Tourism in Portugal is booming and locals have noticed a rapid rise in the number of visitors every year. It’s unsurprising as Portugal is a rich country that oﬀers a unique experience and most visitors are caught by its spell. Gastronomy in Portugal is simple yet bold and extremely underrated. The cuisine always aims to let the ingredients shine. Being next to the Atlantic, there is a ton of seafood to feast upon but ultimately, the cuisine is very meat heavy.
Even though Portugal is a small country, every city or town has a certain flair to its food and most of the places are represented by their signature dishes. I will recommend a restaurant here and there for you to try but only for some dishes because I have a bias towards the restaurants in Porto. Whichever city you are in, you can find these dishes at any decently rated traditional restaurant or ask a local and they would be happy to guide you to their favourite place. Now, there is a lot more for you to taste apart from the dishes that I am going to recommend but talking about the following 20 is a good starting point.
Note for the Vegetarians/Vegans: You are not going to feel left out when it comes to the food scene in Portugal. There are many vegetarian/vegan restaurants in every major city now, with new ones opening constantly. While you may not be able to try the classic dishes, you will still get to experience Portuguese flavours.
- Portuguese Food
- Top Food Tours
- Portuguese Desserts
- Honorary Mention – Port Wine
- Portuguese Seafood DIshes
- Portuguese Seafood Rice Dish
- Portuguese Surf and Turf?
- Portuguese Meat Dishes
- Portuguese Cheese Dish
Jumping straight into the sweet stuﬀ…
1- Pasteis de Nata
Pasteis de Nata is easily the most famous food in Portugal and the craze is real.
Invented at the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, in the 17th century by actual monks, this dessert is now widely accepted and loved all over the world.
They are also called Pasteis de Belem, named after the café in Lisbon because they were the first ones working with the original recipe and they have been doing so for over a century.
It is truly something that the Portuguese enjoy on a daily basis.
You can never go wrong with one or two of these egg tarts with a nice shot of espresso.
Pasteis de Nata are available all over the country, every place makes their own version but always stay true to the core recipe.
Honestly, I have never had a bad one.
Just top this flaky, custardy goodness with some powdered sugar, cinnamon and commence.
2- Bolas de Berlim
Now, you will start noticing a common element in Portuguese desserts and that is, eggs.
Almost every traditional Portuguese dessert makes use of eggs in some sort of method.
Bolas de Berlim is no diﬀerent.
The name translates to ‘Berlin Balls’ and these are the Portuguese version of the Berliner.
A perfectly fried brioche donut is sliced in half, stuﬀed with a classic confectioner’s cream (egg based) and then rolled in sugar.
Their super fluﬀy exterior with the thick and creamy centre makes for a fantastic treat.
This is one of the most common desserts that you would find in any bakery or confectionery.
The best I have had is at Confeitaria Natario in Viana do Castelo but the best location to enjoy them is by the beach.
There are tons of vendors selling them along the Portuguese coast.
Invented in the 19th century, Pudim is the Portuguese version of a flan but in my opinion it is much better.
Along with all the sweetness, it carries a few complex flavours because of the use of it’s unique ingredients.
The proper name is Pudim Abade de Priscos, named after the inventor, Father Manuel Rebelo — The Abbot of Priscos.
For me, this is one of the most Portuguese recipes ever.
It uses a ton of egg yolks, you can feel the use of bacon just slightly lingering in the background and it all comes together with the use of Port Wine (Portuguese dessert wine).
It is as rich and decadent as it sounds but also surprisingly, quite light.
I know many people who don’t enjoy flan but trust me, Pudim is going to hit all the right flavour notes.
4- Ovos Moles
Let’s talk about another delicious, egg-heavy Portuguese dessert.
‘Ovos Moles’ means soft eggs in Portuguese and are extremely popular all around.
They are also called Ovos Moles do Aveiro because they are a true speciality of Aveiro.
