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10 Popular Traditional Portuguese Food Dishes Explained

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Anna resided in Lisbon, Portugal for two years, married a Lisbonite, and calls the picturesque city her second home (after NYC).

Cozido de grão, a typical Portuguese dish, photographed in the city of Beja.

Cozido de grão, a typical Portuguese dish, photographed in the city of Beja.

Traditional Portuguese Food

Portugal is filled with homey mom-and-pop restaurants at nearly every corner. These restaurants serve traditional comida (food) at rather inexpensive prices (around 5–10 euros), and it's these restaurants that my friends ask about when they come to visit me in my adopted home of Portugal. What is Portuguese food like? What are the most traditional Portuguese dishes?

This article aims to answer these questions and act as a guide to the dishes you will come across on your travels to Portugal (or Portuguese restaurants elsewhere). You can start planning ahead of time what to eat in Portugal, and you'll impress your friends with your knowledge of Portuguese cuisine.

Bacalhau com natas is one of the most popular cod dishes that you'll find served at traditional Portuguese restaurants and households.

Bacalhau com natas is one of the most popular cod dishes that you'll find served at traditional Portuguese restaurants and households.

Bacalhau à Brás: another one of the most popular cod dishes in Portugal.

Bacalhau à Brás: another one of the most popular cod dishes in Portugal.

Portuguese Bacalhau Dishes

When you take a look at just one menu at a Portuguese restaurant, you'll quickly understand that the Portuguese love bacalhau (salted and dried cod fish). They actually say that there are 365 ways to cook bacalhau—one recipe for every day of the year!

The most popular bacalhau dishes are:

  • Bacalhau com Natas, which translates to "cod with cream." Bacalhau com Natas is like a lasagna made of cod. It includes layers of cod fish, onions, diced fried potatoes, and lots of creamy deliciousness.
  • Bacalhau à Brás, which translates to "cod à la Brás." Bacalhau à Brás is made from shredded bacalhau, fried potatoes, onions, and scrambled eggs all mixed up together.
Grilled sardines are best served with a cold Portuguese beer like Sagres.

Grilled sardines are best served with a cold Portuguese beer like Sagres.

Grilled Sardines (Sardinhas Assadas)

Sardinhas Assadas ("grilled sardines" in English) are a feast. I'm saying this because there's such a festive atmosphere when these are prepared around the time of the St. Anthony's Feast when chefs actually grill sardines outside of restaurants!

St. Anthony's is celebrated on June 12th, and there are parades and the smell of sardines fill the air. Festas de Lisboa last during the entire month of June, so it's a great time to be in the city and try out these fishy goodies that go really well with a nice cold beer on a hot summer day.

Choquinhos à algarvia, a Portuguese dish with cuttlefish.

Choquinhos à algarvia, a Portuguese dish with cuttlefish.

They don't look very appetizing, but you have to try these things called "percebes" (goose barnacles).

They don't look very appetizing, but you have to try these things called "percebes" (goose barnacles).

Portuguese Seafood Dishes

I've already mentioned cod fish dishes and sardines, but Portugal is a seafaring country so there are a lot more seafood dishes. The most popular other types of seafood dishes include the following.

  • Dishes with chocos, which are cuttlefish. One such dish is Choquinhos à Algarvia, which translates to "cuttlefish from the Algarve" (a region in southern Portugal).
  • And while we're on the topic of seafood, you have to try this one dish that's really unique and can only be found in Portugal and Spain—it's percebes, which translates to "goose barnacles." These little ugly thumb sized things look like some pre-historic claws or something, but once you bite into them, you won't want to stop eating them. They're definitely worth a try, and you can find them at seafood restaurants, especially by the coast. I had them in Ericeira.
"Leitão à Bairrada", a portuguese suckling pig dish.

"Leitão à Bairrada", a portuguese suckling pig dish.

Portuguese Meat Dishes

Other popular meat dishes in Portugal include the following.

