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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Valenti

Portuguese cuisine: what and where to eat, from north to south!

Portugal is a splendid country that will give you many emotions: from incredible landscapes, to culture, up to the table! You will be spoiled for choice among the many typical products and traditional recipes, so we just have to find out what and where to eat on our trip to Portugal, from north to south!


Torre de Belem, Lisbona, Portogallo

You can't say you've been to Portugal if you haven't tasted these dishes:

Codfish

Cod.. in Portugal you will find tons of it, in many preparations: fried, stewed and breaded, and I must say that even if I don't normally eat it, I loved it. It's certainly the favorite ingredient of Portuguese cuisine, and it's called Bacalhau. I recommend that you try at least these two recipes:

  • Bacalhau á brás: this is cod fillets and potatoes mixed with eggs, parsley and onions;

  • Pasteis de bacalhau: breaded and fried cod croquettes, delicious! You will find them especially during aperitif time, to accompany a good Portuguese wine.

Octopus

If cod is the king of Portuguese gastronomy, octopus certainly comes in second place. The Polvo à Lagareiro is very famous: in this preparation it's first stewed, then grilled, making it very tender and succulent. It's almost always accompanied by a sauce based on oil, parsley and garlic accompanied by baked potatoes. You can also easily find octopus in its raw variant, in the form of carpaccio.

Bifana

Bifana is one of the most famous snacks (let's call it that) in Portugal, which you will often find in stalls or cafes. It's a simple sandwich with slices of pork inside cooked in a pan with a savory and slightly spicy sauce while the bread is barely. Perfect for a quick and cheap lunch.


Francesinha

The typical Porto dish par excellence, but you will also find it in other Portuguese cities. Honestly, when I saw my first Francesinha on the plate I was a bit scared: the appearance is not fantastic and you will already guess at the sight that it's definitely not a diet dish, but I changed my mind at the first bite. It's certainly a fundamental experience to do in Portugal. It's a sandwich filled with beef, sausage and other hams over which a pour of melted cheese is poured, and an egg, accompanied by a mountain of fried potatoes drowned in beer sauce. Trust me, I know that it doesn't pay off in words but it is truly exceptional!


Alheira

Alheira is a historic dish dating back to 1500 and it's a kind of sausage but made from game meat or in any case not pork.


Bife á Portuguesa

Bife à Portuguesa is another dish on the list of what to eat in Portugal, also not very light: it's a beef steak cooked with oil, butter, white wine and various herbs, served with slices of raw ham cooked in a pan on top. and sprinkled with thinly sliced ​​french fries. Sometimes it is also found in the Bife com Ovo a Caballo version, or with a fried egg placed on top.

Sardines

In Lisbon they are crazy about sardine barbecues and throughout Portugal you will find plenty of shops selling them by the ton in classic tin cans. Sardinhas assadas are served on slices of corn bread, on grilled peppers or on boiled vegetables. Ideal as an appetizer or as an aperitif.


Typical cold cuts and cheeses

Like us Italians, in Portugal too it is typical to serve splendid and very rich cold cuts and cheeses. The cured meats are different from ours, more smoky, and with stronger flavors, but equally exquisite. The most popular cheeses, on the other hand, are made from sheep's and goat's milk, so here too we will find a tastier and more seasoned taste. A mixed platter accompanied by a tasting of Douro or Alentejo wines is a must.


Porto wine and Verde wine

Needless to go around it, wine is naturally part of the typical Portuguese meal: the very famous Porto (if you are in Porto go for a tasting in one of the ancient cellars of the city) and vhino verde, the white wine originating from the north of Portugal.

Pasteis de Nata, Portogallo

Pasteis de Nata

And here we are with my favorite part of our Portuguese culinary tour: the Pasteis de Nata… be careful because they give a real addiction, they are too good! I ate 1-2 every day for a week. Invented in Lisbon, the original ones come from the Belém district, and are an excellent idea for breakfast or a snack: you will find them for around € 1 everywhere in Portugal. Pasteis de Nata are small puff pastry cakes filled with a huge amount of cream; when cooking in the oven, a caramelized upper layer is created. The secret touch is to taste them with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.


Ginjinha

Ginginha or simply Ginja is the Portuguese national liqueur, a real must if you are in these lands. This liqueur is produced by infusing black cherries in alcohol and therefore has a sweet and fruity taste. The Portuguese love to drink it fresh in small glasses of chocolate to eat at the end of the tasting.


But now let's see where to taste these delights along our road trip in Portugal, from city to city.


Porto

Discover the city of Porto and what to do once there: Porto

Folias de Baco

Folias de Baco, Porto, Portogallo

Folias de Baco is a small restaurant in the center of Porto, a little hidden in the alleys, if you are not looking for it, it's difficult to come across it by chance, but it is absolutely worth visiting. Small, simple and easy-going, but delicious: the staff was super helpful, they explained the whole menu and product by product. They offer various menu options for a real experience in the Portuguese tradition: we chose the meat one (Flavors from Douro) for € 15 each, which included a glass of Douro wine of our choice, water, bread and olives, various cured meats, mango jam, alheira sausage (we had one pork and one chicken,), a torricado (a kind of typical bruschetta, tried with both ham and tuna), and finally coffee and dessert of our choice , that is an egg Pudding. Excellent value for money: we were very full and spent very little!


