Porto is the definitive Portuguese destination for food lovers! In addition to having good food, in Porto, the portions are generous. Moreover, eating in Porto is cheap, especially compared to Lisbon and the Algarve. Finally, Porto has food for all tastes, comfort food, homemade food, snacks, sandwiches, meat, and good fish.
Porto’s gastronomy is heavily influenced by the food of the rest of northern Portugal. For this reason, you will find traditional dishes from Minho and Trás dos Montes, characterized by comfort food from the countryside and food that satiates hunger. In Porto, you can also find all the other traditional dishes of Portugal, like cod dishes, Portuguese stew, octopus, fish stew, roast kid, and many more.
We have to mention that we are from the Greater Porto region, so this article is special for us – we love Northern Portuguese food and want to encourage everyone to experience it. Porto is a city for those who like to eat and try new flavors. So let’s analyze the different typical Porto dishes and explore what to eat in Porto.
What to eat in Porto? – Starters
You usually find bread, cheese, butter, olives, and sausages at a restaurant. Sometimes they are already on the table; other times, they are served while you choose the main dishes. It’s well worth a try, as the ingredients are of good quality. But keep in mind that the starters are not free. If you consume, you have to pay. So if you prefer not to eat anything, you can ask the employees to remove it from the table.
Broa de Avintes
Broa de Avintes is a type of Portuguese bread originating in the parish of Avintes in Vila Nova de Gaia, which belongs to the Porto district. It is a very peculiar bread due to its density that sometimes appears in the bread baskets served in Porto restaurants. In addition to finding it in restaurants, many bakeries and grills sell Avintes bread.
This is a dense, dark, moist bread with a sweet and sour taste. It is made with corn flour, rye, and malt and is cooked for long periods (about 5 to 6 hours). It may be a bit strange-looking, but it’s delicious, and people from Porto love it.
Best foods in Porto – Snacks
Bifana is one of the best sandwiches in Portugal. It is made with pork sausage cooked with lots of garlic and a spicy sauce. The meat is placed on a bun with a bit of sauce. Despite not being originally from Porto and ubiquitous in Portugal, it is cooked differently from the rest of the country. In Porto, it is made with very thin and small meat slices that are stewed in a spicy tomato sauce. The meat is added to a small bun called “papo seco or mulete”.
Bifana is seen as a snack or even as street food. It is eaten on popular festival days like São João and other festivities. You won’t want to eat only one, as they are addictive. The best place to eat steaks in Porto is at the Conga restaurant.
Cachorrinhos da Gazela (hot dogs)
The Cachorinhos (translates to small hot dogs) from Cervejaria Gazela are Porto’s most famous hot dogs. It is not exactly a typical dish from Porto, but it has become a reference. Everyone wants to eat one, and the reason is apparent, they are delicious. These little hot dogs only exist in this restaurant.
Cervejaria Gazela opened about 60 years ago and became famous for its hot dogs. They are a good snack after work or at lunch. They became trendy after cook Anthony Bourdain visited the establishment in 2017 and referenced in the series “Parts Unknown.” Nowadays the restaurant is so busy that it’s hard to find a place to eat.
These are not the typical hot dog. They are made in a small baguette with smoked sausage, fresh sausage, and cheese. They are then pressed and sliced into small portions. The sandwich is small and narrow hence the name. It’s better to order more than one.
Pernil (Pork Shoulder) Sandwiches
The pernil Sandwich from Casa Guedes is another Porto reference dish. The sandwich consists of bread stuffed with slow-roasted pork shank, the roast sauce, and Serra da Estrela cheese. It’s simply divine.
Casa Guedes was initially a tiny tavern in Praça dos Poveiros near the city center. The restaurant barely had space for five people, which made long lines at the door. Eventually, the restaurant expanded and opened a larger establishment close to the original restaurant. When you come to Porto, you have to eat this culinary landmark of the city.
Papa de sarrabulho
This dish is not for everyone; either you love it or hate it. The main reason for generating such controversial and extreme opinions is that one of the dish’s main ingredients is cooked pork blood. In addition to pork blood, it takes a variety of meats, such as chicken, pork, sausage, ham, chorizo , as well as stale bread and cumin. The sarrabulho paps can be served as a starter/soup or as an accompaniment to rojões (also in this list).
In the past, it was a dish consumed in winter when the pig was slaughtered. Although more frequent in winter, it can be eaten at any time of the year. It’s a heavy, hearty dish that keeps the stomach warm.
Papas de sarrabulho is not originally from Porto but the Minho area, in the North of Portugal. But if it is impossible to visit Minho, you will find many restaurants with good quality sarrabulho in Porto.
Caldo Verde (Green broth)
Caldo verde is a traditional soup from northern Portugal, especially from Minho, but it is very popular in Porto. Thus, it’s very common to find this soup in Portuguese food restaurants in Porto. It’s a soup made with onions, garlic, potatoes, very thinly sliced Portuguese cabbage, and chorizo. It’s a very simple but delicious soup.
A piece of good Portuguese cornbread almost always accompanies Caldo Verde. It is also a typical dish of the festivities of popular saints, along with grilled sardines. Loved by all Portuguese, it’s a soup that tastes like home to us.
Meat – What food to eat in Porto
Francesinha is the most famous dish in Porto and is a must-try. The dish is basically a sandwich made with toasted bread, ham, several types of sausage, and steak. Finally, it is topped with melted cheese and a special sauce. The francesinha sauce varies from restaurant to restaurant but is usually based on tomato, beer, and Piri-Piri. The sauce and the meats’ quality is what makes the francesinha as good as it is. Some francesinhas even have a fried egg on top or a shrimp.
