The Food Lover's Road Trip through Portugal
Portugal has no shortage of mouthwatering foods ranging from street-side snacks to gourmet fine dining. You could spend a lifetime discovering Portugal's restaurants and eateries, but if you are planning a visit to the coastal Iberian country, read on for some of the highlights you should not miss. Start your trip in Porto and head south, and stop to taste these traditional Portuguese dishes along the way.
Traditional Portuguese Dishes and Where to Eat Them
Caldo Verde, Taxca
Caldo verde is a simple and comforting soup made from pureed potatoes, thinly sliced sausage, and thinly sliced local dark collard greens, or kale, as the main ingredients. Said to have originated in the north of Portugal, the soup is often served at celebrations and weddings or as an appetizer to dinner any time of year, and literally translates to “green soup”. For a flavorful caldo verde at a Portuguese restaurant with other traditional dishes, try Taxca in Porto.
Taxca - Rua da Picaria 26, 4050-477 Porto, Portugal
Fracesinha, Cafe Santiago F
Said to have been inspired by the French croque monsieur, the francesinha is layers of roasted pork, steak, sausage, and bacon sandwiched between two thick slices of bread, placed on top of a mound of french fries and a beer-tomato sauce, coated with cheese, and topped with a fried egg. The dish is great for sharing among hungry friends, or for anyone with a very ambitious appetite. Francesinha was famously invented in Porto, and though they can be found at restaurants all over the city, we recommend Café Santiago F.
Café Santiago F - R. de Passos Manuel 198, 4000-382 Porto, Portugal
A Cozinha da Maria, Coimbra
There might be hundreds of ways to eat bacalhau in Portugal, and you will be sure to find it in restaurants and eateries all over the country. Cod is a staple in Portugal, and was originally salted for preservation hundreds of years ago before modern refrigeration was invited. The taste for salted cod became engrained in Portuguese cuisine, and is still popular to this day. On your drive south from Porto, stop in the medieval city Coimbra and try bacalhau one of three ways at A Cozinha da Maria: Bacalhau à lagareiro, bacalhau com natas, or bacalhau à bras.
A Cozinha da Maria in Coimbra - R. das Azeiteiras 65, 3000-066 Coimbra, Portugal
Carapau drying in Nazare
Carapau or mackerel is another fish commonly appearing in Portuguese cuisine, and most famously can be seen drying on racks along the beaches of Nazaré, just north of Lisbon. The dried mackerel can be used in a number of dishes, but it also a feature ingredient in sauces and stocks. For a selection of delicious seafood options with an ocean-front view of the carapau drying on the beach, try Taverna do 8 o 80. Restaurante Fonte Mar is a local-favorite serving fresh fish in a variety of dishes.
Taverna do 8 o 80 - Avenida Manuel Remígio, Edifico Atlântico, Loja 8, 2450-106 Nazaré, Portugal
Restaurante Fonte Mar - Largo da Fonte Velha nº14, 2450-065 Nazaré, Portugal
Polvo à Lagareiro
Polvo à Lagareiro, Frade dos Mares
Simplicity is key when it comes to many flavorful, traditional Portuguese dishes, and polvo à lagareiro is no exception. Translating literally to “octopus in the style of the olive-presser”, the dish is cooked with potatoes and generously dressed with olive oil and garlic. Two great spots along the harbor to try polvo à lagareiro are Apeadeiro and Frade dos Mares.
Apeadeiro Cascais Lisbon - Av. Vasco da Gama 252, 2750-480 Cascais, Portugal
Frade dos Mares - Av. Dom Carlos i 55A, 1200-647 Lisboa, Portugal
Pasteis de Nata
Pasteis, Pasteis de Belem
The pastel de nata is arguably Portugal’s most famous pastry. The egg-custard tarts are sprinkled with cinnamon and can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack, as a dessert, or any time really. The bite-sized pasteis de nata can be found across the country and across the globe in former Portuguese colonies and restaurants, but the original recipe was developed by nuns in the 1800’s in Belem and has been passed down through generations of the family that still owns Pasteis de Belem, just a 20-minute drive from the center of Lisbon.
