Portuguese cuisine has often been overshadowed by the popular culinary traditions of its famous neighbours, Spain, Italy and France. Yet there are so many hidden gems amongst this sun-filled destination.
Sopa da Pedra (Stone Soup)
Let’s start off light. The origin of soup goes back to prehistoric times, where countries across the globe found delight in creating this light but filling meal. Soup forms an integral part of everyday meals, especially in Portugal and can be the main dish at dinner time in certain regions. One of the oldest soup dishes known in Portugal is Sopa da Pedra. Also known as ‘Stone Soup’ this traditional dish is a Portuguese food favourite.
Legend has it that, a beggar asked a poor couple for something to eat but they said nothing was available. He then started to make soup with stones, before asking for vegetables to add to the stony soup until he had enough. Not to worry these days the kidney beans now represent the stone! You’ll find a combination of beans, sausages, pork belly, pig’s ear, and potatoes. Depending on where you visit some regions include pasta, carrots, and cabbage.
In need of a snack when venturing around Portugal? Why not try the delicious bite size dish known as Croquettes! You can find this side dish almost anywhere in Portugal. They are simply a bread crumbed and fried roll of food leftovers, usually bound with bechamel sauce or mashed potatoes. That’s not all, they’re often filled with meat such as beef or seafood such as cod or cuttlefish to gain that extra filling. The name croquette also means to conquer! To make sure you ask for one in the correct settings perhaps our online language tutors at Learn&Co can iron out any vocabulary differences before your trip.
For all you meat lovers, this Portuguese meal is sure to have you drooling! This meat is so special you can’t just get it anywhere, not even your local butchers! It is a large piece of veal from a calf that lives its life in the Trás-os-Montes province, in the north of Portugal.
Known as Portugal’s answer to the French chateaubriand steak and Italy’s fiorentina steak, the dish is thoroughly appreciated. In 2011 it was even declared one of the 70 wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy! The thick tenderloin is grilled over a fire, and flanked by sliced potatoes and sautéed greens. Don’t be too sad when you realise you can’t pack it away in your suitcase home!
Arroz de Pato
Looking to taste something that reminds you of home? Arroz de Pato is the dish for you. Known also as ‘duck rice,’ this food has been a Portuguese favourite for over 1,000 years! The duck poached in water, is infused with ingredients to make it fragrant. This is then strained and used to cook the rice. Its history stems from the Northern region of Portugal where it soon became a main influence on foods such as the New Orleans Jambalaya, Spanish Paella and Chinese Fried Rice.
There’s nothing like the smell of food being grilled in the summer. All the spices, flavours and new smells being formed from a dish, leaving your mouth watering with anticipation! If you’re wondering what dish will give you this reaction, look no further than the Portuguese Sardinhas. These Sardines take centre stage as a popular summer treat in the country. Often found on outdoor grills seasoned with olive oil and salt, this fish remains the star of the show. I would recommend visiting during the Feast of St. Anthony which is an annual June festival that celebrates sardines!
We couldn’t mention Portuguese food without speaking about the national dish of the country! You’re sure to find Bacalhau in every corner of the country as it is one of the most common types of fish eaten. These fried cakes are made with cod and potatoes instead of sugar and flour.
If you’re looking for the perfect way to bring back a taste of Portugal, look no further! Conservas are stylish cans filled with a variety of seafood treats. From cod, mussels, octopus, squid, and razor clams it’s a popular alternative to freshly grilled fish! Canning fish has been a Portuguese act since 1853. This is when Ramirez opened the country’s first commercial cannery in Vila Real de Santo Antonio. Ramirez is now the longest operating cannery in all of Europe! Not to worry, these canned fish are still fresh, as the makers of these goods aim to can them just one day after catching.
Canning fish has been a Portuguese act since 1853. This is when Ramirez opened the country’s first commercial cannery in Vila Real de Santo Antonio. Ramirez is now the longest operating cannery in all of Europe! Not to worry, these canned fish are still fresh, as the makers of these goods aim to can them just one day after catching.
Don’t let the colour of this next dish put you off! Caldo Verde is one of the most famous and popular dishes within Portugal. Translated to ‘green broth’ in English, it consists simply of collard greens, potatoes and wood baked cornbread. Known as the ‘poor man’s soup’ it originates from the North side of Portugal and has spread to being a classic favourite!
Pastel de Nata
Time for something that’ll satisfy those dessert cravings. Pastel de Nata dates back hundreds of years as one of Portugal’s iconic custard tarts. You may be surprised to know the origin of these famous sweet treats. In the 18th century monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Santa Maria de Belem invented the Pastel de Nata. It was common practice to use egg whites to starch nuns’ clothing, leaving the monks with a ton of leftover yolks. To use them up, they began baking them into delicious, two-bite custard tarts!
Today the monastery is a major tourist hotspot and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The dessert is a cross between a custard tart and a cake as the outside is made from crispy, flaky pastry, whilst the inside is a creamy, custardy mix.
Similar to the English, Portugal is known for their love of sandwiches. However, their variety consists of flavours like nothing you’ve tasted before. Take the Cachorrinhos sandwich. On the surface it may look like a hot dog, yet its filling and flavour says something different. It’s essentially a Portuguese sandwich made with crusty bread, sausage, and cheese brushed with a spicy sauce. I would recommend reading our blog post on how to learn Portuguese easily and quickly, as the word Cachorrinhos also means puppy in Portuguese. I’m sure you wouldn’t want strange looks from your waiter when you order this delicious meal at a restaurant!
Our final food favourite is one I’m sure you’ve all heard of before. Prego is a popular delicacy throughout Portugal. This type of Portuguese sandwich is made with grilled beef, brushed with a garlicky marinade and served in a bread roll. Perfect for those who prefer to not eat pork! The word Prego means ‘nail’ which refers to the way the garlic flavour is hammered into the beef. Certainly a great meal for lunch, dinner and if you want to eat it like the locals do, a great dessert after a light seafood meal!
Are you feeling hungry yet because I know I am! These 12 Portuguese food favourites are just a small list of the delicious dishes you can find in this beautiful country. From meats to vegetarian dishes there truly is something for all travellers. Before heading off to fill your belly until your heart’s content, head on over to speak with a tutor here at Learn&Co. Portuguese can be fun and a great addition to your language learning, especially when ordering different types of cuisine!