Tourist’s guide to Portugal cuisine – the best dishes to try

Imagine – you relax on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, enjoy the pleasant weather and picturesque landscapes. To make the vacation absolutely perfect, there are not enough original dishes and a glass of delicious, light wine. This is exactly what Portuguese cuisine will surprise and delight – original, colorful and, of course, incredibly tasty.

Portuguese food

Features of the cuisine of Portugal

Many mistakenly believe that the cuisine of Portugal is a continuation of the culinary preferences of Spain. Nevertheless, the influence of many peoples and nationalities is traced in Portuguese dishes. For example, the famous piri pepper is better known in the national dishes of African countries, and pasta and garlic are products typical of Italian cuisine.


The Portuguese love and know how to use a variety of spices common in India, give two dishes with the same ingredients a completely different flavor. Portugal borrowed a love of bread and olives from Mediterranean cuisine. Given the geographic location of the state – on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean – fish and seafood dishes prevail in the Portuguese menu.

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Interesting fact! Portugal is the first country in the world in terms of fish and seafood consumption. It is believed that any Portuguese can easily prepare 365 dishes from cod – according to the number of days in a year.

Photo of cod with cream sauce
Cod with creamy sauce

If you try to characterize the dishes of Portuguese cuisine in one word, it turns out – unique. They uniquely, in a unique way combine dietary and high-calorie ingredients, a kaleidoscope of tastes, simple and complex cooking techniques. For example, traditional Portuguese puree soups will be ready in just a quarter of an hour, and it will take at least a day to cook cod with creamy sauce.

Continental Portugal

The national cuisine of this part of the country is well known throughout Europe. First of all, these are cod dishes, which in Portugal are called bacalau. It is cooked in a variety of ways – with legumes, sausages, added as a filling in pies, you can even find cakes with cod, which are called Paste de nata.

Interesting to know! A gastronomic tour in Portugal is a great way to get acquainted with the history of the country, its national culinary traditions and culture.

Porto honors the tradition of making sardines on All Saints Day. If you find yourself in Porto, be sure to try the offal stew – Tripash. It was this dish that gave the name to all the inhabitants of the city – tripeyrush, which in translation means – lovers of tripe.

Ragu Tripash

A historical fact is associated with the advent of this dish. Famine made cooking from the entrails of the locals. In the middle of the 15th century, the monarch Don Enrique set out to expand national possessions, for this he had to slaughter the cattle that was available to the townspeople. The inhabitants of Porto had to survive, so dishes were invented from all the products that remained after the soldiers. So there was a dish of entrails with the addition of vegetables. Despite the fact that Tripash appeared five centuries ago, the dish is incredibly popular today.

The cuisine of Portugal has been formed for many centuries under the influence of certain factors:

  • For a long time the country was isolated from other states;
  • most of the country’s inhabitants did not live well, they had to cook from available products – independently caught fish became the basis of the diet;
  • in Portugal there was a small selection of products, therefore simple in composition and cooking technology prevailed.

Note! In all regions there are unique dishes that are found exclusively in this part of the state, the so-called culinary pride.

cafe Pasteis de Belem
Pasteis de belem

Every Portuguese dinner ends with a dessert. Portugal surpasses many European countries in the number and variety of sweets. Gourmet, original desserts can be found on any corner. For example, in the metropolitan area of ​​Belem there is a bakery where they prepare delicious cakes in the country. Tourists from different countries come to enjoy the dessert – Italy, France, Germany and Spain.

Dishes specific to the Azores
Cosidou Dash Furnas
Cosidou dash Furnas

Azores – one of the archipelagos of Portugal. In general, the island cuisine is in many ways similar to the continental, but there are unique dishes. For example, Kozidu dash Furnash. They prepare it in the vent of the volcano, lowering the dishes there with vegetables and chicken meat. On the islands you can taste delicious bread and many varieties of honey – such food is included in the daily diet of local residents.

Dishes specific to Madeira Island

The cuisine of this island is based on rural traditions. The diet of the inhabitants of Madeira is also dominated by fish dishes. Meat dishes are also found – mainly from pork or beef. As a side dish, corn, beans and french fries are popular.

