Portuguese cuisine is known to have Mediterranean influences but much of the traditional food from Portugal is still mostly known to the locals themselves. Much of the cuisine is also influenced by the country’s former colonial possessions and trade routes that were established many centuries ago.
In particular, access to a wide range of spices since that time has also shaped the ingredients used in many traditional recipes. Here are 15 Portuguese dishes that have stayed true through the test of time.
Cozido A Portuguesa
Cozido A Portuguese is a traditional Portuguese stew that is made with a long list of ingredients and several types of meat. This stew dish is regarded as a national dish and it is popular amongst Portuguese, especially during the winter season.
To prepare this classic stew, vegetables such as beans, potatoes, carrots, turnips, cabbages, and rice, are left to simmer with chicken, pork ribs, bacon, pig’s ear and trotters, and an assortment of smoked sausages and red pepper paste, white pepper, and cinnamon.
Traditionally, the cooked vegetables and meat are served on a large platter with rice, while the soup stew is consumed as an appetizer.
Chouriço de Portalegre
Chouriço de Portalegre is a local smoked sausage that is made with meat from the Alentejana breed of pigs. These pigs are fed only with acorns throughout the year, which is the reason why Chouriço de Portalegre has such a unique flavor.
To prepare this smoke sausage, the meat is cut into small pieces and mixed with traditional seasonings before being stuffed into sausage casings and left to smoke slowly over an oak fire.
The cooked Chouriço de Portalegre is usually mildly spicy in flavor but full of a smoky aroma. These sausages are commonly used alongside other ingredients to create traditional Portuguese dishes.
Sopa da Pedra
Sopa da Pedra, also known as ‘stone soup’, is a traditional Portuguese dish that contains many local classic ingredients such as beans and sausages, pork belly, pig’s ear, and potatoes.
However, the intention of this soap was never meant to be so rich and flavourful. According to legend, a monk wanted to prepare some soup for himself but there were on stones or water available to him.
He then asked the family who is hosting him for some ingredients, in the hope that his soup can become more flavourful. To the monk’s surprise, the family came back with a generous offer of pork, beans, and sausages, that made the monk’s original “stone soup” tastier and more nutritious.
Sardinha Assada is a dish of grilled sardine that is commonly seen in restaurants and summer festivals. This traditional Portuguese dish requires a very simple preparation process and cooking method but the resulting dish is always a delightful treat.
The sardines are lightly seasoned with salt and olive oil without elaborated sauces so that the freshness of the fish can be fully enjoyed. They are then set on the grill until the sardines are tender and cooked.
Sardinha Assada is served with bread, boiled potatoes, sautéed vegetables, or salads.
Frango Churrasco is a traditional Portuguese dish consisting of a grilled chicken, it is commonly acknowledged as the staple of Portuguese cuisine.
To make this dish, the chicken is marinated with olive oil, garlic, paprika, lemon juice, and Piri Piri hot sauce while it’s being grilled. A perfectly well-made dish will have crispy chicken skin on the outside and tender, juicy meat on the inside.
Bacalhau à Bras
Bacalhau à Bras is a classic Portuguese dish consisting of shreds of salted cod, onions, olives, fried potatoes, and scrambled eggs. It is usually garnished with black olives and sprinkled with fresh parsley.
Interestingly, this dish is a mix of different textures and flavors. However, the result is a truly hearty dish that is highly well-received by the Portuguese. The salted cod (the main ingredient of the dish), is prepared through the process of “Bacalhau”, which means salting and drying codfish under the sun for preservation.
The flavor that is produced through such a traditional method is a strong and unique flavor that is still well-loved by local Portuguese people.
Alheira is a smoked Portuguese sausage that is made with a combination of v meat, bread, garlic, olive oil, and paprika. The history of Aleira goes as far back as 1497 when the Jewish community had to hide their religious practices.
Because pork consumption is forbidden by their custom, these Jews began making sausages with poultry and game, mixed with bread. As time passed, the dish began to spread through the country and became a traditional food for every Portuguese.
Alheira can be grilled, boiled, or deep-fried. It is usually served with a fried egg and accompanied by rice, salad, and fries.
