34 traditional Portuguese food dishes you must try
Updated: Apr 18
You already know how to choose your restaurant in Portugal and where to eat well and cheap in Portugal, now I'm going to tell you the 34 essential dishes of Portuguese gastronomy to enjoy.
Traditional Portuguese cuisine is among the most underrated (and delicious) in the world. Browse this list and find out why you should indulge in Portuguese cuisine.
1. Bacalhau com natas
Legend has it that the Portuguese have many ways of preparing cod, and some Portuguese cookbooks even list a cod recipe for each day of the year. Bacalhau com Natas is a cod gratin with milk cream. It is one of the most popular dishes in Portugal.
The concept of this dish, which has become a true classic of Portuguese gastronomy, is said to have been invented in the 1930s by João Ribeiro.
2. Arroz de marisco
Arroz de Marisco, literally Rice with Seafood, is also a traditional Portuguese dish. It is considered one of the 7 wonders of Portuguese gastronomy. This dish is a real delicacy if prepared in the most traditional way, i.e., with as many of the following seafood as possible: shrimp, lobster, crab, clams, mussels, cockles, clams and sea almonds. The combination of seafood will vary according to the season, the availability of shellfish and the price of the dish. Beware, quality and very complete, Arroz de Marisco is a rather expensive dish, even in Portugal. It can cost up to 25 – 30 euros.
The dish originates from the region of Marinha Grande (central Portugal). In addition to seafood and rice, it is garnished with garlic, parsley, tomato, onion and olive oil. It can also be seasoned with white wine and shrimp heads to make the broth.
3. Dourada grelhada
The Dourada grelhada, grilled sea bream, is on the menu of almost every restaurant in Portugal. It is a reference and a safe bet, as it is often a dish of the day, very affordable. The fish is often caught that morning and will be ultra-fresh. Frequently accompanied by steamed potatoes and beans, cabbage and/or peppers, you will appreciate the full flavour of the fish thanks to the olive oil that will enhance its taste. A must during your stay in Portugal.
4. Bacalhau à Brás
Bacalhau à Brás is a typical Portuguese dish of the city of Porto. Very often offered in all restaurants worthy of the name, it is one of the most consumed cod dishes in Portugal, but also in Macau. It consists of crumbled cod, flaked chips, thinly sliced fried onions, egg, olives and parsley. The excellent flavour of this dish depends on the alchemy between the different ingredients of the recipe, mainly the amount of onions in relation to the cod and the olive oil of the dish.
The recipe for Bacalhau à Brás is said to have been invented by the owner of a bar in Bairro Alto called Brás or Braz. The popularity of the dish is such that it has crossed the Portuguese border to become a dish known in Spain as "Revuelto de Bacalao a la Portuguesa" or "Bacalao Dorado".
5. Bife à Café
Bife à Café, coffee steak, is a typical Lisbon dish. It was originally a speciality of a popular Lisbon café, Marrare das Sete Portas, frequented in the early 20th century by bohemians and vagrants. Over the years, the dish has become a real tourist attraction, offered in many restaurants in Lisbon. The steak is covered with a coffee-based pepper sauce and served with chips. There is a variant of the dish with the same sauce accompanied by mushrooms.
6. Carne de porco à Alentejana
Carne de Porco à Alentejana or Carne de Porco com Amêijoas is a dish originating from the Alentejo region in the south of Portugal. It is prepared with clams, pork meat, colouring, bay leaf, wine and garlic. The meat is fried, served and mixed with the already cooked clams. The final preparation can be sprinkled with parsley and served with cubed chips and lemon. This is one of the most emblematic dishes of Portuguese gastronomy and can be found in most restaurants in the country.
7. Sardinhas assadas
The grilled sardine is a classic of Portuguese cuisine, which has even become popular again in recent years. Sardines are usually accompanied by grilled peppers and steamed potatoes. The dish is usually served with thick slices of bread to absorb the natural fat of the fish.
The dish originates from the Lisbon and Tagus region and is considered one of the 7 Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy. In Lisbon, the success of this dish is due to the great fishing tradition in the region. In Portugal, the tradition is to serve this dish during the Festivals of the Popular Saints.
