It might not get as much love or recognition as Spanish food, but that doesn’t mean Portuguese food isn’t just as delicious. Though Portuguese cuisine shares some of the same traits as its Iberian neighbour (both rely heavily on seafood and spices, to name two), it has its own unique flavours and style, and Portugal is fast becoming known as one of Europe’s most exciting food destinations.
So, whether you love salty fish snacks, spicy meat dishes, creamy custard tarts, or hearty bean stews, Portuguese food has something for everyone.
To get you inspired, here are 10 easy Portuguese recipes to try at home.
1. Salt cod fritters
Portugal’s national dish is bacalhau, which is dried, salted cod that’s soaked in water or milk before cooking.
There are literally hundreds of recipes and uses for bacalhau, but one of the most popular is pastéis de bacalhau – salted cod fritters. Usually eaten as an appetiser or snack, these tasty fritters can be enjoyed hot or cold, and can be found at most Portuguese delis, cafés, bars, and restaurants.
Making pastéis de bacalhau is easy: you just need salted cod, potatoes, eggs, onion, and parsley, plus a bit of seasoning. Most large supermarkets sell salted cod, which you’ll need to soak for at least six hours before cooking. If you can’t find salted cod, you can always substitute it for fresh cod. Once ingredients are cooked, simply mix together, shape into fritters, fry until crisp, and enjoy!
To make salt cod fritters, check out this recipe from We Travel Portugal or watch the video below.
2. Portuguese bean stew
Thanks to its warm climate and miles of coastline, a lot of Portuguese cuisine is centred around seafood and light, fresh ingredients and flavours. But the Portuguese also love a hearty, warming meal, and one of the most popular is feijoada – a thick and creamy bean stew that’s absolutely bursting with flavour, and the perfect comfort food for a chilly or damp day.
The main ingredient for this is, of course, beans. Traditionally cannellini beans or kidney beans are used – though the Brazilian version uses black beans. Allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and cumin add depth and fragrance, and veggies like carrots, onions, and cabbage add some extra nutrients. Meat is usually added too – often pork – though you can add whatever you have or choose to keep it veggie.
To make your own Portuguese bean stew, try this recipe from Good Chef Bad Chef or watch the video below.
3. Portuguese custard tart
If you’ve ever been to Lisbon, you’ll know just how pervasive pastéis de nata are. You can’t walk down a street without passing a shop selling these beautiful golden tarts – and with flaky puff pastry and a creamy, smooth egg custard centre, they taste just as good as they look.
Originating in Lisbon’s Jerónimos Monastery in the 18th century, these iconic sweet treats are eaten all across the country.
Thanks to the silky, cinnamon-infused custard and caramelised top, pastéis de nata feel wonderfully luxurious, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them at home. Plus, they’re best eaten straight out of the oven! The dough contains only flour, butter, and water, but you can always buy your pastry. The secret to perfect tarts is the wobbly centre and blistered top – so make sure your oven is really hot!
To make your own Portuguese custard tarts, try this recipe from We Travel Portugal or have a watch of the video below.
4. Piri-piri chicken
It might not be Portugal’s national dish, but there’s little doubt that piri-piri chicken is its most beloved – at least in the UK anyway, largely due to the popularity of the restaurant chain Nando’s (where it’s called peri-peri chicken). But piri-piri chicken is a Portuguese classic, and though whole, butterflied chicken is often used in Portugal, you can use legs or wings to make a smaller batch.
The secret to proper piri-piri chicken isn’t the chicken itself – it’s the sauce. Piri-piri chillies are the key ingredient, and you can use either fresh or dried. If you can’t find piri-piri chillies, you can use red jalapeño, bird’s eye, or scotch bonnet. Mix the chillies with garlic, lemon, spices, and seasoning; pour over the marinated chicken; and roast or barbecue until done, adding more sauce as needed.
To find out more about cooking perfect piri-piri chicken, check out this article by The Guardian or watch the video below to find out more.
5. Portuguese fish stew
If you love seafood, there’s a good chance you’ll fall in love with this next recipe…
Caldeirada de peixe is a rustic fish stew that’s eaten all over Portugal, and because it’s a one-pot meal, it’s a great dish to make to share with friends and family – which is how it’s often enjoyed in Portugal. It doesn’t take much time to come together and is a great way to use up leftover fish.
The beauty of caldeirada de peixe is that it’s really adaptable, so whatever fish and seafood you have in the house – salmon, cod, sea bass, haddock, shellfish – can go in. Peppers, potatoes, onions, and saffron add extra flavour (and vitamins), and as it cooks it’ll flood your home with delicious aromas. This satisfying soup is a complete meal in itself, but it’s also excellent when eaten with crusty bread.
To make your own Portuguese fish stew, try this recipe from We Travel Portugal or check out the video below to find out more.