Caldo Verde is a popular soup that is commonly homemade or served in upscale restaurants. The basic ingredients for Caldo Verde are potatoes, kale, olive oil, black pepper, and salt.
Sometimes, meat, ham rock, or sliced chorizo sausage can also be added. This soup dish can often be spotted at Portuguese celebrations, such as weddings, birthdays, and festive celebrations. Caldo Verde is usually served with a thick slice of bread.
Ameijoas A Bulhao Pato
Ameijoas A Bulhao Pato is a dish of clams in white wine sauce. Named after the 19th-century poet, Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato, this traditional Portuguese dish is served as an appetizer and paired with bread on the side.
Ameijoas A Bulhao Pato combines clams and the flavourful white wine sauce with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, cilantro, and of course, white wine, to create this classic dish that is extremely well-received in Portugal.
Arroz De Pato
Arroz de Pato is the Portuguese version of duck rice. Traditionally, a whole duck is cooked together with seasoned stock, smoked meat and sausages.
Ingredients such as yellow onions, carrot, leek, celery, garlic, leaves, cloves, parsley, fresh thyme, and peppercorns are added to the mix to provide a richer and more intense flavor.
The dish is then baked in a clay pot with rice which was cooked in the duck broth that was collected during the prior cooking process. Arroz de Pato is a popular lunch meal and it is available in many traditional Portuguese restaurants.
Feijoada à Transmontana
Feijoada à Transmontana is a bean stew that is made with beans, pork, or beef. The name of the dish comes from Feijão, which is Portuguese for “beans”. The choice of beans used for the recipe can vary between regions; red kidney beans, white beans, and black beans are commonly used for this dish.
Feijoada à Transmontana is best prepared over low heat in a thick clay pot. It is usually served with rice and an assortment of sausages.
Leitão à Bairrada
Leitão a Bairrada is a famous dish of suckling pig that is roasted until the pork meat within becomes tender and juicy, while the skin becomes crunchy.
It is said that pigs from the region of Bairrada wine region are the best, which is why this is considered the best place to enjoy Leitão à Bairrada. To prepare this dish, the pig is first rubbed with fat, coarse salt, pepper, and garlic then skewered on a pole before being cooked in eucalyptus-and-vine-fueled ovens.
This suckling pig dish is traditionally served with fries, orange slices, and fresh salad.
Francesinha means “Frenchie in Portuguese and it is a Portuguese sandwich made with bread, cured ham, smoke-cured pork sausage, fresh sausage, steak or roast meat, and finally topped with melted cheese and a special thick tomato sauce that is infused with beer! It is usually served with French fries.
Although Francesinha is a sandwich, it is prepared as a wholesome meal that is suitable for lunch or dinner. Rumour has it that the Francesinha recipe was inspired by the famous sandwich, Croque-monsieur, a French sandwich well-liked by many Portuguese immigrants.
Caldeirad is a traditional seafood stew consisting of a wide variety of fish and potatoes. It is known as a “fisherman’s stew” because what goes into the stew depends on what the fishermen have managed to catch for that day.
A variety of seafood such as shellfish squids, octopus, eel, angel shark, shrimp, and clams can often be found in the stew as well. To create this stew, ingredients such as onions, white wine, olive oil, tomatoes, saffron, and nutmeg are also added to enhance the flavor.
Today, Caldeirad is regarded as Portugal’s national specialty, it is often served with slices of crispy toasted bread.
Pastel de Nata
Pastel de Nata is a traditional Portuguese egg custard tart that has gained popularity around the world. The recipe was also adapted into Chinese versions in Asia. The trick to making a good Pastel de Nata is the moderate sweetness for the filling, lemon and vanilla flavours should not be added too.
Instead, the tarts should be sprinkled with cinnamon and, ideally, paired with a cup of coffee. The history of this recipe goes back to before the 18th century when Catholic monks and nuns in Santa Maria de Belém in Lisbon made the tarts from leftover egg yolks that were used in the clearing of wines and starching of clothes.
Eventually, the clerics made a deal with a nearby bakery to start selling Pastel de Nata, and it quickly became a great success.