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Portuguese soups to warm your body and soul

If you are a fellow food enthusiast and you've ever strolled through the streets of Portugal, you might have noticed something pretty interesting: almost every restaurant, café, and even the cozy pastelarias have a "soup of the day" on their menu. Eating sopa here is a whole tradition!

In Portugal, we love starting our meals with a nice and comforting bowl of soup. The habit of eating soup in Portugal started as an ingenious way by our ancestors who wanted to make sure nothing went to waste. Plus, with the amount of fresh veggies we grow here, it's no wonder many of them end up in our soups. In fact, they may end up in a pot of soup more than as a side dish or a main element in a main meal, where we do tend to focus a bit more on protein and carbohydrates. 

As you travel around the country, the soup scene changes considerably, with each region focusing on particular ingredients or cooking techniques. For instance, in the Alentejo to the south of Lisbon, the zone of the map known as “Portugal’s breadbasket”, soups often feature hard bread, in beautifully low waste recipes which have existed for decades, if not centuries, way before the #zerowaste cooking trend came around.

Let's dive into some of the most iconic Portuguese soups. If you want to try making some of these yourself when you travel to Lisbon, come hang out with us at Cooking Lisbon. We offer interactive and educational cooking classes where you can whip up some of these classics!

Caldo verde | collard greens soup

Caldo verde translates directly to green broth. This soup originated in the verdant region of Minho, in the north of Portugal, and even though it is perhaps the most iconic of all Portuguese soups, it’s at its essence extremely simple.

Caldo verde combines the earthiness of potatoes, the slight bitterness of couve galega (which are collard greens, but are often mistakenly referred to as Portuguese kale), and the richness of olive oil. This soup traditionally begins with potatoes, onions, and sometimes garlic, boiled until tender, then blended to create a creamy base. The key ingredient, couve galega, is thinly sliced into almost hair-like strands, which are then added to the simmering potato base, imparting a vibrant green hue and a unique texture. A slice or two of Portuguese chorizo is often added towards the end, usually not in the cooking pot per se, but when serving the caldo verde in a bowl, as a sort of garnish. Vegetarians might omit the chouriço, but the soup still retains its soulful flavors.

For centuries, this soup has been a staple at celebrations (such as weddings) and folk parties. It is both eaten out and at home, where it is common for families to have their own variations of the recipe, passed down through generations, each with its little twist.

Lisbon has numerous spots where one can enjoy an authentic bowl of caldo verde, namely A Merendeira (Av. 24 de Julho 54), O Caldo Verde (Rua da Esperança 91) or the Miguel Castro Silva stall inside Time Out Market (Av. 24 de Julho 49). For a contemporary fully plant based version, we recommend trying it out at Ao 26 Vegan Food Project (Rua Horta Seca 5), which is one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Lisbon

Sopa de legumes | vegetable soup

In the diverse world of Portuguese cuisine, there is one soup that reigns supreme in its ubiquity and simplicity: sopa de legumes, simply vegetable soup. This humble yet versatile dish is a staple in Portuguese households and eateries, and it is one of those warm foods that vegetarians can at least always count on, no matter where in Portugal, even in the deep countryside where you might have lost faith that you’d get to eat something local at all while dining out.

Sopa de legumes is a generic term for vegetable soups, but in reality it offers endless variations. The soup is a hearty mix of vegetables, but the choice of these vegetables often reflects the season and the region. Common ingredients include potatoes, carrots, onions, and cabbage, but there's no strict recipe - it's about using what's available and fresh. Independently of the vegetables used, a drizzle of high-quality Portuguese olive oil before serving is almost mandatory, adding a rich, velvety finish to the soup. In fact, when you are served a plate of soup at a restaurant in Portugal, you will most likely have a small bottle of olive oil on the table, often used to garnish salads and boiled vegetables that come as side dishes, but you can use this oil to add an extra luscious touch to your soup too.

Sopa de legumes is often enjoyed as a starter, but it's not uncommon for it to be a meal in itself, especially for dinner, and particularly when bulked up with legumes or grains. In Portugal, this soup is a daily ritual, a comforting dish that can be found in homes, local tascas, and even high-end restaurants. It's a dish that nourishes the body and soul, a simple yet profound expression of the Portuguese way of life.

A few of the most common sopas de legumes in Portugal include: green beans soup (sopa de feijão verde), watercress (sopa de agrião), turnip greens soup (sopa de nabiças), chickpeas and spinach soup (sopa de grão com espinafres), leek soup (sopa de alho francês), amongst many others. Where can you find these? Literally, everywhere!

