Portuguese food

Here’s our expat look at some of the top Portuguese eats and treats.


Bacalhau is dried, salted cod. It might not sound that appetising but it’s Portugal’s national dish and such an important part of the nation’s diet that it’s even served on special occasions like Christmas day. Bacalhau must be rehydrated and rinsed over several days before it can be cooked with, which makes it quite a time consuming ingredient. However, most Portuguese supermarkets sell prepared and unprepared versions of this pungent smelling speciality.


As olive trees are a prominent feature of the Portuguese landscape it comes as no surprise that they form a key part of the country’s cuisine. It is generally believed that olive trees were first introduced to Portugal by the Romans and now most families with gardens will have at least one tree of their own. Olives are not only eaten throughout the year but they are used to make an important export – olive oil.


Cheese is a huge part of the Portuguese diet and the country is particularly proud of its own varieties. An extremely popular regional cheese is the Serra de Estrela. This cheese is made with sheep’s milk and was originally made by shepherds. An equally famous Portuguese cheese is Azeitao, which is also made out of sheep’s milk. Instead of being coagulated in the usual way (with animal rennet) Azeitao is coagulated using cardoon thistle. The cheese has even been given protected status as a regional product, like Cornish Pasty’s and Champagne.


Most people associate snails with France but they form an important part of Portuguese food culture too. Caracois (snails) are eaten as a casual snack during the spring and summer months. The snails eaten in Portugal are younger and smaller than the garden variety commonly eaten in France. They are often cooked with a simple mix of herbs and served in the shells with a tooth pick. Beer is unusually the accompanying drink of choice.

Bolo de Rei

Portugal has a number of specialist occasion cakes including the Folares de Pasqua (Easter Bread) and the Bolo de Rei (Kings Cake). The Bolo de Rei is a fruit bread made with pine nuts and traditionally eaten at Christmas. Bolo de Rei is shaped like a rum baba and decorated with candied fruits. It is sold in Portuguese bakeries from mid-November.

Chourico Sausage

The Spanish have chorizo and the Portuguese have chourico. This smoked pork sausage is similar to its Spanish cousin in that it is spiced with paprika and herbs. Its red colour comes from pimento. In order to give the sausage texture and a rustic appearance the meat used to make it is only roughly chopped. Chourico is used to flavour many dishes but is also served on its own as a starter.


This rich, sweet, fortified wine has been produced in Portugal for more than three hundred years and the country remains one of the most renowned producers of the product in the world. Most Portuguese port is red but some companies do produce its lighter rival – white port.