What to try in Portugal

The national cuisine of Portugal is incredibly diverse, filled with a whole gamut of bright tastes and light taste. In each category of dishes there are certainly several culinary masterpieces that you must definitely try.

First meal

Caldu Verde Mashed Soup
Caldu Verde
Caldu Verde

This is the famous cabbage soup puree, which in its popularity can be compared with cabbage soup in Russia. In addition to cabbage, olive oil, paprika and a special smoked sausage cooked in Portugal are added to it – width.

On a note! The soup has a very delicate taste, it can be tasted in all restaurants and cafes. Sometimes sausage is served separately and it is added to the plate to taste.

Fish soup “Captain Vidal’s crying fish”

Saw – a simple fisherman who made a living by fishing and selling it. Once the crew of the ship, being in the ocean, was left without food, and the captain decided to make soup from the catch. Sailors threw live fish into the broth, it seemed to them that the fish was crying. The ship returned without a catch, but with a tasty, new recipe for cod soup, fresh vegetables, salt and pepper.

The recipe has not changed for several centuries. After cooking, all the ingredients are whipped with a mixer and a wonderful mashed soup can be savored.

Meat dishes

The Portuguese masterfully prepare different types of meat, offering tourists delicious, original dishes. They are certainly worth a try, being in Portugal. In a butcher’s shop, a piece of meat can be cut at the buyer and cook minced meat. In addition to traditional varieties of meat, Portugal also eats quail, goats and hares.

Interesting fact! Vegetarians in Portugal are better off avoiding butcher shops, as you can often see cut-up carcasses of rabbits and chickens in bags, blood bags that are used to prepare first courses.

Feijoad's meat dish

A rich, high-calorie national dish, which is prepared from a mixture of beans and different varieties of smoked meat and sausages. The traditional recipe contains vegetables and rice. Feijoads are prepared differently in different regions of the country, changing the ingredients.

Alheira de Mirandela
Alheira de Mirandela
Alheira de mirandela

This is a Portuguese sausage, which is prepared from any kind of meat except pork. It is believed that during the Middle Ages, Jews came up with a dish to hide their nationality and to escape from the persecution of the Inquisition. According to religious canons, Jews did not have the right to eat pork, but thanks to sausages, they managed to avoid starvation and reprisal of the inquisitors.

In modern Portugal, sausages are also prepared from pork, and a dish with fried eggs, potatoes and fresh vegetables is served.

Piri Piri Chicken
Portuguese Chicken Piri Piri
Piri Piri Chicken

The name “piri-piri” in Swahili means “hot pepper”. It is prepared from chicken wings and a completely incredible sauce. The wings are baked for 20 minutes. The dish is sharp, with a slight acidity. Eat chicken with fresh vegetables, salads and chips. Piri-piri must be included in the list of national Portuguese dishes that you need to try.

Fish and Seafood Dishes

The Portuguese are famous for their ability to cook fish and seafood dishes. Any store offers a huge selection of fish and a variety of shellfish. Most often, foods are fried in a pan or grill. In the assortment of large supermarkets you can see swordfish, moray eels.

Huge selection of fish and a variety of shellfish

Portugal is known for a wide variety of cod recipes. The most popular recipe is salting fish. This method of preparation was used by Portuguese fishermen to bring the fresh catch to shore. Before salting, cod was soaked for 24 hours in water. You can purchase salted carcasses at all grocery stores.

Grilled fish
Grilled fish
Grilled fish

Any kind of fish is cooked in this way; on weekends, many locals install grills on balconies, which spreads a special aroma. Restaurants usually serve huge portions with fresh vegetables or rice flavored with olive oil.

Monkfish with rice

When traveling in Portugal, be sure to try the exotic dish of monkfish. For its preparation, the fish is cut into portioned pieces, mixed with rice, tomatoes, various spices and herbs. Among locals, this is a popular dish that is prepared for dinner. Restaurants that specialize in seafood prepare a similar dish of octopus or shellfish.

Pork Alentejo
Carne de porco à alentejana
Pork Alentejo (Carne de Porco à Alentejana)

A dish that delights the taste buds of admirers of meat and seafood. It is prepared from pork and seafood. The meat is marinated in sauce, fried, and clams are added. Serve and eat it with potatoes.


