Porto Food Guide
We love traveling to Portugal and have explored almost the length and width of the country, from Lisbon to Alentejo to Minho in the north. I loved Porto, though. There is something about the food in Porto, the location on the river, the proximity of the Douro Valley wine region, and of course the Port wine. Yes, there is a little something for everyone in Porto.
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How To Visit Porto Portugal For Food
In this Porto Food Blog, we share our top tips on what to eat in Porto along with some of the history and tradition behind these Porto traditional foods and dishes. Although some of these typical Portuguese dishes can be eaten around the country, a few are must-eats in Porto. It’s a list that focuses on fish, seafood, pork, and of course sandwiches. Our goal is to not just give you a list of the best food in Porto, but also to help educate travelers a little on typical Portuguese food. We also include a few recommendations on where to eat in Porto as well.
What To Eat in Porto Portugal
Here’s our list of the Portuguese specialties you must eat in Porto. Most of these dishes are also pretty easy on the wallet, of course, seafood, in general, is more pricey. Even some of the most typical and traditional of the dishes below are often included on more upscale menus. It is worth it, if you can, to try contemporary versions of the classics to get a good understanding of the food culture in the city.Traveling to Portugal? Check out our Portugal Packing Guide and List
Francesinha – THE Porto Sandwich
Looking for the most hearty sandwich on the planet? Let’s start with the pride of Porto, and easily Porto’s most famous dish, the francesinha. The word francesinha translates roughly to “little French girl,” but there is nothing little about this warm and gooey sandwich. Some say it is an homage to the French croque-monsieur, a toasted cheese and ham sandwich.
The francesinha is a cheese and sauce covered sandwich filled with various types of pork and a piece of steak. The pork inside normally includes fresh sausages, mortadella, and a sausage called linguiça. The sandwich is topped with melted cheese, a tomato and beer based sauce, and a fried egg. Of course, always a fried egg.
Each restaurant makes its own version of the sauce, often a closely-guarded family or chef secret. If you only have one day in Porto, this is the one famous Porto food you must eat!
Supposedly the best francesinha in Porto can be found at Francesinha Cafe, but I liked the more contemporary (small bites) portion from Porto Cruz in Vila Nova do Gaia. It’s a great way to taste the flavor of this legendary sandwich, without the heft. BTW, we never got a good Francesinha photo, so the one above is courtesy of Claire, who runs the solo female travel blog This Travel Lover.
A bifana pork sandwich is one of my favorite things to eat in Portugal. It’s a perfect option for a snack or lunch in Porto, and is actually a lot easier to digest than the francesinha. This is one of our all-time favorite Portuguese sandwiches.
The Porto bifana is seemingly simple, made with marinated pork served on a soft roll. The secret is in the flavors from the marinade. In Lisbon, the bifana is served with mustard and spicy chili oil. The bifanas a moda do Porto, or Porto bifana, is normally served saucy. Try it at Restaurante Conga on Rua do Bonjardim, where Anthony Bourdain visited during his trip to Porto.
Portuguese Fish And Seafood
Portugal is a country with a long history of seafaring, exploration, and fishing. It’s no surprise then that it is a country that loves fish and seafood. Here are just a few dishes to eat in Porto that focus on fish and seafood. In addition to the specific Portuguese seafood dishes listed below, look for grilled octopus (pulpo) or lampreia, an eel-like fish.
Some of the best seafood in Porto is just outside of the city, in neighborhoods like Foz do Douro, Matosinhos, or Afurada, which are accessible by public transportation or ferry. Although there are Porto fish restaurants in the city center, the ones out of the center are more authentic, and more fun. To get an inside look, check out the Porto fish market in Matosinhos. It is open six days a week, but is closed on Sunday.
Bacalhau – Portuguese Salt Cod
Portugal is famous for its salted cod, known in Portuguese as bacalhau. We are intimately familiar with this dish as it is very popular in Spain where we live. In Spain it is known as bacalao.
The cod used is generally not from Portugal, but from the northern seas off Norway. As a way to preserve the fish, it is heavily salted. When ready to use it is reconstituted by soaking in water until soft. There is still a slight saltiness to the dish, but not overly so. It does mean that the fish tastes super tender.
The locals say there are 365 different ways to serve bacalhau, from simply pan-fried or on top of a chickpea salad. In Porto, some of the unique ways they serve this fish are as bacalhau com natas, or codfish cooked with cream.
