Top 10 foods to try in Lisbon

Lisbon is a European capital filled with new-wave Portuguese cuisine and bustling street markets. Grab yourself a bargain flight and take a foodie holiday.

Top 10 things to eat in Lisbon

Lisbon is the on-trend-destination for 2017 and a bargain city to visit compared to other European capitals. With smart new restaurants offering new-wave Portuguese dishes, old-style establishments serving classics and plenty of bars and food markets, it’s the perfect foodie destination.

Don't leave Lisbon without trying...

Polvo à lagareiro (octopus roasted in olive oil)

If there is one thing the Portuguese never stint on, it’s olive oil (azeite). ‘À lagareiro’ means ‘in the style of the olive oil producer’, or rather, the person who had a whole tank (lagar) of olive oil at their disposal. Octopus tentacles are roasted in lashings of olive oil, with plenty of garlic and salt, and served with ‘batatas a murro’ (punched potatoes) which are boiled, then finished off alongside the octopus in its oil, having first been punched to break the skin. This is also a common way of cooking bacalhau (salt cod).

Alheira

Alheira

These smoked sausages have a true backstory – it's thought that they came about in the 16th Century, when the Jewish community were hiding from the Portuguese Inquisition by pretending to have converted to Catholicism. A lack of pork sausages hanging in the pantry was a big giveaway that they hadn’t converted at all, so the alheira was invented to look and smell like a cured pork sausage. They're made with chicken or game, garlic and bread (and usually pork fat, so absolutely not kosher), then smoked. They have a slightly vinegary taste which cuts through the clagginess of the soft bread stuffing. If you eat alheira in a restaurant, it will be usually be fried, sometimes grilled, and served with chips or rice and the ubiquitous fried egg that the Portuguese love so much.
 

Ovos mexidos com farinheira (scrambled eggs with farinheira)

Farinheira is another smoked sausage pretending to be a pork sausage, which contains just flour, fat and the flavourings of a chouriço (salt, garlic and paprika). It melts into the texture of dumplings when it is cooked into scrambled eggs and it is often served as a starter.
 

Favas com enchidos (broad bean stew with sausages)

Favas

A mixture of cured sausages – chouriço, farinheira and morcela (blood sausage with cumin) – join short ribs and belly pork in this slow-cooked broad bean stew. Mint and coriander are sometimes added to the stew in good quantities and give it a deep, interesting flavour not found in other meat stews.
 

Cozido à Portuguesa (Portuguese stew)

Like many traditional Portuguese dishes, cozido isn’t pretty. Its name literally means ‘a boil up, Portuguese style’ and that's exactly what it is. To make it, various sausages are placed in the base of a huge deep pan: chouriço, farinheira and morcela are the the basics. Cuts of pork and beef (some lean meat, but usually plenty of belly, ribs and chunks of ears, feet and noses) are placed on top of the sausages. Above that is a layer of peeled potatoes, and then cabbage, carrots, green beens and sometimes turnips. The pan is topped up with water and boiled. It sounds (and looks) awful, but the intense flavours of the sausages filters up through the meat and vegetables, imparting their distinct flavour along the way. Pasta and rice is often cooked in the resulting broth to be served alongside the rest. It is the favourite dish of many Portuguese as it's traditionally eaten as Sunday lunch.
 

Queijo de Azeitão (Azeitão sheep’s milk cheese) 

The Portuguese are fanatical about cheese, mostly sheep cheeses, which tend to be the most interesting, plus the stinkier ones. Queijo de Azeitão is a PDO cheese made about 35km away from Lisbon. It has a buttery centre which you scoop out onto bread or crackers. The Portuguese find any excuse to eat cheese; as a starter, at the end of a meal, or any time of the day just because.
 

Peixe e marisco (fish and seafood)

Apart from eating a lot of meat, the Portuguese take advantage of the 800 kilometre coastline and eat beautifully fresh fish and seafood. The best way to eat fish is simply grilled over charcoal. Many fish are eaten throughout the year, such as robalo (sea bass), dourada (sea bream), garoupa (grouper), cherne (wreckfish, a wonderful meaty kind of grouper) and atum (tuna) and salmonetes (red mullet). However, the best time to eat Portugal’s best known fish, the sardine, is in the early summer, grilled and served on a thick slice of sourdough bread with grilled bell pepper salad. Seafood is also best eaten simply steamed or boiled, or in very simple concoctions such as dressed sapateira/carangueijo (crab), amêijoas à Bulhão Pato (clams with garlic, coriander and lemon juice) or gambas al ajillo (large prawns in garlic, strangely called the Spanish name instead of the Portuguese). The purest taste of the sea comes in the form of percebes (gooseneck barnacles) that look like dinosaur claws.
 

Torresmos (Portuguese pork scratchings) 

Torresmos come in many different forms, there is even a kind of sliced ham version, that looks like those soap bars made from soap offcuts. The one to look out for is torresmos from the Alentejo, usually found in tascas, the Portuguese equivalent of a “greasy spoon” café. Just like pork scratchings, they are made from fried pork skin and fat, but in this version much of the lard is sealed into the torresmos. Worth nibbling on for the intense pork flavour.
 