Paper-thin wafer is stuﬀed with a mixture of eggs and sugar syrup.
Unlike custard or an egg cream, the stuﬃng is made by tempering egg yolks in a simple sugar syrup.
Resulting in a mixture that is creamy but not heavy, representing the ‘soft eggs’.
The exterior is a simple communion wafer that works as a great carrier for
the “creamy” filling.
You will find Ovos Moles in diﬀerent shapes but typically in the shape of seashells, barrels or fish, representing Aveiro (a beautiful coastal town, just south of Porto.)
5- Bolo de Bolacha com Mousse de Chocolate
Bolo de Bolacha and Mousse de Chocolate are two separate desserts that are found in almost every Portuguese menu.
I have never been to a traditional Portuguese restaurant that doesn’t have these two as part of their service.
They are extremely delicious separately but when they come together, it makes for a flavour extravaganza and I enjoy the ‘extra-ness’ once in a while.
Bola de Bolacha is a simple biscuit cake made with the classic Maria biscuits.
The biscuits are dipped in coﬀee and then covered with a stiﬀ butter cream.
As for the Chocolate Mousse, there is nothing much to say.
Although, in this combination the mousse does bring in the eggs.
The Bolo de Bolacha with Mousse de Chocolate layered intermittently is something you should order oﬀ the menu without a doubt.
Honorary Mention – Port Wine
No Portuguese meal is complete without finishing oﬀ with a nice glass of Port, especially in Porto.
This famous Portuguese dessert wine is the perfect finisher to any meal and goes along with so many desserts.
It is a must that you try it in Porto or go for a wine tour, which is even better.
Let’s jump into the ocean next.
Portuguese Seafood DIshes
Açorda is one of the most unique Portuguese dishes.
On paper, it is a simple soup but the use of the ingredients here results in a gorgeously tasting dish that also allows people to make variations of it.
It comes from the Alentejo region of Portugal.
A broth is made out of coriander, crushed garlic and lemon, then stale sliced bread is added (This dish was born to use the leftover surplus bread at bakeries) until most of the liquid is soaked and then served with poached eggs.
This soup is truly a delight.
It is simple and comforting.
My favourite açorda is done with fish broth and then topped with steamed fish.
That is what you will find when you head towards the south, amazing, fresh seafood açordas.
There is also a slightly diﬀerent version called Migas, here the end result is a creamy mix of bread and broth.
Both tastes amazing when done right.
7- Cataplana de Marisco
Heading to the Algarve region in the south, we have this beautiful seafood dish, Cataplana de Marisco.
This is one of the best ways to enjoy the flavours of the ocean that Portugal has to oﬀer.
Going along with the rest of Portuguese gastronomy, this is also a very simply done dish.
The seafood is cooked in its own juices with some white wine in a concave copper pan that is called ‘The Cataplana’.
This pan was invented by the fishermen and is used to cook an array of things but the most famous one being Cataplana de Marisco.
All the ingredients are sautéed in olive oil, then various kinds of seafood is added (I love when it is done with prawns and mussels) and then covered to cook until everything comes together.
The dish is served in the Cataplana itself and the aroma when you open the pan is hypnotising.
The best I have had is in the city of Faro, in the Algarve region.
8- Grilled Sardines + Caldo Verde
Let the festivities begin because this combination of dishes is all about one of the best days in Porto, São João.
São João is truly something to plan for while visiting Porto.
It is a bigger deal than new years and the whole city comes together to celebrate it grandly.
Caldo Verde is a soup made up of shredded collard greens, potatoes and chouriço.
Huge pots of caldo verde are cooked and taken to streets where fresh fish is being grilled.
While people grill tons of diﬀerent stuﬀ, sardines are the most common.
It is truly a day to behold, the whole city smells like heaven and you cannot get enough of all the good food.
You don’t even need to go to any restaurant for the food, just go up to any group of locals, grill some sardines and enjoy the day traditionally.
