By Shanna Trenholm, A Vegan In Portugal
Now booking So You Want To Move To Portugal sessions
One of the most traditional Portuguese dishes, bacalhau à brás is made with the ubiquitous salt cod, eggs, and potatoes. And while I'm sure it's delicious, it's not a dish that works for me or other vegans living in or visiting Portugal.
So, what's a hungry animal-loving plant-eater to do in Portugal?
Since moving to Portugal, one of the most common questions I get asked is, "how hard is it to be vegan in Portugal?" My typical answer goes something like this: I can't even make my way through all the vegan in Portugal options in Lisbon!
Ah yes, Lisbon. It's easy to be an eater of plants in Portugal's breathtaking and hilly capital city.
Lisbon is the current darling on the tourism circuit, and with new restaurants cropping up every week to meet visitors’ demands, there are plenty of options to satisfy a variety of palates.
In fact, there are so many vegan and vegetarian restaurants, and restaurants that offer veggie or vegan options, that it's not hard to be vegan in Lisbon. And although I haven't yet eaten my way through all the veg and vegan establishments, I will certainly make a valiant effort to do so (such hard work!).
But About The Vegan in Portugal Challenges
I don't live in the city proper; I live a pleasant 10-minute ferry ride across the Tagus River (Rio Tejo). So as a vegan in Portugal, my experience centers on the Lisbon region.
Where I live, it's like another world from the cosmopolitan city. My neighborhood is a typical Portuguese neighborhood; vegan and vegetarian options are slim. We don't see foreigners or tourists too often over here, except along the charming main street and restaurant row of Cacilhas.
Cacilhas is a small town with a big shipbuilding and industrial past. Nowadays, though, it is the place where day-trippers come to dine at the traditional fish restaurants along the waterfront (pro tip: the best views of Lisbon are from here). The moment you step off the ferry, the smoky smell of grilled fish, and the din of street merchants trying to shout above one another to advertise their wares, overtakes your senses.
Although you won’t find many vegan or vegetarian restaurants where I live, a notable exception is Veg-e-tal and their cute hidden garden. That’s nice once in a while, however, if you enjoy cooking as I do, read on.
Portuguese cuisine is heavy on seafood, meat, and eggs. Still, the silent stars of the local fare are the bounty of beautiful veggies and fruits grown right here in this little Western European country. If you enjoy cooking, even making simple salads and pasta dishes with fresh vegetables, you will absolutely not starve as a vegan visiting Portugal.
Fresh citrus of all varieties, especially lemons, clementines, and oranges, enchant the senses. Plums, pears, apples, cherries, melons, passion fruit, and blueberries—all grown locally, and are abundant when in season. And figs! Did I mention the figs? Some of the most decadent fig varieties I’ve ever tasted are from Portugal.
The local mercado, supermarket, or corner frutaria is where you’ll find all kinds of fruits and vegetables.
I like to experiment with locally-grown veggies like the little heart-shapedcouve-coração, which I use in a vegan version of caldo verde (green broth) soup.
In addition to curious cabbages at the mercado, you'll find the usual kitchen staples like carrots, tomatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, and potatoes of all varieties, including delicious sweet potatoes from Aljezur. There they even have a 3-day festival dedicated to the humble tuber.
If you shop for your produce in season, you’ll get the tastiest selection and the best prices.
Shanna, A Vegan in Portugal, is a writer and creative strategist from San Diego, CA who decided to pursue her lifelong dream of living in Europe. Thinking that she'd settle in France or Spain, Portugal won her
heart. The climate, people, cost of living, quality of life, and healthcare were some of the many reasons she chose Portugal—oh, and the coffee, too.
Her one-hour So, You Want To Move To Portugal Skype sessions are designed to help you decide if a move abroad is right for you.
If you are dreaming of or spending any time in beautiful Portugal you need our Portuguese Discoveries Guide. Be it living in, an extended stay, a vacation or an eventual relocation, chances are you’re eager to explore the flavors on offer. And there are plenty here to please the palette. Certainly you’ll want to explore the many fantastic dining out options but you might also be interested in understanding the food scene from a local’s point of view.
However, let’s face it, unless we grew up in this gorgeous country we aren’t actually locals.
This nifty guide shares the results of our food searches and experiences as we’ve navigated Portuguese markets and makers. Whether you’re shopping for a picnic or a dinner party, take advantage of what we’ve learned and in no time you’ll be living like a local.
Get your free Relish Portugal Magazine subscription by clicking on the red bar above or below and we'll send you our personal, practical guide as a welcome gift to help you get into the Portuguese groove.
