Sampling the various Porto foods that make up Northern Portugal’s gastronomy scene is as much of a highlight of a trip to Porto as seeing the city’s sights and attractions.
The unique landscapes that encompass Portugal’s second city create the perfect environment for a diverse range of foodie delicacies. The rolling hills of the nearby fertile Douro Valley offer perfect conditions for producing exquisite red wines and ports, the Atlantic ocean provides locals with fresh, delicious seafood, and the cool temperatures of the mountainous Trás-os-Montes create optimal conditions for producing smoked cheeses and cured meats.
- 1 What to Eat in Porto:About this Porto Food Guide
- 2 Best Porto Foods to Try
- 2.1 Francesinha
- 2.2 Tripas a Moda do Porto
- 2.3 Portuguese Soups
- 2.4 Seafood Dishes
- 2.5 Pastel de Nata
- 2.6 Alheira Sausages
- 2.7 Bifana Sandwiches
- 2.8 Sandes de Pernil
- 2.9 Prego no Pão
- 2.10 Pastel de Carne
- 2.11 Tremoços
- 2.12 Pastéis de Bacalhau
- 2.13 Bacalhau Main Dishes
- 2.14 Broa de Avintes
- 2.15 Eclairs
- 2.16 Tarte de Amêndoa
- 2.17 Toucinho Do Céu
- 2.18 Homemade Portuguese Ice Creams
- 2.19 Canned Fish
- 2.20 Jesuítas
- 2.21 Vegan Options in Porto
- 3 Porto Beverages
What to Eat in Porto:
About this Porto Food Guide
This Porto food guide discusses the best dishes to sample in Porto, Portugal, and where to find them. The delicacy and restaurant recommendations provided here are those that are beloved by Porto locals. The aim of this guide is to help you find authentic places away from the tourist traps. This guide is extensive, so feel free to use the table of contents above in order to navigate to the most relevant sections.
Best Porto Foods to Try
Some of the most popular and renowned Porto foods are detailed below. You should ask your Portuguese hotel owners and Airbnb hosts for their recommendations on where you can try each dish. That way, you will be sure to find authentic eateries away from the tourist crowds.
Francesinha is one of Porto’s most famous dishes. You will find that dozens of restaurants and cafes across the city boast about selling the best francesinha in town. This flavourful and calorific sandwich contains more than 1,000 calories per serving. In other words, it isn’t something that you want to eat on a daily basis!
Francesinha is comprised of bread topped with smoked sausage, beef steak, bacon, cheese, and a fried egg. The sandwich is then drizzled with a spicy beer sauce and served with fries. You will note that the francesinha recipe varies slightly from restaurant to restaurant and that no two francesinhas are ever the same!
Francesinha is served EVERYWHERE in Porto, but it should be noted that many of the restaurants in the historic centre (close to Trinidade and Sao Bento metro stations) are tourist traps, and the quality of their food is not so good. For the best francesinha in town, you want to head to Cafe Santiago (R. de Passos Manuel 226, 4000-382 Porto), Cervejaria Brasão (R. de Ramalho Ortigão 28), or Lado B (R. de Passos Manuel 190).
Tripas a Moda do Porto
A lot of people think that francesinha is the classic dish of Porto. In reality, the most famous local dish is tripe! This dish is not so commonly advertised because, to be honest, most people don’t really want to eat tripe. Tourists usually either love or hate tripas a moda, but tend to lean towards the latter!
During the fifteenth century, the people of Porto sent all of their good meat to the shipping fleet. Tripe was all that they were left with, and tripas a moda do Porto was the innovative dish that they formed with the leftovers. The dish is a stew formed by pairing cow tripe with smoked meat, white beans, and rice. It is then seasoned with cumin and cloves.
You will find tripas a moda do Porto served at various traditional restaurants in Porto. One good place to sample it is O Antunes – an affordable and centrally located restaurant that is beloved by locals. O Antunes is located at R. do Bonjardim 525.
Portuguese soups are hearty, flavourful, and a big part of the national cuisine. A lot of these recipes pair fresh seasonal vegetables with herbs and spices. They are a welcome addition at the dinner table during the cold Autumn and Winter months in Northern Portugal.
When you dine at a traditional Portuguese restaurant, it is not uncommon to be served a complimentary soup as a starter. Otherwise, you will find it on the menu for just a couple of euros.
Caldo Verde is a very popular Portuguese soup. Its name translates to “green soup”. This dish is made with potatoes, olive oil and kale then served with chorizo or other seasoned meats.
