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What Portuguese eat (and drink)

Luis Guedes

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The food is probably the most important area of Portuguese identity after the language. Portuguese gastronomy is very rich in flavors, odors and colors. There are thousands of receipts .The most part of Portuguese knows how to cook and like to cook for Family and Friends very frequent meetings.

Portuguese people love food! And have great cuisine!

The daily Meals

The day start with breakfast, There are two main courses, lunch and dinner .  Between them (around 5pm the “lanche”, a snack) and not so rare a “ceia”, a latter or second dinner.

Lunch and dinner usually include soup. After the main dish is comun to have desert. The presence of a wide variety of cheeses made from cow, sheep or goat's milk or mixture of them is important as desert. Other popular deserts are arroz doce (rice pudding usually seasoned with cinnamon), leite-creme as well cakes and pastries.

Pasties and mainly eaten on breakfast and lanche. A popular pastry is  pastel de nata, a small custard tart eventually sprinkled with cinnamon.


Soups made from a variety of vegetables (Soupa de Legumes) are commonly available, The most popular is caldo verde, made from thinly chopped kale, potato purée and slices of chouriço.

A very usual soup is Canja de galinha made boiling chicken and then add rice or noodles for final boiling.

Soupa de Peixe (fish soup) is also a very appreciated soup done boiling fish then add  noodles for final boiling.

Fish and seafood

Portugal (country and history) and Portuguese have a very strong relation with the sea. If is true that everybody goes to the beaches in Summer one month holidays and almost all weekends also many people as the need of to go to look the sea and listen to him even in days of storm Portugal has Europe's highest fish consumption per capita and is top four in the world..

Fish is served grilled, boiled (including poached and simmered), fried or deep-fried, stewed (often in clay pot) or even roasted.

Foremost amongst these is bacalhau (cod fish), which is the type of imported fish most consumed in Portugal. Our country has World's highest cod fish consumption per capita. Fresh cod fish is not appreciated. Portugal has a tradition and unique way to dry cod fish. that started more than 500 years ago when Portuguese start fishing in the North Atlantic Therefore it needs to be soaked in water for 2 days before cooking. The simpler fish dishes are often flavored with olive oil and white vinegar .

Also popular are fresh sardines (especially when grilled as sardinhas assadas), hake, horse mackerel (scad), lamprey, sea bass, scabbard (especially in Madeira). Octopus, squid, cuttlefish, crabs, shrimp and prawns, lobster, spiny lobster, and many other crustaceans. and a great variety of other fish and shellfish and molluscs, such as clams, mussels, oysters, periwinkles, and scallops.

Espetada de tamboril, is monkfish on a skewer. There are espetadas the tamboril com camarão, where between 2 pieces of monk fish one big shrimp is added

Açorda de Marisco, a thick bread-(stew) based casserole traditionally made from stale bread flavoured with herbs, garlic, and coriander a egg often served with prawns.

Caldeirada is a stew consisting of a variety of fish and shellfish with potatoes, tomato and onion.

Seafood rice (Portuguese style), is a dish with origin in Vieira beach. Is a medley of different seafood such as the prawns, clams, edible crabs, lobster, mussels and cockles in a soupy rice

Prior to cooking rice, make a stew, which consist of garlic, tomato, onion fried in olive oil. Then, the broth is added, which leads to be baked rice. In this phase can also be added white wine. In the end, when the rice is almost cooked, add the clams are cooked beforehand and chopped coriander. The seafood rice with monkfish is a variation of the base recipe, which includes slices of the fish in

Canned sardines,  tuna, octopus, squid, mussels , served with boiled potatoes and boiled eggs, or rice or mixt salad (tomato, lettuce, onion) constitute a convenient meal when there is not time to prepare anything more elaborate or for a full day on the beach.

Meat, poultry, game

Eating meat and poultry on a daily basis was historically a privilege of the upper classes. Meat was a staple at a nobleman's table during the Middle Ages.  Nowadays the meat is in all Portuguese tables but recently the red meat start to be eaten less by health reasons.

