Exploring Portuguese Cuisine - Porto and Lisbon Foodie Guide
WE LOVE FOOD! Yes, there is no point in covering it up, or trying to justify it by insisting it is part of our job to explore the city’s best eateries in order to provide our readers with an in-depth city guide. Ever since our childhood, we still remember the places we visited in by their flavors…. So food is responsible for a great part of our enjoyment in any place we visit. Which brings us to our Portugal Foodie Guide. What are the best dishes to eat in Portugal? Where to eat in Porto and Lisbon? Where can you find the best healthy food in Lisbon and Porto? Where do the locals eat in Lisbon and Porto? Don’t worry because our Porto and Lisbon Foodies guides, cover it all!
What to Eat in Portugal - A Foodie Guide
Portuguese cuisine is all about local produce and fresh ingredients (though there are some exceptions you’ll read about later). We are talking about the freshest seafood you can find, locally produced wine and cheese, dishes that are lovingly made with fresh herbs and high-quality olive oil, what more can you ask for? Add to this tempting concoction mild climate, beautiful landscapes, infectious joie de vivre that is unique to Portugal and we’ve got the perfect recipe for a foodies’ paradise. This is a country you are going to fall in love with from the first bite, a place where you’ll always want to return to, to discover more of the local cuisine and tastes. So to get you started here is a short foodie guide with some Portuguese dishes and food so you know what to eat in Portugal!
What to Eat in Portugal?
Just talking about Portugal’s amazing cheese, makes us relive so many scrumptious moments… We’ve always thought the best cheese can be found in France but the Portuguese cheese is just as delicious. We first had a taste of the local Portuguese cheese in Porto, and we were hooked from the first bite! In all the restaurants and delis in Porto and Lisbon, you’ll find a variety of savory or sweet cheese dishes. Try the Azeitão cheese which is made from sheep’s milk and is so rich and creamy or the Serra da Estrela for which you’ll actually need a spoon to devour this delicious gooey delicacy. If you prefer hard cheeses, have a taste of Queijo de Evora, semi-hard cheese that has a bite to it. There are so many other delicious cheeses to try in Portugal, we simply can’t list them all here. For specific recommendations of where to find some great cheese dishes, check our where to eat in Porto section.
Wine in Portugal
WE promised we were going to talk about what to eat in Portugal, but how can you enjoy eating delicious Portuguese cheese without having a glass of wine to accompany it? Lucky for you, you’ll find plenty of wine choices in Portugal. The most famous wine region in Portugal must be the Douro Valley where the Portuguese have been making wine for over 2,000 years (the entire region actually made it to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list). Who hasn’t heard of the famous Port Wine? Well, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to have a taste of the many kinds of port wine that are produced in the Douro Valley. Although the Douro region is the most famous one, there are other wine regions in Portugal where various wines are produced, each with its own characteristics and unique taste.
Ginjinha - Traditional Cherry Liquor
While the most famous drink In Porto must be the local port wine, in Lisbon, the traditional cherry liquor, ginjinha, is the king. This sweet Portuguese liquor is made from sour morello cherry (ginja berries) that are grown in the area. The ginjinha is served in regular or chocolate shot glasses. You have to try this local delicacy at least once to feel like a local! It was part of our Lisbon bucket list so most evenings we just popped into these little shops and start our evenings as the locals do.
Wherever you go, you will see these canned sardines, organized in colourful rows all over the deli shops and souvenir shops. Portugal has a long history of eating sardines, but in recent years due to climate change and excessive fishing, the sardine population has dropped considerably. Therefore, the government has started limiting the fishing of sardines and a lot of the sardines today are imported. Nevertheless, the Portuguese still love their sardines, canned or fresh, and during the summer you can find festivals that are dedicated to this fish. The most famous festival is Lisbon’s Feast of St. Anthony (or the Sardin Festival) when you can find grilled sardines and lots of other delicacies cooked outside in the decorated streets of the old neighborhoods. This the time to visit Lisbon because every night there’s a celebration in a different neighborhood.
