Portuguese love bread, we eat it in all meals, breakfast, lunch, and supper. Like Amalia says in her song ” Numa casa Portuguesa fica bem Pão e vinho sobre a mesa” – “In a Portuguese household, bread and wine on the table always look well”.
It is pretty easy to find good bread in Portugal, as there are have tons of bakeries, selling a vast variety of bread. But, all this variety may be overwhelming, understanding what’s what and choosing which bread to eat. To make your life easier, we gathered a list of the typical Portuguese bread you should try while visiting Portugal.
Best Portuguese Bread
#1 Broa (Cornbread)
Broa is a typical bread made with maize flour and wheat or maize and rye flour or simply with maize. It is a bread with a crunchy and cracked crust and a dense and humid core. There are several types of broas, more yellow or white, depending on the type of maize flour you use. Usually, the yellow broa is slighly sweeter due to the corn flour used.
This bread is associated with the peasants and the poor, while wheat bread was only available for the rich, broa was eaten by the poor. Nevertheless, don’t let that discourage you, Portuguese cornbread is delicious.
Broa is traditional in the whole country, but especially in the North and the Center. It is eaten with everything, but it is very typical to have it with a sardine on top, absorbing all the rich fat of the fish. Or, simply with olive oil and olives.
This Portuguese bread makes you feel comfortable when you eat it. It is delicious and unique — one of the more typical Portuguese things.
#2 Broa de Avintes
Broa de Avintes is a dense dark brown bread made with maize, rye, and malt flour, and cooked for a long time – 5 to 6 hours. This bread is originated in Avintes, Gaia in the North of Portugal, near to Porto. Thus its name (Cornbread from Avintes)
Broa de Avintes has a bittersweet flavor, a humid texture, and it’s very, very dense. It also has a very unique shape of a bell tower. This is quite a peculiar bread, and when we were children, we used to call it chocolate bread due to its dark color, but it doesn’t taste anything like chocolate (obviously). In Avintes, it is traditional to eat fried slices of Broa of Avintes.
Regueifa is a fluffy wheat bread with a soft light crust, and a white spongy interior. With a unique shape of a circle and it is mostly traditional in Minho and Aveiro. It’s not easy to find it in the south of Portugal.
People used to buy it on Sundays after mass, carrying it in the arm through the middle hole, and it is sometimes known as “Rosca” or Sunday bread. It is a deliciously fluffy bread, but it is better eaten fresh (preferably still hot), as it doesn’t age very well.
There is also a sweet Regueifa (Regueifa doce), a sweet bread made with sugar, cinnamon, and lemon (sometimes with Port wine), traditional in Easter
#4 Pão Alentejano (Bread of Alentejo)
As the name says, Pão Alentejano comes from the region of Alentejo, and it is one of Portugal’s most typical bread. It is made with wheat flour, has a light brown crust and a fluffy core, and tastes slightly sour as it is made with sourdough. It also has a characteristic format as it is more elevated at one end of the bread. It is simply divine.
Bread is Alentejo’s staple food, they use it in everything as it’s very versatile. It’s even used as an ingredient in main dishes like in Açorda (a bread-based soup) or Migas(bread-based dumplings), or as a complement to the dish. Sometimes bread and olives are the only things you need to elevate a dish to another level.
Alentejo unlike the rest of the country is rich in wheat, it used to be known as Portugal’s barn. This means that wheat flour was usually available in Alentejo, so it was frequently used.
#5 Pão de Mafra (Bread of Mafra)
Pão de Mafra is one of Portugal’s most well known and appreciated bread, principally in Lisbon. It is produced in Mafra, a city about 40 km from Lisbon. It is a bread with a crunchy crust, a very light interior, with a high percentage of hydration and numerous irregular holes. You can find pão de Mafra with different formats, round or elongated, and whatever the form, they are delicious.
For bread to by classified as Pão de Mafra, it has to have specific characteristics: it has to be produced in Mafra; made with ingredients of the region; cooked in a traditional masonry oven. Despite this, it is easy to get hold of them, particularly in Lisbon.
#6 Papo seco, Carcaça, Molete, Bijou
Papo Seco or Carcaça is a small individual bread elongated, with a tear in the middle. It is a fluffy wheat bread with a crunchy crust. While Molete or Bijou is slightly smaller and round bread also fluffy with a crunchy crust. The fact is these types of bread aren’t much different from each other, it is mostly the denomination of the bread that changes throughout the country. In the North it is usual to call it Molete, Papo Seco is used in the center and Carcaça in Lisbon.
This type of bread is the most commonly eaten by Portuguese, we eat if for breakfast, as a snack, and for sandwiches. Unlike money other countries, this small individual bread is the cheapest, it is the day to day bread in Portugal, this was due to political reasons during the dictatorship of Salazar. You will find them in every bakery in the country.
