Once the greatest navigator of the seas, Portugal learned how to cook with few ingredients. Whether you are in Lisbon, Porto or a small village hidden from tourists, you will undoubtedly encounter some dishes anywhere in Portugal. Portuguese food might seem easy to replicate, but you will only taste the magic when it’s made with heart. Whether it’s fish or meat there are several dishes you have to try when visiting the most westerly country in Europe.
1. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (Codfish a la Gomes de Sá)
Photo by: Capitu (ou Marcela)
This codfish dish is one of the most iconic dishes of Porto. José Luis Gomes de Sá Jr. created, a codfish merchant, created the recipe and sold the recipe to a friend, a cook at the restaurant O Lisbonense. Both the restaurant and the recipe still exist today. In this recipe you will be told to soak codfish in milk, cook potatoes, boil eggs, and season everything with garlic, onions, olives and olive oil. It’s is a simple and yet very flavorful dish, especially if having some vinho verde on the side. Where to go? Abadia do Porto and A Cozinha do Manel (Porto).
2. Alheira de Mirandela (Mirandela’s Alheira)
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Rich in history and flavor, Alheira de Mirandela was created at the end of the 15th century by Jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition. As they couldn’t eat pork meat, they created an alternative sausage made from bread and chicken. Over time, Christians got a hold of the recipe added pork once more. In Mirandela, a city known for the artisanal Alheiras, you can find various versions of this sausage, even spicy versions. Regardless of wherever you will go to Portugal, the traditional way of eating it is with some french fries, white rice, and a fried egg on top.
Photo by: WordRidden
The most popular and dearest dish of Porto is a massive plated sandwich, with different cuts of meat; ham, beef, and fresh sausage. To make it even more delicious, a fried egg and lots of melted cheese is added on top of a mountain of french fries. You can work your way through that mountain by dipping each fry in the spicy sauce made of piri-piri pepper next to it. It seems like a lot because it is. This is a dish for the adventurous eater and not for the weak of heart. Next time in Porto, make a lot of room in your stomach and make your way to Café Santiago or O Afonso (Porto).
4. Cozido à Portuguesa (Portuguese Stew)
Photo by: Schnobby at Wikimedia
The most traditional and popular dish in the Portuguese food culture is a hearty stew of vegetables, sausages, and cheap cuts of pork and beef. Its origin is a bit unclear, but the Spaniards are proud of their version of the Cozido. It apparently has even an older tradition. The influence of their neighbor’s recipe arrived in Portugal and was customized with the local ingredients. Each region in Portugal has its particular twist to this dish. Still, no matter where you are in Portugal, if you crave comfort food, this dish will satisfy your craving without a doubt. In Lisbon, go to A Cozinha do Martinho or Os Courenses to try this intense dish.
5. Caldeirada de Peixe (Fish Stew)
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This dish is equally a classic in the country and heritage from a fisherman. The Caldeirada has several different recipes at every known fishmonger site. In Nazaré, they commonly use dogfish, eel, and ray fish in the dish. The northern recipe in Póvoa do Varzim uses squid, conger, and clams. And in the Algarve region, mullet, sea bream, and rockfish are the preferred choice. The variety is astonishing, as is the flavor of each. Altogether with cooked vegetables, potatoes, and white rice, you have the summer on your plate all year long. Travel along the coast of Portugal to try all the variations of this delicacy.
6. Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato (Clams a la Bulhão Pato)
Photo by: Ricardo Bernardo
Another delight from the sea, this dish came into existence in the city of Lisbon at the restaurant Estrela de Ouro. Despite the name, Bulhão Pato (a famous Portuguese poet) didn’t invent this dish. Rather it’s a tribute to the artist. This dish is an absolute hit in bars and smaller family-run restaurants. It has been specifically made to eat while drinking; little steamed clams with garlic, olive oil, coriander, and a splash of white wine — easy to eat with just your hands. It smells of beach and summer, and cold beer or a crisp white wine make for the complete experience. Feel like an artist and have some amazing clams at Pinóquio (Lisboa) or O Gaveto (Porto).
7. Sardinhas Assadas (Roasted sardines)
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If you have plans to visit Porto, and can choose a date to do it, make it the end of June. In the night of the 23rd of June, there is a large annual street party for Saint John. On this day, everybody goes out on the streets to celebrate in the open air. Strangers become friends, beer is abundant, and to fuel it all, there are delicious roasted sardines. On open grills, the Portuguese are roasting hundreds of sardines, attracting you towards them with the delicious smell. It’s ridiculously simple, yet ridiculously delicious! Don’t worry, if you can’t participate in this celebration and eat sardines in the most traditional of moments; especially in the summer you will find this dish widely throughout the country.
8. Arroz de Pato (Duck Rice)
Photo by: Edsel Little
Another everyday classic, or perfect example of great comfort food, is this delicious dish. Arroz de Pato was created in Braga originally made with wild duck. Arroz de Pato simply translates to “duck rice”. Nowadays, there’s no need to go hunting for a wild duck, but if you want to make this dish yourself, you should take some time of your day. There are many steps involved in the creation of this delicacy, but the end-result is worth it. It has the smokiness of sausage and the delicate flavor of the duck — a very fine combination. However, if you’re feeling very lazy, you can just go to Tasquinha Dom Ferreira (Braga) and take part in the only the last steps of the process — enjoying the food.
9. Polvo a Lagareiro (Roasted Octopus with Olive Oil)
Photo by: Ko Ko
It’s better to explain the name of this dish first; Lagareiro comes from the word lagar. Lagar is the place where olives and grapes get stomped to create olive oil and wine. In the case of Polvo a Lagareiro, olive oil is the key ingredient for making it stand out. Together with the garlic, it will create a very rich flavor throughout the dish. Everywhere in Portugal, you can eat this classic as it became very popular, for the softness of the octopus, and the salty roasted potatoes. It’s indeed very delicious, and you can dive into this olive oil heaven at Casa Aleixo (Porto) and Frade dos Mares (Lisboa).
10. Açorda Alentejana (Bread soup from Alentejo)
Photo by: Ricardo Bernardo
A heritage from the Arabs, Açorda is a simple soup with a very basic recipe; bread and aromatic herbs. But feel free to add egg yolk, shrimp, codfish, or any other white-colored fish. This will make the soup thicker more interesting, and ultimately more delicious. It’s cooked briefly and served with a poached egg on top. You can’t talk about Açorda and don’t refer it to Alentejo region, as it’s their best known and dearest everyday food. Each Portuguese has their favorite way of making this dish, we suggest to travel around and taste all of the food.