Located on Portugal’s northwest coast between the Atlantic Ocean and the neatly terraced vineyards of the Douro Valley, Porto is blessed with some of Europe’s best produce from land and sea.
What food is Porto famous for? Fish and meat both feature prominently in the city’s kitchens. Hearty sandwiches, rich stews, mouthwatering plates of shellfish, and one of the region’s most famous exports, Port wine have all put Porto cuisine on the map. From caldo verde (Portuguese soup) to tarte de amendoa (almond tart), dine your way around the city with these lip-smacking dishes.
Discover the best food in Porto, plus some tips on where to find it.
Tripas à Moda do Porto
Porto is one of the best foodie destinations in Europe, and if your taste buds are in the mood for a rustic dish that’s unique to the city, tripas à moda do Porto—tripe, Porto style—will hit the spot. You’ll typically find veal tripe used in this dish, together with smoked pork sausage, white beans, onions, carrots, and various spices and herbs thrown together to create a delightfully rich stew.
This centuries-old European dish has a backstory with roots in the 15th century. It’s said that Portuguese explorer Prince Henry the Navigator requested the help of Porto’s residents to prepare for one of his expeditions. Having generously donated all of their meat supplies to the explorer, locals were left with nothing but tripe, so tripas à moda do Porto was born.
Take a seat at the beloved O Buraco restaurant, which translates as The Hole, on Rua do Bolhão, to sample tripas à moda do Porto for yourself.
This hulking sandwich might not be the prettiest dish in Porto, or the healthiest for anybody with high cholesterol, but it’s a local institution. Consisting of chunky slices of chorizo, ham, or steak—sometimes all three—layered between two slices of thick bread, what sets the francesinha apart is the melted cheese in which it’s smothered. Sometimes a fried egg, sunny-side up, is added on top for more gooey goodness.
There’s yet more to this famous sandwich: A gravy-like, tomato-based sauce is poured over for added umami. Tackle a famous francesinha served with a side of fries on an empty stomach once you’ve ticked off your list of things to do in Porto.
Bolinhos de Bacalhau
Food in Portugal is undeniably tasty, including bolinhos de bacalhau—or Portuguese codfish balls—a well-seasoned sphere of potato and codfish, coated in golden breadcrumbs.
Similar to salt cod croquettes, bolinhos de bacalhau is prepared in a quenelle—an elegant three-sided scoop—before being deep-fried. Eat bolinhos de bacalhau hot or cold, but judge the quality by the texture. They must be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Traditional food in Porto is satisfying and comforting, with caldo verde a prime example. A robust soul-warming soup that consists of potatoes, kale or cabbage, and chorizo or other types of sausages, caldo verde is a soothing, one-pot dish. Enjoy a hearty bowl with a thick wedge of fluffy bread to mop up the tasty juices.
Caldo verde is traditionally consumed around the Festival of St John of Porto in honor of Saint John the Baptist, which takes place every year around the summer solstice. Street concerts, dancing, and fireworks take place, and copious bowls of caldo verde washed down with wine are consumed during the celebrations. You’ll find caldo verde throughout the city at any time of year, though.
Serra da Estrela Cheese
One of the best foods in Porto is a sublime cheese from the pastures of the Serra da Estrela. The creamy, soft-centered cheese is produced from sheep that graze on the wildflowers and herbs of this green mountainous region of Portugal. The cheese is characterized by its contrasting buttery and floral flavors.
In Porto, feast on Serra da Estrela with lashings of honey, fig, or quince, which nicely balance the cheese’s smooth and velvety texture. The dish is a great vegetarian option in what is admittedly a very meat-orientated cuisine. Try Tabua Rasa on Rua da Picaria, a specialist cheese, cured meat, and traditional canned seafood restaurant.
Bacalhau com Natas
Food in Porto frequently involves bacalhau (salt cod), and there are dozens of ways to prepare and cook it. One of the most popular is oven-baked, layered with onion, diced potato, and cream, to create Bacalhau com Natas. Nutmeg, garlic, and herbs such as parsley are used to add depth to the flavor.
Take a seat at one of the many restaurants lining the banks of the Douro and enjoy this sumptuous dish with an ice-cold glass of Vinho Verde or a lightly oaked Douro white wine.
A staple of the Portuguese diet, one of the best foods in Porto is, surprisingly, canned fish. Sardines, anchovies, and mackerel, among other fish, are preserved and packed into cans, often artistically decorated, making them the perfect gourmet souvenir to take home.
Stop by Porto’s Loja das Conservas, with an outpost on Rua Mouzinho da Silveira, to get your hands on some beautifully-packaged canned fish. An array of flavors include mackerel in mustard sauce, mussels in red pickled sauce, and sardines in olive oil with oregano.
If you don’t plan on taking preserved fish home with you, buy a selection of cans and crusty bread from a local bakery for an instant and easy picnic in the serene Palacio de Cristal Gardens, with spectacular views of the Douro River.
Another traditional Portuguese dish, aletria is a sweet dessert made of fine, stringy pasta, with milk, egg yolks, sugar, lemon rind, and cinnamon for a custardy, zesty finish. The dish is usually topped with a criss-cross pattern of cinnamon powder. Vermicelli noodles can also be used to make aletria, which is typically eaten during the holidays in Portugal.
Outside of the holiday season, you’ll find aletria on the menus of traditional restaurants, such as the cute Casa Nanda, near the Bolhão neighborhood, or the upmarket Restaurante Rogério do Redondo, located in the charming Bonfim neighborhood.
