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

🍴 A Casa do Bacalhau

📍Rua do Grilo 54, 1900-706 Lisbon

🍴 Laurentina O Rei do Bacalhau

📍Av. Conde Valbom 71A, 1050-067 Lisbon

2. Torresmos | pork cracklings

When you sit down at a traditional bar in Portugal and you order a beer, you’ll often be served a small plate of lupin beans. These high protein legumes are preserved in brine and thus salty enough to make you feel like asking for one more round of drinks - do you now see why this is a free snack?

While there’s no arguing that lupins (known in Portuguese as tremoços) are indeed beer’s best friend here in Portugal, there’s another snack which is very associated with the act of drinking out, specially in tascas and typical taverns, and those are pork cracklings. Torresmos, in Portuguese, are cuts of pork skin and fat fried until very crispy. This is a heavy but very flavorful snack, which is sometimes also enjoyed in the form of a sandwich (sandes de torresmos).

Torresmos are not to be mistaken with couratos, which is basically pork skin, usually cooked on the grill. Sandes de couratos, pork leather sandwiches, are a quintessential snack enjoyed during football matches, typically sold on food trucks which we here refer to as rulotes, specializing in sandwiches such as this, but also other more widely appreciated ones like bifanas (pork in a bun), pregos (steak sandwiches) or even international favorites like burgers and hot dogs.

Where to eat torresmos in Lisbon?

🍴 Horta dos Brunos

📍Rua da Ilha do Pico 27, 1000-169 Lisbon

🍴 Tasca do Miguel

📍Rua Egas Moniz 45A, 1900-214 Lisbon

🍴 Estrela do Minho

📍Rua dos Bacalhoeiros 137, 1100-253 Lisbon

3. Moelas | chicken gizzards stew

Chicken gizzards might not be a Portuguese exclusive, but we cook them in a particular way that makes moelas one of the favorite petiscos of many meat lovers. The traditional recipe of moelas has the gizzards stewed until tender, in a heavily condimented tomato based sauce, flavored with red wine. For those unfamiliar with gizzards, these are basically a part of the digestive tract of birds. So it’s a less noble cut of meat which you’d need to know how to cook properly for it to have a nice taste and, particularly, a pleasant texture.

You can order moelas to snack on with your drink of choice and, in some places, they even serve them with a toothpick for you to pinch as you go. No matter the utensils you use, there’ll be sauce leftover on the plate, and we highly encourage you to ask for bread as you will not want to leave any of that flavorful goodness behind.

Where to eat moelas in Lisbon?

🍴 A Muralha

📍Rua Jardim do Tabaco 112, 1100-139 Lisbon

🍴 A Petisqueira da Boa-Hora

📍Rua dos Quartéis 9, 1300-415 Lisbon

🍴 Petisqueira Conqvistador

📍Tv. de São Bartolomeu 4, 1100-059 Lisbon

4. Morcela | blood sausage

Depending on where you come from and the type of food you are used to, blood sausage may sound super appetizing or rather revolting to you. Here in Portugal, blood sausage is known as morcela, and it is usually prepared with pork, fat, flour which acts as a binder and, of course, the blood of the pig. In case you’ve never had such a sausage before, know that it doesn’t taste like blood as such. A good morcela is intensely flavored yet mildly sweet, flavored with condiments like clove and cumin, which contribute to balancing its sharpness on the mouth. Unlike other sausages like chouriço, morcela isn’t particularly meaty but rather presents a consistency closer to that of a crumbly cake. Sometimes, morcela may also include grains of rice instead of flour.

Our favorite way of eating morcela is to pair it with fruit or fruit compotes, which contrast with the blood sausage thanks to their acidity and freshness. A much beloved combination would be morcela e ananás, that is, blood sausage and pineapple. The fruit can be fresh or slightly caramelized on a pan and it’s even better when you have access to Azorean pineapples, known for their juicy meat and accentuated sweetness. In fact, this combination of morcela and pineapples is traditional in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, in the Atlantic, where blood sausages are mostly produced artisanally to this day and are of the highest quality.

Where to eat morcela in Lisbon?

🍴 Açores na Feira

📍Campo de Santa Clara 140, 1100-474 Lisbon

🍴 Petiscaria 5 Elementos

📍Rua Neves Costa 34, 1600-534 Lisbon

🍴 Alcântara 50

📍Rua Vieira da Silva 50, 1350-187 Lisbon

5. Feijoada de choco | beans stew with cuttlefish

Many foodies know of a bean and meat stew known in Portuguese as feijoada, and which is internationally regarded as being a dish of Brazilian origin. Going further in history, we can trace the recipe of feijoada to Portugal, specifically to the northern mountainous region of ​​Trás-os-Montes, where Roman influence would have been at the origin of this and other similar stews with bits and pieces of meat.