You will also see a lot of “Juliana” or vegetable soup. This is typically pureed carrots or pumpkin that is flavoured with garlic and spices.
Seafood is a big part of Portuguese food culture. In Porto, the best place to try seafood dishes is in Matosinhos – a little seaside town that sits 40 minutes away from the centre of Porto.
Matosinhos’ seafront is packed full of excellent fish restaurants that overlook the water. The dishes served at these places utilise only the freshest ingredients – fresh fish caught earlier that day by local fishermen. Menu options vary depending on the specific fish that are available.
If you stop by Matosinhos in the morning, you can witness local restaurant owners haggling for fresh fish at the seafood market (Mercado Municipal de Matosinhos). A Marisqueira de Mastosinhos is one of the most elegant dining options in the area – known for attracting the Portuguese elite.
Dom Zeferino is a more traditional choice, renowned for its Arroz de Marisco – a rice dish that is slowly cooked in a shellfish stock and served with shrimp. In truth, you can simply wander along the Matosinhos seafront and choose whatever spot tickles your fancy. There are no bad choices here.
Pastel de Nata
Pastel de Nata is a sweet Portuguese dessert. It is somewhat comparable to the British egg custard. This pastry is more famous in Lisbon, however, you will find pastel de nata served at practically every coffee shop and patisserie in Porto, too.
You can buy this pastry for around just 1 euro apiece. Portugal’s empire once spanned the entire globe. That empire may be long gone, but the country’s international past can be found in this simple dessert. Pastel de Nata is made with cinnamon from Asia, sugar from South America, and coffee beans from Africa. This is a lovely light snack to enjoy with a cup of coffee while sitting outside at one of Porto’s crowded piazzas.
Alheira is a traditional smoked sausage that is native to Northern Portugal. The sausages originated in the Trás-os-Montes region of the country and they are very commonly found on the menus of most traditional tavernas. The name of the sausage stems from the Portuguese word “alho” (garlic) – something which is reflected in the sausages flavourful, garlicky taste.
The dish has an interesting history – alheira sausages were pork-free sausage alternatives that were created by Portuguese Jews. Poultry and game meat are typically used instead of pork. Sometimes, Alheira is grilled and served with boiled potatoes, vegetables, and rice.
You can also find a dish called Alheira de Mirandela. For this dish, the alheira is deep-fried and served with french fries and a fried egg.
The bifana is a tasty and simple pork sandwich. Sandwiches are a popular light snack or lunch choice in Porto, and the bifana can be found at virtually every casual dining spot or cafe across Porto.
A bifana and a drink should set you back no more than €4. If you like beer, consider washing the sandwich down with a pint of Super Bock!
Bifanas may sound simple, but the special thing about this sandwich is the seasoning and flavour of the meat. The pork steak that is used to create the sandwich is lightly seasoned with garlic and spices, making for an incredibly tasty sandwich experience. Each cafe or restaurant will use their own spice blend to create the bifana, so no two sandwiches will ever taste the same!
Head to Conga (R. do Bonjardim 318, 4000-115 Porto) or O Astro (Rua da Estação 16) for the best bifanas in town.
Sandes de Pernil
Just to reiterate: the Portuguese love their lunchtime sandwiches! Another popular light choice is the sandes de pernil – a pulled pork sandwich.
The pork used in this sandwich is typically so tender that it just falls apart in your mouth. It is cooked according to a “secret” Brazilian recipe whereby the meat is marinated in an array of herbs and spices.
For the best sandes de pernil in Porto, head to Casa Guedes (Praça dos Poveiros 130, 4000-393 Porto). This place is so popular that you will often find locals queuing out the door! Expect a short wait for your food, but know that it will be worth it. A sandes de pernil here will cost you €3.90. It is drizzled with a generous (and sinful) serving of melted mountain cheese.
Prego no Pão
A third and final Portuguese sandwich to add to your Porto foods radar is prego no pão. This is a beef sandwich, and a very good variation of the dish is served at Venham Mais 5 sandwich shop (R. de Santo Ildefonso 219)
The beef served in prego no pão is cut into thin slices and seasoned perfectly with a dash of black pepper. Mustard or hot sauce is often used to top the sandwich. If you prefer to try this dish in plate form, rather than with bread in a sandwich, you can simply enjoy the thin slices of marinated beef served with fries or rice and a fried egg.