Take a break from touring the historic, cobbled streets of Ribeira and fill up on one of Porto’s best dishes, the cachorrinho. To make a cachorrinho, thin slices of crusty bread are stuffed with spicy sausage, sometimes alheira, and coated in a tangy sauce.
From casual hole-in-the-wall joints to traditional restaurants, you’ll find cachorrinho available all over Porto. Take a seat in one of Porto’s pretty squares and order a chilled beer to accompany your meat feast.
If you’re beachside, try Bar Tolo, just one block from the ocean on the attractive Rua da Senhora da Luz.
Food in Porto often involves variations on the humble sandwich and one of the best is the bifana. What makes this Porto dish stand out is the succulent, marinated pork that fills the open sub.
The meat is cooked in white wine and chicken stock, with undertones of garlic and smoky paprika, and topped with slithers of caramelized onion. A bifana is Portuguese soul food at its finest.
Alheira Portuguese Sausage
Head to Bolhão Market—temporarily housed at Rua de Fernandes Tomás while the original building gets a makeover—and pick up some of this marvelous, garlicky sausage, often found dangling from vendors’ stalls.
Unlike most sausages, alheira is typically made up of non-pork meat, such as veal, game, or chicken. It’s an appetizing lunch or snack option, especially when accompanied by a selection of olives, cheeses, and fresh bread.
Tuck into a plate of plump, grilled sardines by the Douro or on the beach in Porto. These delectable jewels of the sea are served freshly caught and whole, with their silvery, scorched skin, tail, and head still in place for extra bite.
Rich in Omega-3, sardines might be small, but they are packed with flavor and only require a small amount of seasoning—typically a pinch of rock salt, a squeeze of lemon, and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.
Tarte de Amêndoa
Food in Porto doesn’t get much better than this buttery-based, Portuguese almond tart. An ideal daytime snack or sweet finish to a meal, tarte de amêndoa is topped with crunchy, caramelized almonds for a decadent finish. Savor a slice with a serving of whipped cream or crème fraîche.
Try the gorgeous Padaria Ribeiro bakery, which first opened in Porto in 1878. Padaria Ribeiro has four venues in the greater Porto region, including one on Praça Guilherme Gomes Fernandes, near the Baroque Carmo Church in downtown Porto.
Cozido à Portuguesa
Sink your teeth into a hearty plate of cozido à Portuguesa, a boiled meat stew that is a staple in Porto. The dish combines a variety of cuts of meat—chicken, pork, and beef—typically whatever is available at the market, cooked with a batch of vegetables, including carrots, cabbage, onions, and potatoes.
Variations might also include turnips, beans, and rice. Smoked sausage and an assortment of offal are commonly added to create depth to the dish.
Camarao de Alho
Lying on the Atlantic coast and with the Douro River flowing through the city, Porto is a seafood lover’s dream. One popular shellfish dish is camarao de alho (garlic shrimp)—a recurring dish in restaurants across Porto.
Ocean-fresh shrimp, plump and juicy, are sauteed in a pan, allowing the juices to flow with lemon, garlic, and parsley. A popular snack or sharing dish, camarao de alho is best ordered with a selection of plates to share among friends after a day at the beach.
A Marisqueira de Matosinhos, near Matosinhos Beach, just north of the city center, is one of the best spots around for fresh shellfish. Take your pick from spiny lobster, spider crab, oysters, clams, and a variety of shrimp.
Bacalhau à Lagareiro
Bacalhau à lagareiro is another Portuguese salt cod dish. This traditional food involves roasted salt cod served with roasted or boiled potatoes. The potatoes are sometimes crushed, always salted, and served with the cod on top.
Sauteed olives, onions, peppers, garlic, parsley, and a generous dousing of olive oil finish this rustic Porto dish.
Salads de Polvo
This uncomplicated summertime favorite consists of grilled or white-wine braised octopus, commonly served with chopped garlic, onions, and parsley, drizzled with lemon and olive oil. The delicate octopus meat is first tenderized to soften the texture.
Take a seat at one of Porto’s many seaside restaurants and order salads de polvo as part of a selection of small plates—called petiscos—served like Spanish tapas, washed down with a glass of northern Portuguese white wine from the Minho region.
Northern Portugal’s wine-growing region is defined by its terraced, sun-drenched vineyards, producing red and white wine but most famously, port.
A luscious fortified wine, port is known for its sweet taste and rich flavors. Port is available in a variety of styles and colors, from ruby-red to tawny and white varieties. Get to know the region’s famous drink on a visit to some of the many port houses and cellars along the Douro Valley.
Rent a car or join a tour tracing the scenic River Douro from the city into the bucolic town of Pinhão or Peso da Régua, an exceptionally beautiful 90-minute journey. As well as plummy ports, indulge in a tasting of delicious white, red, and rosé wines.
In Peso da Régua, visit a local winery where you have the chance to learn more about the history of port, as well as the table wines produced in the region. Take part in a tasting while you’re here, with cheeses and dark chocolatey desserts pairing particularly well with vintage ports.
There are plenty of port cellars in Porto; Churchill’s Lodge, Sandeman, and Caves Cálem are just a few. Porto Cruz Multimedia Center is an interesting place in which to take a deep dive into port through a program of exhibits and events. Take part in a tasting and pick up a bottle of your favorite port to take home as a memento of your vacation.
If you’ve been tantalized by the food in Porto—along with the city’s rich culture, historical landmarks, and pretty streetscapes—explore our luxury cruises to Portugal.