Your guide to Portugal: what to eat and drink

Portugal has been a cultural hot pot for thousands of years, with Romans, Moors, Catholics, Eastern shipments of spice and Jewish communities all settling over the centuries.

Add to that ports and fishing villages, mountains and wild forests, all of this has led to a rich cuisine with dishes based around fresh seafood to wild game, along with the magical influences of spices.

What to eat in Portugal

National dish:

The most typical Portuguese fish dish is bacalhau (dried salted cod), brought about with the ancient way of preserving fish in salt. The locals have an endless way to serve this delicious meaty fish, either
served with boiled or scrambled egg & black olives, as a pie, fish cakes, on the BBQ, or stewed in a copper cataplana.


Portugal’s fantastic location on both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts provides endless mouth-watering seafood options but here are some of my personal favourites:

Fresh sardines – Grilled up in the streets, excellent street food option!

The whole crab – Mustard and all, as we call the brains and innards in the States! Best draped in melted butter and served with fresh artisan white bread.

Fish stew – Made in a proper copper stew pot, the cataplana.

Portuguese seafood stew in a copper cataplana

Fish stew in a cataplana


Alheira (fowl sausages) – Historically, Jewish people who ended up on the Iberian peninsula (late 1400s) had to fit into their Catholic surroundings, and these sausages (made of fowl, not pork), were kept to show their immersion into the local culture. Nowadays, they are still a favourite, ranging from fancy game sausages, if you would like to try something different, to the traditional recipe served up with potatoes.

Cured black ham – right up there with its Spanish and Italian equivalents, not to be ignored.

Bifana – Pork marinated in wine and garlic and simply served as a sandwich on a fresh baked white loaf.


Pasteis de Nata – These infamous puff pastries are filled with egg custard and best served warm. If you can, head to the town of Belem, near Lisbon, to visit to shop where these little beauties were created. Expect a queue!

Portuguese custard tarts held in try by woman

Pasteis de Nata

What to drink in Portugal

Port wine – This sweet rich red wine is produced in the north of Portugal, typically in or around the city of Porto. While there, also keep an eye out for white, tawny and rose port; port has been shaped, reformed and shifted throughout the centuries to cater for all pallets.

Cherry Liquor – Made from ginjas berries, although best to describe the flavour as cherry, in a chocolate shot cup, it is sweet yet bitter and you should keep an eye out for it in street markets.

Vinho verde – That’s green wine to you and I. More well known in Porto and the northern region, it is both light and sparkling, easy to drink and easy to hit you!

table full of glasses during port wine tasting

Port wine tasting

Not to be missed

With such a rich varied cuisine served in charming eateries at extremely reasonable prices, it’s hard to have a bad eating experience in Portugal.

As with any trip, we firmly believe in exploring places on your own terms and carving your own personal experiences. However, the GoLearnTo team’s personal culinary highlights in Portugal were:

• A cool glass of ‘vinho verde’ in the sun
• Heading Belem for a warm and creamy ‘pasteis de nata’
• Some fried ‘bachalau’ served with sautéed potatoes at a noisy local café washed some with some local white wine

Bom apetite!

If this has got your taste buds going and an itch to explore the culinary wonders of Portugal, why not take it to the next level on a cooking holiday in Portugal? Join Marina and her family as they teach you how to make delicious local dishes in their lovely B&B.