Are you wondering what to eat in Porto when you visit the northern Portugal city? Read on to discover 25 must-eat Porto food favorites that you don’t want to miss during your trip to the magical city located on the banks of the Douro River.
Porto is a breathtakingly beautiful city that’s famous around the world for its Port Wine lodges. These storied cellars, located on the southern bank of the Douro River, are the only place in the world where legitimate Port wine can be aged. They also provide a golden opportunity for Port drinkers to taste a range of the spirit-fortified wine in a small, walkable environment.
However, many first time visitors don’t know what or where to eat when they visit Porto for the first time. Adding an extra challenge, tourist trap eateries often occupy the same touristic blocks as better restaurants.
Take a Porto food tour for a quick introduction to the food of Porto.
During our initial Porto visit in 2007 we had no clue about where to eat. Now that we live and eat in Portugal on a full time basis, we’ve made a concerted effort to find the best restaurants in Porto and eat the city’s best food. As a result, we now have a firm handle on the city’s food and restaurant offerings in one of Portugal’s top food cities.
Read our Porto restaurant guide now.
Table of Contents
- Porto Food Favorites
- Porto Sandwiches
- Porto Food Classics
- Seafood Dishes
- Porto Pastries
- Porto Drinks
Porto Food Favorites
When exploring Porto, many travelers want to drink Port Wine all day. Don’t do it! This hedonistic, reckless approach will put you into a semi-permanent state of malaise. Plus, you’d miss out on awesome sites like Livraria Lello and the Palácio da Bolsa. Drinking on an empty stomach is a serious rookie mistake that we strongly advise against.
With a little planning and a few advance reservations, it’s entirely possible to sample all the best food in Porto and drink plenty of Port Wine during a short visit. And, as it turns out, Porto has drinks to imbibe beyond Port Wine.
As you plan your culinary explanation of the food in Porto, we recommend starting with sandwiches – the most popular Porto street food.
Porto rivals American sandwich cities like Philadelphia and New Orleans as well as global sandwich cities like Paris and Florence. It’s entirely possible to limit your food choices to sandwiches in Porto. They’re that good.
The city’s most famous sandwich, the Francesinha, is utterly unique and decidedly decadent. However, this gut-busting icon isn’t the only Porto sandwich worth eating.
Read on to discover four sandwiches you cannot miss on any food trip to Porto:
1. Francesinha (Signature Porto Sandwich)
The Francesinha isn’t just Porto’s most famous food. The unusual open faced sandwich, which requires utensils and a hefty appetite, is big enough to be a meal. And that’s not counting the pile of french fries that typically orbit this caloric monster.
Allegedly inspired by France’s Croque Monsieur, the Francesinha is filled with meaty ingredients like steak, ham, chourićo and sausage. But that’s only the beginning. Each of these bad boys is covered with melted cheese, smothered with tangy tomato beef gravy and topped it with a fried egg.
While you can find Francesinha sandwiches all over Portugal, there’s no argument that they’re just a little bit better in Porto. As to which is the best Francesinha is best, there’s only one way to find out – a Porto Francesinha crawl. If you go that route, we suggest you come hungry and start your journey at Café Santiago. We also recommend long walks between stops – about 2 to 3 kilometers each.
2. Pernil com Queijo (Pork Sandwich with Cheese)
The Pernil com Queijo sandwich wasn’t on our radar until we visited Porto. After one bite, we wondered where the sandwich had been all our lives.
Pernil com Queijo translates to ham with cheese but this sandwich is so much more than its simple name implies. Porto cooks stuff crispy rolls with slow-cooked pork leg slices and ooey-gooey, slightly funky Serra da Estrela cheese (see below) to make Pernil com Queijo sandwiches. The combination elevates the great sandwich to legendary status
Where to Eat the Best Sande de Pernil in Porto
3. Bifana (Pork Steak Sandwich)
Portuguese people love to grab a Bifana or two on the go. This stewed pork sandwich is popular and prevalent all over Portugal.
Both simple and satisfying, Porto’s Bifanas are saucier and more flavorful than Bifanas in Lisbon and Cascais. Though condiments like Piri-Piri sauce and hot mustard are a necessity in the south, they merely complement the juicy sandwiches served in Porto.
Where to Eat the Best Bifana in Porto
4. Cachorrinho (Porto Hot Dog)
Cachorrinhos look like chopped hot dogs but taste even better. To make them, cooks stuff toasted oval Portuguese rolls with grilled sausage before adding melted cheese and spicy sauce and chopping the sandwiches into bite-sized pieces.
Don’t think that this is a niche product that you may or may not easily find in Porto. While Gazela Cachorrinhos da Batalha has been serving Cachorrinhos to a steady stream of customers since 1962, many Porto snack shops now serve Cachorrinhos, often with fries and usually with cold beer.
