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Typical Portuguese food

Many students are drawn to Portugal to complete their Erasmus studies. Sun, beach and sea, plus hospitality and a wide selection of Portuguese delicacies make the adventure perfect. Once you’ve found the right MILESTONE flat in Portugal, your dream of spending a semester abroad will quickly become a reality. And if you’ve already discovered our insider tips for the city of Porto, why not go on a culinary discovery tour next?

18 Portuguese dishes and specialities

Want to expand your own cooking skills? Or are you already enjoying your life in Portugal and want to get to know the country’s typical cuisine better? Then you can’t miss out on the following specialities. In addition to fresh fish, seafood and meat dishes, the country on the Atlantic also has something for the vegetarian palate.

Typical Portuguese dishes as starters and snacks

1) Pastéis de Bacalhau

Cod (bacalhau) is one of Portugal’s most important staple foods. Whether as a starter, main meal or even dessert – the edible fish from the Atlantic is to be found in every course. Pastéis de Bacalhau is one of the most famous starters with cod. The fish is processed in small cakes and then fried until crispy. Easy to prepare and guaranteed irresistible.

2) Caldo Verde

Portugal is the land of soups and stews. That’s why caldo verde, made with kale, potatoes and onions, is on every traditional menu. Seasoned with olive oil and salt, this typical starter is ready in no time. For a meaty touch, add chouriço, a slice of spicy pork sausage, to the soup bowl.

3) Polvo

Fresh octopus is a speciality that is regularly served in Portugal. A typical snack is baked polvo. The whole squid is first boiled and then baked in the oven with garlic and olive oil until crispy. It is usually served cold with plenty of olive oil and a slice of lemon.

4) Peixinhos da Horta

The golden-brown fried green beans are a popular vegetarian dish in Portugal. The breading of the appetiser consists of normal tempura dough. The green beans are dipped in it and then deep-fried in a pan. With a squeeze of lemon juice, this finger food is wonderfully crunchy and refreshing. This makes Peixinhos da Horta a light meal for in-between meals and a vegetarian alternative to Portugal’s otherwise meat-heavy cuisine.

5) Petiscos

In Portugal, people like to set the table with a large selection of small dishes and appetisers. In Spain these dishes are called tapas, in Portugal they are called petiscos. They are meant to whet the appetite for more and, as petisquieras, small snack plates, are simply part of a Portuguese theme evening. In addition to pastéis de bacalhau and peixinhos da horta, olives pickled in oil, herbs and garlic are a must. Of course, bread and real Portuguese cheese made from sheep’s or cow’s milk belong on the plate.

6) Bolo de Caco

Bolo de Caco is a bread recipe that originated in Madeira, Portugal’s flower island. In the meantime, however, the flat breads have also become popular snacks in Lisbon and Porto to satisfy small appetites. Sweet potato flour is used as the main ingredient for the dough of the round loaves. The freshly baked bread is cut open and filled with garlic butter, chouriço or cheese. Alternatively, you can dip individual pieces of bread in olive oil.

Well-known main dishes from Portugal

1) Francesinha

Francesinha is a famous dish from Porto and translates as little French girl. One thing is for sure: you will hardly be able to resist the temptation. Between the slices of toast, you’ll find lots of cheese, ham, sausage and bacon. The delicacy is topped with a fried egg, even more cheese and the typical hearty tomato sauce, which is also refined with beer. It is traditionally served with French fries. Francesinha are real calorie bombs, but you have to try them.

2) Arroz de Marisco

Arroz de Marisco is a real classic and consists of two typical Portuguese ingredients: Rice and seafood. From prawns to mussels to lobster claws, anything that passes for seafood is allowed. The rice pan is seasoned with tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil and white wine. Arroz de Marisco is said to be one of the most authentic dishes in Portugal.

