We’ve been traveling to Lisbon Portugal for years. Most travelers know Lisbon as a city on the water, with classic yellow trams and tile-fronted buildings creeping up steep hillsides. It is all those things and more. For us, over the years, it’s been a city to explore for some of the best Portuguese food! That means we are always researching and updating our Lisbon Food Guide, so we can share our top tips on what to eat in Lisbon.
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Eating Typical Portuguese Food In Lisbon
We’ve stayed in hotels and apartments across the city, in some of the more touristy areas, and in some neighborhoods surrounded by locals. We’ve eaten at one of the most famous restaurants in Portugal, and at little bars that only serve liquor and Portuguese sandwiches. And, because we generally travel for food and drink, Lisbon is one of our absolute favorite cities.
Now that we live in Spain, Lisbon is a quick hop away. We continue to visit regularly to expand our knowledge of Portuguese cuisine. We continue to return to some of our favorite Lisbon restaurants and are always exploring to learn about new places to eat.
In this Lisbon blog post, we talk about Portuguese cuisine, including the traditional Portuguese foods you must eat in Lisbon. We also share our recommendations for some of the best places to eat in Lisbon for each of these dishes.
Eating Seafood In Lisbon at Cervejaria Ramiro
Lisbon is one of our favorite food and drink destinations. Although the city is becoming a lot more popular with tourists, particularly for Europeans looking for a city break, there is still so much authenticity in the cuisine. First, it helps to know what is Portuguese cuisine.
Portuguese dishes are typically hearty, with a focus on local and fresh ingredients. This means a lot of fish, being a country that is virtually surrounded by water. This is also due to the country’s maritime history. It also means a lot of pork, well, because pork is tasty. Eating in Lisbon includes specific Lisbon specialties, but it’s also a great city to eat dishes that are inspired by the rest of the country as well.
Foodies Guide To Lisbon
Our foodie’s guide to Lisbon focuses on what dishes to eat in Lisbon, with some recommendations on where to eat these particular dishes. Because Lisbon is becoming a lot more popular, it’s important to do your research before arriving in Lisbon.
There are a lot of tourist-focused restaurants in the center of Lisbon. Some of them might be decent. Others are real tourist traps offering dishes that are more Spanish than Portuguese. Yes, we’ve seen menus along Rua da Prata offering lunch deals with paella and sangria – these are not Portuguese dishes! This can also happen in the Alfama district, one of the more touristy in the city.
What To Eat in Lisbon – 10+ Must Eat Dishes
Here are our recommendations for some of the must-eat dishes in Lisbon. Some of these may be considered famous Portuguese food or dishes. Others may not be very well known outside of Portugal. Here’s our list of what to eat in Lisbon.
Pastel de Nata
When we are asked the question: What is Lisbon famous for when it comes to food? There’s only one dish that comes to mind, and that’s the pastel de nata. It’s hands down the most famous pastry to eat in Lisbon. And, that’s saying something because Lisbon offers amazing pastries!
The Portuguese egg tart, or pastel de nata, is a round, puff pastry filled with an egg-based custard. The custard is made with egg yolks, sugar, cream or milk, and other seasonings including cinnamon, vanilla, or lemon zest, depending on the recipe from the bakery. Normally there are shakers of cinnamon or sugar on the counter to top the pastry. Go for the cinnamon!
Most claim that the original recipe dates to the 16th Century when nuns at local convents would make them. Now, you can find them all over Lisbon. Although most locals enjoy a pastel de nata for breakfast, they are eaten throughout the day. They make a perfect mid-morning or pre-dinner snack as well. Normally a pastel de nata costs around €1. Pair it with a coffee or a class of port wine.
Our favorite is at Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata on Rua de Loreto 2.
Check out our complete guide to the Best Lisbon Custard Tarts.
Leitão – Portuguese Suckling Pig at Time Out Market Lisbon
Leitão – Portuguese Suckling Pig
Many of the most traditional Portuguese dishes incorporate pork in some way. But one dish makes pork the main feature. Leitão is a suckling pig, normally served as a sandwich or as a platter. Suckling pig means a young pig.