Where to Eat the Best Cachorrinho in Porto
Gazela Cachorrinhos da Batalha
Porto Food Classics
Traditional Portuguese food is both easy to find and fun to eat in Porto. Some of the best dishes have local roots while others hail from different cities.
Regardless of their origin, these are the classic Portuguese dishes you need to eat in Porto:
5. Tripas à Moda do Porto (Porto Tripe Dish)
Tripas à Moda do Porto features tripe – a classic offal that usually garners a mixed response from food lovers. We get that many are turned off by the thought of eating stomach. However, adventurous eaters won’t want to miss this iconic tripe dish that dates back to the Middle Ages.
The dish was so associated with the northern city centuries ago that Porto residents became known as Triperios, a nickname still used today. Like many foods, the Tripas à Moda do Porto recipe has evolved over the centuries. In addition to beans, which were discovered by Portuguese explorers, typical ingredients include veal, pork, chicken, carrots, bay leaves, onion and garlic.
6. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (Porto Salt Cod Dish)
While Bacalhau a Bras is a staple at tascas throughout the Iberian nation, Porto’s casual restaurants serve a similar but different dish called Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá. While this dish may sound unfamiliar, it’s unique to Porto
A Porto local aptly named Gomes de Sá invented the salt cod casserole more than a century ago using ingredients including salted cod, eggs, olives, onions and ptoatoes. If you think that these ingredients are similar to the ones used to create Bacalhau a Bras, you are correct. If you think that it’s worth giving Bacalhau à Gomes a try, you’re also correct.
7. Caldo Verde (Kale Soup)
Caldo Verde translates to green broth but don’t let the literal translation turn you off. Although this soup was invented in Minho, it’s readily available throughout the country. The comforting, poor man’s soup ‘stretches’ ingredients like potatoes, kale and olive oil to make a nourishing meal.
Discover more of the best soups in the world.
Most bowls of Caldo Verde include a slice or two of chouriço which provide a hint of smokey flavor and a bit of protein. While we covet these slices whenever we slurp the soup at home or in Porto restaurants, vegetarians and vegans can skip adding the meaty morsels to their bowls.
8. Papas de Sarrabulho (Meat Porridge)
Papas de Sarrabulho hails from Minho, just 60 kilometers (approximately 37 miles) north of Porto. The savory porridge’s ingredients include beef, chicken, chorizo, pig’s blood and sausage. Lemon and cumin enhance the dish’s meaty flavor while flour binds it all together.
If you’re intrigued and want to eat like a meat-loving Portuguese peasant, you’ll need to travel to Porto during the winter. Not only is this dish hard to find in cities like Lisbon at any time of the year, but it’s traditionally served in colder months when local pigs are slaughtered.
Some of the best foods in the world are rooted in poverty. Made with day-old bread and pantry staples, Portugal’s Açorda is one of these dishes.
In its simplest form, Açorda, with roots that trace back to the Muslims, is a soup made with slightly stale bread, olive oil, garlic, vinegar, eggs and herbs. Porto chefs take the dish further by adding seafood to create a dish called Açorda de Marisco. If you see this dish on a Porto menu, order it
Where to Eat The Best Açorda in Porto
Taberna Dos Mercadores
10. Alheira de Mirandela
People who don’t eat pork are in for a treat in Portugal – Alheira de Mirandela. Invented in Trás-os-Montes, about 200 kilometers or 125 miles northwest of Porto, this sausage ‘farce’ has a juicy story…
During the Inquisition, Portuguese Jews were forced to convert to Catholicism to avoid persecution. They ate Alheira de Mirandela during that dark time to demonstrate their conversion to the Christian faith. However, while it looked like sausage, Alheira de Mirandela was actually stuffed with beef, poultry or game meat in accordance to kosher dietary laws.
Centuries later, Alheira de Mirandela, with a texture reminiscent of Eastern European Kishka, is now more prevalent in cities like Porto than the few Jewish people who remained in the country after the Inquisition. Tascas and other casual restaurants typically top Alheira de Mirandela with a fried egg and serve the dish with rice and potatoes.
Where to Eat Alheira in Porto
Any and Every Tasca
11. Queijo da Serra da Estrela (Cheese)
Portugal produces a significant amount of cheeses, with more than a dozen achieving Designation of Origin (PDO) status. The best Portuguese cheeses are small, cylindrical torta cheeses best eaten with a spoon.
Removing the top of a queijo reveals a spreadable silky, aromatic paste. These Portuguese cheeses provide a unique tangy bite since coagulation of the milk is traditionally achieved using thistle rennet.
When we’re at home, we eat Queijo de Azeitão, a spreadable sheep milk cheese that’s produced in the Setubal district near Lisbon. However, we eat equally spreadable Serra da Estrela when we’re in northern cities like Porto. Produced in a mountainous region northeast of Coimbra, Serra da Estrela is the country’s most lauded cheese.
