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10 Delicious Reasons to Visit Portugal

By Rachel Burt 
Edited by Sarah Baker 

Portugal is known for cooking with just a few ingredients but making some unbelievable flavors. There is an earthy peasant style to their food, which is achieved by cooking over hot coals and branding their foods simple and perfectly. Come with me on a tour through the most delicious and mouthwatering foods Portugal has to offer.

1. Wine

Come and discover the wine that is specially produced only in Portugal and be ready to let your palate tickle in every way possible. With every wine imaginable, your palate will sure thank you. You should definitely try: Vinho Tinto (red wine), Vinho Branco (white wine), Vinho Rose (rose wine), and Vinho Verde (a crisp light green wine).  For an exquisite taste experience, they have excellent espumante (sparkling wine) in every flavor.  In order to get the full Portuguese experience, you must their Port. It is the most famous luxury wine. Some brands that offer great quality at excellent prices are Monte Velho, Mateus, Casal Garcia, Dao and Monsaraz.

2. Bacalhau

Bacallhau is a dried, salted cod that the Portuguese are very proud of. It has played an integral part in their history and culture. There are over 365 different ways to prepare it, one for every day of the year. A very popular way to order is called, Bacalhau a Bras. This dish is prepared with onions, eggs, potatoes, olive oil and cilantro. Bacalhau com natas is another fairly common was to prepare it. In this dish, it is made with heavy cream. No matter whether you like it boiled or fried, the buttery texture and heartiness of Portuguese Bacalhau will be sure to win you over!

3. Fish 

Various acclaimed chefs and food critics have stated, “the best fish in the world is Portuguese.” Portugal is 4th in world-wide consumption and the highest consumer of fish in Europe. This being said, it is no surprise how smitten they are with their fish. Portuguese fisherman spend weeks out at sea bringing in numerous varieties of fish and shellfish. One of their most popular dishes is Arroz de Marisco. It is a mixture of lobster, crabs, shrimps, and oysters. I would recommend trying their seafood soups, shrimp or lobster bisques. If you are feeling social, head on over for a local superbock (beer) to pick at with some oyster snails.  As with most things, Portuguese dish recipes can be made in vastly different ways. The healthiest of these would be to simply grill the fish with sea salt and olive oil. This is typically served with a misto salad (mixed salad) and potatoes. Keep a lookout for Dourada (Gilthead Bream), Robalo (Sea bass), Carapaus (Mackerel), Sardinhas (Sardines) and massive Buttery Squid on sale in the markets as they are sure to delight your taste buds.

4. Cheese

For all you cheese and wine lovers out there, Portugal might just be the ultimate destination for you. You will be amazed at the hundreds and thousands of different types of cheese to offer with amazing prices.  In the region of Serra da Estrela, you will find hardworking laborers handcrafting every type of cheese for you. The most common varieties are made from sheep or goats milk (my favorite) and the most popular is queijo da serra.

5. Chicken Piri Piri

This famous dish features chicken simply prepared and cooked to perfection. This recipe was developed in Angola when it was a Portuguese colony. It is so popular that many tourists and visitors ask for it by name, especially the Australians. The chicken is marinated with a kick of piri-piri sauce, a home grown chili and cooked over a barbeque. Don’t worry if you don’t have a palate for spiciness, the seasoning can usually be ordered in mild, medium, and hot.

6. Free-ranged Meats

Have you been working all day and haven’t had a chance to eat? Feast your growling stomach on a famous Portuguese dish called Bitoque. This dish is served with a creamy mushroom sauce and topped with an over-easy egg for the ultimate protein booster. Watch out during the hours of lunchtime for local Portuguese families and restaurants serving cozido à portuguesa, a thick stew of vegetables with various kinds of meats.  Portugal has raised some of the best certified, free-range novilho (beef) and vitela (veal) with their natural way of farming. The most prized meat originates from the southern region of Alentejo. This region is also known for their verified, free- range black pork, which is made in to chourico (pork sausage) and presunto (prosciutto). It is smoked over wood and can be cooked and served in numerous ways.

Portuguese beef espetada
7. Bread

I absolutely love the aroma of fresh baked bread that fills the streets of Portugal from late night until early morning. Fresh bread can be found everywhere in Portugal. The local bakeries sell to the supermarkets and restaurants all day. It’d be a pity to not indulge in the bread. Bread is my weakness, as I’m sure it is for many, so I’m not sure if this is a gift or torture. My favorite bread (pao) is pao de soja (soy bread) or pao de milho (corn bread).

8. Pastries

Coffee break anyone? Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than “talking story,” in the bakery shops in Portugal. Historically, in the 18th century, pastries were created by nuns, which were sold as means of supplementing income. Now Portuguese are masters at making pastries. One of the most famous they have created is called Pastel de nata, a small custard tart sprinkled with cinnamon. Many of their creations have interesting names such as Pao de Deus (Bread of God). Its name definitely lives up to its reputation. It is made of a sweet brioche type of roll and breaded with a coconut toasted topping. Other famous interesting names include barriga de freira (nuns belly), papo de anjo (angels chests), and toucinho do ceu (bacon from heaven). Each region has their special sweetness and individuality, so you will always be in for a surprise!

9. The Algarve Cake of 3 Delicious Tastes

This cake alone could be the reason why you should visit Portugal. Only found in the region of the Algarve, bolo de tres sabores is made exactly of what it entails. It combines three delicious tastes of the Algarve. Homegrown dried fruits of figs, almonds, and carob. Its rich, filling and 100% raw, leaving you more satisfied than you could ever imagine.

10. Coffee

The best part of waking up is the smell and flavor of Portuguese coffee in your cup! One of the very first European countries to bring coffee to the continent, coffee has been an integral part of the culture here for centuries. You can find cafes on every corner. It is here that the Portuguese start their day with an espresso, take a coffee break for a meia de leite (coffee with milk) and end their day with a galao (coffee with a lot of milk). Starting at just 55 Euros per cup, porque nao (why not)?

Portuguese "bica"
Whether you come for the wine and cheese, Bacalhau, or one of the many other delicious things that Portugal has to offer, it is sure to have something for everyone. So go ahead, grab some coffee, a fresh pastry, and enjoy exploring all the Portugal has to offer!

Me, enjoying some fresh and delicious Portuguese seafood 

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