Bacalhau à brás (scrambled eggs and salt cod)

Bacalhau

Salt cod is famously cooked in hundreds of different ways. Having been salt cured and then rehydrated, the flesh is very versatile. It can be flaked or shredded without becoming a mush, like fresh fish might. Bacalhau à Brás is made with flaked salt cod, pan-fried with finely cut potato chips, then enveloped in creamy scrambled eggs and topped off with black olive and parsley. It is supreme comfort food, and just another way of eating eggs, something the Portuguese are very fond of. 
 

Sericaia com ameixa de Elvas (a soft eggy cake and a crystallized plum) 

There are thousands of cakes and puddings in Portugal in which the main ingredient is egg. Sericaia is at the lighter end of the scale. Made from eggs, milk and a little flour, dusted with cinnamon and usually served with its traditional accompaniment of an Elvas plum, a plum crystallised in its own syrup. It is a dense but light pudding with which to end a meal. Of course, no trip to Lisbon will ever be complete without eating a pastel de nata. They can be found in most cafés in the city, including a handful which specialize in these world-famous custard tarts. The best are the ones with the most buttery pastry and the wobbliest custard.

Is there anything delicious we've missed off our list? Let us know in the comments below...

All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of the 01 January 2017 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out of date information in this guide please e-mail us at goodfoodwebsite@bbc.com.

Comments, questions and tips

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Magoo6
18th May, 2017
Has nobody mentioned Pasteis de Nata. Tiny custard filled filo pastry tarts.....made in Balem. I challenge you to try one....only one. Addictive, delicious served warm with a hint of cinnamon. About £1 each. Possibly the best reason to stay in the EU !!!
AnitaS67
6th Mar, 2017
After living a decade in the UK I missed so much Portuguese food, it would be impossible to list what's missing in this list, there is so much more from traditional dishes to desserts to find out, and it's not just the food it's the lifestyle, there is a restaurant or a café in every corner and for every pocket, menus from 5€ or a coffee and a cake from 1.5€. So anyone can sit in a café and watch the world go by, have a chat with a friend over an expresso to which we call "Bica", it's merely 60 cents. A decade later coming back to Lisbon it's like opening a gift box, there is a new array of amazing food places, cafes, pastry shops, tea rooms, healthy food, vegetarian, markets filled with food stores, the traditional restaurants, it is definitely a foodies Paradise. As for a tip, ask for a cheap and traditional "Bitoque" a steak cooked in garlic and butter, with french fries, white rice, salad and a fried egg... and for dessert, anything with "Doce de ovos", eggs yolks cooked in a sugar syrup, is worth trying ;-)
bill.faber@tin.it
4th Mar, 2017
What about Leitao (suckling pig with crackling), Cataplana (clams with belly-pork) or Chanfana (jugged goat in red wine and herbs)??
Charlecinho
2nd Mar, 2017
Surely there has to be a mention of Pastéis de Bacalhau (Salted Cod Fritters). You can get them for example at Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau on Rua Augusta. Some have said the experience is a bit touristy and the pastéis a little expensive - and that the ones with cheese are too cheesy... But no one can deny that the basic product is wondrous - soft yet crispy on the outside and bursting with flavour - perfect for a lunchtime snack.
feetrabbit
3rd Jan, 2017
OK, 4 notes: 1. Sardines are best eaten when Summer is well on its way out (early September): the fish grows with time (in the sea) and we like them big, plump and oily. One often hears people stating: "it's tasty, but it's still too small!" 2. The dish 'cozido à Portuguesa' is not prepared as you state. All items are cooked whole and many times separate, after which the meats are cut into small pieces and the sausages into slices. Meats are cooked together, then sausages (which take less time). Rice cooks in the meat broth, as do potatoes (whole) and white beans.The cabbages are left till last as they take the least time to cook: savoy and a strong, big, dark green, kale-like cabbage, Portuguese cabbage. Some people add chichen to the dish, but that's not so traditional. NO green beans are eaten with this dish, and NO pasta is eaten as well. Rice is. And we usually eat this during Winter, as it is very hearty. Sausages used: chouriço, morcela (black pudding), farinheira and another black sausage, with grey casing, that one spreads over the cabbage. 3. You neglected to mention the most famous place in the entire city of Lisbon that caters to the "nata"-loving person: 'pastéis de Belém'. However, even here there is confusion. Pastel de Nata ('pastry of cream', we write nouns first), is a pastry made of a casing of puff pastry, filled with a mix of cream, eggs and sugar. Quite fattening, but heavenly. The famous pastry shop (that used to be a storage facility for goods coming into the city, at the time of the discoveries - around 1500) called 'pastéis de Belém' sells them, but replaces cream for milk. That is brought in daily from the most famous dairy factory in the country. Rumour has it that 6 of these are less fattening than a Pastel de Nata. 4. To single out Sericaia, when there are millions of desserts/puddings/sweets one can taste in Lisbon is, to say the least, cruel.... we LOVE sugar, eggs and almonds and nuns used to have plenty of time, in their convents, to think up ways of using up the egg yolks left over from ironing the priests' collars to have left us with absolutely marvellous creations that go straight for the hip (that used to be for the bishops and noble families). However, you'll be so delighted with how they taste, you won't mind - you'll be in heaven... Enjoy!
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bill.faber@tin.it
3rd Mar, 2017
What about Cataplana (clams and belly-pork), Chanfana (jugged goat) and Leitao (sucking pig with crackling)??