8 traditional Portuguese foods

8 traditional Portuguese foods to try in Portugal


8 traditional Portuguese foods pudding tarts


Although most people are familiar with the cuisine of neighbouring Spain, Portuguese cuisine has gone relatively unnoticed. Recently, Portugal, and in particular Lisbon, has become a feature on many traveller’s itineraries. This has lead to more and more people asking, what should I eat when I go to Portugal? The following is just a sample of some of 8 traditional Portuguese foods to try when you visit Portugal.



Delicious Portuguese cuisine and specialty food


Pastel de nata

The pastel de nata, or Portuguese custard tart, needs no introduction. Over the past few years, these delicious pastries have popped up in cafes and bakeries all over the world: from Berlin to Brisbane.

The most original recipe comes from Pastéis de Belém, a pastelaria that dates back to 1837. But, even though Pastéis de Belém are the oldest pastelaria, you’ll find these cakes in every single café in Portugal.

Over the past few years, several new bakeries have launched in Lisbon. Some people say that these bakeries are even better than Pastéis de Belém, while others say you can’t beat the original. There’s no consensus, and the only way to get an answer is to try them all yourself.

As well as Pastéis de Belém, three places to include on your ‘grubcrawl’ are Manteigaria, Aloma, and Cristal. Let us know what your consensus is.



Bacalhau Com Natas to try while in Portugal



Bacalhau is the national dish of Portugal, and you’ll find it on almost every restaurant menu across Portugal. The Portuguese love it so much, that it’s said that there are more than 365 different recipes for bacalhau: one for every day of the year.

Bacalhau is salt cod, although the dish itself is not necessarily salty. Prior to cooking, a chef will soak the bacalhau in cold water for at least 48 hours to remove the salt from the fish. If

Some of the most popular bacalhau recipes to look out for are ‘bacalhau com nata’, ‘bacalhau à bras’, and ‘bacalhau a lagareiro’.


specialty francesinha to try while in Portugal



The Francesinha is one of Portugal’s most unusual dishes. As the story goes, a Portuguese man who had returned to Portugal after living in France invented it. He wanted to adapt the Croque Monsieur to Portuguese tastes, and so made a few adjustments to the recipe.

To say he went a little overboard is an understatement. Typically, a Francesinha contains ham, sausage, steak, and cheese. It is then covered in a beer and tomato sauce and served with chips.

The Francesinha is most commonly found in Porto although, if you look hard enough, you’ll find it in cafes all over Portugal.




Typical Bifana sandwich in Portugal



The Francesinha gets a lot of attention for being unusual, but Portugal’s best sandwich is probably the bifana. This is a pork sandwich, that’s usually eaten with mustard. A great deal of preparation goes into the pork seasoning, and recipes usually include garlic, white wine, vinegar, and spices. Ironically, even though chefs spend a lot of time on the bifana recipe, it’s traditional to add squeezy mustard to the bifana once served.

The best bifanas come from Porto, although the recipe originates from Vendas Novas in the Alentejo.


cozida portuguesa specialty dishes from Portugal

Cozido a Portuguesa

Cozido a Portuguesa is a traditional Portuguese stew. It’s made of vegetables (usually beans, carrots, turnips, potatoes, and cabbage) and meat. The meat used varies, and could include sausage, chicken, pork, ribs, pork ear, or pork trotters. What you get is a bit of a lottery, much like traditional stews from many other European countries.

This is one of Portugal’s most traditional dishes and, as such, you’ll find it all over Portugal.



Frango assado chicken dish in Portugal


Frango Assado

Frango assado is what most of us call Piri-Piri chicken. Guia, a small town in the Algarve, claims it invented the dish using chillies that sailors brought back to Portugal from the new world.

Grilled chicken and chips may seem simplistic, but it’s a dish that’s pretty much impossible to replicate to the same standards at home.

You’ll find frango assado on menus throughout Portugal, but the best Piri-Piri chicken is definitely found in the Algarve.