Poultry, easily raised around a peasant's home, was at first considered quality food. Turkeys were only eaten for Christmas or on special occasions such as wedding receptions or banquets. Poor people eat chicken almost only when they were sick. Since 70´s mass production in poultry farms makes it accessible to everybody. Chicken favorite dishes are barbecue (grilled chicken - almost a second national dish - is usually enlivened by the addition of piri-piri (chilli) sauce), roasted in oven with potatoes, soup and boiled for salad base Chicken Stroganoff is also common

In some areas after chickens are killed, they may be hung up upside down, so the blood may be drained, to a pot with a little vinegar to be used later for cabidela. a rice made with blood that is a famous dish in places like Tentugal

Turkey steaks, have become a recent addition to Portuguese tables. Cooked same ways as the pork.

Pork is considered a taboo food in many religions around the world, such as Judaism, Islam and Adventism, which consider it an unclean meat, condemned by God. For Portuguese pork is the most common meat  and our country is one of the biggest producers of pigs in Europe. Two most commons ways to prepare this meat are: first in steaks fried or grilled; second roasted in the oven (a big piece) Pork sausages are also widely present.  The most used side dishes are fried potatoes and salad. Small pork steaks in a roll (bifanas) are popular snacks, often served at beer halls with a large mug of beer. In modern days, however, when time and economy demand their toll, a bifana or prego (some but with beef), eaten at a snack bar counter, may constitute the lunch of a white collar worker.

The Portuguese steak, bife, is a slice of fried beef or pork served in a wine-based sauce with fried potatoes, rice, or salad. To add a few more calories to this dish an egg, sunny side up, may be placed on top of the meat, in which case the dish acquires a new name, bife com ovo a cavalo, steak with an egg on horseback. Bitoque is the same in a smaller portion.  Instead of fried these dishes can be with grilled meat.

Espetada de Carne, meat on a skewer, is very popular in Madeira. There are espetadas of pork, black pork, beef, mixt (pork and beef)

Alheira de Mirandela, a yellowish smoked sausage from Trás-os-Montes (north), Initially created as a way for the Jews to escape from the 13Th century Inquisition. Since avoiding pork was a tell-tale practice in the eyes of the Inquisition, Jews converts devised a type of sausage that would give the appearance of being made with pork, but really only contained heavily spiced game and chicken. Some of the meats and fats are then used to stuff the pigs tripe and they hanged to dry/smoke. Nowadays, however, tradition has been broken, and pork has been added to alheiras. Is served with fried potatoes and a fried egg.

Feijoada à transmontana has as basic ingredients  beans , pork and / or beef. The name comes from feijão, Portuguese for "beans."

In northwest Portugal (Minho and Douro Litoral), it is usually made with white beans; in the northeast (Trás-os-Montes), it is generally prepared with kidney beans, and includes other vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, and cabbage. The stew is best prepared over low heat in a thick clay pot and should have chouriço, morcela (blood sausage), farinheira, eventually chicken. It is usually served with rice . This dish has been taken to other former Portuguese colonies such as Macau, Angola, Mozambique and Goa (India) and Brazil, where feijoada became the national dish.

Rojões à moda do Minho com arroz de sarrabulho (fried diced pork with blood rice, from Minho) is another famous dish in the north of Portugal

Cabrito (roast kid) is ubiquitous in mountain areas (roasted in wood oven cooked with potatos), while another festive Beira´s speciality is chanfana (goat stew).

Duck is usually served shredded and mixed with rice (arroz de pato); rabbit is served in rural areas (a caçadora, hunter’s style, as a stew),

Not difficult to find  wild boar (javali), partridge (perdiz) or quail (cordoniz)

"Cozido à portuguesa" (Portuguese stew) is a famous dish ((see our post ”THE MOST FAMOUS DISHES - DISHES IDENTIFIED WITH PORTUGAL”)


Vegetables are popular in Portuguese dishes The most present are tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, cucumber, and onions.

Many dishes are served with salad usually made of tomato, lettuce, and onion flavored with olive oil and vinegar. Potatoes and rice are extremely common in Portuguese cuisine.

If you’ve ordered fish accompanying nearly every dish will be potatoes.  If is boiled or grilled fish the potatoes will be boiled and probably a butter sauce with parsley will be offered. But if you ordered roasted (in oven) fish then the potatoes will be cooked together to get the smell, flavor and juice.

Other vegetables occasionally make an appearance, like carrots, cabbage or broccoli, usually boiled. A interesting choice is grelos (turnip tops), often turned into a purée. The green beans are also served sometimes as purée as well boiled.

Winter and early spring is the time for chestnuts (castanhas), which appear in soups and stuffing’s.

