Bica Coffee is Portugal’s version of espresso served in a Demitasse cup with a complimentary sugar packet on the side. The name ‘Bica’ means ‘drink this with sugar’. You are supposed to drink it as a short, sweet coffee. Bica has a notable hazelnut-coloured cream, a quality of being smooth and velvety in taste, and a distinct sharpness with balanced notes.
Pastel de Nata / Pasteis de Nata
The traditional iconic Portuguese custard tarts, flavoured with lemon and cinnamon, the crisp slightly salty pastry with a molten spiced egg filling is a non-negotiable when you are visiting Portugal.
In Lisbon you must visit Mantegaria, what was once a butter shop, reopened in 2016 as a custard tart factory, where the tarts are continuously made in front of you. The tarts mirror the originals, Pasteis de Belém, a crispy flaky dough with a heavenly cream inside and slightly burnt on top.
What is the difference between Pastel de Nata and Pastel de Belém?
In fact, it has everything to do with its origin. The first recipe of the Pastel de Belém was created in 1837 by the monks of the emblematic Jerónimos Monastery. To date, the recipe is kept secret and therefore becomes a true specialty! Thus, only at the Fábrica Pastéis de Belém, the family pastry with more than 100 years where they are made, you will find the original Pastéis de Belém. Only there these little custard tarts can be called that since its name was even patented! All others are called Pastéis de Nata.
Pão de Deus
Translated as the bread of God, this traditional Portuguese dessert is a combination of a soft brioche and a topping made with desiccated coconut and eggs. The dough is usually flavoured with lemon zest, rum, or vanilla, and the buns are baked until the topping turns golden and crispy.
These sweet rolls are eaten throughout the year and are commonly enjoyed for breakfast, but they are also associated with All Saints Day and the old Portuguese custom known as pão-por-deus—in which children knock on doors reciting poetry and asking for sweets and candy.
Bola de Berlim
A delicious deep-fried, egg custard filled donut in big and small delights. Bola de Berlim, also known as Berliner or Berliner Pfannkuchen, is a type of pastry that is popular in Portugal and other European countries. It is a round, sweet doughnut that is typically filled with a custard or cream filling and dusted with powdered sugar.
The dough is usually made with flour, yeast, sugar, milk, and eggs, and it is deep-fried until golden brown. Bola de Berlim is often enjoyed as a breakfast pastry or as a snack with coffee or tea. It is believed that the pastry originated in Germany, but it became popular in Portugal during the 19th century.
Bolo de Arroz
Bolos de arroz are popular gluten free Portuguese Azorean rice cake that can be found in every Portuguese bakery. The lovely bolos de arroz, buttery sweet rice muffins are super moist, light and fluffy and resemble tall cupcakes, perfect for a tea or coffee break.
Ovos moles are a Portuguese delicacy, egg custard-based pastry. These sweet treats originated around 1501, in the Convento de Jesus de Aveiro, a convent in the centre region of Portugal, Aveiro. It is known by the Portuguese that egg whites were typically used for domestic purposes, such as ironing clothes – while the yolks were often discarded, and not sure on what to do with them – until the day it was decided to add sugar to the yolks! Nuns at the Convento de Jesus de Aveiro created this sweet egg dessert, which was served at daily mass as the bread of Christ.
Breakfast in Portugal
Breakfast in Portugal is a simple meal. Portugal doesn’t have quite the same association with breakfast food as many other nationalities across the world. There’s no quintessential ‘Portuguese Breakfast’ like for example an ‘Irish Breakfast’. Breakfast items can vary depending on the region, that said, it does have a similar set of items that feature almost everywhere, usually always a coffee and a sweet or savoury bread, jam, meats, cheese, freshly squeezed juices.
Ginjinha is a sour cherry liqueur which is made from steeping ginja berries (the Prunus cerasus austera, which is more commonly known as the sour cherry or the Morello cherry in English) in alcohol. Then, post-infusion, spices such as cinnamon and/ or cloves are added, as well as sugar.