Where to Buy Queijo da Serra da Estrela in Porto
Queijaria Do Almada and Local Porto Markets
Seafood eaters won’t be disappointed in Porto. Many of the city’s restaurants feature an array of seafood dishes. This is no surprise since it’s a short drive from Porto to Montesinho, one of Portugal’s great seafood hubs.
Whether you eat seafood locally in Porto or hop on a bus or Uber and head to Montesinho, these are the seafood dishes that you won’t want to miss during your visit:
12. Arroz de Marisco (Seafood Rice)
Porto’s access to Montesinho’s shellfish bounty goes hand in hand with the popularity of Arroz de Marisco. This must-eat dish combines shellfish favorites like clams, crabs, lobster, mussels and shrimp with short grain rice and flavorful broth.
Arroz de Marisco is conidered to be one of Portuguese gastronomy’s seven wonders along with Alheiras de Mirandela, Caldo Verde, Leitão da Bairrada, Sardinha Assada, Serra da Estrela and the iconic Pastel de Belém. If you’re going to try the seafood rice dish anywhere, you might as well eat Arroz de Marisco in Porto or nearby Montesinho.
13. Gambas a l’Ajilo (Garlic Prawns)
Gambas a l’Ajilo is one of our favorite dishes to eat in Portugal. A mix of prawns, butter or olive oil, herbs and chilis, these Portuguese garlic prawns are all about simplicity.
Although shrimp is available at most Portuguese markets, we typically eat Gambas a l’Ajilo at marisqueiras (seafood restaurants) in cities like Lisbon and Porto. We also make the garlic prawn dish at home. We’ve even developed a Gambas a l’Ajilo recipe that’s both easy to execute and divine to eat.
14. Sardinhas (Sardines)
Cod isn’t the only popular finned fish in Portugal. Sardines take center stage on outdoor grills in warm summer months when they hit the plate in a dish called Sardinhas Assadas. During the fall, they’re floured and fried in Porto tascas..
If you enjoy eating tapas in Spain, then you’ll love sampling petiscos in Portugal. Despite having different names, the snack food concept is fairly similar in both Iberian countries. However, the dishes aren’t the same.
While Spanish tapas features items like Bombas and Bocadillos, Portuguese tascas and petisqueiras serve heartier dishes like Chouriço Assado and Pica-Pau as well as more ‘snacky’ options like Peixinhos da Horta. When we’re in the mood for a lite bite or meal starter in Porto, these are our favorites:
15. Bolinhos do Bacalhau (Codfish Fritters)
More than a snack and less than a meal, Bolinho de Bacalhau are fried cakes made with cod and potatoes instead of sugar and flour. In then south, these same cod fritters are called Pastéis de Bacalhau.
Regardless of the name, a Bolinho de Bacalhau is a delight to eat hot out of the fryer. One bite into the crispy fritter reveals a creamy mixture made with bacalhau and potatoes as well as eggs and parsley. Three bites later, it will be nothing more than a happy memory.
One Pastel de Bacalhau is rarely enough and three are too many. In other words, plan to start your meal with two Pastéis de Bacalhau.
Where to Eat Bolinhos do Bacalhau in Porto
Any and Every Tasca and Petisqueira
For the uninitiated, the Rissol is a classic Portuguese petisco that usually involves deep frying a patties made with meat, fish and cheese inside a pastry shell. While Rissóis are available at Petisqueira all over Portugal, they’re best eaten in Porto thanks to the owners of Oficina dos Rissóis.
Originally from France, Alexandra Chasans and Louis Druesne source many of their ingredients from local farms and slow cook their veal Burgundian-style for nine hours. Then, instead of frying their Rissóis, the duo bakes them in a convection oven.
Where to Eat the Best Rissóis in Porto
Oficina dos Rissóis
17. Peixinhos da Horta (Fried Green Beans)
Food travelers will be fascinated by Portugal’s tasty Peixinhos da Horta. These breaded and fried green beans don’t just look like tempura. They’re actually the inspiration for the Japanese food favorite!
History reveals that the Portuguese have been frying breaded green beans for centuries. Portuguese missionaries introduced the dish to Japan in the 16th century.
Despite a name that literally translates to little fish from the garden, Peixinhos da Horta is a vegetarian dish. The fish connotation refers to the dish’s shape and not its ingredients.
Where to Eat Peixinhos da Horta in Porto
Traditional Restaurants, Tascas and Petisqueira
Finding pastries in Porto is the opposite of a challenge thanks to the Portuguese people’s infatuation with white sugar and egg yolks. Most neighborhoods have multiple pastelerias, sometimes more than one on a single block, with many serving Portugal’s most iconic pastry – the Pastel de Nata.
