One of the things you should be aware of about food in Portugal before coming here is that Portuguese people love to eat and love to talk about food no matter where they are. During the coffee break or even lunch or dinner time, food will always occupy most of the conversation time at the table.
Having said that, it is also good for you to know that wine is a good fellow pairing every great food that Portugal can offer you. But this is a subject for another publication.
Food in Portugal may vary from one region to another, always maintaining the tradition with a touch of modernity brought by star restaurants and Michelin Star Chefs. This characteristic brings more quality to the already well-known cuisine, making it a unique experience for any traveler.
In this article, you will find our best selection of food in Portugal that Americans should try before leaving the country. We bet that even if you are not a huge fan of trying new flavors, you should try the beautifully cooked meat in Portugal and the traditional flavors of the fresh vegetables just picked from the vegetable garden. You will definitely fall in love. Following the Portuguese tradition, the post guides you through a complete menu: a starter, main course, and dessert. So, prepare your stomach if have not eaten yet, because here we go.
1. Caldo Verde
Caldo Verde is a very traditional food in Portugal: soup.
It contains fresh vegetables essential for health, making it a healthy choice for a starter. Originated from the Minho region, Northern of Portugal, but you can find it everywhere in the country. The soup is made of shredded kale and potatoes along with onions, garlic, olive oil, and salt. A great pick to start your meal, or for any time of the day. For the Portuguese especially in Lisbon, any time is a good time for some Caldo Verde.
Bacalhau, or Codfish, is a special ingredient part of the Portuguese tradition also called “the faithful friend”. From this nickname, you might have guessed how important it is for the Portuguese people. It is cooked in hundreds of different ways, with a myriad of recipes and it is also traditionally eaten during Christmas Eve. However, for Portuguese people,
it can be consumed at any time of the year and even every day when possible. It is important to tell you that this kind of food can be found in any region of the country. The most popular recipe, that you will find in any restaurant you go, to is the “Bacalhau com Natas” or “Bacalhau à Brás”. It is made with sliced potatoes, cream, onions, and the star, bacalhau. Superb and delicious.
Even though it is not considered a whole meal it is in fact way satisfying and some local people will actually ask for half of it. It is a signature dish for Porto with a long history of fame and tradition. It is said to be created as a means of making a Portuguese version of the French Croque Monsieur, but with a special sauce on top. This sauce varies because every bar or restaurant you go to has created its own version. As the original is kept a true secret. It is made with steak, ham, sausages, chorizo, two slices of bread where it is placed all the meat, and melted Edam cheese melting on top to close it. Well, if you want to make it the local way, ask for it with fries and egg on the side. Yummy.
4. Sardinhas Assadas
The “sardinhas assadas”, or grilled sardines, are a must anywhere in the country. The tradition comes from its smell on the BBK while being cooked. One characteristic of this fish is loads of bones contained in it, thou Portuguese will eat it hole, topped on a slice of bread and leaving no trace behind. If you happen to be in Lisbon in late May and June you must experience this among the locals at the city festivities.
This dish is very popular at Trás-os-Montes, the north of Portugal, but nowadays is also popular in any region. It is usually served with sausage covered by egg and french fries. The meat can be made from rabbit, duck, chicken, or even bacalhau and vegetables, but never with pork. The story behind it is very interesting saying that when the Inquisition arrived in the country, jews were forced to become Christian or they would be burned alive in Rossio, Lisbon. Sausages in Portugal and Spain are made of pig meat, and this way, by the time the Inquisition would figure out whose house wasn’t catholic.
Instead, Jewish people kept their faith in secret and developed their own sausages. For this reason, they created a sausage that could look like pork and hung that where others could see.
Leitão is a roasted pig, very traditional at the Bairrada region done in a very typical way of doing it, rolling over and over for several hours long. Compared to all the food in Portugal, it was already named one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal, making it a truly delicious food. It is a kind of well-seasoned pulled pork. People normally serve it in two forms: on a plate garnished with slices of orange and potato crisp. Or, as a sandwich on soft bread topped with pepper and spice.
7. Pastéis de Nata
Now that you already have a starter and many main course dishes to try, it's time for the dessert. The pastéis de nata are probably the start of the rich Portuguese bakery tradition. The original recipe is from the Pastéis de Belém, near the Belém Tower in Lisbon. but today you can also find it anywhere you go in Portugal.
The Portuguese people usually asks for a Pastel de nata and an expresso. This is like a romantic pair, always together any time of the day. The story says that was the monks of Jerónimos Monastery that invented the dessert. They say the egg whites were used to starch nuns´ habits and the leftovers needed to be put to good use again. So, when the monastery was threatened by closure, the monks began selling the pastéis de nata commercially to help raise funds. Interesting and very delicious.
Have you got a watering mouth now? Want to try all of those foods in Portugal and more? Feel free to get in touch with us, request your custom proposal, and make the most of the wine and food travel experience.