For the best Ginjinha, visit Ginjinha Sem rival a renowned bar that opened in 1840 and has been run by the same family for five generations, it has standing room only to allow you to sample this wonderfully strong and sweet alcoholic drink. A shot of ginja only costs €1.40.If you want a taste of authentic Portugal then there is no better place.
An authentic Portuguese aperitif, this is a perfect drink for Portugal’s late afternoons. Refreshing and smooth, with the colour of a dream sunset, this drink is composed of 24 botanicals that combine in a unique citric blend and rich ensemble of flavours that lingers on the mouth and nose. Enjoy straight on the rocks with ice and orange zest.
Rosé Port and Tonic
Stylish and refreshing, Rosé Port is a relatively new variety of port that’s only been around for a couple of years, it could be described as lighter than a ruby port while still retaining its red fruit flavours. Rosé port offers a similar lightness but with a stronger essence of fruit flavours like strawberries and raspberries, with its sweet nature they pair very well with the bitterness of tonics. Garnish with grapefruit and a sprig of rosemary.
The practice of preserving food through dehydration, fermentation or salting goes back centuries, and plays an important role in the history and culture of Portugal. It is possible to find the entire sea canned, including squid, octopus, roe, tuna, mackerel, anchoives, preserved in olive oils, tomato sauce and others.
Sardines are a pretty big deal in Portugal, they even have their own holiday, as freshly grilled sardines are the street meal of choice for St. Anthony’s Day, on June 13th. Both fresh and tinned, everywhere you go you will see sardines either on a menu, printed on t-shirts, made out of porcelain. This umami-rich, fish flavoured and meaty texture is a Portuguese delicacy that goes well with almost any sauce or flavour, from olive oil, sunflower oil, tomatoes, garlic, on toast and packed with bold big flavours.
Choco frito is a traditional Portuguese dish originating from Setúbal, where it’s the most famous local speciality. It consists of chunks of deep fried cuttlefish with potato chips or fries, salad, and lemon wedges, usually boiled with garlic and bay leaves, marinated in lemon juice and wine, then coated in seasoned corn flour before it’s fried to crispy perfection.
The best comparison I can give you is that it is very similar to Calamari, when it’s done correctly it’s amazing and succulent, but not done right it is very tough and chewy. Although for a while the kids and I thought that the dish contained chocolate, given the name, we quickly found out it was not in fact chocolate!
Alongside sardines and salted cod, Dourada grelhada ‘grilled sea bream’ is another popular dish, served whole with boiled vegetables and potatoes. In Portuguese cooking, the bream is very commonly cooked whole on a charcoal grill, and sometimes butterflied. It is truly a versatile fish and reasonable value too.
I recommend visiting a local Tasca, a tavern style eatery serving traditional soul food on an open charcoal grill.
Bolinhos de Bacalhau
The relationship between the Portuguese and cod is a passion with centuries of history. Bolinhos de Bacalhau ‘salt cod croquettes’ is an iconic dish in Portugal, typically made from a mixture of potatoes, codfish, eggs, parsley, onion and sometimes a hint of nutmeg, ideally crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. The bolinhos are shaped using two spoons, deep fried and served hot or cold before meals as an appetizer or as a meal itself.
Bacalhau com Nata
Bacalhau com Nata is one of the most famous Portuguese dishes made with salted cod. Translated to ‘cod with double cream’ the dish is a combination of soaked or boiled cod coated in a creamy béchamel sauce with onion, cheese, wine and spices then topped with diced fried potatoes or mashed and baked until golden brown. This is a simple dish to prepare and very popular both at home and in restaurants.
Bacalhau à Bras
The other popular traditional way to taste cod in Portugal is Bacalhau à Bras, a classic dish full of personality. The dish is made of salted cod, onion, garlic, matchstick potato fries, scrambled egg and garnished with fresh parsley and olives.
