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Eat your way through Portugal

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Divided into several distinct regions, Portugal is a country of rich culture. Mainland cities such as Lisbon and Porto are filled with atmospheric neighbourhoods and awe-inspiring architecture; churches, monasteries, and palaces. The Algarve is a sun lover’s paradise with endless golden beaches, while the sub-tropical island of Madeira is a haven for dolphin-spotting. Finally, for hot springs and eye-catching scenery you have the Azores! There’s so much to discover.

Each region may offer unique characteristics, landscapes and attractions, but all are a foodie’s paradise. The Mediterranean diet has long been known for its health benefits and emphasis on fresh whole foods; fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and lots of seeds! Alongside a variety of herbs and spices, visitors can expect diverse flavours, local ingredients, and a rich culinary heritage. Explore how you can eat your way through Portugal with our food guide, where we showcase some of the country’s culinary highlights and best dishes to try.

Seafood delicacies

With mainland Portugal boasting a long coastline stretching along the Atlantic Ocean, it supplies some of the freshest fish and seafood in the world. That’s why you’ll find seafood as the star of the show in many local dishes. Clams, oysters, mussels, lobster, squid and a plethora of Atlantic fish are up for grabs on a summer’s evening in one of Portugal’s many restaurants. A few of our favourite dishes that seafood lovers must try while visiting include: cataplana de marisco, a traditional fish dish made in a special copper pan, salada de polvo, a delicious octopus salad, and sardinhas assadas, charcoal-grilled sardines!

The country is most known for bacalhau, or codfish. It’s said that Portugal has over 350 recipes for making cod, though some would argue that the number might reach 1,000 – either way, it’s clear that this is a staple ingredient in Portuguese cuisine and a must-try when visiting this part of the world.

Portugal seafood oyster market stall: guide to food in Portugal

Sweet treats

Temptation is everywhere in Portugal. Around every corner you can find sweet treats beckoning you into a pastelaria where you can introduce your taste buds to a world of pastries. From the iconic custard tarts known as pastéis de nata (which you’ll find in every food guide), to the crispy layers of puff pastry in pastéis de Tentúgal, Portugal’s pastry scene is a celebration of centuries-old recipes passed down through generations.

Many Portuguese sweet treats are unknown to visitors, which is a shame as they are arguably one of the best parts of the country’s cuisine! If you open up a dessert menu at any restaurant, you will find a huge variety of delicious local options with less familiar names. Arroz doce, which translates to ‘sweet rice’, is a comforting treat that locals would grow up eating. Their version of rice pudding is creamy, citrusy, and of course, absolutely delicious. Served warm, chilled or at room temperature, you’ll find it at celebrations and family gatherings – it’s a staple and well worth a try. Another signature dish, travesseiros, hails from the town of Sintra. A crispy puff pastry, filled with rich egg cream and lightly dusted with powdered sugar, its closely guarded recipe hasn’t changed since the 1940s – and for good reason. Sample one (or maybe more) on your next visit to Portugal!

Portugal Pastel de Nata bakery

The perfect culinary pairing

Here’s a match made in culinary heaven: cheese and wine. Taste the best of Portugal’s wine scene by visiting rural vineyards, learning about the deep history through a guided tour, or simply buying a glass of your favourite in a local bar or restaurant. Notable wine regions include Alentejo, Bairrada, Dão, the Douro and the historic provinces of Estremadura and Ribatejo, where you can find the production of the country’s renowned indigenous grape varieties, such as Touriga Nacional, Alvarinho, and Baga. Each one contributes to the unique flavours and characteristics of Portuguese wines, offering a unique experience for enthusiasts and novices alike.

Each region provides travellers with a chance to experience the diverse wine landscape. Visit the island of Madeira for its fortified wines, prized for their longevity, or the Alentejo region of mainland Portugal, known for its vast plains and hot climate, within which both reds and whites thrive. Whether you’re after something light and crisp or vibrant and citrusy, with each region producing distinctive world-class wines, there’s something for every palate.

Portugal Port winery vineyard: a must see in our guide to food & drink in Portugal

With mainland Portugal known worldwide for its fine cheese production, why not pair a glass of wine with the country’s diverse array of cheeses? Centuries-old traditions blend seamlessly with modern innovation to produce some of the most delectable cheeses in the world – it’s a food-lover’s paradise! Each is unique in texture and characteristics, so when visiting Portugal, be sure to explore the markets or cheese shops and taste the scene like a local.

Hailing from the mountain region from which it takes its name, Portugal’s most famous and cherished cheese is queijo da Serra da Estrela. Made from sheep’s milk, it has a creamy texture and a slightly tangy flavour, and is traditionally served melted and gooey and often accompanied by bread or fruit preserves. Produced on the island of São Jorge in the Azores, the firmer queijo São Jorge has a bold tanginess with notes of grass and wildflowers, reflecting the lush pastures where the cows graze. You can’t eat your way through Portugal without sampling as many of these lovingly-crafted cheeses as you can!

Portugal cheese storage

Liquid gold

Our Portugal food guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the country’s liquid gold – olive oil! Portugal’s olive industry and food scene are deeply intertwined, reflecting its heritage and beautiful Mediterranean climate. Producing over 750,000 tonnes of olives each year, the olive tree has been a strong feature of the Portuguese landscape for thousands of years, with rich, fruity olive oil being a staple ingredient in many Portuguese dishes.

Visitors can delve into the history of one of the world’s oldest and most revered culinary treasures by taking a guided tour through one of the many olive groves nestled across the country. Learn about the production process, then end with a tasting! From delicate and fruity, to robust and peppery, the numerous varieties will surprise travellers’ taste buds and take them on a sensory journey. Whether drizzled over fresh bread or used in cooking, Portuguese olive oil embodies the essence of Mediterranean cuisine and continues to captivate foodies with its unique taste and unparalleled quality.

Portugal olive oil being poured

Make it happen

Have we got you feeling hungry? If our guide to food in Portugal has you dreaming of delicious dishes and glasses of wine, then get in touch with our local experts. They can help you plan your next Portuguese vacation, so that you too can sample some of the best food in the world.

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