What to eat when in Portugal – 15 Must Eats

The Classics

1. Francesinha

Francesinha is probably one of the most popular dishes from Portugal. Translated, it means “the little French girl”. It is said that the name comes from the fact that the sandwich is inspired by the French sandwich “Croque Monsieur”. The rich Francesinha sandwich originated in Porto and consists of toast, cooked ham, linguiça, beefsteak, or roasted beef. It is topped with melted cheese and a hot, typically thick sauce of tomatoes, beer, and mustard.

Bacalhau” by Daquella manera is marked with CC0 1.0.

2. Bacalhau

Bacalhau is the preparation of salted cod, a form of clipfish traditionally used in Portugal and Brazil. Clipfish is salted and then air-dried sea fish. In Spain, very similar preparations are common under the name bacalao.

This Portuguese national dish, bacalhau, is one of the national symbols of Portugal. It is frequently thematized in literature, visual arts, theater, film, and photography.

3. Bolinho de bacalhau

Bolinhos de Bacalhau or Pastéis de Bacalhau (in English “cod cakes”) are typical Portuguese appetizers (petiscos). They are deep-fried balls made of potatoes and bacalhau (clipfish).

To prepare them, the bacalhau is first soaked, cooked, and ground. A roughly equal amount of jacket potatoes is peeled and mashed. Both are mixed with the addition of eggs and seasoned with salt, pepper, nutmeg, onions, and flat-leaf parsley. This farce is formed into small balls with two tablespoons and deep-fried in olive oil. Bolinhos de Bacalhau is served warm or cold and often with an aperitif.

4. Açorda

Açorda is a Portuguese bread soup, which is also considered the national dish. The soup is prepared with pieces of bread, eggs, olive oil, garlic and various spices, among other ingredients.

5. Arroz de Marisco

Arroz de Marisco is a Portuguese dish composed mainly of rice and seafood such as shrimp and parts of lobster claws and mussels cooked in a pot. The orange-red color of the dish comes from the crushed (mixed) parts of the seafood. Coriander is the main spice used for the typical taste.

Arroz is the Portuguese word for rice and the main ingredient in other Portuguese dishes such as Arroz de Tamboril (monkfish), Arroz de Pato (duck) and Arroz de Polvo (octopus).

6. Sardinhas Assadas

Sardinhas Assadas – grilled sardines, which should not be missing from any Portuguese picnic. They are one of the classics of Portuguese cuisine and are widespread and popular throughout the country.

Caldo Verde” by MSVG is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

7. Caldo Verde

A caldo verde (Portuguese for “green broth”) is a soup from northern Portugal that is one of the country’s national dishes. The recipe originally comes from the Minho region, where the vinho verde also originates. However, the dish has since spread throughout Portugal.

The base is a simple form of potato soup. In the traditional method of preparation, onions and garlic are sautéed in a large pot. To this are added diced floury potatoes and a generous amount of water is added. Over low heat, stirring occasionally, the potatoes are cooked until they are dissolved and a creamy broth is formed. Later, the leaves of couve galega, a type of palm cabbage, cut into strips, are added to the soup and briefly boiled. The hot soup is then served with thinly sliced chouriço (paprika-garlic-pork sausage), a generous drizzle of olive oil and a slice of broa, the typical corn bread from the Minho.

8. Bifana

Bifana is a popular Portuguese street food. It is a sandwich topped with thinly sliced marinated pork. It is particularly popular in the Porto region. The marinade and thus the taste can vary from locale to locale.

9. Queijo Serra da Estrela

Queijo Serra da Estrela is a Portuguese mountain cheese made from sheep’s milk. The milk comes exclusively from the breeds Bordaleira Serra da Estrela and Churra Mondegueira, which are raised in the mountainous region of Serra da Estrela.

Grelhado 03” by #moliço is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

10. Espetada

Espetada or espetinho is the Portuguese name for a culinary preparation method.  In this, pieces of food or a food-formed paste, usually meat, are impaled on skewers or small metal spits to be cooked or roasted over charcoal and served in individual portions.

11. Piri Piri Chicken

I must confess that the first time I ate Piri Piri chicken was in the Nandos restaurant chain in England. And I loved it! 

Piri Piri is the Portuguese name for chili peppers, also an epithet for spicy dishes in Portugal as well as the name of hot spice. There is no set recipe. Only the basic ingredients of fresh chili peppers, lemon, oil, and paprika are the same. Depending on the region, onions, salt, and pepper, clove pepper, tarragon, and/or bay leaves are added for seasoning. The level of spiciness can also vary greatly. The term is also used in countries on the African continent, where it is also known as peri peri or pili pili. Incidentally, the fast food chain Nando’s was also founded in South Africa.

Something Sweet

Pasteis de Nata in Lissabon” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

12. Pastéis de Nata

Another Portuguese dish that I absolutely love is Pastéis de Nata. They are also known as Pastel de Nata or Pastel de Belém.  The pastry is made of puff pastry filled with a cream of egg yolk, sugar, cream (“nata”), and flour. In Portugal, the baked pastéis are usually eaten sprinkled with cinnamon or powdered sugar. Delicious!

13. Arroz Doce

The Portuguese can also make rice sweet. Doce literally means “sweet” or “dessert.” Arroz Doce is the Portuguese version of rice pudding. A sweet dish where rice is cooked in milk and sugar is added.

Something Unusual

14. Polvo à la Lagareiro

Polvo à Lagareiro is a Portuguese dish based on squid, olive oil, potatoes, grelos and garlic. It is a dish that is also often served on Christmas Eve. 

For people from the Mediterranean and Asian regions, it is not uncommon to eat octopus. For other nationalities, however, it is often considered unusual.

Tripas” by adactio is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

15. Tripas à moda do Porto

Tripas à moda do Porto or dobrada à moda do Porto in Portuguese cuisine is a dish made of beef stomach with tripe, white beans, carrots, and rice. It is considered the traditional dish of the city of Porto. However, it is widespread throughout the country, where it is also simply called dobrada.

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