Sopa da pedra | Portuguese vegetable, legumes and cured meats soup

Sopa da pedra, or stone soup, is a hearty, rustic dish perfect to warm you up on a cold winter day. The story of sopa da pedra, hailing from Almeirim in the Portuguese district of Santarém, is quite peculiar. Legend has it that a crafty monk, arriving hungry to the village, started making soup with a stone. Curious and intrigued, the villagers gradually contributed ingredients such as meats, beans, and vegetables, resulting in a rich and bountiful soup. Ultimately, this folk tale aims to be a lesson in generosity and community spirit.

Sopa da pedra is a symphony of flavors, typically starting with a base of red kidney beans, potatoes, and a variety of meats like chouriço, morcela (blood sausage), and other chunks of pork. The soup is flavored with garlic, onions, bay leaves, and sometimes tomatoes, creating a rich and aromatic broth. In traditional cooking, the meats are first simmered until tender, infusing the broth with a deep, savory taste. The beans and vegetables are then added, allowing them to cook slowly and absorb the rich flavors of the meat and herbs. The result is a thick, hearty soup (challenging the concepts of soup and stew), which was even once upon a time, when regulations still allowed, often served with an actual stone, as a nod to the legend.

For those seeking an authentic taste of sopa da pedra in Lisbon, Ofício - Tasco Atípico (Rua Nova da Trindade 11k) is a must-visit, as is Loja das Sopas, a chain present in most shopping mall’s food courts around the city.

Açorda Alentejana | Alentejo style broth with bread

Açorda Alentejana, often simply called açorda, is a classic example of traditional Portuguese cuisine's simplicity. Originating from the Alentejo region, a land known for its rolling plains and robust country cooking, açorda is a unique blend of modest ingredients coming together to create something truly special.

At its core, açorda is a bread soup, but calling it just a soup doesn't do justice to its rich texture and flavor. The main ingredients are day-old bread, typically Alentejo bread, which is known for its dense, hearty texture, together with garlic, cilantro, olive oil, and eggs. These ingredients might sound simple, but when combined, they create a dish that's comforting and deeply satisfying.

The preparation of açorda is as rustic and straightforward as its ingredients. It begins with soaking the bread in water or a light broth to soften it. Then, a generous amount of minced garlic and sometimes onions are sautéed in olive oil. This mixture is then poured over the soaked bread, infusing it with a rich flavor. The cilantro is added for freshness, and the mixture is often seasoned with salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar. Açorda Alentejana won’t be complete without a poached egg on top. The egg can be poached directly in the soup, adding a creamy texture that contrasts beautifully with the tangy, garlicky bread base. In some variations of açorda, the usual egg may be in good company with a poached piece of fish, such as salt cod, turning this otherwise simple starter into a more nutritiously dense option for a main meal. 

Açorda Alentejana is a clear reflection of the Alentejo's agricultural roots and history. In a region where wheat fields are abundant, bread is a staple, açorda is a perfect example of the Alentejan way of using every bit of food, avoiding waste. 

For a traditional açorda Alentejana experience in Lisbon, with the perfect balance of garlic, cilantro, and olive oil, head straight to Casa do Alentejo (Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 58) or Taberna da Casa do Alentejo, on the first floor of the same building. 

Canja de galinha | Portuguese chicken soup

Canja de galinha, the Portuguese version of chicken soup, holds a special place in the hearts of many. It’s a soup, but it’s also a comfort food, a remedy, and a culinary hug that Portuguese families have cherished for generations. 

The soup is typically made with just a few key ingredients: chicken, rice or small pasta (like macaroni or massinhas), onions, and a hint of lemon. The chicken, often a whole one, is simmered gently to create a rich, flavorful broth. The rice or pasta is then cooked in this broth, absorbing the chicken's savory essence.

In Portugal, like in many other parts of the world, canja de galinha is a traditional remedy for the soul and body. It's often the go-to dish for cold winter nights, or when someone in the family is feeling under the weather. This soup also holds a place of honor in Portuguese family traditions. It's commonly one of the first solid foods given to babies and is a staple in many households during festive occasions and family gatherings. It's a dish that spans generations, with each family often having its own special way of preparing it.

Some Lisbon based restaurants known for their rendition of canja de galinha include A Valencina (Rua Marquês de Fronteira 157), Rice ME (Rua Carlos Testa 18A), and Beira Gare (Praça Dom João da Câmara 4). For an Algarve inspired variation of canja, go to Taberna Albricoque (Rua Caminhos de Ferro 98) where you can taste canja de lingueirão, a similarly prepared broth flavored with pieces of razor clams instead of the customary shredded chicken.