Pastries and desserts

Portugal has a strong tradition on pastry Portuguese pastries were typically created in Middle Age´s monasteries by nuns and monks and sold to provide means for a life and monasteries maintenance.

The main ingredient for these pastries is egg yolks. It is common belief that the medieval nuns used vast quantities of egg whites to stiffen their habits, and developed endless dessert recipes to use all the surplus yolks. Is also known that Portugal had a big egg production, mainly between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and that most of the egg whites were exported to be used as a purifier in white wine production or to iron suits. The excess quantity of yolks, combined with plenty of sugar coming from the Portuguese colonies was the inspiration for the creation of wonderful recipes made from egg yolk.

These deserts names are many times related to monastic life and to the Catholic faith. Examples are, barriga de freira (nun's belly), papos de anjo (angel's chests), and toucinho do céu (bacon from heaven).

Other common ingredients in portuguese convent confectionery are almonds, "doce de chila/gila" made from squash,and wafer paper.and candied egg threads called "fios de ovos.

The most popular cooked deserts at Portuguese tables in normal days are leite creme (a dessert consisting of an egg custard base topped with a layer of hard caramel),and arroz doce (a typical and popular rice pudding with milk and sugar coloured and seasoned with Cimarron),

Cakes and pastries are also very popular in Portugal. Pasteis de Belém  are egg custards that has become acclaimed as the king of Portuguese pastries. Appreciated all around the world, its often-copied-yet-never-bettered recipe is a zealously kept secret and its confection only takes place in the original patisserie in Belém.

Similar to these Pasteis de Belém there are the Pasteis de Nata procedure and many pastries. Also famous are the Queijadas de Sintra e Queijadas de Pereira e Os Pasteis de Tentugal

Legacy of convent tradition, Ovos Moles (sweet-eggs) are famous It is a sweet made from eggs and sugar mainly in Aveiro . What makes this sweet particularly original is the way it looks: inside wooden barrels, painted with local motifs, or in plant or animal shapes, filled with this sweet. The Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture gave this sweet the status of protected geographical indication, distinguishing the regional quality of the products. Aveiro sweet-eggs were the first confectionery product to receive this title.

The most popular cooked deserts at Portuguese tables in normal days and also offered in common restaurants are leite-creme (a dessert consisting of an egg custard base topped with a layer of hard caramel),and arroz doce (a typical and popular rice pudding with milk and sugar coloured and seasoned with Cimarron),

In cake shops, cafés and tea rooms you can seriously indulge yourself in pastries (pastéis), buns (bolinhos), rolls (tortas), tarts (tartes) and cakes (bolos). There are hundreds of local specialties.


Seasonal fruit ranges from spring cherries and strawberries to summer melons, peaches and apricots. The grapes arrive in late summer and autumn, as do most pears, apples, plums and figs, while winter is the time for citrus fruits, pomegranates, and immensely sweet dióspiros (persimmon or date-plums). Available year-round are bananas from Madeira, and sweet and aromatic pineapples from the Azores.

Coffee, tea

Café (coffee) comes black, small and espresso-strong (uma bica, or simply um café); black, small but weaker (um carioca); small and with milk (um garoto in Lisbon and the south, um pingo in the north); or large and with milk but weak (um galão), often served in a glass. For white coffee that tastes of coffee and not diluted warm milk, ask for uma meia de leite.

Chá (tea) is usually served plain; com leite is with milk, and to be sure of getting tea with a slice of lemon (as opposed to a lemon-tea drink) ask for chá com uma rodela de limão. Herbal teas are known as infusões, the most common being camomila (camomile), menta (mint) and lemon verbena (lúcia-lima).


Portuguese cuisine does not include cheese in its recipes. Usually cheeses are eaten on its own included on daily meals frequently with bread or toast.

At breakfast is normal to eat a sandes (sandwich) that many people like to have with a slice of cheese or cheese and ham. The same if the bread is replaced by a croissant.

At lunch a fresh cheese (cow milk not cured) can be taken as starter..In summer a slice of chilled melon with presunto pata negra (cured ham from black Iberia pig)is a fantastic starter. Cheese is eaten as desert with the coffee. Or you can eat cheese with fruit  A slice of Queijo da Serra goes perfectly with a strawberry. The choices only depending on budget.

These days is frequent to hear from nutritionist that cheese and fruit are a great option for lance (small meal middle of the afternoon) because reduces the appetite.