Around Lisbon and other coastal areas of Portugal today, bean stews with the flavors of the sea are also common. Feijoada de choco, consisting of white beans stewed in a tomato rich both, is enriched with cuttlefish (choco), but on some occasions and more specific places you may also come across feijoada de búzios, that is, bean stew with sea conch.

If you are into hearty stews which will leave you nourished and satisfied, but you prefer seafood rather than meat at a given moment, ask for feijoada de choco and enjoy the chunky and tender cuts of cuttlefish which are extremely flavorful after being simmered in the broth which is at the base of any good feijoada.

Where to eat feijoada de choco in Lisbon?

🍴 Choco do Bairro

📍Rua Ten. Ferreira Durão 55 A, 1350-311 Lisbon

🍴 Tabernário do Bairro

📍Rua Afonso Domingues 2A, 1170-004 Lisbon

🍴 Petisco Saloio

📍Av. Barbosa Du Bocage 38, 1000-072 Lisbon

6. Salada de orelha and pezinhos de coentrada | pork ear and pork trotter salads

We believe that, if you are to slaughter an animal for the sake of food, you might as well use every part of the animal to extract flavor and nutrition. It makes sense from the perspective of paying tribute to the actual animal, it of course also makes sense from an economic perspective and, the truth is that pigs are so versatile that it’s fairly easy to eat pork literally head to tail.

Besides sausages and cured cuts, in Portugal it is typical to use parts of the pig such as ears and trotters. Two very typical appetizers are prepared specifically with these cuts: salada de orelha, that is pig ear’s salad, and pezinhos de coentrada, which translates as pork trotters in coriander sauce. Actually, both preparations rely on fresh herbs which are used to add freshness to the meats which are cooked until very tender, and further flavored with olive oil and the acidic touch of vinegar.

Pig ear is also one of the mandatory ingredients to be featured in a good cozido à Portuguesa, that is, our most typical boiled dinner with meats and vegetables. We’re not going to lie: not everyone in Portugal likes orelha or pork trotters (specially because the psychological factor tends to play a huge role in the way we perceive food and may be biased against it), but if you’d like to taste some very, very Portuguese foods indeed, we’d suggest you to go for it and make up your own mind!

Where to eat salada de orelha in Lisbon?

🍴 Salsa & Coentros

📍Rua Cel. Marques Leitão 12, 1700-337 Lisbon

🍴 O Galito

📍Rua Adelaide Cabete 7, 1500-441 Lisbon

🍴 O David

📍Rua Prior do Crato 134, 1350-111 Lisboa

7. Arroz de cabidela | braised chicken and blood risotto

Arroz de cabidela, which also goes by the name galinha de cabidela or simply cabidela, is a traditional dish from the Minho region in the north of Portugal. It consists of a loose saucy rice with braised chicken, and the blood of the same chicken used for the meat pieces.

Cabidela rice is prepared similarly to any other chicken risotto, and the blood of the bird is only added towards the end of the cooking process, along with a generous splash of vinegar which prevents the blood from coagulating once hot.

The origins of this Portuguese dish can be traced as far back as the 16th century and, throughout history, similar cabidela recipes have been cooked not only with chicken, but also with turkey, duck, pork and other animals. Chicken cabidela is by far the most popular type and it’s a dish which sometimes you’ll see as a part of the permanent menu of traditional restaurants but that is also very commonly featured as a dish of the day (prato do dia) in restaurants which specialize in typical recipes, with a rotating menu during weekdays.

Where to eat arroz de cabidela in Lisbon?

🍴 Adega da Tia Matilde

📍Rua da Beneficência 77, 1600-017 Lisbon

🍴 Stop do Bairro

📍Rua Marquês de Fronteira 173, 1070-300 Lisbon

🍴 Adega das Mercês

📍Tv. Mercês 2, 1200-269 Lisbon

8. Torrada | toast

“Wait, what? Toast?!”, you may be wondering… But hear us out! Ordering a well buttered (or should we say slightly over-buttered?) toast at a local pastelaria is one of those quintessential Portuguese experiences most tourists end up missing out on. You’d probably say there’s nothing interesting about a piece of toast, but that’s probably because you have never traveled to Lisbon and ordered a torrada em pão de forma, that is, two layers of toast prepared with a type of thicker than average fluffy wonder bread, which only cafés usually stock and you’d normally wouldn’t see for sale at a supermarket or bakery.

