The 10 Best Portuguese Dishes – With Recipes
From salted cod and hearty stews to baked desserts and more, we’re sharing some of the best Portuguese dishes with recipes so you can make them yourself.
Portugal’s best dishes are world famous for being tasty yet distinctive. The country’s food also showcases its history; from the invasion by the Moors in the 8th century to its days as a maritime colonial power from the 15th century. The geography of Portugal also plays a key role in the local cuisine. With the ocean surrounding the country on both sides, it’s no surprise that seafood is usually at the top of the menu. As you travel, you will find many regional versions of many popular Portuguese dishes. However, there are also a few regional specialties to look out for.
Traditional Portuguese cuisine is based on fish, seafood and meat (especially pork) which is grilled, fried or cooked in stews and casseroles. Common side dishes include potatoes, rice, and simple salads. The country is also famous for its rich and sweet desserts. To give you an idea of the culinary delights awaiting you, here are some of the best dishes you’re likely to discover, along with recipes to try at home.
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1. Arroz doce
The Portuguese have a sweet tooth and the local bakeries and patisseries are full of all kinds of delicacies. Local desserts are often egg-based and sometimes creamy, but all are rich and sweet. It is also common to enjoy rich desserts made from eggs, flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, also at the end of a meal. Pay attention to Creamy milk; an egg custard with a topping of hard caramel like creme bruleeand arroz doce; a traditional Portuguese rice pudding. This intimate, sweet and creamy dessert can be made with condensed milk or eggs, but is always flavored with lemon and cinnamon.
make your own
- Check out this recipe for arroz doce just like a Vó (grandmother) used to do it
- Follow this detailed recipe to make the dream dish
The national dish of Portugal, bacalhau is dried, salted cod, which is usually soaked in milk or water before cooking. The Portuguese ate bacalhau since the 16th century when their fishing boats brought it back from Newfoundland. He is so popular that he goes by the nickname of gall amigo or “faithful friend”. Moreover, locals even talk about it in folk songs. Most locals eat bacalhauin one form or another, at least once a week and each region has its own version of the dish.
In fact, some say there are 365 different recipes – one for each day of the year. You can eat it cooked with cream (bacalhau with natas); cooked with potatoes, carrots, cabbage and eggs (bacalhau with everything); or sautéed with grated potatoes, eggs, onions and garnished with black olives (bacalhau with arms).
Do it yourself
- Follow this tasty recipe for bacalhau with natas from a local food blogger
- Try Jamie Oliver’s recipe for bacalhau with arms
- Always hungry? Try that bacalhau with everything
3. Caldo Green
Most meals in Portugal involve a dish of soup. While fish, bread and cold tomato soups are quite common, the most famous is green caldo which comes from the province of Minho in the north of Portugal. This comforting green soup traditionally consists of just five ingredients: potato, onion, thinly sliced kale, olive oil and chorizo sausage. Hearty, cheap and the ultimate comfort food, this national favorite can be found almost anywhere in Portugal; from the trendiest restaurants in Lisbon to isolated farmhouses in villages. It goes wonderfully with broaa type of Portuguese cornbread with a crispy exterior and a soft interior.
Do it yourself
- Discover this classic green caldo Recipe
- Follow this simple recipe step by step
4. Marisco’s Cataplana
Cataplana of Marisco is a popular fish or seafood stew that takes its name from a clam-shaped copper pot called cataplane. The Moors introduced the dish in the 8th century when they arrived in Portugal from North Africa. The cataplana is actually the regional dish of the Algarve. Although the ingredients vary across the country, it generally includes white fish, shellfish, red peppers, onions and a little chili. All this is combined inside the cataplane and the lid is tightly closed before steaming to perfection. This delicious stew is best eaten with crispy fresh bread, rice or fries.
make your own
- Check out this simple recipe for marisco’s cataplane
- Practice your Portuguese with this simple recipe
5. Cozido in Portuguesa
This rustic Portuguese stew is a must for meat lovers. Many regional variations of cozido in Portuguesa exist nationwide, but it usually consists of beef, pork, chicken, and assorted smoked sausages; such as broke up, chourico, alheiraWhere Farinheira. It can also hold various other animal bits – perhaps a pig’s ear or trotter – with potatoes, carrots and cabbage thrown in for good measure. All ingredients are cooked together in one pan with different ingredients added at different times. The result is a rich and satisfying dish that the Portuguese consider part of their heritage and a national treasure.