Pork, Sausage and Beef
Chorizo Asado is a flamed grilled chouriço sausage, Portugal’s less spicy cousin to Spanish chorizo. Simply the process involves partially scoring the meat along the top, dowsing it in alcohol and cooked to your liking over an open flame in an assador de barro, a special type of earthenware sausage grill
Bitoque is a traditional Portuguese dish, originating from Beira’s, similar to ‘Steak frites’ the dish consists of a lean fried or grilled steak or pork, that is usually accompanied by fries, rice, various salads and topped with an egg and complemented with a tomato or mustard sauce. I would highly recommend O Bitoque, a classic tasca in Campo de Ourique representing traditional, institutional Portuguese cuisine in an ever-changing neighbourhood.
Feijoada is a slow cooked stew of beans with beef and pork. The name feijoada is derived from feijão, ‘bean’ in Portuguese. Traditionally white or kidney beans are used, and tough cuts including feet, ears, shanks, hearts and trotters make up this traditional dish.
The bifana is a traditional Portuguese sandwich served on a papo secos, a crusty fluffy type of Portuguese bread roll filled with marinated thin pork cutlets that are marinated and simmered in a sauce of white wine, vinegar, garlic and paprika, and served with plenty of mustard and piri-piri sauce. They can be found at any cafe and snack bars for as little as €1.50.
The Francesinha is a Portuguese sandwich that originates from Porto, and is a dish not for the faint hearted! Filled with layers of beef steak, sausage, cured meats, covered with a tomato beer sauce with herbs and chilli and surrounded by French fries, you will need a big appetite for this one. It is an unwritten law that you cannot visit Porto without trying it. I would recommend Cafe Santiago for an authentic Francesinha alongside a cold Super Bock beer or Lado B for a vegetarian version.
Cozido à Portuguesa
Cozido à Portuguesa is a traditional Portuguese dish that is similar to stew. It is a hearty and nutritious meal that is usually prepared with different meats including beef, pork, chicken, various sausages and an assortment of vegetables in a large pot, often served with rice, bread or cornmeal porridge using the water the meat has been cooked in. Of course there is plenty of olive oil, garlic, bay leaves and salt involved.
Pica pau is a traditional Portuguese dish consisting of small pieces of fried beef in a light gravy made with beer, garlic, oil, chilli, and mustard. The dish is usually consumed as a snack, accompanied by a few glasses of cold beer and bread for mopping up the sauce. Pica pau is traditionally topped with olives and pickled carrots and cauliflowers. The name of the dish means woodpecker, because you pick at the beef with a wooden toothpick. Pica pau is a staple of the Portuguese tascas – tiny little restaurants
Invented by Jewish people to look like pork sausage, but it is made from chicken and corn and spices and smoked. In 1497, the Jewish population was given a choice: leave the country or convert to Christianity. Of course many converted but secretly retained their beliefs, so to avoid being caught, the “alheira” was born: a non-pork sausage for them to hang in their windows to avoid suspicion. Alheira is usually made from a mix of poultry and game, like chicken, duck, quail or rabbit, plus breadcrumbs and garlic. You’ll see it on the menu either grilled as is or crumbed and fried (the best!). It’s usually served with a fried egg on top and accompanied by potato chips and rice.
Caldo Verde is a Portuguese soup, also known as green soup, combing potatoes, cabbage, collard greens, kale and topped with chouriço sausage. It is a warming hearty and homely dish.
Frango Piri Piri
Frango Piri Piri or Chicken Piri-Piri is a popular Portuguese dish, simply butterflied barbecued chicken served with fries and salad. The distinguished piri-piri is the chilli glaze that is glazed over the chicken before going on the grill, you can find it in many restaurants and churrasqueiras – places dedicated to barbecued food.
Migas is a dish traditionally made from using leftover stale bread and referred to as crumbs, and usually accompanies meats or other main dishes.