this in a restaurant, views of tourists will be on you! The Chouriço is brought to the table on a terracotta utensil that has been soaked in alcohol. The latter is then set on fire so that the sausage is cooked in front of you.
- Caldo Verde: Soups are very popular in Portugal but Caldo Verde is, without any doubt, the national soup! Even though the literal translation for this soup would be “Green Soup”, the correct way to say it in English is “Kale Soup”. Thickened with pureed potatoes, garlic and slices of choriço, the main ingredient is of course kale. The latter is stripped in tiny parts giving this dish the greenish color. Old people still use to add also pieces of old bread. Nowadays it is eaten as a starter or very often by party-hoppers at end the night before heading to bed. Here is the recipe!
- Sopa de Peixe: The very watery soup made out vegetable stock, fish and seafood leftovers is specially popular in the south of Portugal and coastal areas.
- Canja: Kind of a “Portuguese miso” soup made out of chicken stock and meat with rice or pasta. Read the recipe!
- Açorda: This one is for the braves! It is a very heavy soup from Alentejo with bread as its base. Açorda is an herb-flavored broth soaked in slightly stale country bread and (sometimes) topped with an egg. It may be that also other ingredients such as prawns or shellfish are added onto it. Find out more here.
- Sopa da Pedra: Literally meaning “Stone Soup”, it is a very rich soup made of almost any vegetable or meat but predominately from potatoes, beans, rice and pork meat. Even though most of the places don’t include the stone in the soup anymore, there are some places where that tradition is still kept. Here is the recipe!
Portugal is a country of sweet and has an incredible amount of recipes. The range of pastries is super vast and most of the sweets are made of local products such as eggs, oranges, almonds or milk. Portuguese twists and originality come included!
- Pastel de Nata: This is the very special national sweet! Called Portuguese Custard Tart in English, it is actually an egg tart made out of a crispy and flaky crust with egg filling. The original recipe dates back over 300 years when this sweet first was produced by monks living in Jerónimos monastery in Belém. Nowadays the old factory and the secret remains. For a visit or even a bite the Factory of Pasteis de Belém is open daily and a must-do of every Lisbon trip. If you are a lover of this “food of the gods” and want to venture on doing it yourself here’s the recipe.
- Travesseiro de Sintra: “Sintra’s Pillow” has its name due the rectangular shape. With a flaky caramelized crust on the outside and filled with almond egg cream on the inside, this is an absolute heaven for sweet lovers. It is served very hot so be aware when having a bite. The best (and also most famous) place to try this delicacy is in Sintra in Casa Piriquita. If you cannot wait until there just bake it yourself with the original recipe.
- D. Rodrigo: This is a OMG for sugar and eggs lovers. D. Rodrigo from Algarve is made with traditional egg yolk, sugar, and Algarve almonds. It is wrapped in colorful metallic paper having the shape of pyramids. For the recipe or more check here.
- Doçe Fino: Also from Algarve and made from smashed almonds, this is the traditional form of marzipan filled with egg threads.
- Sericaia: Originally from Alentejo region and made by nuns from the convent of Elvas, this sweet is a soft and creamy delicacy. The recipe contains eggs, cinnamon and (sometimes) plums. Check it here.
- Arroz doce: Rice pudding is a very popular sweet on every Portuguese family table. It is super easy to prepare as it just contains rice, milk, sugar and cinnamon. Some people add vanilla, lemon or orange while others thicken the dish by tempering an egg. For the recipe or more check here.
- Bola de Berlim: As weird as it may sound, Portugal produces and sells tones of Berliners. This cake is known to be German, but Portuguese added their own twists. When visiting a beach in Portugal and especially the Algarve you will encounter numerous vendors selling out their Berliners. This one is very similar to the German original; hovewer, not filled with jam but egg cream. Nowadays, other options such as chocolate filling or carrob dough can be found. See here.
- Baba de Camelo: Portuguese always find funny names for their desserts! This one literally means Camel’s Drool. Even though it’s the least appealing name its flavor is actually amazing. Super easy to make, this is literally boiled condensed milk. See the recipe here.
Liqueurs and Wines
- Amarguinha: It’s a traditional liqueur made out of bitter almonds from the Algarve region. It is extremely sweet and that’s why it’s usually served with ice cubes and lemon drops or skin. It is sometimes mixed with other drinks such as prosecco and therefore a perfect digestive drink in summer.
- Ginjinha de Óbidos: A very sweet and delicious liqueur made from sour cherries. Very famous in Lisbon being the ones from the village of Óbidos the most famous ones. It is also served in a chocolate cup and drunk as a shot.
- Medronho: The firewater produced from the Medronho tree is extremely strong and also used as a base for other liqueurs such as Melosa. Best found in the Algarve region, this is one for the braves.
- Poncha: It’s a traditional alcoholic drink from the island of Madeira. Poncha has sugarcane firewater as base and is mixed with different fruit juices. It is very juicy and soft, but the settle alcohol will surely make you feel drunken after the 3rd glass of Poncha.
- Licor Beirão: A traditional liqueur made out of seeds and herbs from all over the world.
- Moscatel: This is a sweet golden white wine from the Serra d’Arrábida south of Lisbon. Moscatel is usually drunk as an aperitif.