Bacalhau / Codfish
Another fish that Portugal is famous for is the codfish (bacalhau), though it is not a local fish. Historically, it used to be one of the staple foods in the country since, after its preservation, it could be stored for a very long time despite the high temperatures of the area and the Portuguese explorers used to take salted bacalhau with them on their voyages. The traditional codfish is salted and dried. However, these days are long gone, and rumor has it that nowadays, there are 365 different cooking methods for Portugal’s bacalhau, one for every day of the year. There are hundreds of dishes to choose from all over Portugal so make sure to try it at least once. One famous bacalhau dish to try is bacalhau à Brás, which is made with shredded fish, fried potatoes and scrambled eggs.
Seafood in Portugal
Portuguese cuisine is renowned all over the world for its fresh and tasty seafood. We’ve already mentioned the favourite fish, codfish and sardines (some of which are imported by the way) but with its long coastline, and plenty of fishing villages, there’s no wonder the Portuguese cuisine has so many seafood dishes. So when in Portugal, sample some of this country’s specialties. One of the favourite dishes is Arroz de Marisco (seafood rice) which is full of flavours and very hearty, you can think about it as the Portuguese risotto only it’s a bit soupier and less creamy. Another interesting dish is Açorda. This dish originates from the farmers of Alentejo and it is more of a stew with chunky pieces of bread and lots of garlic and seafood. There are many more dishes to try from so feast your heart out!
Meat and Sausages
Up until now, we’ve mainly mentioned fish and seafood, but Portuguese also love their meat, and especially sausages! Meat is an integral part of the Portuguese cuisine and many traditional dishes, particularly in the northern regions and inland, are based on meat. The most common meat is probably pork, and you’ll find many stews and sausages that are made from it. Traditional sausages in Portugal are smoked, dried or fermented. The great thing about Portuguese sausages is that most of them are still made according to traditional techniques in small artisan factories. From the versatile Chouriço that can be eaten boiled, fried, grilled or even cold to the Aalheira, a sausage typical to Northern Portugal (originally made without pork by Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity and tried to avoid eating pork), sausage lovers would have a hard time choosing their favourite one.
Pasteis de Nata
Probably the most famous Portuguese dish, these creamy custard tarts are little bites of heaven. Monks from Jerónimos Monastery in Belém were the first ones who invented these famous Portuguese tarts which were then sold to raise money for the monastery. After the monastery closed down, the original recipe was sold to a local businessman whose descendants now operate the famous Pastéis de Belém bakery in Belem. Since its opening in 1837, this bakery is still one of the best places to eat Pasteis de Nata. We recommend eating them at the original bakery, but if you can’t, then find a place that serves them fresh from the oven to truly enjoy these delicious tarts. Even if you are not a big fan of sweets – it must be part of your Portugal bucket list. In addition, if you have a sweet tooth, there are many other Portuguese sweets you should try such as the tasty filled doughnuts, bola de Berlim or the Portuguese caramel flan.
This is the signature dish of Porto so it must be on any list of things to eat in Porto! If you are into an enormous sandwich with layers of ham, sausage, steak, covered with melted cheese and served with spicy tomato sauce and chips , you’d love it!
Where to Eat in Lisbon and Porto
Where to Eat in Porto?
Porto is one of the most charming and authentic cities in Portugal. All you’ll need is a couple of days to fall in love with Portugal’s Capital of the North, so embrace the local state of mind, eat, drink and feast cause we only live once. We’ve only listed our favourite places to eat in Porto, from delicious seafood, cheese and wine to where to find the best healthy food in Porto.
Mercearia das Flores - for Cheese Delicacies
Located in the charming Flores Street (that will lead you from Sao Bento Station to the Douro River) this local deli offers fresh and high-quality local products. Eat a light meal, take a picnic basket with you or buy some souvenirs to bring back home. Try the grilled goat cheese with oregano, olive oil and honey, it was actually our first meal in Porto which means it started our cheese obsession….
