While Portugal might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about world cuisine, it’s an amazing place to visit for anyone interested in eating unforgettable, mouth-watering food.
I was born and raised in Haiti, where the Caribbean’s vibrant culinary culture was fully present, before moving to New York, arguably one of the greatest places to eat in the world! As a result, whenever and wherever I travel, I pay careful attention to cultural dishes and the tastes home to each region. It’s truly a marvelous treat.
Portuguese cuisine includes a blend of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cuisine, as well as spices from all around the world. There are not many places that have much interesting and diverse food influences.
When I recently traveled to Portugal, I had the privilege of trying some of their delightful cuisine. Here are some of the best:
This sandwich consists of two thick slices of bread, thin slices of wet-cured ham or roast meats such as beef or sausage and a middle slice of bread. The sandwich is then covered in melted cheese and dosed in a thick gravy tomato sauce that’s traditionally made with wine or beer. Finally, the francesinha is topped with a fried egg and served with fries.
The francesinha originated in Porto in the 1950s, but it’s been adopted as a cultural staple since then, and variations of the francesinha can be found throughout Portugal—a perfect example of how each region of Portugal has its own special spices, seasonings, and unique flair on their traditional dishes.
2. Arroz Doce
Arroz doce, which effectively translates to rice pudding, is a dessert that mixes white rice, hot milk, cinnamon, egg yolks, and vanilla. Rice pudding is a common dessert in many cultures, but Portugal’s take on it gives it a distinctive taste that can’t be found elsewhere.
Unlike most other rice puddings, Portuguese recipes include eggs, which gives the dessert a more yellow color than you may be used to. However, the eggs combined with the sweetness from the cinnamon and vanilla combine to give you a full, rich flavor that leaves you itching to go back for more.
This food is easily one of the most popular in Portugal. Bacalhau refers to a dried and salted codfish, and there are hundreds of Portuguese recipes that turn these dry, salty chunks of fish into a delicious meal. If you’re looking for the fresh version, it’s known as bacalhau fresco.
In Portugal, there are countless bacalhau recipes and dishes to try. The way you’re served the fish will vary greatly depending on which region you are in, so it definitely wouldn’t hurt to order this more than once if you are planning on traveling around Portugal. The most common way to serve this bacalhau is in stew or with potatoes and rice. It is also common to find this fish grilled or roasted and served with a side of potatoes and grilled red peppers.
Cataplana is a dish that was named after the type of pot it is cooked in, which is an earthenware or copper pot that is often the shape of a seashell with clasps. While there are many different versions of this dish, there are two major types of Cataplana recipes. The first version uses pork and clam, while the second version uses a combination of seafood. Both of these are a type of stew, however the broth will vary between different versions of the recipes.
Feijoada is a bean stew that can be found in various forms and recipes. It is a traditional Portuguese dish, and its roots run as deep as Portugal's colonial days. While the dish will vary greatly in different regions of Portugal, you can expect every recipe to include black beans combined with garlic, olive oil, bay leaves, and a number of local meats and a side of white rice.
A bifana is a traditional Portuguese pork sandwich. This sandwich has three or four thinly-sliced pork cutlets that have been marinated in a mixture of white wine and garlic, then fried in lard or olive oil.
A Portuguese bread roll known as papo-secos is then soaked in the marinade and filled with the meat slices. This sandwich is commonly eaten as a savory snack in Portugal as it is small yet filling.
7. Pastel de Nata
Pastel de nata is an egg yolk tart that’s commonly dusted in cinnamon and sugar. However, depending on the region, you can also find it topped with lemon, syrup, cinnamon sugar, or even whipped cream. These can be considered a Portuguese street food as they’re common in food establishments and are generally cheap.
8. Caldo Verde
Caldo verde is a very distinctly Portuguese dish. Regardless of the season, you’ll find this dish in food establishments all throughout Portugal. It’s a thick and creamy soup that’s traditionally made with potatoes, chorizo sausage, and kale.
9. Carne de Porco Alentejana
This stew originated in the Alentejo region of Portugal and is made from pork and clams. The pork cubes are marinated in a mixture of wine, vinegar, garlic, herbs, and red pepper paste. It’s then fried and simmered along with the clams before being served with a side of french fries or a baked potato.
10. Cocido a Portuguesa
Cocido à portuguesa is one of the most traditional meals you’ll find in Portugal today. It originated from farmers who would turn the various foods they had into a single stew. Potatoes, carrots, cabbage, chickpeas, pig feet and ears, and smoked sausages are put into a large pot and boiled.
When eaten, the broth along with the vegetable is served first. It is then followed by a platter of the meats and potatoes. While the list of ingredients may not make it the most appealing dish, the fusion of flavors is one that is unforgettable.
Thanks For Reading!
Are you as hungry as I am after reading that? The foods of Portugal are truly remarkable, despite often taking the backseat to their European counterparts such as France, Spain, and Italy. However, the flavors these cuisines bring to the table is unquestionably enough to compete with any nation’s national flavors. If you’re a foodie planning a trip, don’t forget to add Portugal to your list of destinations—it won’t disappoint.
Thanks for following along! This is the third blog of a four-part series on my recent trip to Portugal and Morocco with my son, Andrick. If you like what you’ve seen here, make sure to subscribe to my blog for more on parenting, life in NYC, traveling, and much more.