Fabrica de Pasteis de Belem - R. de Belém 84-92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal
Sol e Pesca, Lisbon
Sardinhas grelhadas, or grilled sardines, are a delicious and traditional dish popular in all fishing villages along the Portuguese coast. The fish are simply seasoned with paprika, garlic, and lemon, and served whole to preserve their rich flavor while cooked over an open flame. In the historic area of Alfama in Lisbon, you will be able to find many street food options serving sardinhas grelhadas, or for a unique experience in a casual sardine-themed restaurant with a near 5-star rating, try Sol e Pesca.
Sol e Pesca - R. Nova do Carvalho 44, 1200-019 Lisboa, Portugal
Bifana, O Trevo
Pile thin marinated strips of sautéed pork onto a Portuguese bread roll and drizzle the cooking juices on top, and you have a bifana- a delicious sandwich that can be enjoyed for a casual lunch, dinner, as a snack, or late at night. Depending on preference, the juicy and flavorful sandwich can be accompanied with either mustard of hot sauce. With eateries all over Lisbon and Portugal serving their version of the classic sandwich, one could schedule an entire bifana itinerary to judge which is their favorite but all will likely end up picking either As Bifanas do Afonso or O Trevo as top-choice.
As Bifanas do Afonso - R. da Madalena 146, 1100-340 Lisboa, Portugal
O Trevo - Praça Luís de Camões 48, 1200-283 Lisboa, Portugal
Carne de Porco Alentejana
Carne Alentejana, Tasca do Celso
Porco preto is a local breed of pig in the South-eastern Alentejo region with higher fat content, and one typical dish in which it is served is carne de porco Alentejana. Marinated in a blend of herbs, spices, and white wine, the pork is cooked with tomatoes or other vegetables and steamed clams. Though carne de porco Alentejana has southern origins, the name of the dish refers to the specific breed of pork used, whose unique diet of Alentejo acorns is said to give it a rich flavor. The combination of pork and clams may seem intriguing to some, and a great place to stop and try carne de porco Alentejana on your way south is Tasca do Celso in Vila Nova de Milfontes.
Tasca do Celso - R. dos Aviadores 34, 7645-225 Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal
Frango Piri Piri, Churrasqueira Valdemar
Frango assado is a grilled or roasted chicken flavored with piri piri, a chili pepper spice which originated in Mozambique and spread to Portugal and its other former colonies. The chicken is marinated directly in the spice or in an infused oil or sauce, and the spicy-sour flavor makes this a bold dish that you will likely be craving long after you return home from Portugal. Several varieties of the piri piri chili pepper grow across the Algarve, and one restaurant famed for their frango assado is Churrasqueira Valdemar in Silves.
Churrasqueira Valdemar - N124 | Mercado Municipal de Silves Lj. 21 e 22, 8300-165 Silves, Portugal
Cataplana de Marisco
Cataplana de Marisco, Prato Cheio
Cataplana de marisco is a seafood stew named after the wide and shallow copper pot in which it is cooked: the cataplana. The dish was introduced by Moors from Northern Africa, and similar to the tagine in Moroccan cuisine, the white fish and other seafoods are sealed in the cataplana with the herbs, spices, vegetables, and sauces. The steam circulates throughout as it cooks, and the final product is a fragrant and flavorful stew that is usually served with rice, bread, or potatoes. The dish is typical across the Algarve region, and a local-favorite that serves cataplana de marisco is Prato Cheio in Lagos.
Prato Cheio - R. Dr. Francisco Sá Carneiro 23A, 8600-571 Lagos, Portugal
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Getting ready for your trip to Portugal? Click here for a list of items to pack- and don't forget to bring your appetite!
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