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5 Traditional Foods in Portugal You Should Taste

Lisbon, Portugal (photo: Tom Byrom)
Lisbon (photo: Tom Byrom)

Portugal’s rich gastronomic history and culture is, arguably, the most influential cuisine in the world today.

In the 15th Century, Portuguese explorers traversed the globe and were introduced to flavors and spices from regions as diverse as South America, the Far East, India, and Africa.

After each trip, new and exciting foods were introduced to willing Portuguese cooks.

Each new spice, herb, pepper, fruit, or other foodstuff enriched and expanded the nation’s larder and gave Portugal’s cuisine distinct flavors not found anywhere else on the continent.

This is why traditional Portuguese food is fragrant, hearty, simple, and based on fresh, seasonal produce.

We have come up with a list of the five most popular traditional foods in Portugal for gourmets planning to visit the homeland of Vasco da Gama and Fernand Magellan. 

Traditional Portuguese Dishes

Arroz de Marisco

In terms of the number of fish and seafood dishes consumed, Portugal ranks third in the world, behind Japan and Iceland.

And it is not surprising that one of the most popular local recipes is the delicious meal Arroz de Marisco, or “Portuguese paella.”

The basis of the dish includes squid, shrimps, mussels, scallops, and crabs.

Fresh gifts of the ocean are cooked, and the resulting broth is used to stew rice mixed with a sauce of tomatoes, garlic, and onions.

Then the prepared mixture is combined with seafood, saffron, and coriander, and the dish, one of the seven masterpieces of Portuguese cuisine, is ready!

Caldo Verde

Soups take a special place among the national dishes of Portugal. A vivid example of this is the fragrant soup that comes from the northern province of Minho.

The thick dish consists of vegetable broth, onions, potatoes, garlic, and olive oil.

Chorizo pork sausages with a spicy note and a piquant flavor go well with couve gallega cabbage that gives a rich green color to the dish.

Connoisseurs of Portuguese cuisine claim that the best Caldo Verde can be tasted at Lisbon restaurants.

Here, the soup is served with a fortified Madeira wine or a young, refreshing Vinho Verde.

The Francesinha, a traditional food in Portugal (photo: Nelson Alexandre Rocha)
The Francesinha (photo: Nelson Alexandre Rocha)

Francesinha

Anyone who calls a sandwich a banal piece of bread with sausage is deeply mistaken. An authentic sandwich is toasted slices of toast, beef steak, pork belly, and ham.

The delicious multi-layered “pyramid” is generously filled with tomato and beer sauce and melted cheese. This is what an authentic Portuguese Francesinha looks like.

The recipe for a high-calorie sandwich, which translates as “little Frenchwoman,” was invented in the middle of the last century by Daniel da Silva, a chef in love with gastronomy and women of the Fifth Republic.

The uncomplicated dish has become so popular that a festival is dedicated to it, which takes place annually in Porto.

You can participate in the festival and feel the carnival atmosphere by organizing your Portuguese trip by Lisbon to Porto train!

It will take you just three hours to go from the capital of the sunny state to the national holiday!

Feijoada

African land colonization and the enslavement of the local population led to the creation of this meal.

Slaves who were taken to Lisbon were living from bread to water and invented a kind of stew.

The meal included the plantation owner’s products such as beef tripe, pork ears, and black beans.

Today’s standard Feijoada dish includes spicy sausages, smoked pork, mixed beans, and cabbage and is served with white rice.

In different regions of Portugal, the traditional recipe is saturated with new ingredients.

The most original version can be tried in the Algarve – here, cuttlefish meat is added to the dish.

Portuguese egg tart (photo: Nick Fewings)
Portuguese egg tart (photo: Nick Fewings)

Pastel de Belem

The most famous dessert of Portugal is known far beyond the borders of the country.

In the 19th century, novices of the Jeronimush monastery began to bake puff crunchy baskets with sweet custard inside. The Portuguese egg tart was born.

The monks took a vow of silence to preserve the Pastel de Belem recipe. Since then, the ancient technology of cake production has been kept secret.

When planning a Portugal trip, be sure to visit the local pastry shops. The best shops are in Belem, one of the districts of Lisbon.

It is so famous for its delicacies that visitors come here daily from all corners of Europe, just to try the sweets themselves.

As a final note, we would like to emphasize the drinks that will add even more excitement and reveal a kaleidoscope of dish flavors.

The most traditional drink for Portugal is the famous port wine. In addition, the wines of Madeira, including “Likosh,” “Verdiglia,” “Sercial,” and “Bual,” have become world-famous.

Such areas as Alentejo, Vinho Verde, and Bairrady are known for their high-quality wines.

Beer lovers should try a foamy drink called “Coral.”

The excellence of traditional foods in Portugal will seduce any gourmet enchanted by the sunny country’s eternal love of wine and food.

Enjoy the flavors of each dish slowly, tasting incredible craft drinks and savoring all the spicy, fragrant food at the same time. Bon appetit! (“Enjoy your meal!”)

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This story is brought to you in partnership with Firebird Tours.

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