What do people eat in Portugal for dessert? First of all, these are pastries, cakes, puddings. It is noteworthy that most recipes are taken from the culinary records of local nuns. The symbol of Portugal, of course, is the Pastel de nata cake.

Royal Pie Bolo Rei
Bolo rei

Also, the Portuguese love the royal pie (Bolo Rei) – national pastries. It looks like a cheesecake or a big donut – round with a hole in the middle. To complete the taste, the cake is generously sprinkled with chopped nuts, candied fruits and other dried fruits. Bolo Rei must be present on the table during the Christmas holidays. According to one legend, the recipe was brought to Portugal by the owner of the oldest pastry shop in Lisbon.

Tortas de Azeitau – sponge cake with soft egg cream. Serve dessert to wine or port.

Pastel de nata cakes

Prepared from puff pastry stuffed with cream and egg cream. You can try them in any cafe or restaurant in Lisbon, but it is believed that the best cakes are served in the Belem area. In some cafes, sweets are sprinkled with cinnamon.

The traditional breakfast for the Portuguese is a cup of espresso and a few pastel de nata.

Egg dessert from Aveiro
Ovos moles de aveiro
Egg dessert from Aveiro (Ovos moles de Aveiro)

Unusual, original dessert – delicate egg filling, wrapped in a shell from a waffle tube. The famous 19th-century Portuguese writer Esa de Keyrush wrote about this sweetness.

Biscuit Pão de ló

The famous Portuguese dessert, which can be tasted in any bakery. As a rule, it is eaten with a scoop of ice cream.

Portuguese drinks

We figured out what to try in Portugal with food, but a full lunch or dinner can not be imagined without a glass of port or wine.

Where to try the best port, if not in the homeland of this dessert wine. The technology for the production of the beverage is enshrined in law.

Port wine

In Portugal, the Verde wine is incredibly popular – this is a young wine, it is white, red and pink. The drink is made exclusively in Portugal. Tourists note that the taste of wine is quite specific, it is served with seafood, fish and meat.

If you prefer to drink stronger wines, pay attention to Madera. The wine is made on the island of Madeira, it is dry and dessert. The type of drink depends on the type of grape used and its aging.

Good to know! If you plan to order Madera in a cafe or restaurant, you only need to pronounce it like this – Vigne de Madeira. Otherwise, the waiter will not understand you.

Another national drink is coffee. They like strong, tasty aromatic coffee, but not as bitter as Italian. Portugal’s most popular coffee brands are Nicola e Delta.


Cheese selection

What to try in Portuguese cuisine? Of course, you should pay close attention to cheeses, which in their taste are in no way inferior to the most famous European varieties. For many centuries, the tradition of cheese making has been preserved in the country. Well-known national cheese producers are located in the central part of Portugal, in the province of Alentejo and on the Azores. For the production of cheese, different milk is used – not only traditional cow, but also goat and sheep.

Locals do not add cheese as an additional ingredient, but eat as an independent dish.

The most popular varieties to try are:

  • Caju de Serra;
  • Keiju de Castelo Branco;
  • Keiju San Jorge.

On a note! Cheeses are sold even in small souvenir shops, but if you want to buy a really tasty product, visit a specialty store.

Fresh cheese

It is made from cow or sheep’s milk; it is eaten unripe. The taste of cheese is soft, curd. It is a great choice for breakfast.

Caju de Serra
Caju de Serra
Queijo da serra

It is made from the 12th century from sheep’s milk in a certain period of the year – from November to March. Cheese has a pleasant milky aroma, hard crust and soft texture inside. It is spread on bread. Locals claim that this cheese is the best among Portuguese. A great addition to the national product – port or wine.

Keyju San Georges
Keyju San Georges
queijo sao jorge

This cheese is very fond of Europeans. It has been prepared from unpasteurized milk for several centuries.

Portuguese cuisine is incredibly varied and unlike any European cuisine. Here everyone will find a favorite dish. The cuisine of the mainland was influenced by Spanish culinary traditions, the cuisine of the island was formed under the influence of Indian traditions. If you prefer Mediterranean cuisine, head to southern Portugal.

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