Pastel de Carne
When you sit down at a traditional restaurant in Northern Portugal, you will often find that the waiters bring a selection of appetisers to your table. Depending on the restaurant, these may be free or cost just a couple of euros. Bread and oil is a popular appetiser, as are pastéis de bacalhau (codfish cakes), and pastel de carne (meat cakes).
Meat pastries often served as appetisers. The filling is typically veal or beef that is lightly salted. Locals tend to eat these alone, without sauces or extras, as they wait for their main dishes to be served.
Tremoços are a popular bar snack in Northern Portugal. If you go into a cafe or a bar and you order a beer, you should be able to order a little bowl of tremoços.
A small portion of tremoços should cost no more than €2. These are simply yellow beans (lupini beans) that have been lightly seasoned with salt. Think of them as a healthier, Portuguese version of peanuts in bars.
Pastéis de Bacalhau
Bacalhau is the Portuguese translation for cod, and this seafood delicacy is a staple in Portuguese cuisine. Locals will often joke that there are more than 1,000 ways to enjoy cod. When you see how many different variations of bacalhau are served on menus in Porto, you understand why that statement is not as profound as it first sounds!
Bacalhau makes an appearance on virtually every restaurant menu in Portugal. As a matter of fact, it would be a challenge to find a place that didn’t serve it!
Pastéis de Bacalhau, or Bolinhos de Bacalhau are cod fishcakes that are commonly served as an appetiser at local restaurants. Waiters will often bring out a plate of Bolinhos de Bacalhau for your table to share as you order your main dishes. These fried breaded pastries are filled with onions, potatoes, parsley, egg, and of course, cod.
Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau is an interesting store in Gaia that is dedicated to the fishcake. Here, you can watch vendors prepare pastéis de bacalhau from scratch.
Bacalhau Main Dishes
Appetisers aside, Portugal’s beloved bacalhau is present in a variety of different dishes. The interesting thing is that the fish are not sourced from the nearby waters of the Atlantic, but they are caught in the much colder seas of Iceland and Norway. The Portuguese discovered the fish during the “Age of Discoveries” period, and it was considered a much lower-cost alternative to enjoy than meat.
Bacalhau com Natas (cod in cream) is a very tasty and flavourful dish served with cod. This is not necessarily the best choice for those that are watching their weight – bacalhau com natas is a Mediterranean hotpot style dish whereby flavoured cod is cooked in the oven with potatoes, heavy cream, and onions.
Bacalhau à Lagareiro is a dish native to the central regions of Portugal, but you will also find it in Porto. The fish is shredded and baked with eggs and chunks of potatoes before being topped with finely chopped parsley and fresh olives.
Broa de Avintes
Broa de Avintes is a staple at dinner tables in Northern Portugal. This farmhouse bread originated from the little town of Avintes. If you go into a restaurant in Porto, Braga, Avintes, and other parts of the North, you will often be served a basket of broa de avintes to dip into soups or olive oil.
The bread is made with rye or cornbread, giving it a texture that is denser than your average bread loaf. The flavour is distinctive, and the texture of the bread is almost like a loaf cake – only not sweet.
Recipes of broa de Avintes vary from town to town. The bread is slow-baked and is typically cooked for 6 hours. You will have plenty of opportunities to try this local bread at Porto restaurants.
You can also find fresh, handmade loaves of it available at bakeries and supermarkets, should you wish to cook for yourself at your accommodation. At the Mercearia de Flores, you can purchase fresh broa de Avintes. The vendors will also allow you to sample it along with local deli products – smoked cheeses, cured meats, and olive oils.
Sweet cream-filled eclairs are synonymous with French cuisine. What you may not realise, is that they are also so famous in Northern Portugal that they are considered as being the official dessert of Porto!
You cannot turn a corner in Porto without finding a patisserie that sells eclairs. Even though the options are plentiful, not all eclairs are made equal. The Leitaria da Quinta do Paço (Praça Guilherme Gomes Fernandes, 47) is a dairy shop that dates back to the 1920s. The eclairs here are filled with whipped cream and then topped with a variety of different toppings and flavours – passionfruit, cinnamon, lemon curd, chocolate, etc.
Leitaria da Quinta do Paço is considered the very best spot in town for eclairs. If you are going to try eclairs anywhere in town, you should try them here! Try to reach the store early in the morning to avoid the crowds as this place gets very busy during the day.
Tarte de Amêndoa
The almond tart (tarte de amêndoa) is one of the most popular cakes in Northern Portugal. The rolling hills of the Douro valley are not only famous for their cultivation of grapes. Almonds and olives are also grown here in abundance.