Leitão is suckling pig

Leitão à Bairrada

Leitão is suckling pig; a young and tender pig that’s roasted in a wood oven. While cooking, the meat is continually basted with a sauce that comprises of garlic, bay leaves, salt, and pig fat to keep the meat from drying out. This is a very special dish; so much so that traditionally it was something enjoyed by royalty. These days, it is often served for big events such as weddings.

While restaurants all over Portugal serve leitão , the best tends to come from the Bairrada region of Portugal.


Traditional cataplana dish in Portugal



A cataplana is the name of a bronze cooking dish that’s shaped a little like a clam and used to create Portuguese stews. The most common cataplana dish is probably a seafood cataplana. This dish contains white fish and seafood as well as a sauce that’s made up of chopped tomatoes, parsley, garlic, white wine, and paprika. Other popular cataplana dishes to look out for are cataplana de polvo or cataplana Alentejana.

Cataplana dishes are most common in the Algarve, although it’s possible to find them on menus all over Portugal.



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8 must try traditional portuguese dishes




Guest writer bio

James writes for Portugalist, a travel blog about Portugal and all things Portuguese. He has spent time living all over Portugal: in Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal. He is currently based in the Algarve, where he is writing about everything the region has to offer.  Check out his blog at  portugalist.com


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10 Responses to 8 traditional Portuguese foods

  1. travelnwrite November 15, 2017 at 8:20 pm #

    Well I’ve just read the posts by two fellow bloggers who had me drooling for chocolate – now my stomach is growling for Portuguese food! Beautiful shots and great information. I have to admit my heart belongs to Portuguese malasadas!

    • Noel November 16, 2017 at 7:22 am #

      Oh yes, I love Portuguese malasadas also, surprised it didn’t make this list, it would be quite appropriate. In Hawaii we also took in the malasadas from Portuguese plantation workers that made those delicious donuts.

  2. Jo Castro November 15, 2017 at 5:04 am #

    Awesome photos, and you’ve made me want to return to Portugal right away. Nata tarts – oh how I gorged on them! Thanks for introducing me to a whole lot of new foods and taste sensations waiting to be explored too!

    • Noel November 15, 2017 at 7:54 am #

      Those do look good don’t they, visiting Portugal and trying all these Portuguese dishes really makes a trip like this a spectacular experience

  3. Rhonda Albom November 14, 2017 at 9:39 am #

    I did not spend very much time in Portugal so I don’t recognise these dishes. They do sound great. One meal I do fondly remember was a dinner I had in the town center of Evora. It was some sort of stew served in the half scalloped side of roof tile. Any ideas of what it might have been? It seemed very authentic at the time.

    • Noel November 14, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

      That dish sounds delish, hopefully the guest blogger can answer what that traditional Portuguese dish is.

  4. Anita and Richard @ No Particular Place To Go November 14, 2017 at 7:41 am #

    There are so many reasons to fall in love with Portugal but the food is high on our list! My favorite dishes are the Cataplana and Octopus salad while Richard orders chicken Piri-Piri whenever he sees it on the menu and we’ve eaten more Pastel de nata’s than we can count. I don’t know that you can go wrong with any fish dishes and the pastries are amazing. It’s a good thing that people around here walk so much because you need to work off all the amazing food! Anita

    • Noel November 14, 2017 at 8:31 am #

      Portuguese food looks so varied and flavorful, its been almost 20 years for me since I visited Portugal and need to visit soon and try some of this amazing Portuguese dishes.

  5. Donna Janke November 13, 2017 at 9:25 am #

    I’m hungry after reading this. I obviously haven’t had much opportunity to try Portuguese food as I was unfamiliar with all of these. I would like to visit Portugal and, if I do, I will look for all of these to try.

    • Noel November 13, 2017 at 9:45 am #

      I know all these Portuguese dishes sound so delicious don’t they – makes me want to go visit Portugal soon!

I look forward to hearing from you and continuing our discussion with any comment you would like to add

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