8. Arroz de pato
Arroz de pato is a traditional dish from the north of Portugal. It is a duck risotto with a crispy surface covered with pork sausages (chouriço). The duck is cooked first to be tender and then baked with the rice.
9. Arroz de Tamboril
Arroz de Tamboril is a Rice Stew with Monkfish. Its recipe is similar to the dish described above Arroz de Marisco. The only difference is that the rice is often more liquid and the seafood accompaniment is usually made only with shrimp. It is also a traditional Portuguese dish and a real must try.
10. Bolinho de bacalhau or Pastéis de bacalhau
A well-known Portuguese proverb claims that there are more cod dishes than days in the year. An essential part of Portuguese cuisine, cod (also known as bacalhau) can, for example, be grated into delicious fritters. Golden and crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, they can be served as a starter or accompanied by rice or salad.
11. Alheira de Mirandela
A classic among smoked sausages and chouriços (a category of sausage made from pork, wrapped in the skin of its intestines), the alheira was created by the Jews as a decoy to make the forces of the Portuguese inquisition believe that they were Christians. Nowadays, this pork-free chouriço has become a typical dish, usually served with fried eggs and chips.
Literally "Little French girl" in Portuguese, Francezinha is a typical dish from the Porto region, whose origin dates back to the Napoleonic invasions. It is made of linguiça, fresh sausage, ham and beef, topped with cheese and a slightly alcoholic hot sauce.
13. Cozido à Portuguesa
A classic stew for meat lovers. This dish includes chicken, beef, pork and various pork sausages. Already a hearty dish as it is, it also contains vegetables, such as carrots, beans and cabbage. The water used during cooking becomes a particularly nutritious boil, which can be drunk or used to cook rice.
14. Caldeirada de peixe
In Portuguese cuisine, there is a special place for fish and seafood. This traditional dish gives prominence to these foods that are highly esteemed by the Portuguese.
Put everything you can catch in your hands in a pot and you get a caldeirada, a fish stew cooked with different types of fish, shellfish, and topped with tomatoes and herbs.
15. Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato
This clam dish relies not only on the soft texture inside the shell but also on pieces of bread that are bathed in a sauce made of olive oil, coriander, garlic and sometimes even white wine. It is the perfect dish for a relaxing afternoon with friends.
16. Queijo da Serra
Serra cheese is made from sheep's milk, has a rather harsh taste and a rather soft texture. For some incomprehensible reason, it is almost unknown outside Portugal. It can be soft, with a buttery taste, but also harder, with a more intense flavour, which makes it a delight for cheese lovers.
17. Caldo verde
Very popular and traditional in the Minho region in northern Portugal, this thick cabbage soup is eaten throughout the country with a few slices of Chorizo. It is one of the traditional dishes of St. John's Day.
18. Bolo do caco
Traditional Madeira Island garlic bread, this flatbread is prepared in a basalt oven and should melt if served hot and crispy.
Baked in a traditional wood oven, bolo do caco is a wonderful experience, especially if served hot. A bite of crispy bolo does caco represents a moment we intend to repeat over and over again.
Some restaurants even use this bread to make their burgers more typical, a great idea that you will wish you had once you tried it yourself!
19. Polvo à Lagareiro
How can you not include an octopus dish in a selection of Portuguese specialities? Octopus is so special that it is eaten on special occasions like Christmas Eve. It is also often served as a starter in most seafood restaurants, often cold, accompanied by onions, olive oil and parsley. It is a common dish found on tables throughout the country, although many claims that the dish originated in the Beiras, between the south of the Douro and the north of the Tagus river.
20. Feijoada à Transmontana
A bean stew typical of northern Portugal and made with pork and beef, it is found all over the world and in different forms. It is the archetype of Portuguese cuisine's strong taste for using all the parts of the pig.
21. Leitão da Bairrada
Bairrada's symbol, the local suckling pig is an unmissable gastronomic experience. Daily, three thousand suckling pigs are sold and the roasted suckling pig is served in several restaurants in Bairrada.
The suckling pig is very tasty, after being seasoned with olive oil, salt, garlic and pepper. The bairradino oven, heated with firewood made of vine or eucalyptus, makes the suckling pig roast something memorable.
22. Migas à Alentejana
A traditional recipe from the Alentejo region, migas are traditionally eaten in a clay pot. Hand-kneaded and fried bread is mixed with marinated and fried pieces of pork.