Don’t look for a good café, as good cafés will often give preference to rustic styles of bread which, indeed are of higher quality if we look into it, but that's not what one wants when crying this type of torrada. Instead, you’d prefer a run of the mill light bread which has immense capacity of soaking up heart attack inducing amounts of salted melted butter.

To eat a torrada Portuguese style, eat the outer cuts first and leave the middle strip to be enjoyed last, as it’s the softest and more buttery of them all. If someone shares a torrada with you and they let you eat the middle strip, take it as a sign of love and devotion, Portuguese style. For an even more complete experience, pair your torrada with a galão, that is, a Portuguese take on a coffee with milk, featuring about one part coffee, and two parts milk - if you like stronger coffee ask for a meia de leite, which is half coffee, half milk.

Where to eat torradas in Lisbon?

🍴 Literally, every Portuguese café, locally known as pastelaria

9. Línguas, caras and sames de bacalhau | codfish tongues, cheeks and swim bladders

The same approach which is done with pork, can be done with cod, extracting as much food as possible from every part of the fish. While most popular Portuguese recipes of bacalhau feature either shredded cod or cod loins and filets, there are other well beloved dishes which are prepared with cuts not everyone knows how to cook these days. We’re talking about cod cheeks (caras de bacalhau - which literally translates as “cod faces"), tongues (línguas) and swimming bladders (sames or samos).

These cuts have tremendous potential but they’re not as easy to cook as a cod loin which is naturally flaky and appetizing. As these tend to be tougher bits, they are best enjoyed in slow cooked preparations such as stews (for example feijoada de caras de bacalhau, with cod checks and beans) and rice dishes (like arroz de línguas, with tongues - featured in the photo here). Breading and deep-frying línguas de bacalhau also makes for a rare delicacy which you should try if you’d like to sample Portugal’s love and obsession with cod beyond the usual dishes.

Sames de bacalhau are particularly interesting and mostly undiscovered by tourists who come to our country. Sames are basically the swimming bladders of the cod fish, that is, an organ of the fish which is full or air and promotes the creature’s capacity to come to the surface of the water. Sames are often featured in hearty stews such as feijoada de sames or sames with chickpeas (sames de bacalhau com grão). If you’d try cod pataniscas and any of these dishes, we can guarantee you would have tasted more of Portugal’s take on cod than the vast majority of tourists who travel to Portugal!

Where to try out of the box bacalhau dishes in Lisbon?

🍴 A Casa do Bacalhau

📍Rua do Grilo 54, 1900-706 Lisbon

🍴 O Poleiro

📍Rua de Entrecampos 30 - A, 1700-158 Lisbon

🍴 Faz Frio

📍Rua Dom Pedro V 96, 1250-094 Lisbon

10. Caracóis | braised snails

Last but not least, here’s a seasonal snack Lisboners go crazy about during summer time. As soon as longer days and the warmer weather start rolling in at the beginning of spring, you’ll see local cafés and taverns specializing in petiscos announcing caracóis, that is, snails. These are cooked with olive oil, tomatoes and herbs such as oregano, and end up tasting more of these ingredients than of the snails as such, which are more like vessels to deliver flavor. Caracóis aren’t considered a meal, and not even appetizers. Instead, they're a snack which, similarly to lupin beans or pork cracklings, are usually enjoyed with a chilled beer.

Caracóis are served by the small plate (pires) or larger platter (travessa), which is ideal for sharing. To eat them, you can either grab the snail with your hand and bite on the head of the creature and pull it out of the shell with your mouth, or use a toothpick to do this process a tad more elegantly.

If caracóis feel like an easy going food for you and you're curious to explore even more, ask for caracoletas, which are large snails, which closer ensemble escargot, the popular French speciality (even though ours are not cooked in butter).

Where to eat caracóis in Lisbon?

🍴 Júlio dos Caracóis

📍Rua do Vale Formoso de Cima 140 B, 1950-273 Lisbon

🍴 Casa dos Caracóis

📍Rua de Campolide 368, 1070-040 Lisbon

🍴 O Lutador

📍​​Rua da Junqueira 1C, 1300-383 Lisbon

As chef and author Anthony Bourdain wrote in his book Kitchen Confidential, “I have long believed that good food, good eating is all about risk.” We hope this is the same spirit you embrace on your next trip to Lisbon, so that you get to try new foods. Hit us up on Instagram and share with us the most adventurous things you’ve eaten around Portugal! #cookinglisbon

312 views0 comments



Cooking Lisbon

Rua Bernardim Ribeiro, 9

​1150-068 Lisboa, Portugal

(+351) 916 047 883


Thanks for your subscription!


Follow and Review

  • Tripadvisor
bottom of page