Portuguese cuisine - The gastronomy of Portugal and traditional dishes

The most amazing thing in Portugal are the dishes from the sea. So if you come to Portugal, you have you try the grilled fish, the Codfish, the seafood, the cooked fish and many other choices.The most famous dish is Codfish “Bacalhau”, and we have a saying in Portugal: “We have a recipe of codfish for every day of the year”, and it’s the true! One of the things that we are really proud of is our variety. 

Besides fish, we also like meat a lot of, our meat dishes are made with pork, sausages, beef, chicken and usually we eat it with rice, potatoes, pasta, vegetables or salads. 

Besides the main dish, we have a lot of ingredients that without them you can’t cook Portuguese food. Olive oil is one of them, with a very high quality it is included in every dish. We can’t forget to mention the wine, which is an important part of Portugal, the country is known in the world because of the amazing wine, and it’s something that you will see on every table in Portugal. Cheese is something that we can’t also dismiss, as we have so many types of cheese from all over the country, the most iconic one is the mountain cheese from Serra da Estrela, you have to try it! The typical Portuguese person loves to eat sweets, and you will find a enormous variety of sweets to try. This depends on the region, and also on the city, there are so many and they are all so different, but the most known in Portugal is the emblematic “Pastel de Nata”. Don’t forget to try the Portuguese coffee, as is a huge tradition in Portugal, and you will  always see the coffee shops  full of people, drinking coffee, which we drink as an espresso.

The portuguese gastronomy is really rich and delicious, and every region in Portugal has its own characteristics, so you have a lot to choose. 

As appetizer or first dish

This are the products that we normally have as appetizers: Portuguese people eat this before the main dish: Cornbread [in portuguese ~ Broa], Olives, Cheese, Octopus Salad, Chorizo, Alheira, Toasts, among others.

Soups: The typical thing to do in Portugal is eating some soup before every meal, so you will find a enormous variety of soups. 

  • The most typical one is “Caldo Verde” [the main ingredients are cabbage, portuguese chorizo and potatoes]; 

  • “Sopa da Pedra” [with beans, different meats and chorizo] ; 

  • “Sopa de Peixe” [the main ingredient is different types of fish and cubes of fried bread] 

  • “Canja de Galinha” [soup of chicken with rice], but come and find out all the soups, but keep in mind that the soups will depend on the region. 

Main dishes

SEAFOOD & FISH: This is one of the most typical portuguese dish. Since our country is bathed by Atlantic Ocean you have a lot of dishes with Seafood and fish, with high quality, fresh products, and with an amazing taste. There are a lot of people that usually said that they don’t like fish, my advice for you is to give a change, because here the fish has a lot of quality, and it can really surprised you. 

The best regions, or cities, to try seafood and fish, is the ones that are close to the sea, because there the products will be fresher and is where the people know better how to cook it. Some of the most known cities, or regions, for this are: Algarve [all the region is known for having the best fish of the country. Try to look for the cheapest places, because this region is really touristic and sometimes the prices can be inflated]; Nazaré [a place known for the big waves and for the beach, is also where you can find really good fish]; Setúbal [the city with beach, is a great place for also try this dishes, with high quality and not that expensive], among so many others places, this is something that you can’t skip. 

Now talking about the dishes this are the dishes that you really need to eat, and are typical from Portugal. 

First we are going to talk about the dishes with Seafood: 

  • Arroz de Marisco [Seafood with Rice]; 

  • Polvo à Lagareiro [a dish with octopus and potatoes in the oven];  

  • Açorda de Marisco [the main ingredients in this dish are seafood, bread, parsley and eggs]; 

  • Arroz de Tamboril [a dish that is cooked with monkfish, shrimps, rice and spices]; 

  • Cataplana de Marisco [a recipe that contains fish, clams and shrimps]; 

  • Amêijoas à Bulhão de Pato [this is made with boiled clams, corianders, lemon, olive oil, garlic and salt, and it’s a great thing for you to try] this are just some of the dishes, because you have a lot more. 

And now we will talk about the main Fish dishes, that is a must for you to try: 

  • Sardinhas Assadas [Roasted Sardines, this is a thing that usually we eat with bread, or boiled potatoes, if you are going to Lisbon, I would advise you to try this during the Celebrations of the Saint S. António]; 

  • Salmão Grelhado [Salmon, and we also grill the salmon, and we eat it with boiled potatoes, and the flavour is really good, specially if you’re a fan of fish]; 

  • Peixe no Forno [Fillet of fish in the oven, the side dish is vegetables and potatoes, and then everything together goes to the oven]. 

CODFISH: Codfish is our favorite and most important dish, we have a saying that is portuguese people have a recipe of codfish for every day of the year, and this for really. Codfish is in every restaurants, every school canteen, in the supermarkets and also is one of the main dish for Christmas Day. 

In this city guide I’m going to tell you only some of the main recipes, because it would be impossible to talk about all of them. 

  • Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá [this is a quick recipe, that is made with boiled codfish, potatoes and eggs, and then you add onion, garlic, pepper and olives]; 

  • Bacalhau à Brás [made with codfish and small and fine fried potatoes]; 

  • Pastéis de Bacalhau [the literal translation is fried codfish pastels, and it’s a batter made of codfish, smashed potatoes and flour and then is going to fry] 

  • Bacalhau de Natas [also a recipe with codfish, fried small potatoes, sour cream and then everything goes to the oven]; 

  • Bacalhau com Broa [the two main ingredients of this dish are cooked codfish and Broa, that is typical portuguese bread made with corn]; 

  • Bacalhau no Forno [made with codfish, potatoes, garlic, onion, olive oil, and then everything goes to the oven], among so many others recipes. The codfish that you try will depend on each region are you, and also of the type of place, because there are recipes that are more fancy than others.

MEAT: Meat is also an important part of Portuguese cuisine, and you will see that the Portuguese people eat much more of meat than of fish, because can be cheaper and more easy to prepare, depending on the dishes. The Portuguese meat dishes are really heavy and for foreigners people can be to much to eat, but comparing to other countries Portuguese people eat a lot.

The way of preparing or the type of meat, depends a lot of the region, and sometimes even from the city. Expect to find different types of meat all over the country, like pork, beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, duck, goatling, mutton and calf. To be honest Portuguese eat everything, like all the parts of this animals, but worry because in the restaurants you have many options, but I can say that is a nose to tail eating. 

I’m going to talk about some of the main dishes, and I’m going to try to talk about the most typical way to cook it, so you can have a more or less idea how to do it, but keep in mind that depends on the region, because the species and the flavour can be really different. 

  • The first dish that I’m going to talk about is Cozido à Portuguesa [for meats lovers this is the ideal dish, because it has a little of almost every meats, like pork, beef, chicken, chorizo and farinheira and it’s cooked with potatoes and a lot of different vegetables]; 

  • Feijoada [the main ingredient is meat, chorizo and red beans, this meal is also really heavy, but really tasty, and one of the most typicals in Portugal]; 

  • Arroz de Pato [it means duck with rice, and it’s a great dinner for you likes something lighter, also usually it’s decorated with chorizo]; 

  • Rojões [this is basically pork meat with some fat, and then cooked with garlic, onion, wine and you can eat it with potatoes] 

  • Bitoque [this is a typical Portuguese dish, and you can find this dish in every restaurants in Portugal. Usually the students eat this when they are going to them academical dinners, because it’s heavy and it has everything that a typical student likes. It’s a dish with steak, starry egg, rice, fry potatoes and salad]; 

  • Francesinha [if you want to try this dish you have to eat it in Porto, because it’s typical from the city. This is a really complex dish, and usually foreigner people can’t eat everything, because is one of the most heavy dish that we have. The main ingredients are bread, beef, sausages, beer, wine and cheese]; 

  • Carne de Porco à Alentejana [this dish is perfect for people that loves seafood and meat, because it’s made with pork meat, clams and fry potatoes, it’s something that you really need to try, it’s completely different and really typical]. 


Portugal is a country full of traditional desserts, and this depends totally on the region, so you have a lot of different sweets to try. This desserts are known in an international level, and I guarantee you that they will left you mouthwatering. 

  • The most known, and you can find this is in every place of Portugal is Pastel de Natal [the most famous are the ones in Belém, but usually Portuguese people prefers the ones that are in the Camões Square, in a place call Manteigaria, the place is less crowded and they already win a lot of awards. 

  • Torta de Azeitão is also really typical, it’s made with eggs, flour and sugar, it’s a really sweet dessert, typical from the Azeitão’s region. 

  • Salame de Chocolate, is something that is also known in other country, but in Portugal we eat it a lot, in english is call chocolat’s salami, and it’s made with cookies, chocolate, butter and sugar. 

  • Arroz Doce, usually Portuguese people think that this is really traditional, but the truth is that other countries also have it. The main ingredients are rice, sugar, milk and in the end you decorate it with cinnamon. 

  • Pão de Ló, this is something that you only can find in Portugal, and it’s similar to a sponge cake. It’s made with sugar, eggs and flour, and sometimes has a cream, and in my opinion that one it’s the best. 

  • Ovos Moles, is a really sweet dessert, and to eat this you have to go to Aveiro, a city also known as “Small Veneza”, and besides this dessert is a place that worth to see.

  • Queijadas de Sintra, go to Sintra and try this sweet, it’s really good, in my opinion of the bests, and you need to go to this city to try it, because it’s unique. Bolas de Berlim, the funny thing about this sweet, is that the best ones that you can eat are sold in the beach, and it’s basically a sweet made of flour and sugar and inside it has a eggs cream. If you go to the beach in Portugal you will see people selling this, and usually it costs no more than 1 euro (depending the place), it’s a must because is so Portuguese eat a Bola de Berlim in the beach, eat it during the afternoon, has a snack. 

  • And of course we can’t forget our lovely islands, in Madeira you have the traditional Bolo do Caco and in Azores the Bolo Lêvedo.

  • Return to Nightlife in Lisbon - A guide to nightclubs and going out in Lisbon
  • Continue to Where to eat in Lisbon - Gastronomy in Lisbon

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