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Traditional Portuguese Food

10 traditional dishes a Portuguese Grandma would feed you

If you were to visit Portugal and have a traditional Portuguese Grandma as your gastronomic guide, she would feed you a variety of dishes rich in meats and seafood.

Traditional Portuguese food tends to be hearty, which is my polite way of saying “quite caloric”. Back in the day and, still in the rural areas, families raise their own cattle and kill animals to make the most out of every single gram of meat! No wonder Portuguese cuisine has developed a lot of regional “enchidos”, that is, sausage look-a-likes that come in all shapes and flavors and make sure that, at the end of the day, no meat goes to waste.

Depending on the region of the country, you will find distinct typical dishes. Cod fish (“bacalhau”) will be a staple no matter where you go. Some say there are more bacalhau recipes than days in a year!

Grandmas in Portugal will tend to cook what’s more typical in their region, but a super hero grandma with a love for Portuguese food, would cook you at least these 10 delicious dishes, for a true taste of Portuguese tradition.

 

1. Cozido a Portuguesa

Please meet the king of all stews!  Portuguese stew is the perfect example of the importance of using all the meat an animal can provide. This meaty bomb includes beef, pork, chicken and a variety of pork derivatives such as blood sausages and smoked pork parts. There are also some vegetables thrown in the mix, but one must admit this is a dish for meat lovers.

Cozido à Portuguesa (source: adivinaculinaria.blogspot.com)

Cozido à Portuguesa (source: adivinaculinaria.blogspot.com)

 

2. Caldo Verde

The most traditional of Portuguese soups is as simple as it gets: onions, potatoes and kale, cooked with garlic and olive oil. Nothing says winter comfort food like a good serving of caldo verde in a traditional clay pot. This soup would normally be served with a slice of “linguica” (typical smoked pork sausage) and cornbread. Dip it and enjoy!

Caldo Verde (source: receitasdapatanisca.blogspot.com)

Caldo Verde (source: receitasdapatanisca.blogspot.com)

 

3. Feijoada Trasmontana

Do not eat this on the same day as a Cozido a Portuguesa, unless you have a true desire of exploding!
 Feijoada stands for bean stew, but you know it wouldn’t be a Portuguese stew if you didn’t throw a variety of heavy meats into the mix! All the funny parts of the pig end up here, as the dish was created when people couldn’t afford to waste anything the human body could eventually digest. Meats included may vary, but if you are too picky, ask before you put something in your mouth. It’s not at all uncommon for Feijoada to include delicacies such as pig hocks, knuckles or ears!

Feijoada (source: isabellars.wordpress.com)

Feijoada (source: isabellars.wordpress.com)

 

4. Bacalhau a Bras

Out of the numerous ways to prepare salted cod fish in Portugal, “Bras style” is one of the most popular and I honestly salivate just to think about it. The shredded cod is sauteed in a pan along with plenty of onions and straw fried potatoes. This dish is finished up with beaten eggs that cook as they join the pan, and topped with parsley and black olives. This is the essence of a country inside a plate!

Bacalhau a Bras

Bacalhau a Bras (source: en.wikipedia.org)

 

5. Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato

More than a meal, clams Bulhao Pato style are a snack, best enjoyed with ice-cold beer. It’s very popular as appetizer as well, and a tasty way to get your juices flowing. Clams are cooked until tender in olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and plenty of cilantro. Other similar clam dishes might feature this seafood cooked in white whine, butter and herbs, which is as good! Very important: you will need bread to dip into the sauces, as I can guarantee you wouldn’t want a drop to be left on the plate.

Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato ((source: en.wikipedia.org)

Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato ((source: en.wikipedia.org)

 

6. Rojoes a Moda do Minho

Because Portugal has a never ending affair with pork, rojoes are abundant to keep the spark alive! Chunks of pork loin cooked in the very same pig’s lard, and seasoned with garlic and white wine. Served with stewed potatoes, variations of this dish may include roasted chestnuts. It can sometimes be served with a side of  ”arroz de sarrabulho”, which is a loose rice dish that includes little bits of meat and pork’s blood. I wouldn’t judge you if you find it too hardcore.

Rojoes (source: cm-portimao.pt)

Rojoes (source: cm-portimao.pt)

 

7. Bolinhos de Bacalhau

A super Portuguese Grandma wouldn’t let you leave Portugal after trying only one cod fish dish alone! Also known as “pasteis de bacalhau” these cod fish fritters can be savored as a starter or snack, or along with rice and salad as main dish.
 The batter behind this fried goodness is made of shredded cod fish, potatoes, eggs and parsley and is cooked until golden crispy on the outside but smooth and melty on the inside.