There is a wide variety of Portuguese cheeses, especially made from goat's or sheep's milk, or both together. Cow milk cheeses are also abundant and a most cheaper option.

Queijo da Serra is the king, Other members of the royal family of cheeses are Queijo de Azeitão,  Queijo de Castelo Branco and Queijo de, Nisa, also a very famous zone regarding cuisine. It is made with sheep´s milk with just a little bit of goat's milk that makes this a tasty and fresh cheese. Queijo de São Jorge and Queijo da Illha (from Azores) are also excellent.options, those made with cow milk.

The reason why so good quality cheese are not well known in the world markets is because their production – artisanal – is very small and more focused in local costumers than even in national distribution. International distribution is not an option except for half a dozen of gourmet shops.


Portugal is the 5th biggest exporter of wine in the world. Portuguese wine is the result of traditions introduced to the region by ancient civilizations, such as the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and mostly the Romans. Portugal region started to export its wines during the Roman Empire. In 1758, one of the first wine-producing region of the world, the Região Demarcada do Douro was created under the orientation of Marquês de Pombal, in the Douro.

The appellation system of the Douro region was created nearly two hundred years before that of France, in order to protect its superior wines from inferior ones. The quality and great variety of wines in Portugal are due to noble castas, microclimates, soils and proper technology.Official designations:

Portugal has two wine producing regions protected by UNESCO as World Heritage: the Douro Valley Wine Region (Douro Vinhateiro) and Pico Island Wine Region (Ilha do Pico Vinhateira). Portugal has a large variety of native breeds, producing a very wide variety of different wines with distinctive personality.

Rosé is popular in USA and North Europe bur is not appreciated in Portugal itself.

Port wine is a fortified wine of distinct flavour produced in Douro River hills, made and aged and bottled in Oporto normally. Port wine vines need to grow in schist rich soil and require a specific micro-climate. It is produced through a unique vinification method. The red varietals are the most common. There are several varieties of Port wine: some of the most popular are the Tawny, White, Ruby, and Late Bottled Vintage (L.B.V.).  Is served in receptions, at sunset, and was always present on kings tables one century ago. Mainly is served with desserts.

Vinho da Madeira, is a regional fortified wine produced in Madeira Island similar to Porto Wine and normally served with desserts. Madeira comes in four main varieties: Sercial (a light dry aperitif), Malvasia (very sweet, heavy dessert wine), Vermelho (a sweeter version of Sercial) and Boal or Malmsey (drier versions of Malvasia).

Also worth trying are the sweet white Moscatel dessert wines from Setúbal, which – like Porto and Madeira – also come as yearly vintages.

From the distillation of grape wastes from wine production is made a variety of high quality aguardentes (firewaters, brandies, literally means "burning water") which are very strong tasting.  Bagaço is the basic one

Licor (liqueurs) Beirão is produced since the nineteenth century, in Lousã (Beira Litoral), based on eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary and lavender - and aromatic seeds, undergo a process of double distillation. The product thus obtained has a transparent topaz hue, and a sweet taste . Like aguardentes  is usually drunk as a digestive (plain or with ice)

Ginjinha is a liqueur made by infusing ginjas, (sour cherry berries - Prunus cerasus austera, the Morello cherry) in aguardente and adding sugar (and other ingredients).. Ginjinha is served in a shot form.

In the south, particularly the Algarve, a distilled spirit called aguardente de medronho (arbutus brandy) is very popular. Aguardente de figo (from figs), Amarguinha (with bitter almond) and brandymel (a honey brandy) are other options


Beer is very appreciated and everywhere the presence of international brands is side-by-side to local beers very appreciated by Portuguese.

Beer is the favorite drink when eat seafood (as well white chilled wine), with barbecue (as well red wine).

Is also a favorite in esplanadas (terraces) in summer time. Many times taken with amendoins (peanuts), tremoço (lupine) or caracois (snails) or even , for a bigger budget camarão (shrimp).or percebes(…)

Black beer (cerveja preta) is a kind of slightly fizzy lager-stout is very popular mainly in winter. Some people add some sugar to eat producing a lot of foam. Other options are wheat, fruit-flavoured and non-alcoholic versions, none particularly successful.

From the tap, order uma imperial (or um fino in the north) if you want a regular glass, or uma caneca for half a litre.


Portuguese wine from Wikipedia,

Portuguese cuisine from Wikipedia

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