Portuguese cuisine is based on the food found in the Atlantic, with a Mediterranean influence. As a seafaring nation with a well-developed fishing industry, Portugal is the country with the highest fish consumption per capita in Europe, and the fourth-highest in the world.
There is a notable influence from the countries of the former Portuguese empire. Perhaps the most famous part of Portuguese cuisine born out of these influences is Piri Piri, which is a combination of African bird’s eye chili with garlic, paprika, red wine vinegar, and other European imports. The result is a tasty marinade and sauce that can vary in heat, usually cooked with chicken or fish such as cod and salmon.
Pork and beef are the most common meats eaten in the country, with plenty of traditional dishes featuring both. Some of the most popular traditional dishes in Portugal include:
- Caldo Verde, an iconic soup made with a cabbage mostly only found in Portugal, chourico sausage, potato and local olive oil.
- Bacalhau, or Portuguese codfish, a treasured dish that can be prepared in over 365 ways. You can enjoy this salted codfish grilled, fried, baked and more, and it’s often combined with other foods such as eggs, potatoes, and vegetables.
- Pastel de Nata, the famous desert, is a sweet egg custard tart flavoured with cinnamon, sugar and plenty of butter.
- Polvo à la lagareiro is a delicious octopus dish that’s cooked and flavoured with a generous helping of Portuguese olive oil.
A variety of soups are enjoyed year-round in Portugal, and although these often feature multiple kinds of meat, most places also offer vegetarian or vegan options that contain plenty of vegetables and spices.
Other traditional cuisines can also be adapted to suit different diets, especially in the major cities. As you would expect, there are also plenty of options other than traditional Portuguese cuisine available. You’ll be able to find plenty of restaurants serving other ethnic cuisines such as Italian, Indian, Chinese and more. Supermarkets, cafes and restaurants also sell food you’d find at home, so you can enjoy a mixture of the native cuisine along with your own favourites.
Quick meals and snacks
Sandwiches are one of the most popular ways for people to enjoy a quick meal, with a couple of traditional varieties being the most popular. These include Pregos and Bifanas, which are often accompanied by a bowl of soup.
Pregos are a traditional sandwich, made with a slice of beef that has been marinated, cooked medium, and put in a papa seco bread roll. The marinade will at least contain garlic and butter, with some restaurants also including wine, herbs and spices. Garlic is the key ingredient that turns this from a simple steak sandwich into a prego. Bifanas is another popular sandwich, with a pork steak instead of beef and a similar garlic marinade.
Sweet or savoury pastries are also popular snacks. Pão com chouriço can be seen as a Portuguese sausage roll, with slices of chouriço wrapped in a golden pastry. There’s also Bôla de carne, a sweet bread that comes filled with chorizo, chicken or sardines. There’s also Bolas de Berlim, donuts that are sliced in half and filled with sweet egg custard, the same that you’d find in Pastel de Nata. These donuts are often served to sunbathers on the beaches.
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