10 traditional Portuguese dishes everyone should try
Portugal is a small country, but its culinary traditions could not be more rich, varied and suited for everyone!
If you are a fish-lover, Portugal offers a wide variety to choose from. Every day, fresh fish and seafood arrive directly from the fishing boats to supermarkets, restaurants and the traditional fish markets widely available from North to South.
However, if you prefer meat-based dishes, you will also find plenty of tasty options of the highest quality. Thanks to local producers who have preserved traditional ways of raising animals on open farmland, meat available in Portugal is not only tastier, it is also produced in a more conscientious and environmentally sustainable way.
Discover 10 traditional Portuguese dishes everyone should try:
Sardinhas assadas (grilled sardines) are one of the most appreciated and popular dishes in traditional Portuguese gastronomy. Due to the country's strong fishing tradition, fish is one of the main elements of many Portuguese dishes, but grilled sardines are particularly special.
This delicacy can easily be found in any Portuguese restaurant all year round. However, they are especially appreciated during the summer, when they can be brought fresh. Grilled sardines are so popular during the summer in Portugal that eating them is an attraction during the Popular Saints festivities of Lisbon, for both locals and tourists alike!
Bacalhau à Brás
Bacalhau à Brás is one of the most famous Portuguese dishes and deservedly so! This mixture of shredded codfish and fried potato sticks, olive oil, eggs, onions and parsley is very easy to prepare, but you can also find it in most Portuguese restaurants. It is a simple dish, but made with the freshest ingredients, offering a tasty experience that celebrates the Portuguese's love for "bacalhau"!
Salt of life: the bond between Portugal and cod
"Bacalhau" is one of Portugal’s most famous culinary traditions, with more than 365 recipes to celebrate it, one for each day of the year...
Cozido à Portuguesa
The “cozido à portuguesa” is a traditional meat stew, that includes a wide variety of meats, Portuguese sausages (such as "chouriço", "morcela" and "farinheira") and vegetables. The result is a hearty and colourful mix of intense and delicious flavours.
Also referred to simply as "cozido", it is usually served with plain rice and is the ideal comfort food for colder winter days. This dish is so special that many Portuguese restaurants reserve a special day of the week to serve it!
The strong connection between Portuguese cuisine and the sea is also present in “Caldeirada”, a traditional fish stew that includes different ingredients depending on the region of Portugal where it's made.
Some versions of "Caldeirada" include cod, while others are based on sardines, squid and even shellfish. The fish is cooked with potatoes, garlic, onions, tomatoes, peppers and herbs, resulting in a rich and very tasty stew.
In several Portuguese coastal and fishing villages, such as Nazaré, "Caldeirada" is one of the most sought-after dishes in local restaurants!
Arroz de Pato
Arroz de Pato, or duck rice, is another very popular dish in Portugal that is very simple to prepare. You just have to shred cooked duck meat and mix it with seasoned rice, duck giblets and bacon, and then put everything in the oven topped with slices of good-quality Portuguese chorizo. Simple, and delicious, just as all Portuguese food should be!
Polvo à Lagareiro
Polvo à Lagareiro is an octopus ("polvo") dish, generously drizzled in Portuguese olive oil and accompanied by potatoes, garlic and onion. Everything is baked in the oven and the final result is delicious and aromatic. The term “lagareiro” pays homage to the workers in the olive presses ("lagares") where the olive oil is produced. This explains the name of this dish since olive oil is an essential ingredient — and the more, the better!
Leitão à Bairrada
This typical dish from the Bairrada region is especially popular in Mealhada, central Portugal. Even though this recipe is centuries old, it remains pretty much unaltered: roasted suckling pig seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic. A perfect Leitão à Bairrada must have crispy skin and is served with homemade chips, slices of fresh oranges and accompanied by sparkling wine from the Bairrada region!
Açorda Alentejana is a typical Portuguese soup from the Alentejo region, although unlike most soups it is not cooked. It’s usually made by simply joining slices of traditional Alentejo bread to olive oil, boiling water, garlic, poached eggs, salt and lots of coriander or pennyroyal, two of the Alentejo's favourite herbs! Another example of how sometimes the simplest recipes are the tastiest!
This soup can be served as a starter, but also as a main course.
Reasons to fall in love with Alentejo Portugal
If you enjoy slow-living, plenty of sunshine, delicious food & wine, and the calm of endless fields of gold, then you'll love the Alentejo!
The Francesinha is originally from the city of Porto but has slowly become part of national gastronomy. This huge sandwich is made with ham, sausage, steak, eggs and topped with lots of cheese, all baked in the oven and covered by a spicy sauce. Many variations of this dish can be found throughout Portugal and the sauce is different even within the same city. If you want to taste a real Francesinha, you should try it in Porto, its birthplace!
Alheira de Mirandela
The Alheira de Mirandela is a traditional smoked sausage made from pork meat and fat, poultry meat (chicken and turkey), wheat bread, olive oil and lard, seasoned with salt, garlic and sweet or hot paprika. This dish, originally from Mirandela, can be fried or baked in the oven and is usually served with potatoes (fried or boiled), rice or vegetables.
As you can see, Portuguese cuisine offers a wide variety of flavours and options. Even if you prefer a plant-based diet, you will be happy to know that Portugal is becoming more open to recreating these traditional dishes only with vegetables, making them also accessible to vegetarians and vegans! After all, food in Portugal is all about keeping things simple, privileging locally grown ingredients and maintaining the love for flavour, aroma and quality, while joining friends and family around the table!
Don’t miss the opportunity to try some of these traditional dishes when travelling in Portugal!
Want to read more blogs about food in Portugal?
From Portugal's love affair with wine, petiscos or the famous pastel de nata, to Michelin-starred restaurants and local food markets, discover some of Portugal's most popular culinary traditions...