There are a few other dishes, though, that show off codfish well. Almost every Porto restaurant menu will offer bacalhau in some way, shape, or form. It is served as a starter or main, and it’s not uncommon to have it more than once in a single meal. For a more contemporary version of bacalhau, visit Vinum at Graham’s Port House, one of the best places to it in Porto, in part for the view over the city.
Bolinhos de Bacalhau – Fried Codfish Cakes
One of the most popular ways to eat bacalhau is in bolinhos de bacalhau, or codfish cakes. They are similar to Spanish croquettas in that they are deep fried balls of tastiness and potato. This is also one of the best Porto cheap eats because you can find bolinhos as a snack at most typical Porto bars
Porto Food Pro Tip
If traveling with a partner or friend, start with ordering one francesinha to share. It’s a beast and will leave your belly too full to eat all of the rest of the fabulous Portuguese dishes in Porto. Wash it down with a cold Portuguese beer or a vinho verde, to help cut the richness of the sandwich.
Bacalhau A Bras
This is probably my favorite way to eat bacalhau, in a dish called Bacalhau à Brás. The salted codfish is mixed with fried shredded potatoes and eggs and often topped with black olives. There is something about the slight saltiness of the cod, the fried crispiness of the potato, and the soft texture of the scrambled eggs that just feels like comfort food.
We’ve eaten versions of açorda all over Portugal, first trying the dish in Lisbon and Alentejo. I love the concept. It is a soup that used slices of day-old bread as its base. Similar to Spain, bread is eaten fresh daily and often has no preservatives to help it last longer like in the US or UK. As a result, the Portuguese and Spanish are always looking for unique ways to use day old bread.
In Portugal, this means açorda. In addition to water and bread, the soup includes garlic, coriander, seafood, fish, and sometimes a soft cooked egg. We’ve had açorda made fresh in front of us at more contemporary Portuguese restaurants, which is something to experience.
This is the perfect dish to eat in Porto particularly if visiting during cooler months. It’s a soup using potatoes and green vegetables, including kale, as a base. Sometimes it is flavored with a little Portuguese sausage. We’ve also eaten caldo verde a few times with bacalhau, with the caldo verde forming a base for the fish. A great way to try two Porto dishes in one.
Alheira Portuguese Sausages
This is one of my favorite things to eat in Portugal, but we tried it for the first time in Porto. Alheira sausages are normally served with potato, vegetables like cabbage, and a fried egg. It’s a sausage with an interesting story.
Traditionally Alheira is made with poultry including chicken, turkey, duck, or pheasant. Basically any meat other than pork. They were eaten by Portuguese Jews who were trying to avoid discovery and persecution during the Inquisition. At the time it was thought that if you ate sausage you couldn’t be Jewish.
Although we’ve also eaten alheira made with pork, the main difference between this and a typical pork sausage is that the meat is mixed with bread, giving the sausage a soft mouthfeel that is entirely delicious. Sometimes the inside is so soft you can spread it on a piece of bread. Tracking down these sausages is how to do Porto like a local.
This is not a dish for the faint of heart, but anyone who considers themselves an intrepid food traveler should try – Cozido a Portuguesa. It’s a stew of potatoes, vegetables, and all variety of meat products. The meat normally includes black sausage as well as various offal (organs).
Tripas à Moda do Porto
This is another hearty dish not for the faint of heart. It is a mix of white beans, carrots, steak or veal, and pork stomach, known as tripe. I am not a fan of tripe and don’t often order it. For me, it is the texture. But, when prepared properly it can be pretty tasty, often taking on the flavors of the sauce it is cooked it.
In Porto, the tripas à moda do Porto is flavored with cumin or curry, so that helps it along. It is said that the people of Porto have been eating tripe, and a version of this dish, for six centuries.
Tempura and Peixinhos da Horta
Did you know that Portuguese cuisine influenced the creation of tempura in Japan? Many people might be surprised to see tempura on our list of the best food in Porto. In the 16th Century, Portuguese traders arrived in Japan with the tradition of making fried food and fritters (think about the precursor to the bolinhos de bacalhau). The Portuguese had a good amount of influence in the area. Macau was a Portuguese settlement and there is still influence from Portugal in the Macanese cuisine.