Bolinhos de bacalhau (source: menuatrois.blogspot.com)

Bolinhos de bacalhau (source: menuatrois.blogspot.com)

 

8. Açorda Alentejana

This typical dish of the southern region of Alentejo is as good as it gets when it comes to comfort food with a rustic touch. The basic recipe for açorda would be made of mashed bread with olive oil, coriander, salt, eggs and water but more complete versions might include cod fish or shrimps. It’s not a soup and it’s not a stew, it’s something in between: the unique açorda!

Acorda Alentejana (source: paracozinhar.blogspot.com)

Açorda Alentejana (source: paracozinhar.blogspot.com)

 

9. Alheira de Mirandela

Translate “alheira” into sausage doesn’t almost make justice to this unique combination that, yes looks like a sausage, but is so much more than that! Meats stuffed into an alheira may include veal, chicken, duck and rabbit, compacted together with bread. If you have “alheira de caça” it means that it will only have game meat. This unusual sausage was created by the Jews in Portugal when they were forced to convert to Christianity. Their true religion wouldn’t allow them to eat pork but by preparing this sausage looking dish, they could easily fool others that will think alheira would be made out of pork, like all the other Portuguese cuts looking alike. No matter what religion you follow, eating a fried alheira, with a fried egg and fries can make you feel an outer-body experience!

Alheira (source: antoniobarrosoportugal.blogspot.com)

Alheira (source: antoniobarrosoportugal.blogspot.com)

 

10. Arroz de Pato

In case you don’t appreciate pork meat and are frustrated by most of the suggestions above, let’s end on a ducky note. In Portugal, duck rice is cooked until the meat is ridiculously tender, simmered in red whine, and oven toasted along with the rice until the top is crispy. The rice absorbs the juices of the duck and is traditionally topped up with sliced smoked sausages. It’s a true feast of flavor.

Arroz de pato (source: rexscookbook.blogspot.com)

Arroz de pato (source: rexscookbook.blogspot.com)

 

Loosen up your belts and Bom Apetite!

Introducing Lisbon in 100 Bites - The Ultimate Lisbon Food Guide

Introducing Lisbon in 100 Bites – The Ultimate Lisbon Food Guide


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73 Comments

  • mmmmmmmmmmmmm… My favorite of this list wold have to be the clams. Two things, though:
    1 – no octopus? “Polvo à Lagreiro”, my absolute favorite thing to eat in the world, where is it?!?
    2 – as a daughter of Transmontanos, I have to oppose the frying of Alheiras! That’s an abomination invented by Lisboners, the alheira should always be grilled, as it has so much olive oil and pig fat that it provides all the “lubrication” it needs.
    There, rant finished, now I feel better… (and now, where can I find some clams in London at 1am?)

    • Zara Says

      Anita, you are so right! Octopus would have been a must in this list!
      Now… good luck finding tasty, juicy, zesty clams in London!! ;)

    • That’s true anita!! but alheira won’t get as crispy as when it’s fried!!

      • João Touças Says

        Miguel, you have no idea what you are saying. And another thing, it’s not really ‘from Mirandela’. If somebody happens to be in Portugal and wants to try this, just ask for alheira, not for ‘alheira de mirandela’. I would even say to eat some other thing if you know the alheiras they are serving are from Mirandela.

      • joe Says

        I have to fully agree with Anita. We do not fry ours either. The fat from within is plenty and they always come out crispy.

    • Ferd Says

      Alheiras don’t have pork in it. They were invented by the Portuguese jews – Sephardics.

      • Zara Says

        Hi Fred,
        You are right: traditionally, Alheiras were made with meats other than pork. But the truth is that, now a days, you find many alheiras containing pork, because this is simply a meat that people consume a lot in Portugal. They are still called Alheiras, even if they are not the most authentic or traditional type.

  • Ooh how I love cod, it’s also part of our culture on the East Coast of Canada and you can’t go wrong with it.

    • Zara Says

      Oh, I didn’t know cod was also a “thing” in Canada!…

    • Carlos Says

      I would like to know which Portuguesa restaurant that serves bacalhau
      I infect on the way of a Luxury yacht charter and defiantly would love to serve Portuguese food What is your thought ?

  • Edna Says

    I’d never remember all the names, but these look delicious! Number 5 looks a lot like my favorite dish that my relatives always cook for me when I go to Shanghai.

