A visit to Portugal will have you longing to stay there forever. The people are warm-hearted and welcoming, just like the sunny weather you’ll find there. It’s a country rich with history, gorgeous landscapes, and some of the most incredible cuisine you’ve ever had.
Sadly in the states, we’re not often familiarized with Portuguese food, which should be criminal. One taste of these dishes and you’ll feel absolutely cheated that you never had them before. Think lots of fresh seafood, breads, cheeses, beer and wine and it’s a smorgasbord of gluttonous delights that you’ll crave from here on out.
Try these most iconic Portuguese dishes to truly capture the real flavor of Portugal!
1. Bacalhau à brás
Thanks to its prime coastal location, seafood is a big part of the cuisine here. Cod is one of the most popular fish served here, and by far, one of the best ways to enjoy it is sautéed with straw-fried potatoes, onions, parsley and olives. It’s really quite simple but the flavors are undeniably delicious.
2. Alheira de Mirandela
There’s an interesting story behind this faux sausage dish. Ages ago, Jewish people created it to fool the Portuguese Inquisition centuries ago so that they would believe they were Christian. The sausage they created was free of pork but despite this, it’s still an incredibly popular dish today. You’ll find it most often served with fries and a fried egg.
3. Pastéis de bacalhau
This is another popular dish with cod that truly goes beyond the call of duty, turning this tasty fish into crispy and delightful fishcakes. The cod is shredded and then fried to a golden crisp on the outside while the inside remains smooth. The complexity of the flavors along with the two divergent textures is out of this world.
4. Cozido à portuguesa
Do you like meat? Good! Because you’ll love this stew. It’s a hearty and robust blend of beef, chicken, pork, and an assortment of sausages. There are some vegetables thrown in for good measure too. The broth of this traditional dish is very nutritious and the Portuguese love to drink it and use it to boil rice.
If loving a sandwich is wrong, you’ll never want to be right. This sandwich will instantly top any other sandwich you’ve ever had in your life. It’s triple layers of cheese, cured meats, and bread that all get topped with a pour of gravy so generous that it swims in it. Nothing compares.
6. Queijo da Serra
Cheese lovers, rejoice! This incredible sheep’s milk cheese is indulgently gooey. It’s usually found in a soft, buttery texture though you’ll also see it in a more hardened state. Go ahead and try to decide which way is your favorite. It’s amazing!
7. Caldeirada de peixe
As we mentioned, Portugal’s seaside location makes it a fantastic place to get seafood. And a place with lots of seafood would not be complete without a seafood stew. There is no right or wrong way to make this dish. You’ll find it to be a varied hodgepodge of whatever is fresh on-hand with different types of fish and shellfish simmered to perfection with tomatoes and herbs.
8. Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato
There are clams, and then there are clams cooked in a sauce of olive oil, garlic, white wine, and cilantro. The latter of which is perhaps one of the most glorious ways to enjoy this shellfish. And while the clams are indeed fresh and delicious, you’ll want to take the hunk of bread that comes along with it and sop up all that sauce. Enjoy it al fresco with plenty of friends and beer for a wonderful afternoon.
9. Caldo verde
Portugal was big on kale before everyone went on a craze for this superfood in the states. This soup is made with kale, potatoes, onions and slices of chorizo. It’s supremely comforting and can be served as a meal in itself or in a smaller portion just before it.
10. Sardinhas assadas
Charcoal-grilled sardines are something you will miss once you return home from Portugal. Even if you were never a fan of sardines before, the smokiness of these small fish is absolutely incredible. You’ll find them everywhere from sit-down restaurants to stalls on the side of the street. Have them on their own with a proper pour of olive oil on top or enjoy them with corn bread, in salad, or alongside vegetables. Just make sure you have them!
11. Arroz de Pato
Did someone say duck risotto? It’s truly one of the most perfect dishes of all. The duck is crispy on the outside and tender inside. Mixed with risotto and chorizo, it’s absolute heaven. Enjoy with copious amounts of red wine.
12. Bolo do caco
There’s garlic bread. And then there’s garlic bread in Portugal. It’s a flat, round loaf of artisan bread that is a little like an English muffin melded with focaccia bread. Some enterprising cafes and restaurants here have used this bread to create next level sandwiches and burgers, much to the delight of everyone.
13. Ovos moles de Aveiro
The city of Aveiro is proud of this delicious claim to fame. Try these sweet delicacies and indulge yourself. Ultra thin wafers shaped like seashells lovingly wrap around sweetened egg yolk paste. Just try it! Yum!