#7 Bolo do Caco (Caco cake)
Bolo do Caco is a typical wheat bread of Madeira island. It is an underdone, slightly leavened, round flatbread with more a less 3 cm high with the shape of a cake, thus the name. Traditionally, the bread is cooked on a Caco, a flat basalt stone slab, but you can also do it on a frying pan.
Bolo do Caco is so good, especially with garlic butter. But, it is also used to make sandwiches with ham, cheese, fried eggs… or a delicious variation the typical prego (pork steak).
#8 Bolos lêvedos (levedos cake)
Bolos lêvedos are a typical wheat bread original from the island of Açores, in particular of Furnas in São Miguel. Nowadays, they are actually more of a sweet flatbread, but in the past, they were savory, didn’t have eggs, and were eaten during the Easter lent. Now they are fluffy, sweet, toasted outside but slightly undercooked. Traditionally they were cooked in a wood oven, but normally they are done on a frying pan on the stove.
Bolos lêvedos can be eaten with everything, but are especially good with jam and fresh cheese. So when you visit Açores don’t forget to try bolo lêvedo, there is even an expression that says ” visiting Furnas and not eating Bolo Lêvedo is like going to Rome and not seeing the Pope”.
#9 Pão of Mealhada (Bread of Mealhada)
Pão of Mealhada is a typical bread from the region of Mealhada, also known as Coroa (crown) due to its shape round with 4 beaks. This small wheat bread is very appreciated in the center of Portugal. In the past, it used to be done with less refined flour and in a wood oven.
Pão of Mealhada is also very famous because of the “sandes de leitão” (piglet sandwich). Leitão à Bairrada is a typical dish from Mealhada – people all over Portugal come to this region to eat this traditional Portuguese dish. Sandes de Leitao is one of Portugal’s best sandwiches, and it is done with Pão and leitão of Mealhada. If you haven’t tried yet, you simply must.
#10 Pão de alfarroba (Bread of Alfarroba)
Pão of Alfarroba is a typical bread from the South of Portugal, it is made with wheat and alfarroba (carob pod) flour. Alfarroba is the fruit of the Carob tree (Alfarrobeira), which is native to the Mediterranean region and exists in abundance in Algarve.
Alfarroba is used to bake bread, cakes, cookies, and produce liquors in Algarve. The pod is dried and then grounded, transforming it into flour. In Algarve when there was a shortage of wheat they used it to do this bread. Pão of Alfarroba is dark and dense with notes of Malt. It’s not a favorite of ours, but it surely has a distinctive flavor.
Padas is a typical bread from the center of Portugal, Aveiro. This bread has the shape of two small bread united. It is made with white wheat flour or wholemeal flour making it more light or dark. This bread has a high percentage of hydration, with a crunchy crust and a soft airy core.
It was traditionally baked in domestic wooden oven, principally in Vale de Ílhavo, land backers. But, nowadays, you can find it throughout Portugal.
#12 Pão de Rio Maior (Bread of Rio Maior)
Made with wheat flour, Rio Maior bread has a crispy crust and a soft, delicious interior. It can be served in a big loaf or small individual rolls. As the name suggests this bread comes from the city of Rio Maior, 72 km from Lisbon, this bread used to be served with Piri-Piri Chicken. Though, in the present, it is eaten with everything and sold throughout the whole country.
#13 Pão de Centeio (Rye Bread)
Pão de Centeio is bread made with Rye flour. It is a dense, dry brown bread with a crunchy and cracked crust. Typical in the interior center of Portugal, particularly in Guarda. It used to be cooked in community wooden ovens, where each family cooked their loaf of rye bread.
Rye and Corn Bread were the staples bread, the most eaten in the past. Portugal didn’t produce wheat in abundance, only Alentejo produced it, and it wasn’t enough for the whole country.
#14 Bolo de Azeite (Olive oil bread)
Bolo de Azeite is a bread made with olive oil and eggs and wheat flour. In Portuguese, it’s named a cake of Olive oil, although it isn’t sweet, it was called cake to differentiate from the daily bread, as it is a special and richer kind of bread. The olive oil bread was usually eaten at Easter and is traditional in the interior of Portugal (Guarda and Covilhã) where olive oil is produced in abundance.
It isn’t easy or frequent to find this bread, but if you are traveling through the Interior of Portugal and find it, give it a try.
#15 Pão de leite (Milk Bread)
Pão de Leite is a bread made with milk, wheat flour, butter, and eggs, and it is slightly sweet. It is very fluffy and soft, so children love it. Although it isn’t a traditional Portuguese bread, you will find it frequently in bakeries as it is very appreciated by the Portuguese.
As you can see, Portugal has plenty of types of bread, and we only covered the most important ones. You will find many more varieties of bread in Portuguese bakeries, if you have an opportunity to try also to eat: Caralhotas de Almeirim, rye bread of Castro Laboreiro, Water bread, Cornos bread, among others. Many villages have their typical broa ou Rye bread, but here we covered the most typical Portuguese bread and the ones you will find easier.
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