Casa Portoguesa do Pastel Bacalhau

Casa Portoguesa do Pastel Bacalhau is not a restaurant, but a shop (??) I don't know how to define it, specialized only and exclusively in Pastel Bacalhau. We entered because we were intrigued and attracted by the place from outside and we were actually totally captivated by the beauty of this place that looks almost like a bookshop. It took us a while to understand that they were selling these gigantic cod croquettes with a delicious cheese heart inside: true works of art, which are absolutely worth the price of € 5 each. They are very expensive, I know, but it's worth it, both for the croquette itself and for the environment. If you are in Porto, absolutely stop there!


Vinhas d’Alho

Vinhas d’Alho is a very nice and simple restaurant, with the possibility of eating outide, which we came across while walking, coming from the Ribeira, located on the banks of the Douro. We stopped on the fly for lunch and got away with € 10 each, ordering two very simple salada de salmao fumado (salmon salads) and a nice ice cold beer, strictly Super Bock. Next to Vinhas d’Alho you will find many other similar places, you will be spoiled for choice: it's a very popular area and the possibilities are endless.


The George Sandeman

The George Sandeman is the venue of a famous Portuguese wine factory. On the Douro river there is a gigantic room with also the cellar: we chose it to have an happy hour on the river bank, enjoying a wonderful sunset over Porto. We chose cod croquettes, clam meatballs, french fries and two glasses of port wine each (one of their specialties), for € 21 in total. It was all great, so I recommend it! It is also one of the few places that at that time also offers a drink without necessarily having to dine!



Mercado Beira-Rio - Bacalhau do Porto

For dinner, however, we moved a little further, not far from George Sandeman, to the Mercado Beira-Rio: it's a covered market where you will find many kiosks all of typical Portuguese food, even if fish prevails, especially cod in all sauces! We chose the stand "Bacalhau do Porto, comida Portoguesa" and we settled in the various tables in the center of the market. With 23.5 € we tried a mix of typical appetizers and then bread with cod, onion and cheese: not very light but delicious! If you want to eat typical without spending a lot and be able to choose from many local dishes, this is definitely the right place.


Manteigaira - Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata

The Manteigaira pastry shop was our fixed point for breakfast in Porto: it was a few meters from our hotel, very comfortable; you will find them scattered throughout the city and we also met them in the streets of Lisbon. I liked it a lot because the kitchen is open, so you can see live how Pastéis de Nata are prepared. Obviously our typical Portuguese breakfast was based on these delicious sweets, at least two each morning: here you will find them for € 1.10 each, I would say in the Portuguese average, and they were delicious!


Fabrica de Nata

On Rua Santa Caterina, Porto's shopping street, you will find Fabrica de Nata, another pastry shop specializing in Pastéis de Nata: here too they were excellent, and fortunately they cost only € 1 each because one leads to the other!


Confeitaria do Bolhao

Also a few steps from our hotel was the Confeitaria do Bolhao: super typical and rustic pastry and bakery, mainly frequented by locals. Here you will find many sweet and savory specialties, ideal for starting the day on the right foot.


Coimbra

Discover Coimbra and its splendid university, all about what to do and how to get there: Coimbra

Toca do Gato

Toca do Gato was a very pleasant discovery in the center of Coimbra, among narrow streets: certainly one of the places where we ate better on our trip: Enrico even licked his plate! Once here, don't be fooled: yes, it's a super simple and easy-going place, with very few tables and the owner seems gruff and a little annoyed, but I swear to you he deserves everything. We ate divinely: to start with bread and black olives, which in Portugal are never lacking at the table, a cheese platter and a bottle of local wine, delicious, and as a main course octopus and potatoes, one of the best I've ever tasted in our life. Finally a mix of Coimbra desserts including Pasteis de Santa Clara and Pastel de Tentugal. we spent € 36 each, definitely deserved.


Lisbona

Discover the wonders of Lisbon and how to organize a day trip to Sintra: Lisbon and Sintra

A Brasileira Cafè

A Brasileira Cafè is one of the oldest and most famous cafes in Lisbon. It's located in rua Garrett, in the historic Chiado district. It has always been a destination for intellectuals, including the poet Fernando Pessoa and the writers Almada Negreiros, Jorge Barradas, Aquilino Ribeiro and Alfredo Pimenta. A bronze statue of Pessoa was placed outside the café: the poet sits at one of the typical tables in the restaurant. A little expensive, and not as wonderful as I had seen on the photos, but in any case if you are in the area it is worth a trip, it is one of the most famous places in the city, and is located in the center. Pay attention to the prices, they are quite high for the Portuguese average!