If you’d like to try cooking it yourself at home, we’ve previously shared our canja recipe here!

Sopa de cação | dogfish soup

Sopa de cação, or dogfish soup, is a culinary treasure from Portugal, specifically from the Alentejo region. This soup is a beautiful example of how Portuguese cuisine often seamlessly blends the flavors of the land with those from the sea. 

Dogfish is a small type of shark, a lean, firm-fleshed fish, which provides a mild, slightly sweet flavor and a texture that holds up well in the soup. The fish is typically marinated in vinegar, garlic, and coriander, then gently simmered in a broth that includes olive oil, more garlic, and sometimes a touch of tomato. A distinctive feature of sopa de cação is the use of pão alentejano, or Alentejo bread, which is placed at the bottom of the bowl before the hot soup is poured over it, similarly to what is done with açorda above. The bread soaks up the flavorful broth, becoming a deliciously soft and integral part of the dish.

In Lisbon, you can find sopa de cação at a number of traditional Portuguese restaurants, namely those focusing on Alentejo’s cuisine. Taste their take on this classic soup at O Galito (Rua Adelaide Cabete 7), Solar dos Nunes (Rua dos Lusíadas 68), or Salsa & Coentros (Rua Cel. Marques Leitão 12).

Sopa de tomate Alentejana | Alentejo’s tomato and poached egg soup

Sopa de tomate Alentejana, a traditional tomato soup from the Alentejo region, is yet another  shining example of rustic yet profoundly flavorful Portuguese cuisine. The foundation of this soup is ripe, juicy tomatoes, which are the soul of the dish. These tomatoes are cooked down until they release all their sweet and tangy flavors. Alongside the tomatoes, key ingredients like onions, garlic, and green peppers are sautéed in a generous amount of olive oil, adding layers of flavor to the base. 

In true Alentejo style, day-old bread, preferably the regional pão alentejano, is added to the soup, soaking up the rich tomato broth and giving the soup its distinctive hearty texture. The soup is often topped with a poached egg, adding a creamy richness that balances the acidity of the tomatoes.

While Alentejo’s tomato soup is quintessentially Alentejana, variations can be found across Portugal. Some add chorizo or ham for a smoky depth, while others might include different herbs for a unique twist - see our recipe of tomato soup with a twist here!

Enjoy sopa de tomate Alentejana at a cozy Lisbon restaurant such as O Magano (Rua Tomás da Anunciação 52A), or at a Taberna da Casa do Alentejo, which we have already mentioned above, as one of the best overall places for any kind of regional soup from the Alentejo’s recipe repertoire.

Gaspacho Alentejano | Portugal’s take on gazpacho

In the warm embrace of Portuguese summers, one soup stands out, not for its warmth, but for its refreshing coolness: Gaspacho Alentejano! This cold soup, hailing from the sun-baked plains of Alentejo, offers a delightful contrast to the more traditional hot soups of Portugal. 

Gaspacho Alentejano may essentially be seen as a chilled tomato soup, but it's more than that. It bursts with the fresh flavors of ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, green peppers, and tangy onions. All these vegetables are finely chopped and mixed together, creating a medley of textures and flavors. Gaspacho Alentejano is not to be mistaken with the more internationally known Spanish gazpacho, which has similar ingredients but is a blended soup.

What sets Gaspacho Alentejano apart from other cold soups is its distinctive use of slightly stale bread, soaked in water, mixed together with the vegetables. This addition gives the soup a unique texture, making it surprisingly filling. The soup is dressed in a generous glug of good quality Portuguese olive oil and a splash of vinegar, which adds a bright acidity, elevating the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and cucumbers. It's seasoned simply with salt, garlic, and sometimes a hint of oregano or coriander, ensuring that the fresh flavors of the vegetables are the stars of the show.

In Lisbon, cool and invigorating gaspacho Alentejano can be found in some traditional Portuguese restaurants, especially during the summer. It’s a seasonal dish so keep your eyes peeled for it when you are browsing a local eatery menu!

Sopa de cozido | soup of Portuguese boiled meats dinner

Sopa de cozido is an integral part of one of Portugal's most iconic culinary offerings, cozido à Portuguesa. This dish, which could be translated as Portuguese boiled meats meal, is a feast that brings together a variety of meats (like beef, pork, chicken, and sometimes even game meats), sausages (such as chouriço, morcela blood sausage, and farinheira), legumes and vegetables (most typically cabbage, carrots, turnips, and potatoes) in a harmonious ensemble. 

