Top 5 Authentic Portuguese Dishes to Try in Lisbon
Can we take a second to talk about our favorite thing ever? FOOD.
Any Portuguese person you meet will go on and on about Portuguese food and how it’s incredible, unique, full of flavor and love. And they’re not wrong. One of the things Portuguese people will miss the most when abroad is their own food.
Portuguese cuisine is rich in flavors and traditions, and Lisbon is the perfect city to experience some of the most authentic and delicious dishes. From seafood to meat, there’s something for everyone. Here are our top (not necessarily in order, because it all goes down to personal taste and opinion) 5 authentic Portuguese dishes you must try in Lisbon:
This is a curious one. Although it is definitely one of the most iconic ingredients in Portuguese cuisine, and a must-try in Lisbon, bacalhau is not actually portuguese to speak of. Bacalhau is salted cod, which is soaked in water to remove the salt before being cooked.
Presently, 70% of codfish comes from Norway and the Portuguese are responsible for consuming 20% of the global catch, always taking sustainable consumption, climatic change and gastronomic versatility into consideration.
There are many different ways to prepare bacalhau (the Portuguese say there are at least 365 different recipes), but one of the most popular is bacalhau à brás, which is a dish made with shredded cod, onions, garlic, potatoes, and eggs. It’s often served with olives and a green salad.
2. Cozido à Portuguesa
We can’t say it’s the most appealing dish, but we couldn’t possibly leave it out. Cozido (“à Portuguesa” means “portuguese style”) is a traditional Portuguese slow-boiled meat plate which just bursts with savory flavor. Often included are sausages like chouriço, smoky farinheira (made with wheat flour, pork fat, and seasoning), and morcela (blood sausage); hunks of beef (and/or pork and/or chicken); pig ears and trotters; and cabbage, potatoes, rice, and beans (most of it cooked in the same salted water as the meat, giving it extra flavor).
The dish has its origins in the Beira region of north-central Portugal, just north of Lisbon, but has become so widespread and a dish enjoyed in any part of the country. It’s rustic Portuguese cuisine right here, designed in part to use up cheap offcuts of meat. It’s no-bullshit (forgive our french) food, presented in a very simple way. This hearty dish is just perfect for a cold winter day. Before a cozy nap, probably.
3. Sardinhas (sardines)
As you may have noticed from all the sardine-shaped souvenirs all around the city, Lisbon is famous for its grilled sardines, which are a staple of the city’s cuisine. Sardines are usually grilled over charcoal and served with roasted peppers, boiled potatoes, and a green salad. They’re a perfect dish to try during the summer months when the sardines are in season.
Insider tip: If you like to experience culture up close and you don’t mind big crowds, Lisbon in June is the trip for you. This is when we celebrate the festivities of St. Anthony, the patron saint of Lisbon and of marriages. If you plan on doing this trip, plan ahead and book it all with months in advance. The narrow cobbled streets of the historic neighbourhoods – Alfama, Castelo, Bica, Bairro Alto, and Madragoa – fill with music, dance, grilled sardines, wine and beer, and free fun for everyone. The arraiais, as they are locally known, are the biggest and best street parties you’ll find in Lisbon. There are also big parades in Avenida da Liberdade, for all to witness and rejoice.
4. Arroz de Marisco
This is a seafood rice dish that’s very popular in all of Portugal. Despite its creation being credited to and associated with a beach in Central Portugal – Praia de Vieira in Leiria, it is widely available in many restaurants across coastal Portugal (it’s usually near the coast where you’ll find the freshest fish and seafood). It’s made with a variety of seafood, usually including shrimp, clams, mussels, and squid, and cooked with rice in a flavorful tomato broth. For those who need a little more convincing, it was also selected in 2011 as one of the 7 Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy. It’s a delicious and hearty dish that’s perfect for sharing with friends and family, good in winter and summer alike.
5. Pastéis de Belém
No trip to Lisbon is complete without trying the city’s famous pastéis de Belém. These are traditional custard tarts that are made with a crispy pastry shell and a creamy custard filling. They’re usually served warm and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Be aware that you will find its sibling, the pastel de nata in almost any patisserie or coffee shop in Lisbon, but as any local will tell you, the ones in Belém are better, and worth eating while warm.
In conclusion, Lisbon is a food lover’s paradise, and these dishes are just a small sample of the many delicious and authentic Portuguese dishes that you can try in the city. So, make sure to bring your appetite and enjoy these tasty and traditional dishes during your next visit to Lisbon.
PS: Not to brag or anything, but did you know we have a food tour with 13 different food tastings? Not all the dishes on this article are included (believe us, if you have a cozido, you won’t have much space for anything else for a few hours!) but it’s definitely worth a check if you’re like us and really love food.💛