If you are crave something sweet after your light lunch, check out Chocolataria das Flores, which is also on Flores St. (no. 121).
Brick Clérigos - for Healthy Food in Porto
For tasty, healthy and unique salads, wraps, soups and more try this great spot just near the Clérigos Tower. This is where the locals eat in Porto when they crave some light healthy dishes. It has a great atmosphere but limited space, so try and reserve a table in advance or just show up and wait for a little while. There’s a massive wood table inside which you can share with other dinners and there are also a couple of smaller tables inside and outside. These kinds of places are our favourites, a great atmosphere with healthy food!
Ostras & Coisas - for Seafood Lovers
Foodies Guide Lisbon
If you’ve already visited Lisbon, you are probably familiar with its amazing food scene and lively atmosphere, and if it is going to be your first visit, you are in for a treat because Lisbon is a foodie’s paradise. Lisbon is one of those cities that you can’t get out of your mind because there are so many things to see and do (and new restaurants to try). From the colourful houses of Alfama to the breath-taking miradouros and the lovely promenade along the Tagus River, you’ll never run out of attractions (and don’t forget to hop on a tram or a three-wheeler). Just remember that the food scene in Lisboa is one of the best attractions for foodies like us! From the best coffee shops in Lisbon to the best food markets and where to find healthy food in Lisbon, these are our favourite places to eat in the city.
TimeOut Market - Lisbon's Food Market
Where do the locals eat in Lisbon? This is the place so you’d better put on your Lisbon foodie bucket list! This huge food hall was opened in 2014 and since then it has become one of Lisbon’s favourite places to grab lunch or dinner. You can find here many of Lisbon’s finest restaurants that offer their best of the best in reasonable prices. Enjoy your dish at the communal tables and mingle among the locals and tourists. If you are only here for a short visit, this a great place where you’ll be able to have a taste of almost every gastronomic delicacy in Lisbon. The ambiance is lively, the prices are reasonable and don’t forget to check TimeOut Market’s event calendar which offers workshops with local chefs, as well as live music performances!
Taberna Do Bairro Do Avillez - Tapas and Gourmet Seafood
This place is part of a group of restaurants of the famous chef Jose Avillez. These are actually two completely different dining experiences under one roof. In the front, you’ll find Taberna, which serves a variety of tapas at reasonable prices. Inside you’ll find Páteo – a seafood restaurant set in a charming indoor courtyard in the back. Dining here is more of a gourmet experience. We’ve tried both of them and loved the food, ambience and design.
Meson Andaluz - Upscale Bistro and Tapas
We happen to stumble upon this gem by accident during lunch time but it turned out to be one of the greatest restaurants in Lisbon. Each dish here was a feast for the eyes and the palate from the seared scallops over cauliflower purée and the seared tuna with red onion compote to the goat cheese with honey and nut. You can’t go wrong with whichever dish you choose here! We truly recommend this place for foodies in Lisbon who want to have an upscale tapas experience.
Cervejaria Ramiro - Best Seafood in Lisbon
A great place to experience the seafood of Portugal is Ramiro (not to mention the reasonable prices). Always busy with locals and tourists, it is not a place for the faint-hearted. Rows and rows of tables and benches, bowls and plates filled with the best seafood Lisbon has to offer, glasses of wine, the sound of hammers and crab crackers fill the air… you get the picture. There’s always a line outside this place because this is where the locals eat seafood in Lisbon, so to avoid it, try to come between the official meal times (we arrived at around 6:00 pm and found a table quite quickly). Don’t skip this simple and great restaurant if you are a seafood lover!
Prado - Seasonal and Healthy Foodie Experience
This trendy restaurant is located in an alley in Baixa, in the center of Lisbon in what used to be an old fish factory. The one-time factory was turned into a stylish restaurant with clean and modern design. This restaurant and its chef, António Galapito, are all about using local and fresh ingredients to showcase the traditional Portuguese cuisine with a modern twist. The menu offers seasonal dishes accompanied by organic, biodynamic, and natural wines.
