Top 10 food you need to try in Portugal

When you visit Portugal, it will soon become obvious that food is an integral part of local culture and social life. There are so many flavours, ingredients, and varieties of sweet and savoury dishes in Portuguese cuisine that you will not get bored of it anytime soon – not to mention the huge array of fine wines and other alcoholic beverages, like the Ginjinha!

Our walking tour in Lisbon helped us get acquainted with some important and lesser-known dishes and beverages. Organized by Eating Europe, the “Eats, Street Art and Undiscovered Lisbon” tour gave us a new understanding of the local spirit, lifestyle and the colourful, multicultural melting pot this city is.

Eating Europe walking tour
Our guide, Katrina, and the random local lady who sang fado to this gentleman from our group

Our guide, Katrina walked us through Baixa and Mouraria, two of the most culturally important neighbourhoods in the capital – on these streets was the famous fado music born and are home to inspiring street art, along with the most authentic restaurants where the locals like to eat.

The people here are so friendly and welcoming, the gentlemen in our group were even serenaded by an old lady!

Here are our top 10 favourite dishes that you won’t regret trying.

Bacalhau Á Brás, salt cod with potato

1. Bacalhau Á Brás

Known as bacalhau, the dried and salted cod is an important component of many Portuguese dishes. We were told there are nearly 400 recipes with bacalhau as the main ingredient.

The recipe uses Barossa, also known as straw potato, which although it resembles potato crisps, is intended to be cooked along with the cod flakes. Various vegetables may also be included and eggs are mandatory. This dish weirdly reminded us of a risotto but with potato instead of rice.

We were lucky enough to cook this dish with Katja, on our “Cooking with a local” experience!

Migas de porco, pork crumbs

2. Migas de porco

The name of the dish translates to pork crumb, relating to the special side made of bread, a little bit similar to stuffing but without frying it. Our pork was cooked to perfection in a flavoursome sauce and the Migas really made the experience outstanding!

Cataplana, Portugese seafood stew

3. Cataplana

Cataplanas are both the name of the food as well as the round metal cookware they’re made in. It was designed to keep in steam, smells, and fats so that the flavour of the food develops more intensely. Usually, a mix of fresh seafood and a variation of fishes are steam cooked together with potatoes, tomato, garlic and a wide range of spices.

Alheira, Portuguese sausage
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4. Alheira

A traditional recipe of the Portuguese Jews and Muslims, this sausage is made from bread, garlic, and any other meat than pork. Alheira has an interesting story and historical significance to it! The unlikely sausage that saved lives

Peixinhos da Horta, tempura green beans
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5. Peixinhos da Horta

Best enjoyed sharing with friends, over some good wine or beer! The green beanstalks are dipped in tempura and deep-fried. The 16th and 17th centuries saw a flourishing trade relationship between Portugal and Japan, which left an important mark on the island. Tempura is a direct descendant of peixinhos da horta, no joke, just check out this article!

Fresh Portuguese octopus salad
Fresh octopus salad

6. Salada de Polvo

You will find octopus salad irresistible if you are a fan of seafood! The taste, the texture, all amazing! They usually add cucumber, peppers, red onion, scallion, some herbs and olive oil to the chopped octopus.

7. Bolinhos de Bacalhau

Another snack type food, salt cod croquettes are a tasty treat to be enjoyed any time of the day or as a starter. The base recipe uses only mashed potato, salted cod and eggs, but there are several different variations across Lisbon. We tried one that was filled with gooey Portuguese cheese!

Grilled Portuguese sardine on toasted bread

8. Sardinhas Assadas

Whether grilled, baked, or canned, sardines are as Portuguese as it gets. Sardinhas Assadas, aka grilled sardines are flavoured with salt and olive oil and usually served with bread. Locals typically eat the fish whole, including the head.

9. Travesseiros de Sintra, the most famous sweet of Sintra in Portugal
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9. Travesseiros de Sintra

You cannot possibly visit Lisbon and not go to Sintra. And you cannot leave Sintra without trying these heavenly pillows of almond filled sugary puff pastries! We tried this delicacy during our thrilling Jeep adventure in Sintra, but we’ll tell you about that in another post.

Pastel de nata, Portuguese egg custard tart
Egg tart, traditional Portuguese dessert, pastel de nata

10. Pastel de Nata

Last but not least is the queen of Portuguese pastries, the Pastel de Nata or egg custard tart. The original pastel de nata was famously made by the monks of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Belém. There is a little bakery next to the monastery that still makes the original recipe, but another baker’s pastel de nata was voted best in Lisbon, which you can taste on the “Eats, Street Art and Undiscovered Lisbon” walking tour!

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