When it comes to culinary delights, Portugal is a treasure trove of flavors and tastes that will satisfy even the most discerning palates. From fresh seafood to savory pastries and hearty meat dishes, Portuguese cuisine offers a delightful array of flavors and textures that will tantalize your taste buds.
Whether you're a seasoned foodie or simply curious about trying new dishes, here are ten must-try culinary delights that should be on your list when visiting Portugal.
Bacalhau (Salted Codfish) - The king of the Portuguese cuisine
Bacalhau, or salted cod, is an iconic dish that holds a special place in Portuguese cuisine. With a history dating back centuries, it is said that there are 365 different ways to prepare bacalhau—one for each day of the year. From bacalhau à Brás (a savory combination of cod, eggs, onions, and potatoes) to bacalhau com natas (a creamy baked dish), this versatile ingredient is celebrated across Portugal.
Caldo Verde - Real comfort food
Caldo Verde, a traditional Portuguese soup, is simple yet incredibly comforting. Made with kale, potatoes, onions, garlic, and slices of Portuguese chouriço (sausage), this soup has a silky texture and a robust flavor. It is typically enjoyed as a starter or a light meal, especially during the colder months, accompanied by a slice of crusty bread.
Pastéis de Nata (Custard Tarts) - A bite of heaven
No visit to Portugal is complete without indulging in Pastéis de Nata, the famous Portuguese custard tarts. These sweet treats feature a flaky pastry crust filled with a rich and creamy egg custard, delicately flavored with cinnamon and vanilla. Enjoy them warm with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and a cup of Portuguese coffee, and you'll understand why they have become an icon of Portuguese pastry.
Grilled Sardines - The summertime flavor (and smell)
No visit to Portugal would be complete without savoring grilled sardines, a summertime staple. Sardinhas Assadas, or grilled sardines, are a simple yet delicious dish that highlights the country's strong connection to the sea. Fresh sardines are seasoned with coarse salt, grilled over charcoal until crispy and golden, and served with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Enjoyed outdoors during popular festivals like Santo António in Lisbon, this dish captures the essence of Portuguese summer.
Cozido à Portuguesa - The most complete dish
Cozido à Portuguesa is the ultimate Portuguese comfort food. It is a hearty stew that brings together an assortment of meats, such as beef, pork, chicken, and sausages, along with an assortment of vegetables like cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. The meats and vegetables are slowly cooked together, creating a flavorful broth that infuses every ingredient with rich taste. This dish is traditionally enjoyed as a leisurely Sunday lunch, perfect for gathering with family and friends.
Francesinha - Unlikely, but delicious
For those seeking a hearty and indulgent meal, Francesinha is the answer. Hailing from Porto, this sandwich is a true carnivorous delight. It typically consists of layers of ham, linguiça (smoked sausage), fresh sausage, and steak, all topped with melted cheese and smothered in a rich tomato and beer sauce. Served with a side of fries, this satisfying dish is not for the faint of heart.
Bifanas - Street food for meat lovers
Bifanas are a popular Portuguese street food that will delight meat lovers. Thinly sliced pork marinated in a flavorful sauce (often made with garlic, white wine, and spices) is cooked to perfection and served in a soft roll. The tender meat, combined with the tangy sauce, makes for a delicious and satisfying sandwich that is perfect for a quick and flavorful meal on the go.
Cataplana de Marisco - The essence of the sea on your plate
Cataplana de Marisco is a seafood lover's dream come true. Named after the clamshell-shaped cooking vessel it is prepared in, this dish is a seafood medley that includes prawns, clams, mussels, and sometimes fish, cooked with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. The combination of flavors and the delicate texture of the seafood make this dish a true highlight of Portuguese cuisine.
Arroz de Pato (Duck Rice) - One of the best ways to eat rice
Arroz de Pato, or Duck Rice, is a delightful Portuguese dish that combines succulent duck meat with aromatic rice. The duck is slow-cooked until tender and then mixed with the rice, along with fragrant herbs, spices, and sometimes cured sausage. The result is a flavorful and satisfying one-pot meal that showcases the country's love for rice-based dishes.
Polvo à Lagareiro - Feel the octopus flavor in a unique way
Polvo à Lagareiro, or Octopus Lagareiro, is a dish that showcases Portugal's affinity for seafood. Tender octopus is boiled until cooked and then roasted in the oven with olive oil, garlic, and herbs. The result is a dish with crispy and golden edges, complemented by the delicate flavor of the octopus. It is often served with boiled potatoes and a drizzle of olive oil, creating a harmonious combination of flavors.
Portugal's culinary landscape offers a rich tapestry of flavors and dishes that reflect its history, traditions, and coastal location. From the beloved bacalhau dishes to the sweet delights of Pastéis de Nata, exploring Portuguese cuisine is a treat for all food enthusiasts. Whether you're strolling through the charming streets of Lisbon, wandering the vineyards of Douro Valley, or enjoying the coastal breeze in Porto, be sure to sample these seven must-try dishes to truly experience the gastronomic wonders Portugal has to offer.
Do you want to have some great gastronomic experiences in Portugal? Discover what we have to offer and try one of them at least!