10 Dishes You Must Try in Lisbon
During your time in the Portuguese capital you’re going to encounter some very unique and unusual dishes, especially if this is your absolute first introduction to Portuguese cuisine.
Lisbon, the capital, has just about every cuisine in the world available and you one could easily get away with not eating any of the local foods if they really wanted to. The following ten dishes, however, are well worth a try and, in my opinion, not to be missed!
Bacalhau is considered to be the national dish of Portugal.
It’s a casserole-style meal that comes in hundreds of different variations. There is actually no single recipe that is deemed the official traditional bacalhau.
Bacalhau is made using salted, dried and shredded cod fish. Most versions of this dish incorporate the use of eggs, olives, potatoes and duck fat.
It is typically served as a main meal, sometimes with a side salad.
2. Grilled Sardines
Having grilled sardines while in Portugal is a cultural experience. They are very easy to find on the menus of just about every traditional restaurant in the city, and they are also one of the most affordable meals you can eat in the country.
In Portugal, fresh sardines are caked in rock salt and grilled until cooked through. They are served with a Portuguese roll, boiled potatoes and peppers.
I’ve noticed some of the tourist trap restaurants will neglect to give diners the accompanying sides, serving just the sardines and maybe a salad. Request that they give you the bread and potatoes to make the dish authentic — I always do.
3. Pastel de Nata
Pastel de natas are an inevitable feat during your time in Lisbon. These custard based tarts are renewed around the world, and you’re going to try one in the very place they were invented.
As you walk through Lisbon, you’ll see bakeries on just about every corner, all with hundreds of fresh-out-the-oven pastel de natas in their windows.
Despite technically being a dessert, there is no single time of day when eating these treats is more or less appropriate. They are there to be enjoyed at all times, any time.
Alheira has an important history in Portugal, dating way back to the Inquisition.
Looking at it, one would just assume this to be any old pork sausage. Alheira is actually the opposite; a sausage that replaces traditional pork with kosher friendly meats suitable for the Jewish communities.
When the Spanish invaded Portugal, the Jews needed some way of tricking them into thinking they were consuming pork, and this Alheira was created.
Today one will find chicken, duck or veal as the main ingredient inside the sausage casing. It is usually served with either French fries, mashes potatoes or rice.
Bifana is the unofficial street food of Lisbon. It’s a simple, yet utterly delicious meal that is best enjoyed as a grab-and-go dish while on the move.
Bifana is nothing more than a pork sandwich. The pork is always thinly sliced and slow cooked in a combination of white wine, garlic and spices. The pork is placed onto the bread right out of the cauldron.
Most people enjoy the sandwich as is, while others like to add piri piri sauce or mustard on top.
6. Caldo Verde
Another simple dish enjoyed abundantly in Lisbon is Caldo Verde.
Directly translated, this just means green soup, and you’ll find it on the starter menu of just about every authentic Portuguese restaurant in the city.
This soup is served warm, and is made with potatoes, kale, olive oil and salt. Some chefs like to add a few slices of chouriço into the dish as an extra source of protein; vegetarians can request this be left out if possible.
Cozido won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but in the colder months in Lisbon this is one dish to warm the soul.
Cozido is basically made by using all of the leftover meats from a kitchen. Traditionally, Portuguese restaurants would keep all unused meat parts through the week and then use them to cook cozido on the weekends. A lot of restaurants still do this, while others will offer the dish at all times.
The meats are stewed together with cabbage, carrots and potatoes.
Feijoada is a pork and bean stew that made its way into Lisbon via Brazil. While visiting the city you’ll notice a lot of Brazilian influence, as well as a massive migration of Brazilian people.
The beans in feijoada give the dish a dark black appearance. It is usually served with rice and greens of some sort. Be sure to request a large wedge of lemon to squeeze over your plate for added zest.
9. Favas com enchidos
Another bean based dish to keep an eye out for is favas con enchidos, which translates to broad beans with sausages.
This too is a stew, made using cured sausages, broad beans, mint and coriander. The cured sausages usually used are chouriço, farinheira and morcela (a blood sausage made with cumin).
It’s a flavorful dish with notes that are not commonly found in other dishes of the region.
Lastly, one of the most important things to do while in Lisbon is to eat all the seafood you possibly can.
Lisbon is a city built right on the Portuguese coast. Fresh seafood is brought in from the harbors daily, and distributed to almost all of the city restaurants before lunch time.
Whether you love prawns, calamari, mussels, line fish or oysters, you’ll find it easily in Lisbon. Seafood lovers should also consider taking a day trip out to Cascais on the beach coast either for lunch or dinner!
All this eating calls for some walking. There are free guided walking tours through Lisbon’s city center daily. They’re filled with architecture, street culture and neighborhood-based history through the eyes of an informed local!