    • Zara Says

      It’s funny how sometimes you find such similar dishes in far apart places of the world… and everyone will say it’s typical from THEIR place! ;)

    • Ketutar Says

      Plate of clams will look pretty much the same all over the world. :-D

  • Suzy Says

    Bolinhos de Bacalhau remind me of Spanish croquetas and I love those. Everything looks delicious on this list though. It’s funny how the salted cod in Portugal, hanging at the markets, could not seem more unappetizing. I regret not trying something with it though when I was in in Portugal a few years ago. I guess it’s just an excuse to come back.

    • Zara Says

      Yeah, bolinhos de bacalhau are rather similar to croquetas… particularly cod fish croquetas!

      It’s true that the salted cod might not look or smell appetizing, but you’d be surprised at how it tastes once it’s desalted and cooked… I can’t believe you visited Portugal and didn’t eat cod. It’s like going to France and not having crepes! Gotta go back to Portugal, Suzy! ;)

    • sorry to tell you that the only similar thing between croquetas and pasteis de bacalhau is that they are fried… Croquetas are made with a thick bechamel with pasteis de bacalhau are made with mashed potato the taste and texture are very different…

  • Wow, these all look delicious! I really shouldn’t be looking at these mouth watering food at this late hour. I love clams and those have got to be what I’d try first. Great list!

    • Zara Says

      Thanks! Yeah, I’d have those clams right now myself if I could! Just dipping some freshly baked bread in the sauces of the clams is my favorite part… so tasty!

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  • Stephen Says

    Great post! I loved Portugal but I unfortunately I was on such a minuscule budget when I traveled there four years ago, I don’t think I tried any of these. Would love to go back and give Portuguese cuisine the attention it deserves.

  • Ummm delicious!!!!
    Portugal is a food paradise, really good quality and taste :-)
    Nice article, we love it.

  • Sílvia Says

    Great List! But as an alentejana, I must disagree with one thing about our Açorda. The bread isn’t mashed. If you mash the bread, that is called “Migas”. And if you add poejos (pennyroyal) and bits of green peppers, it will taste even better!

    • Zara Says

      Silvia, you are right about Acorda vs Migas – both delicious though! ;)
      Alentejo has amazing cuisine!

    • Maria Angelica Says

      The cod needs to b in water 24 hours to loose the salt.Swells and is lovely when boiled or in the oven.They say they r 1001 ways of cooking cod.Very expensive all over the world.Most good italian restaurants also serve it.

      • Zara Says

        Really! I never actually saw salted cod in Italian restaurants.. I better keep my eyes open for this when I miss cod abroad, because coming by a Portuguese restaurant is almost impossible in most parts of the world!

      • M J Correia Says

        You have to see the cod I buy in Las Vegas you would laugh off your chair it looks a Anorexia Fish.

  • Ann Marie Says

    How can I get done if these recipes? Mom’s died and
    I would love to try to make some. Who can help?

    • Ann marie I can give you some recipes if you like! just go to my blog and send me an e-mail or leave a comment! theportuguesefoodie.blogspot.pt

      • Carlos Says

        Hi am in progress of running a Luxury Yacht Charter right here in the heart of Toronto I would love to serve Portuguese food if you ever come by come to see me I would like to get your ideals and recipes

  • Lyn Says

    As an emigree to portugal of six years I have tried most of these dishes and have to say they are delicious, must say was surprised the only fish is cod as many more in Portugal. My favourite is arros de tamboril.

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  • Pedro Says

    Very good list. Portuguese food and wine are the country’s top attractions!

  • Yum! That last one, Arroz de Pato had me salivating. Portugal sounds like a meat lover’s paradise :)

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  • Cathy DiBernardo (formerly deAlmeida Leite) Says

    I agree, but how about Lulas a Grillada. Could any of you please send me some recipes as my cookbook from Lisbon got lost in my moves… How I miss Portugal!,,,,

    • Zara Says

      Lulas grelhadas (charcoal grilled squid) is definitely a staple in Portugal and anyone traveling around the country, specially by the coast, will sooner or later come across this dish. I am sure you can find a lot of recipes online.. just google them and you’ll see! :)

      • Vitor Goncalves Says

        Sorry for disagreeing in such late reply but it is not a staple at all. Most common way to find squid is in fish stewsxwe call caldeirada. With potatoes and lots of tomato. But cattlefish is a mandatory ingredient in any coastal menu, may it be grilled, fried, boiled or roasted.

  • This is a very long list of dishes that I must confess I’ve never heard about. Some of them sound and look quite delicious. The one that most appeals to me is BOLINHOS DE BACALHAU.

