Authentic Dishes to Try on Your Next Trip to Portugal

Cultural Exchanges Portugal
Authentic Dishes to Try on Your Next Trip to Portugal

Want to know just how important good food is to the Portuguese? Well, travel icon and chef extraordinaire the late Anthony Bourdain, summed it up perfectly. When he visited Portugal back in 2009 with his show ‘No Reservations,’ he said, “Portugal was the first country where I went to, to a show, where, you know, they have four-hour lunches, and they’ve been talking about what they’re having for dinner.” No truer words have been spoken (even if I found the sentence hard to follow – it was a quote!). 

The Portuguese dining experience is as iconic as the hundreds of dishes they’re famous for. 
We know you can’t try them all, but here are our top seven authentic Portuguese dishes you can’t come home without trying! 

Caldo Verde 
If you’re after some classic Portuguese comfort food, Caldo Verde is a beloved northern Portuguese dish you may want to try. This delicious soup is made with onions, mashed potatoes, garlic, shredded kale, and chouriço or chorizo sausage. It is so good that it has even been hailed as one of the ‘7 wonders of Portuguese gastronomy. Its warmth and flavor are the perfect complement to an evening of rhythmic ‘Fado,’ singing common throughout Portugal’s pubs and cafes. 

Polvo à Lagareiro 
For adventurous seafood lovers, fresh octopus is a common ingredient you’ll find in most restaurants across the country, especially in seaside regions like the Algarve. This octopus dish, called Polvo à  Lagareiro, is a popular but simple dish served on a bed of oven-roasted potatoes with herbed garlic oil. 

Piri-Piri Chicken 
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 or medium. Like to live on the edge? Be daring and order it extra fiery. 

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 code. 

Another one of the ‘7 Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy’, 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 in secret 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. 

Pastel de Nata 
This is, hands down, Portugal’s most popular and most famous dish, and it just so happens to be one of the most delicious desserts you’ll ever eat. This creamy custard tart, dusted with cinnamon sugar, might become your favorite way to finish any meal. Yum, my personal favorite! 

Porco Preto 
Trigger warning for all vegetarians and vegans. There are plenty of vegetarian-friendly dishes throughout Portugal, but porco preto is not one of them! This pork dish is made from a special breed of pig originating in Spain and Portugal. The most popular place to try this dish is Alentejo, a region known as the ‘Tuscany of Portugal.’ This region is known for its sun-drenched beaches and flavorful grilled cuisine.

Obviously, this list doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to Portugal’s culinary landscape, but you have to start somewhere. To get the most out of your foodie adventure through Portugal, remember these three things: Be bold, be adventurous, and most importantly, never sit down to a Portuguese meal in a hurry. Take time to savor every morsel and moment - and always leave room for dessert. Ready to start planning so you can taste a bit of Portugal for yourself? Click here, and let’s chat!