Updated: Sep 16
Ordering petiscos is one of the most fun ways to eat your way around Portugal and try “a little bit of everything”. Similar to the concept of tapas in Spain, petiscos are small plates of Portuguese dishes which can be enjoyed as snacks or appetizers. When you ask for several petiscos, which are of course ideal to share, you can turn the dining experience into a complete meal, allowing you the opportunity to sample a wide variety of regional recipes.
The concept of spending time together in Portugal, with family or friends, is very linked to the idea of sitting around the table sharing food, sipping wine and chatting away for hours. The verb petiscar, while literally translating to English as snacking, refers to this activity of eating which is often linked to socializing.
While the art of petiscar started essentially with small portions of Portuguese dishes and some snacks as fritters, now-a-days some restaurants have broaden their concept of petiscos and started including international recipes such as sauteed Padron peppers from Spain, bruschetta from Italy or even Japanese inspired takes on fish such as tuna tataki.
To enjoy petiscos in a traditional manner, we recommend visiting a Portuguese restaurant with company, and ordering a variety of representative Portuguese tapas which include specialities such as:
Ameijôas à Bulhão Pato | clams in white wine sauce;
Salada de polvo | cold octopus salad;
Pastéis de bacalhau | codfish and potato fritters;
Pataniscas | flat codfish fritters;
Meia desfeita de bacalhau | chickpeas and salted cod salad;
Rissóis | fried turnovers with various creamy fillings such as minced meat, prawns or, less traditionally, vegetables;
Gambas à guilho | garlic prawns;
Peixinhos da horta | green bean tempura (recipe here!);
Choco frito | fried cuttlefish strips;
Caracóis | snails (a seasonal petisco usually enjoyed during warmer months);
Chouriço assado | flame roasted Portuguese chorizo;
Pica-pau | meat chunks in tangy sauce with pickles;
Salada de orelha | pork ear salad;
Moelas | braised chicken gizzards;
Conservas | canned seafood (normally eaten straight out of the can);
Regional charcuterie, known in Portuguese as enchidos, mainly featuring pork such as the highly covered Iberian black pig usually raised in the Alentejo region for cured meats which can be eaten thinly sliced and cold like in the cases of presunto and paio, or roasted whole or in chunky slices like it usually happens with chorizo, blood sausage and other typical Portuguese sausages like alheira and farinheira;
Regional cheeses such as queijo da Serra (creamy to semi-hard sheep cheese from Serra da Estrela mountains), queijo de São Jorge (cow milk cheese from the Azores archipelago) or queijo de Azeitão (buttery sheep milk cheese from the town by the same name, in the South bank of Lisbon’s Tagus river).
So now that you know some of the typical small dishes you shouldn’t miss, keep in mind that these are the best places to eat Portuguese petiscos in Lisbon:
Traditional Portuguese cooking in an ambiance to match is what Petisco Saloio specializes in. Around noon Petisco Saloio serves a fixed menu with only three lunch options. But as the sun goes down, it’s all about sharing small plates around here. Spend a great evening at Petisco Saloio exploring the menu of incredible petiscos which includes croquetes with Portuguese bread sausage alheira; oxtail pie; pork cheeks with spicy piri-piri sauce; and xerém de camarão, a corn grits porridge with prawns, typical from the Algarve region in southern Portugal.
📍Av. Barbosa Du Bocage 38, 1000-072 Lisbon
New Kids On The Block, also known as NewKidsOTB or NKOTB are not a tribute to the boy band started back in the 80s. They are a collective of Portuguese cooks who have taken Lisbon’s dining scene by storm, with their mix of traditional and contemporary approach to Portuguese cuisine. Tasca Baldracca is run by chef Pedro Monteiro, who also happens to be responsible for the food menu at Lisbon’s craft brewery Musa. More than Portuguese cuisine, Tasca Baldracca has Iberian food, that is, also incorporating some ingredients and dishes from neighboring Spain, and that also involves further influences from Brazil. Try tapas and petiscos such as the open sandwich with cuttlefish, chorizo and bernaise sauce; beef tartare with anchovy mayonnaise (pictured here); chicken gizzards tempura; beef tongue in escabeche marinade; or suckling pig with orange and fennel salad. A great opportunity to travel with your palate!
📍Rua das Farinhas 1, 1100-177 Lisbon
Alentejo inspired dishes, petiscos and desserts is what O Frade specializes in. This restaurant in Belém has at least one daily special that varies to reflect seasonality and the chef’s inspiration, along with traditional small plates from the Alentejo like scrambled eggs with asparagus, or stewed rabbit with coriander, as well as their signature meat pies such as the one with pork cheeks filling. One of the best features of O Frade is that you get to sit by a big counter which allows you to see chefs Carlos Afonso e Sérgio Frade do their magic right before you get to taste it. Even though the team’s background has a lot to do with fine dining, O Frade is all about down-to-earth regional food from the Alentejo and nearby areas of Portugal, done just right!
📍Calçada da Ajuda 14, 1300-598 Lisbon
Taberna Sal Grosso
If you’re looking for ingenious petiscos which are decidedly Portuguese in character but that go beyond the usual recipes, such as the ones we’ve highlighted above, visit Taberna Sal Grosso. This contemporary tavern near Santa Apolónia train station, crafts very original recipes which most Portuguese folks would recognize as local, even if they have never had the chance to try them in this very same shape or served along unusual complementary ingredients. We’re for example talking about the very traditional stewed pork cheeks, here paired with apple and celery purée, or the chicken with suckling pig sauce. At Taberna Sal Grosso you’ll feel the soul of Portuguese petiscos prepared by a team that doesn’t shy away from revamping some of the most traditional recipes from our country.
📍Calçada do Forte 22, 1100-256 Lisbon
The name Tapisco is literally a hybrid between “tapa” and “petisco”, thus referring to the kinds of foods you are going to find when you visit this Baixa-Chiado address by celebrity Michelin starred chef Henrique Sá Pessoa. Their signature petiscos may not be the affordable affair eating small platters out in Lisbon often is, but it’s worth the not so large splurge if you’d like to taste high quality Iberian black pork jamón ibérico de Bellota served Spanish style in tomato and garlic soaked bread slices, or skilfully cooked dishes like açorda de gambas, a Portuguese savory bread and garlic porridge with shrimp, or the stewed peas with chorizo from the Alentejo. These are not your everyday kind of petiscos, but very worth it for a special occasion!
📍Rua Dom Pedro V 81, 1250-096 Lisbon
Taberna Faz Frio
Taberna Faz Frio deserves to be included in our list of best restaurants for Portuguese petiscos in Lisbon, as it featured in their list of appetizers a limited but delectable selection of small portions with recipes that are most commonly found in larger serving as main dishes. We’re talking about comfort foods like the goat stew known as chanfana, alho francês à Brás, a vegetarian take on the popular salted cod and eggs dish from Lisbon, or the oven baked rice with smoked meats. These wouldn’t be popular petiscos but, alongside more traditional small plates such as those with peixinhos da horta, croquetes or sauteed shrimp, make for a very enticing starters’ menu at Taberna Faz Frio.
📍Rua Dom Pedro V 96 1250-092, 1250-094 Lisbon