It can be a bit difficult to find really good leitão in the Lisbon city center because it is a challenge to prepare. The best we’ve had is from Henrique Sá Pessoa’s stall at Time Out Market. It’s a bit pricey, at €14, but worth it. Sometimes the local Portuguese restaurants also serve leitão as part of a set lunch menu.
Portuguese Bifana Sandwich
When it comes to the best cheap eats in Lisbon, the bifana sandwich has to be some of the best food in Lisbon. It’s a simple sandwich of seasoned and marinated pork loin on a soft roll served with mustard and spicy chili oil. You can find bifanas at many Lisbon bars and cafes throughout the city.
The perfect bifana should be tender and flavorful and served on a fresh, soft roll. Expect to eat it standing up. Wash it down with a cold beer or a fresh glass of Vinho Verde, the famous Portuguese “green wine.” Our favorite is from O Afonso das Bifanas: Rua de Madalena 146.
Check out our guide on how to find the best bifana in Lisbon.
Another Portuguese sandwich option, the Prego can normally be found at the same bars where bifanas are on the menu. It’s a piece of beef steak, grilled with garlic and served on a soft bun, normally with mustard. This is the sandwich we are eating in the photo above, as a dessert from our favorite seafood restaurant in Lisbon!
BOOK A LISBON FOOD TOUR
A food tour is a great way to explore a new city, to learn about their food culture, and to eat tasty food.
If one dish could be considered the national dish of Portugal, it could be bacalhau. It’s sort of a national obsession. Not just in Portugal but in Spain where we live as well.
Bacalhau is a salted codfish. It can be served in a variety of ways, including as a simply sautéed or grilled fish. Bacalhau is most commonly eaten in Lisbon fried in a croquetta or served cold in a salad, often on top of garbanzo beans. This is one of the easiest dishes to find on the menus at many places to eat in Lisbon.
Another way to eat bacalhau in Lisbon is bacalhau à brás, which pan-fries the salted codfish with shredded potatoes (or fried potatoes like french fries) and scrambled eggs. It’s perfect Portuguese comfort food. The best bacalhau à brás we’ve had was at Bistro4 at Porto Bay Liberdade in Lisbon.
What to eat in Portugal – Caldo Verde
Caldo Verde In Lisbon
Caldo verde is not a very photogenic soup. It’s not a Portuguese dish I crave when traveling in Lisbon. But, every time I eat this soup I find myself drawn to it, like comfort food. I am not entirely sure why. The base of the soup is potato and a leafy green vegetable like kale. A bowl of caldo verde normally costs about €3. It’s simple and tasty.
Alheira – Portuguese Sausage
Alheira is a smoked sausage with a bread filling, making it softer than traditional sausage. Traditionally it was made with chicken. This was so that the Jewish population in Portugal centuries ago could pretend to be Catholic, to avoid persecution. If people saw them eating sausage, it must be pork and meant that they were not Jewish. Back then it was always made with chicken, although now sometimes it is actually made with pork.
The alheira is probably more popular in the north of Portugal, but if you see it in Lisbon order it! It’s one of my favorite things to eat in Portugal. It is often served with some vegetables or cabbage, potatoes, and a fried egg. There is just a different texture to this sausage that is totally tasty. We ate a good version at O Martinho da Arcada e Lisbon on Praça do Comércio 3. They served it on their lunch menu of the day, so it might not be an everyday thing.
Eating Chicken at Bonjardim In Lisbon
Chicken Piri Piri
This is probably one of the most famous Portuguese dishes, even if people don’t recognize it as being Portuguese. It’s a Portuguese dish with African roots, with seasoning coming from Mozambique and Angola. The popularity of Nando’s chicken has made this grilled or rotisserie chicken famous. The chicken is served with a Piri Piri, or a spicy hot sauce. The hot sauce can be HOT! Be prepared. Chickens are generally around €7 for a half chicken and €14 for a full chicken. A half chicken is a healthy portion for one person.
