Some of the best food in Portugal we’ve eaten came from the most surprising places! From pastries on the beach sold out of a cooler to the menu of the day at a random hole in the wall, we’ve done our best to try it all! Portuguese dishes are always deliciously hearty and offer amazing food from both land and sea. After getting your own taste of traditional Portuguese food, you’ll discover a diverse cuisine bursting with flavor!
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Finding the Best Food in Portugal
Our favorite part about eating out in this country is there are incredible Portuguese dishes everywhere you look! For example, we have been to super touristy places underneath a castle and found coffee and pastries that would blow your mind. While in other countries, you may want to avoid these spots it seems that in Portugal a bad plate rarely exists!
At the same time, much of the best food in Portugal we’ve food has been at random local establishments. As you’ll see in this article, we focus mainly on seafood because that’s what we LOVE to eat here.
Traditional Portuguese food when done right is honestly some of the greatest in Europe. Use this Portugal food guide loosely to give you an idea of what to try. Yet, make sure to go off the beaten path and find your own places and things to eat.
Portuguese Food, Dishes, & Drinks You Can’t Miss!
1. The Francesinha
Welp, we might as well start with the most outrageous example of Portuguese food! If you’ve never heard of the Francesinha, brace yourself.
Everywhere has its own twist on this special Portuguese food item, but typically its ingredients are as follows: Bread, chorizo, ham, and steak, with a tomato beer gravy sauce, and often covered in crispy french fries.
Sounds absolutely insane right? Speaking from experience, we would have to agree with that sentiment! This massive sandwich is a staple of the northern city of Porto but comes with a warning: Eat it close to where you’re staying or have a taxi waiting outside. You likely won’t be able to move far after you finish it!
2. Pan Fried Shrimp
Seafood is the trophy of many Portuguese restaurants especially because so many of the top places to visit are along its beautiful coastline. With that said, some of the best seafood we had was during our visit to the small beach town of Nazare.
These jumbo shrimps were pan-fried in olive oil and garlic and served with a fresh slice of wedged lemon. When looking for fresh seafood you really can’t ask for much more than these incredible shrimp.
3. Baby Clams
We also found clams on almost every seafood menu and couldn’t get enough of them. Out of all the traditional Portuguese food we tried, these sweetly cooked clams might have been the best!
Like many seafood plates from Portugal, it was cooked in a very classic way. The baby clams are sautéed with white wine and garlic and then topped with fresh-squeezed lemon. Simple, yet absolutely delicious.
4. Portuguese Octopus
Octopus is our favorite food that we rarely get a chance to eat. It’s so good and tasty, but if not freshly prepared can also be awful. We’ve had the best octopus of our lives in Northern Spain, so when going to Portugal we were ready to sample all the different takes on the dish.
Well after much deliberation (and eating our faces off) we can say that the octopus in Portugal is just as good as anywhere in the world! Boiled, baked, or fried, this Portuguese food was always outstanding.
Sick of seafood yet? Unfortunately, if that’s the case you might not enjoy eating food in Portugal much! It may surprise you with all the famous Portuguese dishes that feature cod that the country’s famous fish is typically caught far away from Portuguese shores.
Since the early days of Portuguese exploration, sailors have been bringing back cod from Newfoundland. Due to this fun fact, it quickly became a serious staple of their diet! However, they had to find a way to get the cod from going bad on those long dangerous journeys across the sea… And this folks is how this Portuguese food came to be!
In the culinary world, Bacalhau is cod covered in massive amounts of salt and dried in the sun. This method allows the fish to keep fresh for months and has stayed a popular traditional Portuguese food to this day.
6. Seafood Rice
Seafood rice or “Arroz de Marisco” is another must-try traditional Portuguese food. The delicious pot is brought out piping hot, and just waiting to be scooped out and enjoyed. Usually, we saw it being ordered for entire tables (2-4 people) and then divvied out into smaller bowls.
Most seafood rice is filled with a range of goodies that includes clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops, and even lobster! If you’re looking for some incredible food in Portugal that combines the best of the country’s seafood, this dish is 100% for you.
7. Portuguese Steak with Creamy Peppercorn Sauce
If you’re a food lover like us at some point you may be craving a steak in Portugal. Yet, this version of the world-famous meat dish is likely not what you’re used to. At some restaurants, the steak is cooked to your liking, but then SMOTHERED in a creamy sauce.
Even if you’re a more traditional steak eater, we would highly suggest trying this out of the many Portuguese dishes. We had ours with creamy peppercorn sauce in the small castle town of Tomar, and it really blew us away!
8. Peri Peri Chicken
There is an ongoing debate about the origin of the sacred Peri Peri sauce, but we’ll try and keep it simple. The chili dates back to 15th century Portugal, coming by way of boat from Africa. These days it’s blended into a sauce and has become the main ingredient in this traditional Portuguese food.
If you’ve never been to Portugal you might recognize the name from the international chain Nando’s which is popular for serving Portuguese Peri Peri Chicken. Regardless, if you love spicy chicken then having it here will make you an even bigger fan. The classic Peri Peri is best served with fresh salad, creamed spinach, and potatoes.
9. Portuguese Pork Chops and Potatoes
It may sound rather dull, but we can promise you this Portuguese food is packed with flavors! We actually ordered it by accident with our menu of the day without actually knowing what we got. What a pleasant and hearty surprise this was!
The pork chops are seasoned and cut up into small bite-size pieces before being mixed with fried potato wedges. The winning ingredient that blends them together is the pickled carrot and cauliflower slaw on top.
If you’re not in the mood for something crazy spicy or fishy this is a great option. Honestly, some of the best food in Portugal is cooked in a simple but tasty way!
10. Pastel de Nata
Oh the desserts in Portugal. I don’t think we ever got through a full afternoon without digging into some kind of sweet treat! There are so many different pastries and cakes to choose from, and walking into any bakery will only put your brain into overdrive.
The first thing to make abundantly clear is that the Pastel de Nata is the queen of the Portuguese dessert game. You can find these at every bakery, supermarket, corner store, and presented in most hotel lobbies.
The custard tart is dusted with cinnamon and best served warm, but you can’t go wrong either way. Another new dessert that we had for the first time and loved was Bola de Berlim. Don’t miss out on this donut stuffed with different custard fillings in Portugal. Yum!
11. Port Wine
When in Portugal, you drink port wine! Specifically, in the Northern region and city of Porto, it will be everywhere you look. Arriving at our hotels we were offered Port wine. When we bought tickets to a museum we were offered Port wine. Obviously, before and after meals we were again offered Port wine!
Just in case you were wondering, these offerings were gladly accepted.
Made in the Northern Douro valley, the sweet and unique flavors jump out at you with every sip. Even if you’re not a big wine drinker it’s best to jump on board and try some here! Also getting an honorable mention is the Ginja liqueur. You can check out this cherry drink when visiting the capital city of Lisbon.
Surely this ongoing Portugal food list will grow with each visit we make. What are some of your favorite Portuguese dishes to eat? Let us know in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
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Portugal Travel Planning
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to rent vehicles on our travels. In Portugal, you will want a set of wheels to get to all the beautiful castles, cities, and towns.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. Book a sunset Sailboat tour in Lisbon, go Wine tasting cruise of the Douro Valley from Porto, or explore the Ponta da Piedade on a boat trip in Lagos!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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