9- Bacalhau à Bras
This dish is believed to have originated in Lisbon and is probably the most famous Portuguese dish made with cod.
Bacalhau is salted cod fish and you will find a ton of dishes made with it.
Portuguese people love their cod and are crazy for it but the craziest part; you don’t even find cod in the Atlantic.
All the cod in Portugal is imported from other parts of Europe, that didn’t stop the Portuguese to make it their own and cook fantastic dishes though.
Bacalhau à bras is done by cooking shredded cod with scramble eggs, topping it oﬀ with fried potato sticks and served with black olives.
It is comfort food at its finest.
Portuguese Seafood Rice Dish
10- Arroz de Marisco
On paper this dish sounds like the Spanish seafood Paella but realistically, it is very diﬀerent due the the way it is made.
You could even categorise it as a thick rice stew.
Arroz de Marisco is done malandro style, which is to cook rice completely but still having a good amount of the liquid left.
So, it results in this soupy, hearty rice dish that is extremely comforting.
There are of tons of ‘malandro’ rice dishes that are served as accompaniments but Arroz de Marisco easily stands out as a main on its own.
The dish is loaded with diﬀerent kinds of seafood, everything is cooked perfectly and while the dish is said to have originated in the town of Leira, it is best served around the coastal areas.
Portuguese Surf and Turf?
A bit of of both…
11- Carne de Porco à Alentejana
This dish is kind of like the American surf and turf.
It is the Portuguese way of bringing the best of both worlds together.
While it is not as extreme as the surf and turf when it comes to its ingredients, it is truly a flavour explosion.
You have wonderfully marinated pork that is fried and then stewed with clams until everything is cooked to perfection.
The dish is served with fried cubed potatoes and a ton of pickles.
This is another dish that originated in the Alentejo region and definitely one of my favourites.
The way that pork complements the flavour of the clams, having being cooked in the juices together is amazing.
The fried potatoes add the extra crunch and then the pickles refreshingly cut oﬀ the fattiness.
I love this dish because it works so well.
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- 20 Portuguese Food Dishes To Taste
Portuguese Meat Dishes
Just focusing on the meat now…
This crown jewel of Porto is one of the meatiest sandwiches you will ever try.
While some people find it overwhelming, I find it to be the perfect “treat yourself” meal.
The array of meats it has includes; Mortadella, ham, fresh sausages, everything double layered and a fat steak.
There is cheese inside the sandwich and the exterior is covered in melted cheese too.
If that is not enough, the entire sandwich is then topped with a luxuriously spicy tomato sauce and served with hand-cut fries.
This is the dish to have when you visit Porto and Yuko is hands down the best restaurant to enjoy it at.
All you need along with it is a chilled Super Bock (the beer of the north).
13- Arroz de Pato
When talking about Portuguese cuisine, pork comes up a lot because of its heavy use.
But there are dishes that use other types of meat or poultry, that are incredible and the perfect example is Arroz de Pato.
The style of making this rice dish is vastly diﬀerent than cooking it ‘malandro’.
It is said to have originated in the city of Braga in the north of Portugal and you can notice that due to its bold flavours; this dish tastes fantastic.
The base for the rice has a ton of aromatics, red wine or port and once halfway cooked, shredded roasted duck is mixed into it.
Arroz de Pato then gets layered in a baking dish, topped with sliced chouriço, cheese and then baked.
It tastes as good as it sounds.
Apart from the Francensinha there is another sandwich that the locals are crazy for.
Bifana is a much more simple and humble sandwich, it is just sliced pork between a classic Portuguese bread roll.
Don’t let the description fool you though because this dish packs a punch.
‘Bifana’ is also the cut of the pork where it is extremely thinly sliced to achieve the texture that people love so much.
The king of bifanas is a restaurant called Conga in Porto.
At Conga, they have two huge pots of bifanas always stewing in a tomato and beer base sauce so they never run out.