This dish consists of a large piece of pan-fried beef or pork served with a fried egg on top of the meat and accompanied by fried potatoes, rice and a mixture of green salad, tomatoes and onions seasoned with olive oil and wine vinegar.
24. Tripas à Moda do Porto
Symbol of the city of Porto, it is the origin of the epithet of "Tripeiros" (tripe eaters). The people of Porto recognise that their ability to overcome difficulties is at the origin of this reference. The generosity of the people of Porto has been recognised by history and this dish is part of that history of overcoming and solidarity.
This dish is composed of tripe, highlighting the presence of veal frills and combs. It may also contain ham, pig's ear and veal hand. Other common ingredients are chorizo and chicken.
In the Porto style tripe, there are also ingredients like onions, white beans, carrots, bay leaf, lard, a bunch of parsley, lemon, salt and cumin.
25. Coelho à Caçador
The wild rabbit that lives freely in the bush became a danger to crops and a large number of the animals led to the need to resort to a simple strategy to reduce the number of rabbits.
Hunters took advantage of the rabbit skin for trade and its meat became tastier as the experience was gained in cooking the rabbit. Ingredients like garlic, pepper, bay leaf and quality red wine serve as the seasoning for a long marinade that is left overnight.
Then sauté in olive oil, onion, bacon and tomatoes, in an iron pot. The meat and marinade are then used. While it simmers, refresh it with wine. In the end, rosemary is added. A wonderful experience!
26. Sopa da Pedra
Stone Soup enchants by its legend and flavour. It became famous in Almeirim, the "Capital of Stone Soup", a land known for its agricultural production and rural traditions.
The Stone Soup is made with ingredients produced in the Almeirim municipality and has constituted itself as one of the most famous traditional dishes of Portugal.
27. Açorda à Alentejana
The açorda à Alentejana is a classic of the region's gastronomy, a symbol of the Alentejo. Bread, olive oil, garlic, salt, pennyroyal or coriander and paprika are among the indispensable ingredients of Alentejo açorda.
The mortar gives the meal a very special soul. Boiling (or poaching) eggs and accompanying them with a hake makes the experience fantastic.
28. Bife no prego
It's no secret. It's the classic loaf of bread (which we call French bread) stuffed with slices of beef. It comes with eggs, tomatoes and seasonings. It is usually sold in bakeries and is a good way to satisfy your hunger without spending too much. Without a doubt one of the simplest and cheapest typical foods in Portugal.
29. Torta de Azeitão
In Portugal, egg-based desserts are quite common, with several regional varieties. One of the most famous is the torta de Azeitão, a soft, melt-in-the-mouth pie with an egg yolk on top. These pies are a sweet tooth's delight, and a must try if you're passing through Azeitão.
30. Ovos moles de Aveiro
If you feel that something is missing from your life, you should try ovos moles: a sweet pastry rolled into a thin wafer in the shape of a shell. Even if it doesn't solve your problems, it can really brighten up your day. Even the famous 19th-century Portuguese author Eça de Queirós couldn't deny it, as he refers to this speciality in his novel The Maia, which is the pride of the city of Aveiro (the town of origin of the recipe).
31. Pão de ló
The typical Portuguese sponge cake, very popular at Christmas or Easter, is sold in most pastry shops, wrapped in white paper. Soft and light, pão de ló can be served with a little ice cream or eaten on its own.
32. Pastel de Belém or Pastel de nata
The secret recipe for pastel de Belém was originally created by Catholic nuns and is sold in a place near Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Lisbon. There are heated debates about the differences between this dish and the better-known pastel de nata: for some, there is no difference, except for the name, since it is sold in the Belém district.
33. Arroz doce
If there is one dessert that your Portuguese grandmother would tenderly prepare for you, it is Arroz Doce: a rice cake cooked with lemon and sprinkled with cinnamon. It has a sour taste, a fragrance that reminds you of Christmas, your birthdays or your childhood home. This little Portuguese gift is a great way to spoil yourself, be sure.
34. Queijadas de Sintra
These egg-based pastries are made with fresh cheese and originate from the charming town of Sintra, a 20-minute drive from central Lisbon. If you're planning a visit to the castle or a walk in the woods, be sure to stop at a bakery.