If you thought the triple-layer sandwich smothered in gravy was pure decadence, just wait. This sandwich consists of thin slices of pork cutlet that are bathed in garlic and white wine, then fried up in a rich lard-filled sauce. The whole creation is stuffed into a Portuguese roll.
15. Carne de Porco Alentejana
Perhaps one of Portugal’s most distinctive dishes of all is this fabulous dish of pork and clams. The pork marinates overnight in white wine, vinegar, bay leaves, garlic, paprika, coriander, salt, pepper, and a red bell pepper paste. After marinating for 24 hours, the pork is seared. After that, it simmers in the rest of the marinade and is topped off with clams. The juices of the cooking clams seep out as they cook, melding the world of pork and clams together in the most marvelous of ways.
If French escargot are a favorite delicacy of yours, you’ll love the escargot in Portugal. But they’re served in an entirely different yet no less delicious way here. Big or small snails (you’ll find them in two sizes) are served in a savory broth of herbs. The fun is in pulling them out of their shells, which you can suck out or opt to pry them from with toothpicks. Another bonus: they go great with beer.
17. Polvo à Lagareiro
This octopus dish is revered for serving during special occasions, though you’ll often find it readily available on any occasion at just about any seafood restaurant you eat at. It’s typically roasted and then served cold with olive oil, onions, and topped with parsley.
18. Sapateira Recheada
Stone crab is popular in the state of Florida between the months of October and May when it’s in season. It’s also popular in Portugal where they serve it stuffed with crab roe. It’s rich and intense, and is just beautiful on top of fresh-baked warm bread.
Waste not, want not! In Portugal, they tend to use every part of the fish. In this dish, salad is made with the roe sacs from fish like cod. It’s sliced and mixed with vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and peppers. If that turns your stomach, be prepared that if you get an upset stomach on your trip, the locals will recommend you eat this to cure what ails you!
20. Torta de Azeitão
Portugal is place for the dessert fanatic. This torta, or cake, is spongy and topped with a sweet spread of egg yolk which is then rolled up. It’s delightfully sweet and goes wonderfully with coffee.
21. Pão de ló
If you visit Portugal during a major holiday like Christmas, you’ll see a lot of this sponge cake. It’s intensely soft and fluffy, and serving it with a side of ice cream is the only way to take this wonderful dessert even further into the land of heavenly delights.
22. Arroz doce
You’ve probably heard of arroz con leche, but this Portuguese take on it is just as satisfying. This version of rice pudding features lemon and a sprinkling of cinnamon. It’s warm and comforting, and makes for the ideal end to any meal.
23. Queijadas de Sintra
Here’s another egg-based Portuguese dessert. It’s a pastry filled with fresh cheese and sprinkled with cinnamon. If cheese Danishes are your thing, you’re going to fall madly in love with this light and tempting treat.
24. Salame de chocolate
It looks just like a salami. But this sweet treat is merely shaped like the famed encased meat. It’s made with chocolate, eggs, butter, and chunks of broken cookies, then shaped into a salami. You’ll find it in just about any supermarket in Portugal, and once you do, you’ll likely be plotting how many of these you can fit in your luggage to take back home with you.
25. Pastel de Nata
These egg custard tarts are one of the most extraordinary egg-based desserts you’ll find here. In fact, they are what inspired the dan tat, the popular egg tart in China and Hong Kong. You’ll see these everywhere from the vendors on the streets to bakeries. While they’re mostly made the same way, each place imparts its own special twist, making for quite the chore for you to taste around the country and find your favorite egg tarts.
26. Ginja em Copos de Chocolate
This dessert is perfect for those who love liqueur and chocolate. It’s a match made in heaven! It features a Portuguese sour cherry liqueur named Ginja that is served in small chocolate cups. It’s like eating a cherry cordial but a million times more extraordinary!
Lovers of spirits should not miss this firewater from Portugal. It tastes a bit like a fruity brandy with a bit of fire to it. With an extremely high proof of 48%, you’ll want to try to take it a bit easy on this stuff, though be forewarned that many locals will drink it for breakfast. Hey, when in Portugal!
The food options in Portugal make it completely obvious that this is one place where a love of food and a love of life converge. Eat, drink, and be merry may very well have originated in this country. The food truly reflects the warmth and genuine heart of the people here and will be something you’ll long for even before you’ve completely unpacked your bags when you’ve arrived back home.