make your own
- Try this easy to follow recipe with lots of photos
- Follow this quick and easy recipe
6. Frango no churrasco
Portugal’s favorite fast food, frango no churrasco, literally translates to “chicken on the barbecue”. It is also sometimes called frango no brasa, which means “chicken on coals”. You can buy this delicious snack on the go in small roadside shops all over Portugal. However, don’t expect it to taste like KFC, as this tasty treat is a far cry from junk food. It is cooked in a special way with delicious marinades made from secret recipes. Small whole chickens are shoveled and marinated in olive oil, lemon, garlic, white wine and spicy paprika. They then set off on a rotating spit above a coal pit. As the chickens roast, they are continually basted with the marinade and the famous Portuguese pee pee chili sauce, which keeps them juicy. The smoked, spicy and sweet chicken is usually served with fries, salad, bread or rice and a nice cold bottle of beer.
make your own
- Follow this recipe in Portuguese to make homemade frango no churasco
- Try this simple piri-piri chicken recipe
7. Leitão assado da bairrada
Portuguese cuisine includes a considerable amount of pork and Preto Pork (Iberian black pig). It is mainly found in the central and southern regions and is raised free-range, often on a diet of acorns. The resulting chewy, sweet-tasting pork can be braised, grilled, marinated, and added to soups and breads. The mother of all Portuguese pork dishes, however, is roast suckling pig; Where leitao assado da bairrada. You’ll find it on menus across the country. Traditionally, pork skin is rubbed with a mixture of garlic and pork fat, seasoned with coarse salt and pepper, and skewered on a pole. It is then roasted and basted until the intensely flavored meat falls off the bone and the skin is golden orange and crispy. You will usually eat it with batata fries (fries) and salad of lettuce, tomatoes and onions (salad mista).
Do it yourself
- Try this classic recipe for Leitão assado da bairrada
- Check out this simple Portuguese suckling pig recipe
8. Pasteis de nata
Small, round and quite delicious, Pasteis De Nata is the famous Portuguese cream pie. This iconic dessert consists of crusty puff pastry cases filled with egg custard and dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Pasteis De Nata originally from the Jerónimos Monastery in the Santa Maria de Belém district of Lisbon. Historically, monks used egg whites to starch their clothes, then the remaining yolks to make cakes and pastries. They sold the recipe to the nearby sugar refinery when the monastery, along with all the other convents and monasteries in Portugal, closed in 1834. The company began making the famous Pasteis de Belem in 1837 and continues to do so today. You will find these heavenly pies in bakeries all over Portugal as well as in Macau. They are best warm and straight out of the oven.
Do it yourself
- Try this easy to follow recipe
- Follow this recipe for the Macanese version of the famous pies
9. Queijo da Serra
Portugal produces many kinds of cheese, mainly from sheep and goat. Usually they are not meant for cooking but rather eaten on their own before or after a meal. Quejo da Serra is Portugal’s most famous cheese and comes from the mountainous region of Serra da Estrela. The main ingredient in this sweet and salty cheese is unpasteurized sheep’s milk and producers use thistle to coagulate the milk. When Quejo da Serra is young, it’s so creamy you can almost peel it out of the crust and when it’s older you can slice it and enjoy it with a glass of port wine.
10. Sardines assadas
Grilled sardines are synonymous with Portugal. The Portuguese eat them fresh from the Atlantic Ocean, all year round, but especially in summer. There’s even an annual sardine festival in Lisbon, Saint Anthony’s Day, on June 13. On this day, songs and celebrations fill the air as locals tuck into tasty sardines. The sardines are first coated in salt and then cooked on a hot charcoal grill. You can then eat them whole, with their crispy skin and all. Portuguese sardines are usually served on a simple slice of bread that soaks up all the delicious juices. Alternatively, they can be eaten with boiled potatoes and a salad of roasted peppers, tomatoes, onions and lettuce with oil, vinegar and salt.