Out for one of our first quiosque cafés in a looong time and got to talking with the lovely Portuguese proprietor about travel in Portugal. Knowing that we are from the US, she excitedly asked us if we knew about Portugal's very own Route 66 -- the Estrada Nacional 2. We didn't but we do now!
It turns out that Frommer's listed it as one of "the best places to go in 2019". Here's what they said about it:
Tourism is booming on Portugal’s sun-kissed beaches and in coastal cities like Lisbon and Porto, but canny travelers can get ahead of the crowds by exploring the beautiful, often-neglected interior. Estrada Nacional 2 is Portugal's Route 66 equivalent, offering an iconic road trip through the headlands, winding 450 miles from the Roman city of Chaves, by the Spanish border in the north, down to the balmy southern beaches of the Algarve coast.
The road cuts through rugged and little-visited scenery, passing four UNESCO World Heritage sites, wild mountains, elegant spa towns, pristine lakes, and a string of historic towns and photogenic villages. Highlights include the majestic Douro Valley wine region, where riverside vineyards produce superlative vintages; the Casa de Mateus, an extraordinary Rococo palace; and the rolling plains of the Alentejo region, dotted with whitewashed villages famed for rustic cuisine.
The EN2 lets you linger in fabulous accommodations along the way, like the Vidago Palace, a recently restored spa-and-golf resort built on a grand scale in 1910; Convento da Sertã, a 17th-century convent turned boutique hotel that’s a hub for hikers, bikers, and kayakers; and L’and Vineyards, an ultramodern winery complete with Michelin-starred restaurant.
Visit Portugal has a page about it here:
There's also a great 75th Anniversary webpage for the Estrada Nacional 2:
Those that have taken Portugal's Route 66 recommend allowing plenty of time -- up to three weeks if you can -- to stop and explore along the way.
Whether on a motorcycle or a bicycle, in a camper van or a car, all signs point to Portuguese adventure.
Estrada Nacional 2 is at the top of our Portuguese bucket list. How about you?
This recipe for Portuguese red pepper paste is my take on the classic massa de pimentão, made from red bell peppers and salt. This paste adds all the other ingredients popular in Portugal: wine, paprika, garlic, hot sauce, and herbs. It’s Portugal in a jar.
It’s a bit like Asian fish sauce in that a little goes a loooooooong way. Rub a little bit of this paste on a beef roast, chicken (both above and below the skin), fish -- even peeled, halved potatoes before roasting. Or you can stir it into stews or soups. It works wonders when stirred into mayo or any other application you can imagine where you want or need a a bit of bling. Here's the recipe for my Portuguese Red Pepper Paste:
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons sweet smoked
1/4 cup dry red wine
8 to 10 garlic cloves
2 crumbled Turkish bay leaves
3 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste or 1 tablespoon double- concentrate tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
7 sprigs cilantro
5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (16 g)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Few dashes Piri-Piri sauce, or to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
In a food processor, combine all ingredients except olive oil. Pulse until the garlic and herbs are minced, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
With the motor still running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream and continue whirring until the mixture comes together in a slick, homogeneous paste, 1 to 2 minutes.
Use the mixture immediately or spoon it into a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to a month.
At Leite’s Culinaria, they believe a passion for food isn’t limited to the kitchen. A person can be as satisfied by eating a good meal as by reading about one. Therefore, their mission is to educate and to entertain cooks and readers of all levels who are interested in the diverse world of food. Spend time with their website and discover a multi-ethnic variety of recipes, how-tos, essays, musings, and interviews from writers both Pulitzer prize-winning
and previously unpublished.
Hot food, dry wit since 1999.
It’s hard to find a meat dish in Portugal without at least one kind of enchidos—traditional Portuguese sausages. You can find them in cozido, the feijoada (bean stew) or even mixed in soups like caldo verde.
Whether you like them fresh, grilled, baked or fried, there are endless ways of eating Portuguese sausages. If you need a little introduction, this sausage guide explains all the varieties you might find and the best way to eat them.
Chouriço is the most versatile Portuguese sausage and a staple petisco in the local tascas. Made with pork meat, it’s similar to Spanish chorizo, but has less paprika than its neighbor to the east, and tastes a bit smokier.
Here in Portugal, chouriço goes hand in hand with dishes like caldo verde soup and arroz de pato (duck rice).
You can have it cold, but the best way to eat it is in the form of flame-grilled chouriço assado. More than a mere dish, this is a full culinary experience!
When you order chouriço assado at a restaurant, your server will bring the sausage to your table on a clay dish. Then, they’ll light it up right in front of you. Once it’s on the table, you can cook the chouriço for as long as you like. For a perfect chouriço assado, the outside of the sausage should be slightly burned and crispy.