    • Zara Says

      Bolinhos de Bacalhau would be an “easy” introduction for those who haven’t had salted cod fish before, aka “bacalhau”. This popular fish in Portugal is often an acquired taste and bolinhos can make that adaption quick and delicious! ;)

  • Robert Zaichkowski (@RZaichkowski) Says

    The #4 (Bacalhau a bras) was the first meal I had when I landed in Lisbon last month and it was delicious! Octopus rice is also a good choice, but if there’s one that’s a must eat while in Portugal, it’s whole sardines. Tried them when I was at Tamariz Beach in Estoril at a restaurant called Absoluto.

    Anyway, if you’re looking for a Canadian perspective on Portugal, which I would visit again in a heartbeat, here you go.

    http://heal4lifepoli.blogspot.com/2014/07/travel-series-under-appreciated-gems-of.html

    • Zara Says

      Hi Robert,
      Glad to read that you enjoyed Portuguese food! And yes, you are so right about the sardines: people often think that they are some sort of poor people meal. But when fresh and grilled well, they are so delicious!

  • Good representation of the portuguese cuisine!

    If you allow me I would like to introduce to you and your readers, who maybe one day will come to Portugal, our website http://www.silvercoastfinest.com where you can find several informations about Lisbon area and the Silver Coast region and where you can also find holiday rentals.

    Obrigada

  • Paul Jacome Says

    Great list. But where is the carne do porco alentjana?

  • Sharon Rodriguez Says

    Caldo Verde will forever be the one dish that reminds me of my grandma. The other day, for the first time, mine tasted just like hers.

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  • Nelia Azevedo Says

    really people,,every and any portuguese dish is delicious , from north to south and islands..our food is rich in every sense of the word.

  • trey Says

    this look very good

  • Isabel Says

    We also have francesinha, it’s really good!

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  • Erica Says

    My boyfriend and I are going to Portugal in just over a week. I can’t wait to try as much food as we possibly can! Thanks for giving us some classics to look out for!

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  • Zara – Grateful to have stumbled onto your website. I was looking for a recipe for Portuguese Bean Soup. I am thinking the closest thing to it may be (FEIJOADA TRASMONTANA). We are from Hawaii and now living in San Francisco. Our Christmas Eve tradition has been Portuguese Bean Soup with Malasadas for dessert. Now its up to me to get the pressure cooker going for the ham hocks. There is a direct line from the Azores to the heart of Hawaiian culture; Ukulele, Slack key guitar, “Portagee” sausage, & good humor. Some would argue the Aloha shirt too – but we will blame that on the folks form Lisbon. Mahalo!

    • Zara Says

      Hi Dj de Silva!
      How did your Feijoada Transmontana cooking go this Christmas?
      I hope you managed to pull it off and keep the tradition alive and well! :)
      Happy New Year and thanks for reading! Greetings from Lisbon.. where no one is really wearing Aloha shirts! ;)

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  • Nancy Jean Oddo Says

    I would like to get some of the recepies

  • KATHY Says

    MY GRANDPARENTS CAME FROM ISLANDS OF TERCERA AND SAO MIGUEL. I WOULD LIKE RECEIPES FOR
    MALASSADAS, FILHOZ, AND CASOIRLA. SORRY ABOUT THE SPELLING, AS I NEVER REALLY LEARNED PORTUGUESE. ALSO, MY MOM MADE A COD FISH WITH WHAT SHE CALLED MOOHLA OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
    ALSO USED CANNED SALMON FOR A DISH WITH MOOLHYA. SORT OF A SAUCE OF WATER, SALT AND VINEGAR, SPICES,
    THANK YOU FOR ANY HELP WITH THIS.

  • João Says

    In my opinion it’s Just a huge chame that they didn’t put more dishes from what in my opinion haves the Best dishes from Portugal oporto dishes like “tripas a moda do Porto” cabrito assado”pão de ló”bacalhau a Gomes de sa”with some Good o Porto wine and broa oh and the tasty francesinha”and other portugueses food’s as “pastel de nata”pataniscas”bacalhau com nata”presuntos and queijos” well in my contry ( Portugal) we can’t Blame about the food and well weather

  • M J Correia Says

    I grew up eating Portuguese food. I do miss my mom cooking on the weekends and living here in Las Vegas well its not like back home in CT. To get pasteis de nata I have to go to a Korean store. To get salted cod fish I have to go to China Town here in Las Vegas. Forget they have no chorizo its Mexican and its all fat( burns like paper on the BBQ ) . No the best Portuguese food is NJ, CT, MA, and RI. You can have it ship to your home. Oh yes and all the fresh fish comes from China Town here in Las Vegas.

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