Discover the best Portuguese pastries.
While the temptation to eat a Pastel de Nata or two every morning is hard to resist, Porto’s bakeries serve a plethora of other pastries. We recommend starting with the following sweet treats:
Yes, it’s true. Our favorite Porto pastry isn’t a Pastel de Nata. Perhaps it’s because we live in Lisbon, the home of the Portugal’s popular egg tart. Or maybe we love Porto’s Éclairs just a little bit more. Either way, we can’t get enough Éclairs whenever we visit Porto.
A local favorite for a century, Leitaria da Quinta do Paço has been filling Éclairs with fresh Chantilly cream and topping them with milk chocolate since the 1920s. They also offer flavors like zippy lemon and crunchy, chocolatey, decadent croquant.
Where to Eat the Best Éclairs in Porto
Leitaria do Quinta do Paćo
19. Pastel de Nata
Although monks in Belèm get credit for the inventing Portugal’s world-famous egg tart, some bakers in Porto have tweaked the original Pastel de Nata recipe to make it a Porto pastry. These bakers don’t just serve the tart with Port Wine, they also add fortified elixir into the batter.
Porto has plenty of Lisbon Pastel de Nata shops including Manteigaria, Fábrica da Nata and Natas Lisboa. However, the smart move is to skip them all and eat egg tarts at Natas d’Ouro, a shop that’s based in Northern Portugal, instead.
You may wonder about the differences between Lisbon natas and the natas at Natas d’Ouro. For starters, they come in fun flavors. During our morning visit, we went all out by ordering two natas – one chocolate and one port – and paired them with little glasses of Port Wine. The combination was golden.
Where to Eat the Best Pasteis de Nata in Porto
20. Bola de Berlim
Traveling donut fans can satisfy their donut cravings in Porto by eating a Bola de Berlim. However, this Portuguese pastry isn’t actually related to American donuts. Instead, immigrants brought the concept to Portugal from Germany almost a century ago.
Porto’s Bola de Berlim is bigger and sweeter than a jam-filled Berliner in Berlin. Although doce de ovos, a sweet cream made with egg yolks and sugar, is the typical filling, we prefer chocolate inside our fried bundles of joy. The only way to discover which is your favorite filling is to try both.
As is the case with most Portuguese pastries, Portuguese Croissants are sweeter, heavier and doughier than their European brethren. Even plain ones get a sprinkling of powdered sugar for good measure.
We mentioned that Porto is famous for its Port Wine lodges and we weren’t kidding. Oenophiles travel from all corners of the earth to taste ruby, white and tawny Port Wine at the source.
While drinking Port Wine in Porto is an absolute must, it’s not the only drink in town. Consider the following beverages when you’re feeling thirsty in Porto:
22. Port Wine
Porto’s history with Port Wine is long and deep.
Port Wine lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia have been aging the fortified wine product in barrels since the 18th century. Many of these lodges also offer individual tastings and and group tours for curious wine enthusiasts who travel to Porto today.
Plan to end your Porto evenings with small glasses of Port while you’re in Porto. Better yet, visit one or more Port house and taste ruby, tawny, white and vintage Port. Once you find your favorite, you’ll want to buy a bottle or two to take home as drinkable souvenirs. Be sure to to buy an extra bottle so that you can craft Porto Tonico cocktails at home.
Not surprisingly, many of the same grapes used to produce Port Wine in the Douro Valley also create wonderful wines. While Douro’s wines are available around the world, Porto has an auspicious selection of both red and white wine from the nearby region.
And the best part? Drinking locally produced, world class wine in Porto is a great bargain. Accordingly, buying a few extra bottles to take home is a no-brainer.
Where to Drink Wine in Porto
Any and Every Bar, Tasca and Restaurant
24. Craft Beer
Drinking beer in Porto is no passing fad considering that locals have been downing imperials filled with Super Bock lager for decades. Today, however, beer drinkers can also enjoy a range of locally brewed craft beer in the northern Portuguese city.
Brewers including A Fábrica da Picaria, Colossus Craft Brewery, Fábrica Nortada and Sovina are now crafting quality beers in Porto. While motivated beer geeks can schedule brewery tastings at one or more of these breweries, the rest of us can imbibe pints at local brew pubs.
25. Specialty Coffee
While some people are satisfied to start their days with commodity Portuguese coffee, we’re not those people. Luckily, since Porto has joined coffee’s third wave, finding specialty coffee in Porto is easy to do.
Locals have flocked to Majestic Café since 1921; however, modern coffee drinkers will prefer Porto’s vibrant coffee culture that rivals the Lisbon coffee scene. This culture includes more than a half dozen cafes on both sides of the Douro River, each serving flat whites, cappuccinos and pour overs with a free side of internet.
Useful Porto Facts
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: October 17, 2021