The popularity of almonds in Portuguese cuisine has roots in legends and fables. It is said that a Moorish king ordered hundreds of almond trees to be planted across the country. Almond trees bloom beautiful white flowers during the spring months. It was intended that these blossoms would appease the King’s Nordic Princess, who missed the snows of her homelands. Today, 60% of Portugal’s almonds are grown just outside of Porto!
The sweet almond tart is light and crunchy to taste. You can find it served at a lot of bakeries and coffee shops across Porto and Northern Portugal. The cake is made from chopped almonds, sugar, and butter. It is best enjoyed as a breakfast or brunch snack, with a side-order of coffee.
Toucinho Do Céu
Still on the topic of almonds, the toucinho do céu is a delicious almond cake that is also worth trying in Porto. This dessert is lighter and fluffier than tarte de amêndoa.
The literal translation of this cake is obscure. Toucinho do céu means “bacon from the heavens” – a name that points to the fact that the cake is prepared using pork fat, and that it was traditionally made by nuns. If you eat francesinha at the famous Cafe Santiago, you can order a toucinho do céufrom there for dessert afterward for just €2.50.
Homemade Portuguese Ice Creams
Portuguese ice cream may not have the same international acclaim as say, Italian gelato, but it is still pretty good. On a hot summer’s day in Porto, there are few better ways to cool down than with a cup of fresh, homemade ice cream.
The Gelateria Artesanal Mo-Mo (Campo dos Mártires da Pátria 171) is an artisanal ice cream store that offers an array of innovative and sometimes eccentric pairings – think passion fruit and mango, or fruit and black pearl.
Santini Gelati (Largo dos Lóios 16 20) is an ice cream store that was founded in Lisbon and Porto in 1949 by Attilio Santini – an Italian immigrant. Many Porto residents consider this to be the best ice cream shop in the country. This is the place to go if you want to try creamy, Italian-style ice cream.
One of the more unusual, yet well-loved Porto foods is canned fish. As you wander around the city, you will find many stores dedicated to selling canned fish – sometimes in very colourful and decadent packaging, with the intention that you will buy a multipack of canned fish as a souvenir. More than that though, canned fish has become something of a gourmet addition to the Portuguese dinner table.
Canned fish in Porto is made from lots of different fish delicacies. Canned fish can be created from cod (bacalhau), sardines, tuna, mackerel, and countless other varieties. If you go to a restaurant for pesticos (Portuguese tapas), you will often be served canned fish alongside local bread and olive oil.
Taberna de Largo (Largo São Domingos 69) is a good place in the city centre where you can try a selection of pesticos (tapas dishes), and see the Portuguese canned fish delicacy in action.
Jesuítas are sweet pastries that are available in Porto, yet they originated in Santo Tiros – a city in Northern Portugal. This dessert, like many other Portuguese dishes, has a religious name on account of its roots.
Vegan Options in Porto
Meat and seafood may play a huge role in Portuguese food culture, but vegan options are much easier to find than you may imagine. Over the last few years, a number of excellent health food restaurants, and restaurants catering to those with dietary restrictions have opened up across the city.
Download the “Happy Cow” app when you arrive in Porto. This will provide you with a detailed list of restaurants across the city that cater to vegans.
Nola Kitchen (Praça D. Filipa de Lencastre 25) is a trendy, central spot close to the Aliados metro station. This contemporary modern eatery was lovingly designed by a group of architect friends, and may well be one of the most aesthetically pleasing restaurants in town. Many of the menu options are vegetarian and vegan. The menu offers vegan interpretations of popular dishes from across the world – e.g. plant-based versions of Brazilian cuisine, vegan green Thai curry, etc.
Porto foods are great, but they are even better when enjoyed with a good wine or beer pairing. This city is famous for its port wine production – grapes are cultivated in the nearby Douro Valley. Wines are then produced, fermented and stored in the wine cellars of nearby Vila Nova de Gaia. Over the last few years, Porto has also emerged as an up-and-coming craft beer tasting destination.
Have any further questions about this Porto food guide, alternative Porto foods to try, or travelling to Northern Portugal in general? I based myself in Porto for 2.5 months in 2020 and got to know the city pretty well during that time. I am more than happy to help you out if I can. Feel free to drop me a comment below. Safe travels! Melissa xo
Disclaimer: High Heels and a Backpack is in no way affiliated with any of the restaurants discussed in this Porto foods guide. I simply recommend places that I have tried and love.