Leitão, which is suckling pig. Different regions have their own specialties, but a region known as Bairrada in central Portugal is best known for this Portuguese specialty. Leitão da Bairrada is a dish that has a crunchy golden rind that's drenched in garlic and pepper and soft meat. You'll never forget it!

Francesinha, a typical Portuguese dish, in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Francesinha, a typical Portuguese dish, in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Francesinha, which translates to "Little Frenchie," is a delicious huge sandwich that's made from a mix of ham, sausage, and other meats, smothered in melted cheese and a thick tomato and beer sauce. It's usually served with fries. The thought of it makes me hungry!

Cozido à portuguesa, a Portuguese dish.

Cozido à portuguesa, a Portuguese dish.

Cozido à Portuguesa is a stew made from every imaginable Portuguese meat, including beef, pork, and sausages (including blood sausage!), mixed with all sorts of boiled veggies and potatoes. It's usually served topped with lots of olive oil and at least one copo de vinho (glass of wine).

One of the most traditional and popular pork dishes of Portuguese cuisine. It is typical from the Alentejo region, in Portugal, hence the word Alentejana (from Alentejo) in its name. It is a combination of pork and clams, with potatoes and coriander.

One of the most traditional and popular pork dishes of Portuguese cuisine. It is typical from the Alentejo region, in Portugal, hence the word Alentejana (from Alentejo) in its name. It is a combination of pork and clams, with potatoes and coriander.

Carne de Porco à Alentejana is a really popular pork dish that originates in Portugal's Alentejo region and comes with clams (who knew the two can go so well?) and potatoes.

Bitoque with potato chips.

Bitoque with potato chips.

Bitoque is one of my personal favorites for lunch in Portugal. It's a dish that consists of steak with an egg sunny-side-up over it, fries, rice or potato chips as a side dish, and a salad. This dish can be found at any Portuguese restaurant or even at malls as fast food and costs just around 5 Euros!

Enjoy a Portuguese Meal

Bom apetite! Enjoy your Portuguese dish with a nice bottle of Portuguese wine and finish the meal off with a delicious Portuguese dessert.

Comments

km on March 27, 2018:

im portuguese and im doing this for a project and i came along this and im really impressed

Sasha Louie on January 22, 2018:

We are going to Portugal this year can't wait.

Matty Navarro from New Jersey on May 10, 2017:

How interesting. We eat Bacalao in the Dominican Republic as well.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 27, 2015:

portugese food are very unique and interesting, wish there is a portugese restaurant here

Andrew Spacey from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on June 27, 2015:

Thanks for this informative article Anna. I was in Brazil last year and sampled their version of bacalhau - purchased at the huge metropolitan market in Sao Paulo by my good friend Roberto Amado - and excellent it was too. So I'm delighted by this authentic bacalhau, the original!

Voted up and shared.

Cecília Cabral on August 04, 2014:

Good representation of the portuguese cuisine!

If you allow me I would like to introduce to you and your readers, who maybe one day will come to Portugal, our website www.silvercoastfinest.com where you can find several informations about Lisbon area and the Silver Coast region and where you can also find holiday rentals.

Obrigada

zahrah on January 04, 2014:

This article is incomplete until it includes Caldo Verde.

Michael on July 23, 2013:

I am portuguese and very proud of our culinary history. I want to thank you for representing portuguese food in a perfect form. I could not have made or presented a list better then this one. I am honored and pleased thank you have adopted portugal as your home.

OBSERVER on May 25, 2013:

In Guyana, South America, one of our National Dishes which was brought by the Portuguese, is Garlic Pork, which is usually served mainly around Christmas time; and Guyanese of all races usually make it a must.

Anna (author) from New York, NY on July 07, 2012:

Thanks so much, Jason for stopping by and your comment. I'm really glad to hear that my article taught you a bit about Portuguese culture.

Jason Matthews from North Carolina on July 02, 2012:

Very interesting article, and educational I might add. It is always nice to learn about other cultures and ethnicities. Thanks for sharing!