We ate a fabulous version of piri piri chicken from Frangasqueira Nacional in Principe Real. Frangasqueira Nacional is more of a takeaway option, although there are two tiny tables inside. Or, there is Bonjardim, which is a good option for reliable food in the uber-touristy Restauradores neighborhood. Bonjardim specializes in rotisserie style chicken Piri Piri, with a simple menu of chicken and side dishes.
This is probably the most typical Portuguese food and doesn’t always find its way onto a list of what to eat in Portugal. It might be a bit much for typical travelers, but for food travelers, it’s just the sort of dish you should track down.
The base of the dish is cabbage, white beans, and rice, topped with a meat-heavy stew. The stew has a delicate flavor and is a perfect winter dish. The stew normally includes sausage, black sausage, and various pork bits, including offal, or the organs of the pig. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth it to try at least once in Lisbon. You can find cozido at many Lisbon bars as a plate of the day, normally for around €6-7 a plate.
The Best Seafood in Lisbon
Garlic Shrimp – Gambas a la Guillo
One of the more common dishes at seafood restaurants in all of Portugal, and even in Spain, is garlic shrimp. They generally come to the table sizzling in olive oil and garlic. The Portuguese version includes a little bit of chili pepper and the garlicky oil is perfect for sopping up with fresh, warm bread. Although it is easy to find this dish at restaurants across Lisbon, our favorite comes from Cervejaria Ramiro Lisbon.
Bordered on two sides by water, it’s no surprise that seafood including shellfish is a HUGE part of Portuguese cuisine. We’ve been fortunate to enjoy delicious clams, mussels, and oysters around the World, but there’s something about the simplicity of how the Portuguese prepare shellfish. Using nothing more than olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon, the Portuguese let the natural flavors of shellfish be the star.
Cataplana de Mariscos In Portugal
We first got the taste for sardines while living in Spain. It’s strange to write that considering most Americans don’t like them. Thankfully, much like their neighbors, the Portuguese love sardines. Know locally as sardinhas, these tasty fish are a mainstay of Portuguese cooking. In Portugal, sardines are grilled up with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. It’s also very common to find them canned.
Cataplana de Marisco
Cataplana is a Portuguese seafood stew cooked in a large copper pan and served with rice or chips. This dish is traditionally prepared in Algarve, to the south. You can find it in Porto Brandão, a small fishing town across the river from Lisbon. You can actually take a ferry to reach the village. In addition to a mix of clams and shrimp, the stew is made with garlic, olive oil, onion, and white wine.
Where To Eat In Lisbon
There are so many great places to eat in Lisbon. We’ve also made mention of a few places above that are known for particular dishes. Here, I will recommend a couple more places to go for consistently good food with a focus on traditional Portuguese dishes. Most of these are also located in the city center, where many travelers end up, so they are good options for reliable cuisine.
Cervejaria Ramiro, Av. Alm. Reis nº1 – H, one of our absolute favorite restaurants in Lisbon for seafood. It is open all day, so try to go at off hours to avoid long lines. Be prepared to spend about €100 for two people, with wine or beer. It’s totally worth it.
O Cantinho Do Bem Estar, R. do Norte 46 just up from Praça Luís de Camões, a diamond in the rough. This is a great, traditional Portuguese restaurant surrounded by tourist traps. Order the giant prawns in garlic, mustard, and lemon sauce. Everything is portioned to share or can be considered family style. Still a good value. Cash only. Get there early, it’s pretty small.
O Martinho da Arcada e Lisboa, is on Praça do Comércio 3, surrounded by touristy restaurants. Look for their cheap lunch specials in the casual front bar, or there is a more formal dining room in the back, with higher prices.
FAQs – What To Eat In Lisbon Portugal
Over the past ten years, we’ve made a dozen trips to Lisbon. It’s easily one of the best food cities in the world. What makes it such a great food city is the volume of famous dishes in Lisbon. From our experience, I’d say three of the most famous foods in Lisbon are seafood, pastel de nata, and the bifana sandwich.
Portuguese food, like many other cuisines, is regionalized. In different parts of Portugal, there are different versions of the same dish. That said, Portuguese food is heavily based on seafood, especially cod fish. Beef, Portugal produces lots of beef, is also very popular. You’ll find a lot of soups and stews in Portuguese cooking.