Portugal’s cuisine is legendary, as are its hundreds of dishes. The best way to understand the importance of food to the Portuguese is to try these authentic dishes. We know you can’t try them all, but here are 7 authentic Portuguese dishes you can’t come home without trying.
Caldo Verde (Green Soup)
Photo credit: Lareira Restaurante [authentic Portuguese Caldo Verde soup]
Try Caldo Verde, a beloved Portuguese dish from northern Portugal, if you’re looking for some comfort food. A delicious soup made with onions, mashed potatoes, garlic, shredded kale, and chouriço or chorizo sausage. Caldo Verde is a Portuguese dish that locals often eat. And it’s the perfect complement to an evening of rhythmic ‘Fado,’ Portugal’s national sound.
Portuguese Main Courses
Polvo à Lagareiro
For adventurous seafood lovers, fresh octopus is a common ingredient you’ll find in most restaurants across the country, especially in coastal regions like the Algarve. Polvo a lagareiro is a popular but simple dish served on a bed of oven-roasted potatoes with herbed garlic oil.
Photo credit: Restaurante Piri Piri [chicken with fries]
If you’ve ever been to Southern Africa, you’ve likely had Piri-Piri chicken. While Piri-Piri is popular across Portugal, this spicy dish originated in South Africa when Christian Portuguese sailors brought bird’s eye chilies, the main ingredient, to South Africans. If you’re not a fan of too much heat, you can ask for your Piri-Piri to be mild, medium, or extra fiery.
[beach restaurant in Praia de Mira]
If Portugal is known for any dish, it’s Bacalhau, the Portuguese term for cod. It’s believed there are over 1000 different ways to cook bacalhau, and each town, village, and region has its spin on this iconic dish. One favorite variation is Bacalhau à Brás; shredded cod blended with eggs and bits of potato into a fishcake. Just a heads up, when you’re ordering it from a restaurant, bacalhau is dried and salted cod, and ‘bacalhau fresco’ is fresh cod.
Another one of the ‘7 authentic Portuguese dishes’, Alheira sausage, is known as much for its history as it is for its flavor. During the Inquisition period in the mid-1500s, Jewish people were threatened with execution if they didn’t convert to Christianity. So rather than convert, many Jews practiced secretly and fooled the locals into thinking they had converted by making ‘pork-like’ sausages from chicken and other meats that weren’t pork. Today, alheira can be made with pork, duck, veal, and other meats.
Photo credit: Porco Preto & Red Restaurante
There are plenty of dishes throughout Portugal that are vegetarian-friendly. Porco Preto is not one of them! Pork in this dish is a special breed of pig originally from Spain and Portugal. The most popular place to try this dish is Alentejo, a region known as the ‘Tuscany of Portugal.’ Known for its sun-drenched beaches, laid back life, and flavorful grilled cuisine. Trigger warning for all vegetarians and vegans.
Pastel de Nata
Hands down, Portugal’s most well-known and popular dish is Pastel de Nata. And it just so happens to be one of the most delicious desserts you’ll ever eat. It’s undoubtedly one of mine. This creamy custard tart, dusted with cinnamon sugar, might become your favorite way to finish off any meal. Pro tip: Try Pastéis de Belém, the original.
This list doesn’t scratch the surface regarding Portugal’s culinary landscape, but you must start somewhere. Ready to try some of these dishes? Let’s get you there!