Pastéis de Belem

Pastéis de Belem pastry shop is the most famous Pastéis de Nata pastry shop in Lisbon, and it's located in Belem, where these sweets were born. It is one of the mandatory stops in Lisbon. The place is huge, decorated in full Portuguese style, full of azulejos and with a splendid internal garden. It is very typical, and they have a selection of sweets and savory snacks to make you lose your mind. All delicious and with super affordable prices: we have tried a lot of things, but what you absolutely cannot miss in your order once here are obviously the Pastéis de Nata: the best tasted in Portugal. Here you can both sit at the table and order takeaway!


Padaria Portuguesa

We stopped at Padaria Portoguesa for breakfast, it is a bakery-pastry shop in the heart of Lisbon, on the main shopping streets. Here you will find both sweet and savory delights typical of the tradition. Ideal if you are planning a morning in the center of the shops.


Mercado da Ribeira - Timeout Market

The Timeout Market is a food hall located at the Mercado da Ribeira and that I highly recommend! Inside this "covered market" you will find many niches offering typical Portuguese food, based on meat or fish, and then sweets, and also many other delicious dishes from all over the world such as sushi. You can order what you want in more spread, trying more flavors, and then enjoy it all by sitting at one of the many tables in the center of the Hall: the beauty of these places is that you can take a little from everyone, without having to choose, very difficult thing given the huge choice. I was totally undecided, and I randomly chose a Francesinha without knowing what it was yet. Guys, a must try! Do not be fooled by the appearance: when it arrived I was horrified, but after a bite I fell in love: not at all light, and yes, it looks like a big bull, and indeed it is, but I swear it was a sight! Try it and you will tell me!


Lisboa Tu e Eo

Lisboa Tu e Eo is a real gem that we found just behind our apartment, in the Alfama. It is a place run by a husband and wife, very nice, easy-going and very small, but we ate divinely at tables in the center of a small square. To start we took a Tabla Mixta (a mix of typical cold cuts and cheeses), then a Salda de Polvo, a Sopa do Dia and Bacalahu a Bras (a typical recipe based on cod and potatoes, very simple but popular). Finally we took el Melhor Arroz Du Mundo, a kind of Riso Latte, all with a bottle of house wine. The bill was € 30 each, definitely well spent. Absolutely recommended!


Rua Nova do Carvalho - Pink Street

Rua Nova do Carbalho, more commonly known as Pink Street for its characteristic pink asphalt and very famous for the colorful umbrellas hanging on the street, it's one of the liveliest places in Lisbon in the evening, full of young people enjoying a drink in company . The street is always crowded and full of clubs, all small and characteristic, where you can drink excellent pints of beer and special drinks. Here the prices are a bit higher than in the Rossio: we paid a total of € 30 for 4 drinks and 2 shots. If you are looking for some Portuguese nightlife, this is definitely the place for you.


Algarve

Discover the Algarve on the Road: Algarve

Ca Piramin (Vila Nova de Milfontes)

Ca Piramin is a café in the center of Vila Nova de Milfontes, impossible not to find it as the village is tiny. We had lunch with a hamburger for Enrico and a salad for me, with two inevitable Sagres beers to refresh us.


Taberna da Mo (Lagos)

La Taberna da Mo is a small restaurant in the center of Lagos, located on one of the main streets, where a slew of clubs will offer you plenty of choice for dinner. Lagos is quite touristy but still with typical features, nothing to do with Albufeira. We picked this place by accident and were pleasantly surprised. For € 52 the two of us ate a Salda de Tomate in Algarvia, a Sopa de Peize, a Bife da Vazia in Portuguesa, and Polvo no forno al batatinha. Everything was delicious, the staff very friendly and helpful: we ate on the alley enjoying the evening and the lively atmosphere of the place.


Old Tavern (Faro)

Old Tavern, Faro, Algarve, Portogallo

The Old Tavern is certainly one of the best restaurants in Faro: located in the old part, the most beautiful of the city. We ate in the small square overlooking the restaurant, in a very pleasant atmosphere: the food was definitely exceptional and typical, with a different menu every day based on the availability of the products. We tried the Mixed Board (very large and very rich in meats, cheeses, bread, olives and jams) and a Pica Pao (Portuguese-style beef), the usual two pints of beer, all for € 20 each. The waiter was very kind, engaging and very funny, he even made a shot of rum with honey with us, offered by him.


O Castelo (Faro)

I'm telling you about O Castelo in Faro more for the location than for the food: the real gem of this place is the terrace overlooking the lagoon and a part of the city, which at sunset offers a priceless show. Here we ordered 1l of white sangria (I was super curious because I've always seen it in the classic red version) and two delicious desserts, spending only € 15 in total.


Now that you know what and where to eat in every corner of Portugal, you are ready to go! Here are the various tappers of our road trip in Portugal: - Porto and Coimbra - Lisbon and Sintra - Algarve If you need practical information on how to organize a road trip in Portugal click here.

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