Some of the best food we ate in Portugal came from the most surprising places! From pastries on the beach sold out of a bicycle cooler to the menu of the day from a random hole in the wall, we did our best to try everything on our latest visit. The Portuguese plates we had were deliciously hearty, and highlighted dishes from both land and sea. So if you’re looking for a straight forward suggestion about what to eat in Portugal… The answer is EVERYTHING! No matter where you are or what traditional Portuguese food you try, you’ll find a country bursting with endless flavors.
Welp, we might as well start with the most outrageous example of what to eat in Portugal! If you’ve never heard of the Francesinha, brace yourself. Everywhere has it’s own twist on this special Portuguese dish, but typically its ingredients are as follows: Bread, chorizo, ham, and steak, with a tomato beer gravy sauce, and often covered in crispy french fries.
Sounds absolutely insane right? Speaking from experience, we would have to agree with that sentiment! This massive sandwich is a staple in Porto but comes with a warning: Eat this meal close to where you’re staying or have a taxi waiting outside. You likely won’t be able to move far after you finish this traditional Portuguese food.
Seafood is the trophy of many Portuguese restaurants especially because so many of the top places to visit are along its beautiful coastline. With that said, some of the best seafood we had was during our visit to the small beach town of Nazare.
These jumbo shrimps were pan fried in olive oil and garlic and served with a fresh slice of wedged lemon. When looking for fresh seafood you really can’t ask for much more than these incredible shrimp! Is your mouth watering yet?
We also found clams on almost every seafood menu and couldn’t get enough of them. Out of everything to eat in Portugal these sweetly cooked clams might have been the best!
Like most of the seafood plates from Portugal it was cooked in a very traditional manner. The baby clams are sautéed with white wine and garlic, and then topped with a fresh squeezed lemon. Simple, yet absolutely delicious.
Octopus is our favorite food that we rarely get a chance to eat. It’s so good and tasty, but if not freshly prepared can also be awful. We’ve had the best octopus of our lives in Northern Spain, so when going to Portugal we were ready to sample all the different takes on the dish.
Well after much deliberation (and eating our faces off) we can say that the octopus in Portugal is just as good as anywhere in the world! Boiled, baked, or fried, this Portuguese dish was always outstanding.
Sick of seafood yet? Unfortunately, if that’s the case you might not enjoy eating in Portugal much! It might surprise you with all the famous Portuguese dishes that feature cod that the countries famous fish is typically caught far away from Portuguese shores. Since the early days of Portuguese exploration sailors have been bringing back cod from Newfoundland, and it quickly became a serious staple of their diet.
However, they had to find a way to get the cod from going bad on those long dangerous journeys across the sea… And this folks is how Bacalhau came to be! In the culinary world, Bacalhau is cod covered in massive amounts of salt and dried in the sun. This method allows the fish to keep fresh for months, and has stayed a popular traditional Portuguese food to this day.
Seafood rice or “Arroz de Marisco” is another must-try traditional Portuguese food. The delicious pot of goodness is brought out piping hot, and just waiting to be scooped out and enjoyed. Usually we saw it being ordered for entire tables (2-4 people) and then divvied out into smaller bowls.
Most seafood rice is filled with a range of goodies that includes clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops and even lobster! If you’re looking for what to eat in Portugal and want to combine all the best of the countries seafood, this dish is 100% for you.
Portuguese steak with creamy peppercorn sauce
Okay, could everyone use a quick break from seafood? If you’re food lovers like us at some point you may be craving a steak in Portugal. Yet, this version of the world-famous meat dish is likely not what you’re used to. At some restaurants the steak is cooked to your liking, but then SMOTHERED in creamy sauce.
Even if you’re a more traditional steak eater, we would highly suggest trying this out of the many Portuguese dishes. We had ours with creamy peppercorn sauce in the small castle town of Tomar, and it really blew us away!
Peri Peri Chicken
There is an ongoing debate to the origin of the sacred Peri Peri sauce, but we’ll try and keep it simple. The chili dates back to 15th century Portugal, coming by way of boat from Africa. These days it’s blended into a sauce and has become the main ingredient to this traditional Portuguese food.
If you’ve never been to Portugal you might recognize the name from the international chain Nando’s which is popular for serving Portuguese Peri Peri Chicken. Regardless, if you LOVE spicy chicken then having it here will make you an even bigger fan. The classic Peri Peri is best served with fresh salad, creamed spinach, and potatoes. Dig in!
Pork Chops and Potatoes
It may sound rather dull, but we can promise you this Portuguese dish is packed with flavors! We actually ordered it by accident with our menu of the day without actually knowing what we got. What a pleasant and hearty surprise this was!
The pork chops are seasoned and cut up into small bite size pieces before being mixed with fried potato wedges. The winning ingredient that blends them together is the pickled carrot and cauliflower slaw on top. If you’re not in the mood for something crazy spicy or fishy this is a great option.
Pastel de Nata Portugal
Oh the desserts in Portugal. I don’t think we ever got through a full afternoon without digging into some kind of sweet treat! There are so many different pastries and cakes to choose from, and walking into any bakery will only put your mind into overdrive. The first thing to make abundantly clear is that the Pastel de Nata is the queen of the Portuguese dessert game.
You can find these at every bakery, supermarket, corner store, and presented in most hotel lobbies. The custard tart is dusted with cinnamon and best served warm, but you can’t go wrong either way. Another new dessert that we had for the first time and loved was Bola de Berlim. Don’t miss out on this donut stuffed with different custard fillings in Portugal. Yum!
We said it once in our Get Familiar with Porto Guide, and we’ll say it again! When in Portugal, you drink port wine. Arriving at our hotels we were offered Port wine. When we bought tickets to a museum we were offered Port wine. Obviously, before and after meals we were again offered Port wine! Just in case you were wondering, these offerings were gladly accepted.
Made in the Northern Douro valley, the sweet and unique flavors jump out at you with every sip. Even if you’re not a big wine drinker it’s best to jump onboard and try some! Also getting an honorable mention is the Ginja liqueur. Make sure to taste this cherry drink when you visit the capital of Lisbon.
Surely this ongoing food filled list will grow with each visit we make. Please let us know if there’s anything you’ve had to eat in Portugal and absolutely loved so we can get it on our next visit! Additionally, if you have any questions on the best food in Portugal let us know in the comments below.