Portugal is famous for its history, great weather, and enormous coast but also for its incredible food. I’m from Portugal, so I might be a bit biased, but I truly believe that Portuguese food is one of the best in the world! It is full of flavor, original, and very diverse, there are hundreds, if not thousands of different Portuguese foods, and each one is better than the other. Every single one of them will make your mouthwatering! For example, Portuguese people usually say that there are more than 1001 ways to cook cod fish, so it is fair to say that you may be a bit overwhelmed with your choices when you’re presented with a Portuguese food menu.
In this blog post, I will tell you the best Portuguese dishes so that you know exactly what to order the next time you’re craving a real and authentic Portuguese experience. By the end of this article, you’ll become an expert on Portuguese cuisine and be able to order your next meal in actual Portuguese like a local!
Portugal’s cuisine is deeply influenced by other cultures around the world and was brought back by explorers like Vasco de Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral. As a result, while fresh seafood and fish rule the cuisine, away from the sea, pork is the prince of the dinner table. For example, in the deep area of Alentejo, porco preto (Iberian black pig) is the star of the show in traditional Portuguese food.
This cuisine presents a mix of Atlantic and Mediterranean ingredients from Brasil, Africa, and India, including several spices that give a very unique and distinctive flavor to Portuguese Cuisine. Olive oil, garlic, cheese, bread, and seafood are some of the typical ingredients used and abused in Portuguese dishes.
As much influenced Portuguese cuisine may have been, it has also influenced other cultures around the world. In India, recipes like “Vindaloo,” which is based on Vinha d’Alhos, are deeply rooted in the original recipes brought by Portuguese sailors. Another example is the Japanese Tempura which is a variant of the Portuguese dish Peixinhos da Horta, made from fried breaded vegetables.
Main Portuguese Ingredients
Portuguese dishes use an immensely diverse variety of ingredients, and this is one of the characteristics that. By the end of this article, I’ve convinced you that Portuguese food is the best in the world!
If you come to Portugal, it is practically impossible not to get a taste of Bacalhau. This fish is the true essence of Portuguese cuisine, and you can literally (and I really mean literally) cook it in 1001 different ways: you can boil, grill, fry, bake as a filet or in casseroles, immerse it in rice, shredded it with scrambled eggs, onions and fried potatoes (called Bacalhau à Bras), bake it in the oven with onion, garlic, olive oil and potatoes (called Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá), gratin with cream and cheese (called Bacalhau com Natas and is one of my favorites), bake a loin with olive oil and potatoes (called Bacalhau à Lagareiro), or cook it in any other of the 992 ways left.
This fish used to come from the immense Portuguese coast. However, currently, it is mostly imported from Norway, from which an impressive 25,000 tons are brought to Portugal every year.
Don’t tell anyone, but Portugal has some of the best cheeses in the world. Each region in Portugal has its own type of cheese- it can be fresh or cured, creamy or semi-hard, from sheep’s, cow’s, or goat milk. Some of the most famous are Serra da Estrela, Azeitão, Transmontano, and Queijo da Ilha.
Famous for using a lot of eggs, Portuguese sweets started to gain fame when in the 16th century nuns and friars used egg yolks that would be left from communion wafers. From Arroz doce, Serradura, Tijelada, Pastel de Nata, Pudin flan, or leite-creme, all these incredible Portuguese desserts are based on eggs and are delicious!
Olive oil, or Azeite in Portuguese, was brought to Portugal by the Phoenicians across the Mediterranean while the Romans successfully cultivated and pressed the olives to attain it. Since then, olive trees have been a regular feature in Portuguese landscapes, and olive oil is highly used in Portuguese dishes.
Wine is one of the ingredients that Portugal is most famous for, having some of the best wines in the world. From North to South, wines get different tastes depending on the region from where they originate. Traditional Portuguese cuisine uses these characteristics to add flavor to a dish by using wine to make sauces or marinate meats.
With such a use coast, Portuguese food is extremely rich in seafood and sometimes is the whole ingredient for a meal.
10 Most Famous Portuguese Dishes
Pastel De Nata
What would this article be if I didn’t start with the good-ol’ “Pastel de Nata,” or what could be translated as Custard Pies? This tiny traditional Portuguese egg tart is the country’s most famous sweet, and some might say it is the most satisfying amount of sweet that you can get for as little as 1€.
