top of page

10 Portuguese foods tourists don’t usually eat in Lisbon... but should!

If, like us, food is one of your main inspirations for traveling, you’re probably curious to know what foods you should give preference to when exploring a new destination. Here in Portugal, most international travelers would probably have things like salted cod, incredibly fresh seafood and creamy pastel de nata tarts on their foodie wishlists. But besides the more obvious choices, could there be any foods you may be overlooking and that are very worth trying as well? You guessed it: the answer is YES!

Most travel guides will highlight Portugal's bounty of fresh fish and seafood, popular grilled dishes such as peri-peri chicken or even spit-roast suckling pig, and even our seemingly never ending array of sweets and pastries. But today, we’d like to introduce you to some foods which are very rarely sought by travelers from abroad when coming to Lisbon. Either because they don’t know they exist, or simply because your time here is limited and, as such, you must focus on a handful of options only.

If you're an adventurous eater, always looking to dig deeper than the surface, we would highly encourage you to order the following foods, for a very authentic Portuguese taste which will help you lean in deeper into our culture. In fact, this is precisely the inspiration behind Cooking Lisbon’s cooking classes and food tours - come and try new things. You may or may not like them, and that is OK, but you would have left our country experiencing something new which is always enriching in one way or another.

These are some of the less obvious Portuguese petiscos and dishes tourists don’t normally order in Lisbon, but we think they should:

1. Pataniscas de bacalhau | flat codfish fritters

Egg shaped cod fritters known as pastéis de bacalhau are quite popular amongst visitors, but for some reason pataniscas don't have (yet) achieved the same international status. While both these recipes consist of fried cakes prepared with shredded salted cod, pastéis de bacalhau’s batter is thickened with mashed potato, and flavored with onions and parsley. The seasonings for pataniscas don’t diverge all that much, but instead of potato they involve flour which brings all the ingredients of pataniscas together into a batter which solidifies like a pancake once it hits the pan with hot oil. Akin to a good pancake, pataniscas are flat and achieve slightly caramelized and crispy edges on the outside, hiding a soft and moist interior.

Pataniscas can be eaten as a snack (aka petisco), or as a part of a main meal, customarily served with a saucy rice such as kidney beans rice (arroz de feijão) or tomato rice (arroz de tomate). A simple side salad usually completes the serving. In some old school establishments, like some of the restaurants we recommend here to try pataniscas (particularly A Merendinha do Arco) you can still order a sandes de patanisca, that is, a flat codfish fritter sandwich, which tastes divine alongside a glass of wine or cold beer. This is humble but flavorful Portuguese food at its best!

Where to eat pataniscas in Lisbon?

🍴 A Merendinha do Arco

📍Rua dos Sapateiros 230, 1100-581 Lisbon