Francesinhas are typically served with french fries, which are very well soaked in the sauce. You can usually ask for extra sauce if you feel you need it. The francesinhas should be eaten hot and accompanied by a beer or a cold drink. We recommend you take a walk after the meal to wear out all the calories of a francesinha.
This dish was created in 1953 in Porto by a Portuguese immigrant inspired by the famous French sandwich croque-monsieur. Thus, it is the inspiration for the dish’s creation and the origin of its name. The first restaurant in Porto to serve francesinha is A Regaleira, which still exists. But nowadays, there are dozens of restaurants serving good francesinha in Porto.
Tripas à moda do Porto (Porto-style tripe)
Tripas à moda do Porto is a dish that originates in Porto and is one of the city’s most emblematic and historical foods. As the name implies, this dish is made with cow tripe, cooked with white beans, carrots, smoked like chorizo, veal hand, ribs, and tomato sauce. The tripe is cooked and served with white rice.
This recipe is thought to date back to the Age of Discoveries. To supply the ships, the inhabitants of Porto provided salted meat, leaving only the offal and tripe for themselves. The people of Porto had to create a dish to take advantage of this ingredient. At the time, there were no beans, so you would only eat the tripe. This is how the people from Porto gained the nickname tripeiros, which means “tripers” and also symbolizes their resilience.
Rojões are another typical dish from Minho that’s very common in Porto. This dish is made with pieces of pork shoulder that, after being marinated in wine, garlic, paprika, salt, and bay leaf, are fried in lard. Potatoes are cut into pieces and fried in the same lard as the meat.
Rojões are usually accompanied by floured tripe, liver, and fried blood. But they can also be served simply with potatoes and white rice. Despite being a traditional dish from Minho, many Porto restaurants serve it as all northerners cherish it.
Fish and Seafood – Porto dishes
Grilled sardines are a popular dish in Porto, especially in summer. It is traditional during the festivities of Nossa Senhora de Matosinhos and in São João. Some say that the tradition of eating grilled sardines at popular festivals, such as Santo António in Lisbon, originated with the feast of Nossa Senhora de Matosinhos, passing the custom on to others.
To be good, sardines have to be fresh and plump, grilled over hot coal, and served with grilled peppers. As a rule, sardines are served with boiled potatoes and cornbread, drizzled with olive oil at the end. It’s so good. The best time to eat sardines is from June to December.
The best restaurants to eat sardines in the Porto district are Matosinhos (near the port), Angeiras, and Afurada in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá
Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (or Gomes de Sá-style Codfish) is an original and typical dish from Porto. José Gomes de Sá Júnior, a cod trader in Porto, created this delicious dish. He sold this recipe to his friend João, Chef of Restaurante Lisbonense in Porto. Since then, it has become one of Portugal’s most famous cod dishes.
To cook Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, it is necessary to cook the cod, previously soaked. Once cooked, the cod is left to soak in milk for two hours. On a platter, place onion and garlic that have been sautéed, place the shredded cod without the milk and potatoes cut into slices, and let it cook in the oven. In the end, black olives and boiled eggs are added. This is one of the best cod dishes in Portugal, and you should try it in your place of origin, Porto.
Fish and Seafood
Like many coastal cities in Portugal, Porto is an excellent place to eat fresh fish and seafood, especially in the Matosinhos area. In Matosinhos, next to the port, many restaurants serve the catch of the day. By the way, when you go to one of these restaurants, you can choose the fish from the window and check if it is fresh.
In addition to fresh fish, seafood is also excellent, from seafood rice to snacks with barnacles, stuffed crab, sea urchins, and clams. Besides being fine, seafood is cheaper compared to the rest of Europe.
Sweets and desserts – Porto typical dishes
Bolo de São João (St. John’s Cake)
Currently, the São João cake is not that well-known. In the past, it was eaten during the festivities of São João, but the tradition has been lost. Some bakeries in Porto have recently restarted the practice and are selling São João cake according to the original recipe. Tradition dictates that this typical Porto cake is eaten at the feasts of the popular saint, accompanied by a St. John’s banner.
The cake is similar to King’s cake but does not contain candied fruit. It has a lot of nuts and is less sweet than King’s cake. Some bakeries selling this cake are Bolhão pastry and Tavi confectionery.
Éclair da Leitaria do Paço
Obviously, the eclair is not a Portuguese sweet but a French one. However, Leitaria do Paço’s Eclair has become a reference in Porto. In 1920 Leitaria do Paço was a dairy producer: milk, butter, cheese, and whipped cream. The company’s strong suit was the whipped cream sold in paper bags. Later, they started selling Eclairs filled with whipped cream, and people loved it, becoming very famous. Nowadays, Leitaria do Paço doesn’t have the same popularity as it used to, but it’s still terrific. We strongly suggest you try their Éclair covered in chocolate and stuffed with whipped cream.
There are several Leitaria do Paço cafes, but we recommend the experience of going to downtown Porto and having a coffee and an éclair with whipped cream.
Jesuita is a crunchy, delicious pastry created in Santo Tirso in the Porto district. The pastry is made with buttery puff pastry stuffed with a light egg cream (almost unnoticeable) and covered with a crispy layer of frosting. It’s delicious and not too cloying for those who like simple sweets.
Although it has not originated in the city, you can find this delight in almost every pastry shop. Yet, the best ones still come from the same pastry shop in Santo Tirso (Pastelaria Moura). You can also find bigger versions called cardinals which are also nice but bigger. The cake was named after the religious order, and it was given a shape resembling the typical Jesuit monks’ typical habits.
Other Portuguese Sweets and pastries
In addition to the typical sweets from Porto, you should try other traditional Portuguese sweets like custard tarts, conventional sweets, rice cake, cheesecakes, Berliners, cavacas, sponge cake, and king cake.