Prado: Address: Tv. Pedras Negras 2, 1100-404 Lisboa, Portugal
A Cevicheria - for Some Peruvian Flavors
This little trendy restaurant is decorated with white and blue tiles and a grand octopus sculpture dangles from the ceiling. One of the most well-known restaurants in Lisbon for ceviche, it’s always full. There are no reservations in advance, so try and pass through here and see if you might get lucky or add your name to the neverending waiting-list. You’ll find here dishes inspired mainly by the Peruvian cuisine but there is also a good mix of Portuguese, Asian and tropical flavors.
Lisbon Cafes - Coolest Coffee Shops in Town
Usually, we like to explore new destinations on foot, that’s why we are always looking for cool cafes where we can have a nice cappuccino (after waking up early to photograph the sunrise) or a light lunch (not to mention a 10-am snack and some afternoon tea) after walking for miles and miles. We’ve found some really nice little coffee shops in Lisbon, so don’t forget to add these to your Lisbon foodie’s bucket list!
Hello, Kristof – a great little cafe to have a cup of coffee, a light bite and read some of the indie magazines. The food here is pretty healthy and they have lactose-intolerance friendly choices as well (closed on Saturdays and Sundays) Address: R. do Poço dos Negros 103, 1200-337 Lisbon.
Dear Breakfast – This place is an Instagrammers dream, from the unique space with high arches and marble tables, to the beautifully plated food. This unique cafe in Lisbon serves breakfast all day long, from decadent Eggs Benedict to healthy smoothie bowls, they have many great choices on their menu, including vegetarian-friendly dishes. This place definitely should be included in your Lisbon Foodie List. Address: R. Gaivotas 17, 1200-719 Lisbon.
Fauna & Flora – For brunch lovers and healthy food enthusiasts, don’t skip this amazing coffee shop. The setting is superb, the blue and white tiled building outside and leafy green paradise inside. This Lisbon cafe serves seasonal and healthy food, everything is delicious and made on the spot. Lot’s of options for vegetarians as well. Another must-visit item for foodies in Lisbon. Address: Rua da Esperança 33, 1200-655 Lisbon.
Fábrica Coffee Roasters – Some say this coffee shop has the best coffee in Lisbon. They roast and grind the coffee beans themselves, so you know you’ll get a good cup of coffee here. They also have some light snacks. Address (two branches): R. das Portas de Santo Antão 136, 1150-269 OR Rua das Flores 63, 1200-193.
Where to Eat Pasteis de Nata in Lisbon?
One of the most well-known Portuguese delicacy, we need to address the very important subject of where to eat these little creamy tarts in Lisbon. As mentioned above, you will find them all over Lisbon, always make sure they are fresh and warm cause it’s a whole new experience to devour them (almost) straight out from the oven. We tasted the original ones from Pastéis de Belém and they were divine, worth every minute we had to wait for them in line. They really work fast so even if the queue seems long, usually you won’t have to wait for more than 10 minutes (and order at least 2 from the start). Another great option is to stop at Manteigaria, a little bakery that is located at Rua do Loreto 2 in Lisbon’s Bairro Alto.
Amorino Lisboa - for the Best Ice Cream in Lisbon
I am all about ice cream unlike my sister who isn’t a huge fan. However when I found myself being dragged by my sis in the middle of the night to have another scoop of ice cream at this place (our third visit) before leaving Lisbon, it was clear that this should be a MUST for every Foodie in Lisbon. There a few branches of Amorino Lisboa, the most central ones are in Baixa and Chiado.
That’s it for this Porto and Lisbon foodies guide. We tried to list for you some of the best dishes to eat in Portugal and some of our favorite places to eat in Porto and Lisbon. Let us know if you find any other great restaurants and coffee shops so we’ll add them to our never-ending foodie bucket list. Don’t forget to check our city guides for Lisbon and Porto!