3) Arroz de Pato

Arroz de Pato is also a classic Portuguese rice dish, but prepared with meat. Instead of seafood, duck and chouriço give this speciality its unique flavour. The spicy Portuguese rice pan will remind you a lot of risotto in terms of consistency. A glass of red wine rounds off the dish perfectly.


4) Sardinhas Assadas

You can get sardines practically everywhere in Portugal. Small street stalls offer them as a snack. But restaurants with upscale cuisine also have sardines on their menus. The small fish are traditionally grilled over coals, which gives them their aromatic flavour. However, you should not be afraid to eat them. Sardinhas Assadas are served as a whole fish on the plate. In Portugal, this is accompanied by lots of olive oil, bread and vegetables.

5) Cozido a Portuguesa

Cozido a Portuguesa is a hearty meat stew made with whatever is available at the meat counter. There are countless variations of this dish. However, you will find chicken, beef and pork in all recipes. Some even use pork knuckles, pig’s head and offal. In addition to chouriço, blood sausage (morcela), farinheira or other sausage specialities from Portugal are usually added to the pot. The meat is cooked together with cabbage, rice, turnips, beans and potatoes.

6) Polvo à Lagareiro

Polvo à Lagareiro is a classic Christmas recipe from Portugal, but can also be found in many restaurants. The fresh octopus is braised in the oven with potatoes, olive oil and garlic and served with sautéed vegetables. Grelos are a typical side dish in Portugal that perfectly round off the light feast.

Portuguese desserts and sweets

1) Pastéis de Nata

The little custard tarts are the most famous dessert from Portugal. Pastéis de Nata, often just called Natas, are made of puff pastry. Inside is a cream made of milk, sugar, egg yolk and flour. The caramelised surface is an important quality feature. Moreover, the natas should still be warm when served. In Lisbon, the custard tarts are also called Pastéis de Belém, in reference to the monastery in the suburb of Belém, where this dessert is said to have originated.

2) Bolo de Arroz

Bolo de Arroz is a typical Portuguese pastry made from rice. Prepared as a muffin or cake, you will find this famous dessert in every café in Portugal. Bolo de Arroz are not quite as sweet as the custard pastry and are easy to digest as a dessert. These rice muffins are a must for a cup of coffee, called bica in Portugal, or as a dessert.

3) Arroz doce

Portuguese rice pudding is a typical Portuguese dessert and a sweet delicacy. This filling dessert owes its fresh note to the lemon zest, which is added when rice, milk and egg yolk are cooked. Before serving, the rice porridge is neatly seasoned with cinnamon and served in small portions.

4) Bolo de Rei

The famous fruit cake is part of every Christmas celebration in Portugal. Known as king cake, all kinds of dried fruits, sultanas and nuts decorate the top of the pastry, which looks like a jewel-studded crown. If you don’t want dried fruit, try the Bolo Rainha.

Another tip for sweet tooths: if you’re an inveterate cake fan, you must try our recipe for Brazilian carrot cake. Our Milestoners show you step-by-step how to make it.

5) Ovos Moles

Ovos Moles are a dessert from the famous tourist town of Aveiro. Between two wafers, often baked in the shape of a sea motif, is a sweet filling of sugar and egg yolk. Supposedly, the nuns used the so-called soft eggs to bridge the fasting period in the convent with a delicacy. Get your own idea of the sinful dessert and visit the pretty town of Aveiro. This is already possible with a day trip from Porto.

6) Queijo

Portugal has a long tradition of making cheese. This is known to seal the stomach and is often served as a dessert. Queijo da Serra, the famous sheep’s cheese, is available in different flavour intensities – from mild to spicy. Of course, Portugal also has cheese made from cow’s and goat’s milk. From soft cheese to hard cheese, there is nothing left to be desired.

Conclusion: Delicious Portuguese dishes are like a short trip to Portugal

Don’t worry: although Portugal is a dream even in winter, you don’t have to hop on a plane if you feel wanderlust and the weather is gloomy. Instead, discover the most popular recipes from home and take a trip to the cuisine of Portugal.

Best Operator 2020