I love to eat, and I love to travel. So when I think about all the fantastic food I’ve had in Portugal, it makes me want to cry from happiness. Seriously, Portuguese food has some of the best dishes on earth, and it also happens to be one of my favorite countries.

The cuisine has a wide variety of influences from around the world: Spanish, French, Italian, African, and even indigenous Azorean dishes. Each region has its specialties, and many cities have distinct culinary histories, such as Lisbon and Porto.

Because there are so many options when traveling through Portugal (especially if you’re on vacation), it’s essential to know what restaurants serve authentic Portuguese food…and which ones don’t!

In this article, we’ll explore every aspect of Portuguese cuisine, including how they prepare their famous seafood dishes like crab cakes or caldeirada de peixe (fish stew), along with what types of cheeses they eat most often or where exactly you can find those scrumptious pastel de nata pastries in Lisbon that everyone talks about!

Portugal Traditions

Regarding Portuguese eating habits, breakfast, known as Pequeno almoço (small lunch), is generally only coffee and either a pastry or a bread roll with butter, ham, cheese, or jam, as the name indicates.

Lunch, on the other hand, is a significant deal for the Portuguese, usually a social event that lasts between one and two hours (at least). Similar to dinner, which is usually served between 8 and 10 p.m., there are three courses, with soup as a beginning.

Brief History

Portugal, being the first European country to establish its boundaries, has been heavily affected by several cultures and nationalities throughout its history, including Celtic, Roman, and Moorish.

Portuguese cuisine in medieval times consisted of wheat, rye, cornmeal, vegetables, fruits, grains, honey, olive oil, and wine. Fishing and hunting were also popular in certain areas, but only the wealthy could consume fish and hunted meat. Tapada Nacional da Mafra, a hunting area for Portuguese kings from the 18th through the 20th centuries, should be included when discussing hunted meat.

The 15th century was a game changer for Portugal and the rest of the globe since it marked the beginning of Portuguese discoveries. During this period, the Portuguese began to define gastronomic trends. That was, after all, the early days of food globalization.

The best Portuguese food

Portuguese food can be divided into three main categories:

1. Seafood

Portugal is known for having the best seafood in Europe. The country’s coastlines are dotted with hundreds of small fishing villages and cities specializing in seafood dishes, like cataplana (a dish made with shellfish and vegetables), percebes (goose barnacles), or sardines.

2. Cheese

Portugal has a long tradition of producing high-quality cheeses such as queijo Serra da Estrela (mountain cheese), which is made using raw milk from cows grazing on grasses at high altitudes. Tronchuda da Beira Alta (buckwheat cheese), Queijo de Azeitão;, Queijo Curado de Alcobaca, Queijo de Sarrabulho, etcetera… The list goes on! If you’re a big fan of cheese, then this might be one reason you should visit Portugal!

3. Breads & Pastries

Besides being famous for its wines & beers, Portugal also produces some delicious pastries such as bolos de cenoura e noz moscada (carrot cake), pastel de nata e crème chantilly (custard tart), bolos com figos secos e ameixas pretas (fig & date loaf)…

Portuguese cheese

Portuguese cheese is a must-try for any first-time traveler to Portugal. The country is the world’s largest cheese producer, making it one of its most famous exports. Portuguese cheeses are made from cow, goat, sheep, and buffalo milk and can be found in wide varieties–over 200!

The best way to try Portuguese cheese is through a taster plate. These plates usually include three or four different types of cheeses that vary depending on where you’re traveling in Portugal: Alentejo has more hard varieties like Serra da Estrela or Castelo Branco; Tras-os Montes has softer ones like Cabrales blue cheese, while Lisbon offers something for everyone with its wide selection at grocery stores such as Leitaria da Quinta do Ameal (one of my favorites).

Portuguese seafood

Portuguese seafood is a must-try. The fresh, healthy, and delicious dishes served in restaurants and cafés across Portugal are often enjoyed as snacks or appetizers before the main course arrives.

Portuguese seafood is often served as a snack or appetizer in restaurants and cafés across Portugal.

Portuguese pastries and desserts

If you’re in Lisbon or Porto, you can’t miss the famous Pasteis de Belém (a custard tart) at Belém’s Confeitaria Nacional. It’s also worth trying other local specialties, like pudim de leite condensado (a traditional Portuguese pudding made with egg yolks and sugar) or pudim de arroz (rice pudding).

If you’re visiting Minho province in northern Portugal, try tremoços–sweet little rolls filled with nuts or raisins baked in wood-fired ovens by local bakeries.

Portuguese wine, beer and cerveja artesanal

Portuguese wine is one of the best in the world, and you’ll find a wide variety of wines. While you’re here, don’t miss out on trying some Portuguese beer–it’s also very good!

For those who prefer something different, there’s cerveja artesanal (artisanal beers), brewed by small local breweries that have been around for generations.

Famous Portuguese dishes you must try!

1. Petiscos

petiscos - the ultimate guide to Portuguese food

A petisco is a snack, often a smaller version of a big dish. The goal is to order more meals than one full-size plate to sample the cuisine’s specialties and share them with others.

There is even a word for it, which emphasizes the centrality of petiscos in Portuguese cuisine culture: petiscar. It means enjoying these tiny appetizers with companions while drinking a fine Portuguese beer or glass of wine. Petiscos, like Spanish tapas, originated in the Iberian Peninsula.

Still, unlike tapas, which are widely available in bars and restaurants worldwide, a petisco bar – also known as a petisqueira is a part of Portuguese gastronomy and is so unique that visitors must travel to the country to try one.

2. Salgados

Salgados are deep-fried Portuguese treats that are salty and flavorful.

The pastel de bacalhau, a salty, oval-shaped croquet or cod fritter made with codfish (bacalhau) and additional ingredients such as mashed potatoes, eggs, parsley, and onion, is one of the most famous and well-known salgados. They are crunchy on the exterior and extremely smooth inside after being cooked in oil.

3. Sardines

Sardines are another popular Portuguese dish, particularly in Lisbon and in June. Why the month of June? Because June is the month of the Popular Santos Festas (Feast Days of the Popular Saints).

The most significant day is June 12th, the feast day of Saint Anthony, Lisbon’s patron saint. People primarily remember him as Saint Anthony of Padua, yet his roots are Portuguese; in the 12th century, he was a member of an aristocratic Lisbon family.

There is much more to Portugal than just Port wine.

Portugal is a country with a long history of winemaking, dating back to the 12th century. The first port was produced in 1756 when the British started importing their barrels of sweet white wines from Oporto (the region around Porto).

Since then, Port has become one of Portugal’s most famous exports, but there is much more to Portuguese wine than just port! Portugal has over 1,000 different grape varieties and over 2 million hectares planted with vineyards across its many regions.


Portuguese food is a delicious and versatile cuisine that anyone can enjoy. It’s easy to find good food in Portugal, whether you’re visiting Lisbon or Porto.

The country has been influenced by many different cultures over the years, which means there are many options for those looking for something different from what they’re used to at home!