6. Arroz doce
If you’re a fan of rice pudding, then this next recipe is a must-try. Arroz doce is Portuguese rice pudding – but it’s no ordinary rice pudding.
Lemon peel adds a fresh, zesty twist; cinnamon adds a hint of warmth and spice; and egg yolks give the pudding a rich, luxurious texture. Extra cinnamon or nutmeg is grated on top for even more taste, and this creates the pudding’s distinct decorations too.
In Portugal, arroz doce is served cold in summer and warm in winter – but it’s almost always served after dinner as a delicious dessert. You can tweak this recipe as you like; some recipes add a vanilla pod for deeper flavour, while others add raisins. You can even omit the yolks and use plant milk to make this pudding vegan! As long as you infuse with lemon zest, add some cinnamon, and follow the traditional cooking process, it’ll taste suitably authentic!
To make your own arroz doce, try this recipe from We Travel Portuga or check out the video below.
7. Portuguese green soup
If you love tucking into a bowl of warming, restorative soup on a rainy day, then you might want to have a go at making caldo verde – or ‘green soup’.
Originating from the Minho Province of northern Portugal, this is a simple, hearty soup that’s incredibly easy to make – it usually contains only five ingredients – yet it somehow manages to burst with different tastes and textures.
The key ingredients are potato, onion, kale, olive oil, and chorizo sausage. There are many variations of caldo verde: some contain chunks of potato and kale, while others are cooked until the potato breaks down entirely and the kale turns the soup green – which is where the name comes from. If you don’t eat meat or are trying to reduce your intake, simply swap the chorizo for a veggie alternative.
To make the perfect caldo verde, check out this article by The Guardian or watch the video below.
8. Grilled sardines
While salted cod plays a huge role in Portuguese food culture, it’s probably not the most iconic fish dish. That honour would have to go to sardinhas assadas – grilled sardines.
Sardines are eaten all year round in Portugal, but it’s summer when they’re really celebrated. Lisbon even has an annual sardine festival on June 13th!
This recipe is simple and easier to put together than you may think. Whole sardines are coated with salt and olive oil, and then cooked over a charcoal grill. Once the sardines are cooked, the skin will be crispy and smoky, and the meat tender.
You can eat sardines by themselves, with potatoes, or on toast, which soaks up all the juices. If you’re looking for a new breakfast or lunch recipe, this could be it!
To make your own grilled sardines, try this recipe from 196 Flavours – or watch the video below to try another Mediterranean-inspired grilled sardine recipe.
9. Portuguese tomato soup
If you’re looking for a comforting and delicious meal that’s quick to knock up, look no further than sopa de tomate – Portuguese tomato soup with poached eggs.
This satisfying soup originates from the Alentejo region, in the south of Portugal, and it’s just as popular in summer as it is in winter. Usually, it’s served over day-old bread – so if you have a loaf that’s going stale, don’t throw it away!
The secret to a rich, flavoursome soup is using the right tomatoes, so it’s worth paying a bit extra for good ones. Heirloom tomatoes work well, but you can use most types as long as they’re ripe. Just try to avoid tinned tomatoes if you want it to be authentic! The soup is flavoured with garlic and herbs, and then during the last few minutes of cooking, eggs are cracked into the soup to poach.
To make your own Portuguese tomato soup, try this recipe by Food From Portugal or have a watch of the video below.
10. Pastéis de feijão
Portugal might be most famous for its custard tarts, but pastéis de nata are certainly not the only delicious pastry treat it produces. In fact, many locals see the pastéis de feijão – sweet bean tarts – as their most quintessentially Portuguese pastry.
These tasty tarts originated in Torres Vedras, a city north of Lisbon, in the 1800s, and the family who created them have kept the recipe a secret.
Still, there are many recipes that recreate these sweet treats. Creamy white beans are blended with ground almonds to make a wonderfully smooth centre, and the top is dusted with powdered sugar. These cakes taste heavenly but because the filling is made with beans, they contain decent amounts of fibre and protein. Plus, they’re entirely dairy-free. Perfect with an afternoon cup of tea!
Though it might be most famous for its flaky custard tarts and abundance of seafood, Portuguese cuisine is far more varied than you might think. From hearty vegetable stews and soups to spicy barbecued meats and creamy rice puddings, there’s something for every palate. It’s no surprise that Portuguese food is quickly becoming known as one of Europe’s most dynamic cuisines.
While Portuguese food tends to be pretty meat-and-fish-centric, there are many ways to adapt these recipes to suit all diets; whether you’re an omnivore, a pescetarian, a veggie or a vegan.
What makes Portuguese food so delicious is the fresh ingredients, the flavoursome spices, and the infectious passion that goes into preparation – and, of course, eating!