After decades of going under the radar compared to Italy and France, Portugal’s food is finally having its chance to shine. The cuisine here reflects its former status as a sea power – seafood is very commonly used. Further inland, pork is the dish of choice for most. It isn’t hard to find great food anywhere in Portugal – whether you’re exploring the historic streets of Lisbon, wine-tasting in Porto, or enjoying the beauty of Madeira, a good meal is never far away! Here are some of the best dishes and treats to try on your next trip!
Bacalhau, or salted cod, is Portugal’s signature food. This specialty has been prepared in the country for hundreds of years – in the days before refrigerators, salted cod could be transported around the former empire and not go bad. Bacalhau can prepared in many different ways – some estimate there are over a thousand different recipes in Portugal. However, there are a few common preparations. Bacalhau à Brás mixes shredded fish with scrambled eggs, onions, and fried potatoes. Another great recipe is the bacalhau à Lagareiro, where a loin is baked in an oven with olive oil and potatoes. No matter what preparation you end up trying, you should try Portugal’s national dish at least once during your stay!
Pastel de nata
This decadent egg tart is Portugal’s most famous dessert and can be found everywhere in the country. It is said to have originated in the Lisbon suburb of Belém in 1837. The original recipe is in lockdown, passed down by the monks of the Jerónimos Monastery from generation to generation. But it’s hard to miss anywhere in Portugal, and it’s even harder to pass up!
The pigs of the Iberian Peninsula are descended from the pigs that were brought over by the Phoenician peoples in ancient times. Both Spain and Portugal have delicious ways to prepare the pork, but Portugal may justly lay claim to having the best options. Presunto ibérico is a charcuterie staple that pairs well with Portuguese wine. Secretos is a fatty cut that has almost the same consistency as pork belly. Some restaurants even slow cook pork for several hours in a fashion that’s almost akin to Mexican carnitas. If you find yourself at one of these restaurants, prepare to have your mind blown – it’s all you can eat, so you’ll probably be there for a while!
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