While you’re out and about, be sure to also try pão com chouriço (chorizo bread), a popular Lisbon street food that’s as simple— and as delicious—as it gets.
Linguiça is a thinner version of chouriço with some heavier notes of paprika, chilies, and garlic. Usually fried, this Portuguese sausage is an essential ingredient in the francesinha, Porto’s signature meat sandwich.
Morcela is a blood sausage, typically served in rural regions of Portugal like Guarda and Portalegre.
Besides pork meat, morcela also has the animal’s blood, which gives it a different consistency (soft and crumbly) and a darker color compared to chouriço and linguiça. Seasonings include several spices such as cloves and cumin, which add to its strong flavor.
And don’t worry if you’re a little squeamish—you can still try this typical Portuguese sausage. In the region of Leiria, there’s a version of morcela with rice—morcela de arroz—which is made both with and without blood.
Insider Tip: You can eat morcela as part of a dish like cozido or feijoada, but we like to eat it by itself straight from the oven and spread on a piece of bread.
The name farinheira comes from the word farinha, meaning “flour” in Portuguese. As you might have guessed, flour is one of the main ingredients of this smoked sausage, along with pork fat, garlic, white wine, and massa de pimentão (bell pepper paste).
Like morcela, you can eat it with bread, but it’s also common to mix it with scrambled eggs (look for ovos mexidos com farinheira). It has an orange-ish color and tastes sweeter than chouriço. Once cooked, farinheira turns into a delicious soft paste, perfect to spread on bread.
Most Portuguese sausages have always contained pork, but alheira is an exception.
In the 15th century, Portuguese Jews created this sausage as a way to deceive the Inquisition. Since they couldn’t eat pork, they made sausages with other kinds of meat like poultry and game, adding bread for texture. Garlic (alho) was also a common ingredient, hence the name alheira.
These days, you can find alheira with or without pork. The most famous variety comes from the region of Mirandela in the north of Portugal. There, locals like to eat it grilled and accompanied with boiled potatoes. In the south, however, it’s more common to see fried alheira served with french fries and a fried egg.
If you order a Portuguese sausage board, it will probably include a bit of salpicão.
Hailing from the northern region of Trás-os-Montes, this Portuguese sausage combines pork loin with wine, garlic, bay leaves, and sweet or hot paprika. It’s usually sliced into thin pieces and eaten uncooked with a piece of bread.
Paio is made of pork loin and seasoned with garlic, salt and sometimes red pepper paste. It resembles the salpicão, but it’s larger in diameter.
In supermarkets, you’ll often find paio cut into slices, making it a good option for sandwiches. There’s also another variety in the Alentejo region known as paio branco(white paio) which is lighter in color since it doesn’t include red pepper.
How Long Does Portuguese Sausage Keep?
Some Portuguese sausages like chouriço, linguiça, and salpicão can last up to three months when stored in a cool and dry place. Still, you should keep an eye out for mold.
If you bought a farinheira, it’s best to eat it within 15 days after your purchase. Packages of sausage from a supermarket will include an expiration date.
The best way to preserve the sausages after you open them is to rub them with a bit of olive oil on and around the area you cut. While the olive oil will change the flavor slightly, it prevents mold and preserves the sausage for later enjoyment.
Moving to or spending time in a new place is all about immersing yourself in local culture. And there’s no better way to do that than through food. Food brings people together, no matter where you’re from or what language you speak.
Meet Devour Lisbon's local experts and venture off the beaten path to experience the best of the city's cuisine like the local you are. Take part in their mission to help local culture thrive as together you’ll support family- run businesses and unique cultural icons. Meet the proud people behind your food, hear fascinating stories, and experience age-old traditions.
Book your Devour Lisbon Food Tours (or one of their six other fab food cities) today and experience the food scene like you live here. Bem vindo!
Joana Taborda is a Portuguese travel writer based in Lisbon. On her blog, City Odes, she writes about the hidden gems of Portugal, fun road trips and train rides worth taking. She's also got a great archive of expat interviews called LisbonInsideOut.
When she’s not typing away on her laptop, you can findher drinking an IPA in one of Lisbon’s latest craft beer bars.
Seeking to bring together the best premium olive oil produced in Portugal, Relish Portugal contributor LOA | The Olive World is entirely focused on excellence and partnership with local producers who cherish and pamper their olive trees. They are committed to small producers that decided to change their lives and that do not have scale or do not intend to compete in large markets; producers who respect nature and its principles and lovingly develop their products with friends and family ... and you in mind.