The sandwich is super cheap and tastes incredible; the bread soaks up all the juices of the pork and a dash of hot sauce elevates the entire experience.
This is a dish closely related to the history of the Portuguese and a great example of making amazing food with whatever you have.
According to a local legend, this dish was born out of necessity as in the past people could only aﬀord the tripe of the pork.
Tripe is not something most people would go for, it is an acquired taste and the texture doesn’t help.
Tripas à moda do Porto is a dish that might help you change that.
People have diﬀerent way of preparing it all over the north but a very famous way is how it is done in Porto.
There is a lot of care that goes into making this tripe stew and the dish can be extremely comforting.
Now, this is one unique sausage, not just because of its taste but because of the history behind it.
Jews developed this sausage that looked like any other pork sausage and tasted like one, during the inquisition period.
Instead of converting their religion, they tricked the locals into believing that the Jews were consuming pork.
Honestly, they tricked me too.
When I first had this sausage I thought it was made of pork but it was actually poultry mixed with bread, herbs and spices.
Well, now you can find Alheiras made out of pork but the originals are the ones to look out for.
They are super flavourful, generally pan fried served with rice, some greens and a fried egg and available at most of the local restaurants.
I am a firm believer that a hot-dog is a sandwich, so, welcome to yet another pork sandwich in Porto.
You might think that it is too much but I cannot get enough of it.
Cachorrinho is a Portuguese hot-dog but is really diﬀerent than the ones that we all know.
Here, the entire preparation takes place on the grill.
The bottom half of a bread roll gets toasted with fresh pork sausage, cheese is added to it and then covered with the top half.
Everything gets lathered in butter, then grilled until the bread is crispy and the cheese is melted.
It is served with a decent amount of hot sauce and it makes for the best snack ever.
And the place I always head to for a good cachorrinho, Gazela.
For many Portuguese families, Leitão means a special occasion and this is definitely one of the most decadent dishes on this list.
In most farming families, piglets are raised for this specific purpose.
This is truly a treat because it always tastes special when done right.
The entire piglet is marinated with simple spices and sometimes injected with milk to keep the meat as moist as possible.
In most traditional setting it is roasted for a few hours on a spit over a wood-fire.
The meat is incredibly tender while the skin becomes golden and crispy.
The idea is enjoy the meat in its truest form, so it is only served with some orange slices, salad and steamed rice.
You can enjoy portions of it at many restaurants that boast this speciality.
I do credit many dishes as my favourite or one of the favourites but this is truly my favourite dish of this cuisine.
Rojões made me fall in love with the Portuguese gastronomy, as it showed me how simple ingredients when treated right can yield wonderful dishes.
Casa Expresso in central porto is where it is being cooked to perfection for decades now.
Huge chunks of pork are marinated for hours and then stewed for hours until the perfect texture is achieved.
The meat is extremely tender but never falls apart on you.
Rojões can either be served in a plate with fried potatoes and rice soaked in its juices or can be enjoyed quickly as a sandwich.
I have my own version (which I prefer) but the traditional ones never miss the spot.
Portuguese Cheese Dish
Last but not the ‘cheese’ (it sounded better in my head!).
20- Queijo da Serra da Estrela
You will have the flavour of this amazing cheese lingering in your mouth long after you taste it.
Queijo da Serra is truly a unique cheese.
It is made exclusively with the milk from Bordaleira breed of sheep in the vast pastures of Serra da Estrela.
The techniques of making this cheese have not been touched since the 16th century.
It involves a lot of work, long maturing process and a lot of patience.
When ripe, the cheese is so soft that you can just scoop it and spread on anything you like.
It can be enjoyed as a starter or a dessert when paired with the right marmalade and port wine.
The taste is bold, intense and unforgettable.
By talking about these dishes, I have barely scratched the surface.
There are so many amazing, unique and weird dishes that are waiting to be tried by you.
Open yourself up to this extremely underrated cuisine and trust me you won’t be disappointed.