These pies are said to be original in Lisbon suburbs in 1837 and have been protected by Antiga Confeitaria de Belém as Pastel de Belém. Please hear me carefully: DON’T VISIT PORTUGAL WITHOUT TRYING ONE! The last time I went to Belém (a part of Lisbon near the river) I went to get these sweets and myself alone ate 5 of them!
Cozido À Portuguesa
The straight translation of this dish’s name is Portuguese Stew, and it is one of the most famous dishes in Portugal. Basically, it’s a variety of meats, sausages, and vegetables, slow-cooked to perfection. Normally, this Portuguese food is served with potatoes and rice.
Polvo À Lagareiro
To make this dish that originated in the center of Portugal, you get a big meaty piece of octopus and roast it, deeply doused with olive oil and garlic. Serve it with slow-backed potatoes and delight yourself with its incredible flavors. Finding this dish is not hard as almost every restaurant has it on its menu.
Arroz De Pato
Original from Alentejo, Arroz de Pato, or duck rice, is one of the finest meat dishes that Portugal has to offer. This delicious mix of boiled and shredded duck nested into a bed of Carolino rice, topped with spicy Chouriço and orange slices, is the gateway to food heaven.
Coming to Lisbon during the summer, you’re guaranteed to smell the irresistible scent of grilled sardines as you walk through the traditional and oldest neighborhoods of Lisbon. Especially during the celebrations of Santo António in June, Sardines are the queen, princess, and Joker of the festivities, and this Portuguese food is mandatory for every visitor. Served fresh on top of a tasty slice of bread that soaks all the flavor of the sardine as you eat it.
To make them is super easy: salt the sardines half an hour before slapping them on a very hot grill with a sprinkle of olive oil to prevent them from sticking. Rotate them, put them on top of bread, and Voila! You can also serve them with potatoes, salad, and grilled bell peppers.
Porco Preto(or Iberian black Pig) is a mix of pigs that were brought by the Phoenicians with wild boars, creating this unique Iberian breed with delicious meat. From this beautiful animal, Portuguese people make secretos (bork belly-like cut), presunto (charcuterie) and enchidos (pork sausages).
Ready for a really weird dish that somehow works and is delicious? Portugal’s “Little Frenchie” (yes, this is the literal translation) is both a gathering of all the best Portugal has to offer as well as a ticket to the emergency room: stacked wet cured ham, linguiça sausage, steak, and roast beef, topped with melted cheese and a fried egg on tick bread drowned in a hot tomato and beer sauce, and of course, served with home-made French fries. I mean, it is unbelievably tasty, but after this, you actually feel your veins thickening. It is the pride of the city of Porto, where a tough competition exists for the title of best Francesinha in Portugal, something that is very hard to get, as so many people have different opinions.
Arroz De Marisco
This version of Risotto is one of the best ways to enjoy seafood in Portugal. It is fully loaded with several types of fish like tamboril (monkfish), bacalhau, and many crustaceous that abundantly occupy the coast of Portugal.
Welcome to the official laid-back, easy-to-get, casual meal of my home country: the Bifana. When looking at a picture, you may think this is just a beef sandwich. However, this heavenly piece of meat in between bread is more than that. Bifanas are made from thin slices of pork meat marinated in white wine, paprika, garlic, bay leaf, and vinegar and are often enjoyed standing next to a trailer in front of the soccer stadium on a game day along with a fino (draft beer in Portugal).
Bacalhau À Braz
One of the many ways to cook Cod fish that deserves a dedicated space in this article because it perfectly reflects Portuguese cuisine. Simple in origin and preparation, but with a complexity of flavors, this recipe was created by Mr. Braz, a tavern owner in Lisbon that named it. It is made using desalted shredded cod and straw potato, along with olives, eggs (of course), onions, and parsley.
Hungry For More? Start Learning Portuguese!
Are you convinced that Portuguese cuisine is one of the best in the world? Are you anxious to try Portuguese food? Don’t waste time. Book your next trip to Portugal and experience it for yourself!
Meanwhile, why not take a few lessons in Portuguese and arrive in style and ready to mingle with the locals? I have the perfect place for you to learn!
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