Sopa de cozido plays a crucial role in the cozido à Portuguesa experience. This soup is made from the rich, flavorsome broth that results from slowly simmering the meats and vegetables. The broth is then strained and often served with some of the cooked rice or thinly sliced vegetables, making it a light yet hearty beginning to the meal. The soup showcases the essence of the meats and sausages, infused with the subtle flavors of the vegetables. 

This soup, with its robust and comforting flavors, sets the stage for the hearty and diverse cozido à Portuguesa that follows. Enjoy it in Lisbon in any restaurant serving cozido, which is often a dish of the day which appears weekly on local eateries' menus. Some of our favorites include O Nobre (Av. Sacadura Cabral 53B) and Chiringuito (Rua Correia Teles 31), both of which serve cozido and its soup buffet style, every Sunday.

Sopa de beldroegas | purslane soup

Purslane soup is a lesser-known yet delightful soup in Portuguese cuisine, particularly popular in the Alentejo region. This soup celebrates the humble beldroegas (purslane), a leafy green that is often overlooked but is cherished in Portuguese cooking for its slightly tangy and salty flavor.

Purslane grows abundantly in the wild, particularly in the warm, dry climate of Alentejo. This hardy plant is not only flavorful but also packed with nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. In sopa de beldroegas, its succulent leaves and tender stems are the stars, giving the soup a unique texture and a subtle, lemony tang. A traditional sopa de beldroegas is a harmonious blend of purslane, potatoes, onions, and garlic, often enriched with a good-quality olive oil. In many versions, the soup is finished with a flourish of eggs, either beaten into the soup to create a silky texture or poached directly in the broth. 

This soup is typically enjoyed in the warmer months when purslane is in season and foraged by locals. It's a dish that connects you to the rural heart of Portugal, where the beauty of simplicity and the joy of seasonal cooking are celebrated in every bowl. Your best bet is to visit an Alentejano restaurant during summer season, but do not expect to see sopa de beldroegas as a permanent menu item all year long.

Portugal’s many fish and seafood soups

Portugal, with its extensive coastline and long maritime history, has quite a variety of fish and seafood soups. The Portuguese culinary tradition has a special place for seafood, which in the universe of soups translates from light broths to hearty almost-stew like concoctions.

Sopa de peixe: This fish soup is a simple dish, often made with a single type of fish, onions, tomatoes, and potatoes. It can be blended but it’s not at all uncommon for Portuguese style fish soup to feature a pureed base and chunks of fish swimming in it.

Creme de marisco: A creamy seafood soup, often enriched with a touch of cream or a roux to give it a luxurious texture. This soup typically features a mix of shellfish like shrimp, clams, and mussels, and is flavored with aromatic herbs and sometimes a hint of brandy or sherry. 

Sopa de amêijoas & sopa de conquilhas: A clam soup that is a testament to the Portuguese skill of creating simple yet delicious dishes. Often made with just clams (amêijoas) or cockles (conquilhas), garlic, cilantro, and a splash of white wine, this soup is light yet flavorful, with the clams being the star of the show.

Each region of Portugal brings its own twist to fish and seafood soups. In coastal areas like the Algarve, for instance, you'll find soups with a stronger emphasis on shellfish, while regions closer to Lisbon might favor a mix of fish and seafood, reflecting the local catch.

For some of the best fish and seafood soups in Lisbon, we recommend visiting Sea Me Peixaria Moderna (Rua do Loreto 21), Monte Mar (Rua da Cintura do Porto de Lisboa Armazém 65), or Espaço Açores (Largo da Boa-Hora à Ajuda 19).

We hope you have enjoyed this quick tour of Portugal's incredible soup landscape!

Whether you're wandering the streets of Lisbon and stop by a local eatery to enjoy a warming bowl, or dare to cook one of these in your own kitchen, these soups are a delicious way to connect with Portuguese culture and history.

If you're ever in Lisbon and want to bring a piece of Portugal back to your own kitchen, drop by Cooking Lisbon for our cooking classes. We can't wait to cook up some heartwarming Portuguese soup and other local recipes with you! Until then, let’s keep in touch via Instagram! #cookinglisbon 

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Cooking Lisbon

Rua Bernardim Ribeiro, 9

​1150-068 Lisboa, Portugal

(+351) 916 047 883


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