Whether you’re still dreaming of travelling, you have your ticket booked or you’ve arrived in the beautiful country, we have prepared the ultimate list of what to eat in Portugal. A journey through Portuguese cuisine will bring you food fully loaded with flavour and love from the locals. From interesting sandwiches and flavours from both land and sea to tasty sweet treats and the trifecta of bread, olive oil and wine – prepare your taste buds for the ultimate culinary adventure.
Pastel de Nata
This famous little, bright yellow custard tart is the perfect creamy treat – just by itself or with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Originally invented by monks centuries ago in Belém, you can still try the original recipe if you take a quick trip to Belém whilst visiting Lisbon. Throughout the country, though, many a pastry shop will be able to share these delicious tarts with you.
Bacalhau (cod fish)
It is rumoured that there are over 365 ways to cook and eat bacalhau – one for every day of the year. How many of these will you try out on your trip to Portugal? With this trusty fish being served in just about every restaurant, a popular dish to try is bacalhau à brás – a tasty mix of the fish, scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions or garlic. At snack bars, you can also dig into a plate of pastéis de bacalhau – fried fish cakes similar to croquettes with a mix of potatoes and herbs.
This signature sandwich is a must-try on your trip to Porto and the north of Portugal. If you don’t have a very big appetite, you might want to find someone to share this with! Between two slices of bread, you will find ham, sausage and steak. Cover that in cheese, add a fried egg on top, surround that in gravy made of spiced tomato and beer and… voila! A francesinha is often served with fries – perfect for dunking in the gravy.
These deliciously juicy traditional pork sandwiches can be found throughout the whole country. They are made of mouthwatering, marinated pork served in a crunchy white bread roll. Because there are slightly different local variations across Portugal, no two bifanas are created equal. To perfectly complete the experience, enjoy your bifana with a local craft beer or the popular Superbock/Sagres.
Tripas à Moda do Porto (tripe stew)
If you consider yourself an adventurous eater, then why not try this traditional dish born in the city of Porto? (This is where “tripeiros”, the nickname given to people from the city, comes from). Eat like a local when you dig into this tasty bean-based stew with tripe, meat and sausages.
Throughout Portugal, there are many interesting stews and rice dishes which are true expressions of the region you are visiting. Step into a local restaurant whilst you’re discovering the country and make sure to ask the waiter about their speciality dish.
Soup is an integral part of Portuguese cuisine, with many meals typically kicking off with a heartwarming bowl. You’ll be spoilt for choice across the country with the variety, but caldo verde is known as a crowd favourite. Made using potatoes, garlic, shredded kale and slices of smoked sausage – it’s definitely a good choice for the belly and the soul.
Although it’s the peak season to eat this staple in Portuguese cuisine between June and August (when many sardine festivals take place in the summer), locals eat them all year round – grilled or canned. Fresh sardines, straight from the charcoal grill, are splashed with Portuguese olive oil and can be served as is or with bread, potatoes, salads and rice. Canned sardines, which were once a cheap alternative to fresh ones, are now very popular and come in colourfully decorated tins. In addition to many quirky knick-knacks and souvenirs in Portugal shaped like a sardine, you can even take a tin home as an interesting gift for someone.
Portugal also has many local seafood restaurants (marisqueiras) serving grilled fish and seafood. So if you’re looking for a real feast, make sure to add this to your culinary bucket list.
Love the sound of chargrilled ribs, sausages, steak and chicken? Then you’ll probably find yourself drawn to the amazing smells coming from a churrasqueira restaurant anywhere in Portugal. There is a wonderful assortment of meats for you to indulge in, but the most popular is probably frango no churrasco (barbecued chicken). The chicken is marinated, grilled and often spiced with piri-piri hot sauce which originates from the international African-Portuguese connection.
Portugal is blessed with an abundance of local cheeses for any cheese lover to obsess over (step aside France!). For a true sense of place, the top choice is Serra de Estrela cheese. The name comes from the highest mountain range in continental Portugal. It is here where there is an age-old shepherd culture responsible for herding the very sheep that provide the milk for this cheese. It’s customary to cut a lid off the cheese rind and to scoop out the delicious gooeyness. You can pair this cheese perfectly with a tawny port and fig jam.
You’ll see this popular seafood appear on menus around the country – roasted or grilled, as an appetizer, in salads or with rice. Polvo à lagareiro is one of the tasty ways the Portuguese like to enjoy octopus. The dish features octopus with roasted potatoes, drizzled in olive oil and generously seasoned with garlic.
Bread is another key element in Portuguese cuisine and is pretty much always on the table! Broa bread is a special Portuguese bread made from corn and historically baked in a wood oven. It has a crunchy crust with a deliciously moist and slightly sweet inside. Best enjoyed warm and fresh, this hearty bread will leave you feeling truly “satisfeito”. Try spreading it with a delicious layer of pumpkin jam if you can get your hands on some.
Alentejo, Vinho Verde, Douro Valley… It may not be food, but Portugal has many wonderful world-class wines for you to discover. There are so many ways to enjoy Portuguese wines on your trip – whether you’re visiting a wine bar, going on a wine tour in one of the beautiful wine regions, dining in a restaurant or simply grabbing a bottle at a wine shop.
The country plays host to 250 native grape varieties and wine regions stretching from north to south and even the islands. From still and sparkling to fortified, sweet wines, there is something for everyone to enjoy with any Portuguese delicacy. Be sure to also look out for interesting uses of the iconic Madeira and port wines in recipes or other foods.
Now that you’ve gotten to know (and love) what to eat in Portugal, it’s time to immerse yourself in the amazing food and wine the country has to offer. Take a look at one of our exciting tours or contact us to tailor-make an unforgettable experience for you! And if you snap a picture of something tasty while you’re travelling, use #exploresideways on Instagram or Facebook to share your special foodie moment with us.