The specific recipe that the Portuguese introduced to Japan is peixinhos da horta, lightly deep-fried green beans. Eventually this single dish became Japanese tempura. If you see tempura on a menu in Porto, chances are it is not as fusion as you think.
Pastéis de Nata
This might not be a Porto speciality, but it’s certainly a must eat. Pasteis de Nata are easily the most famous Portuguese food. A pastel de nata is a small custard egg tart. The pastry was originally invented in Lisbon but it is now popular all over Portugal and it’s spreading around the world. In Porto, try the version at Nata Lisboa on Rua de Santa Catarina. They are often eaten for breakfast in Porto but can be eaten as snacks throughout the day.
Toucinho Do Céu
A dessert made with pork fat? Yes, please!!! Toucinho Do Céu or Portuguese Almond Cake is what you are looking for. Roughly translated to “bacon from Heaven” this traditional Northern Portugal dessert is made using pork fat. Also featuring almonds, eggs, and flour, the dessert dates back to the 18th century. Be mindful if you are vegan or vegetarian.
Tarte de Amêndoa
Arguably one of the most famous desserts from Northern Portugal, tarte de amêndoa or almond tart is a most try. Using almonds grown nearby, this dessert is sweet without being overly sweet. Enjoy this with a cup of coffee as an afternoon treat and you’ll be very happy.
Porto Food Pro Tip
Don’t forget to sprinkle a little cinnamon on top of your pastel de nata. Even better, the pasteis pair well with Port wine. Just go for it and drink Port with your breakfast.
Where To Eat In Porto Portugal
Here are our list of recommended Porto restaurants, with a focus on traditional Porto food. It also includes restaurants that specialize in contemporary versions of traditional dishes.
Vinum at Graham’s is set on the hilltop overlooking the city and the river. It was one of the most enjoyable meals we ate in Porto.
DOP Porto from Chef Rui Paula specializes in high-end, contemporary dishes that are an homage to traditional Portuguese cuisine. All while focused on fresh, local ingredients.
Cafe Santiago The go-to restaurant for the famous Francescinha Portuguese sandwich.
Book a Porto Food Tour
If short on time or looking to explore Porto in a unique way, how about booking a Porto food tour. We recommend using Viator Porto to book any of these Porto tasting tours. We like Viator for a few reasons. One, we’ve used them for tours around the world without any problems. Second, you will receive immediate confirmation of your booking. Last, Viator is a reputable company that is actually owned by TripAdvisor, so if there are any issues with your booking, there is a big company standing behind the booking.
This Porto Tapas Tour focuses on the concept of tascas, sort of a Portuguese version of tapas. This tour visits a local market and focuses on tastes of local dishes, sweets, and Vinho Verde wine. Prices start from €50 per person.
This Cod And Green Wine Route is a unique Portuguese food tour that focuses on bacalao and green wine. It’s a super small tour with prices from €100 per person. It’s a full day focusing on the history of cod and production of wine.
Or, consider a cooking class and actually learn how to cook some of the must-eat Portuguese dishes. This Portuguese Cooking Class in Porto ends with a four-course meal paired with Portuguese wine. The class starts at €60 per person.
For more wine-focused tours, check out our guide to the Best Porto Wine Tours.Check out the Top Porto Food And Wine Tours on Viator
FAQs - What To Eat In Porto Portugal
In general, Portuguese food is hearty, with a mixture of seafood and meat, with a focus on pork. They are also most known for amazing pastries!
Porto is most known for two things, the Douro River and Port wine, but for food and drink travelers, it’s also known for the Francescinha!
Porto is a port city with a long history and tradition relating to the sea and its river. This means fish and seafood rule the day! Don’t be afraid to try fish you might not try at home. This includes sardines! Just give them a shot.
Lunch is generally served between 12:00 and 3:00 pm. Most Portuguese restaurants normally open around 7:00 or 7:30 and will serve until 11:00 pm, some stay open later.
Learn more about what to do in Porto besides eating from our travel vlogging friends Sam and Audrey!
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Porto Food Guide – Must Eat Dishes In Porto Portugal
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If traveling to Portugal, check out our Portugal Packing Guide and our Lisbon Food Guide, with loads of tasty tips about all the great Portuguese food to eat in Lisbon. You might be surprised how much there is to eat there! If only visiting Porto, check out our recommended Porto Food And Wine Tours.