Portugal and Food (& Vegan Options)

…um tópico praticamente infinito, não é?
I think it will be very interesting to read people’s posts regarding Portugal and anything food-related! Portugal is, obviously, proud of its cuisine, e.g., pasteis de Belém, pasteis de nata, caldo verde, and the infinitely-healthy Francesinha! :smile:


I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth and I find most Portuguese pastries to be a bit too sugar-loaded for me, but I mean, I couldn’t ever refuse a warm, freshly-baked pastel de nata. Ever :drooling_face:


I am wondering very much if anyone else has had experiences related to being vegan in Portugal. I, myself, am vegan for many years, and when we first visited Lisbon in 2009 and went to a traditional restaurant, we asked the waiter if they could accommodate this request, and he was very assuring that they knew how to steam vegetables! :slight_smile: This was perfectly fine with me. I have read, recently, that there was a law approved in March 2017 that required food establishments to have at least one vegan option on the menu. Is this now actual law? It would be great, in my opinion, if this were the case. It would make it much easier for vegans to more fully enjoy visits to Portugal.

Great topic! :yum: I eat pretty much vegetarian but with fish (pescatarian I guess), which I find opens up the options quite a bit. Luckily, I love me some bacalhau. :fish:

As for vegan, I think that can be a challenge. Around Lisbon and any other areas of Portugal that are a bit more touristy, it will certainly be possible, you’ll just need to do some digging first. I think Zomato, Foursquare or Google Maps allow you to filter the restaurants to the find the ones that advertise vegan options.

…And you’re right! I hadn’t heard about this law, but looks like it has been in effect since 2017. (Já é lei: obrigatório um prato vegetariano em todas as cantinas públicas) I wonder how well it’s been followed / enforced. I’ll have to pay attention from now on :thinking:

As for dining in traditional Portuguese restaurants, I’d be less confident that you’d find a satisfying option. Normally when you ask for a salad, unless stated otherwise, it will often just be a bit of lettuce with tomato and raw onion.

In my own experience, substitutions and special requests aren’t as easily accomodated compared to in North America, for example, (quite possibly because of the difference in tipping culture). If you’re in a restaurant here, they will often simply tell you a substitution isn’t possible – maybe they don’t want the trouble of asking the chef/manager, or perhaps they don’t have a system in place for charging something that doesn’t have a button for it on register. It’s quite possible that I’m being unfair here though, so I’d be curious to hear others’ experiences too!

As for non-vegan Portuguese food favourites, I’m usually pretty satisfied with any of the hundreds of ways bacalhau is prepared! Mil folhas de bacalhau, bacalhau à brás, yuuuum.

As for sweets, pastel de amêndoa (almond) and pastel de feijão (bean) are a couple of my favourites. They are about the size of a pastel de nata/Belém, but more filling (and possibly less sugary, but don’t quote me on that!)

image Pasteis de Amêndoa (Source)

image Pasteis de feijão (Source)

Salame de chocolate (which has nothing to do with meat, don’t worry) is also amaaaazing.

Salame de chocolate (Source)


Portugal knows how to do comfort food!

My favorite things so far have been salada de polvo (I could eat this every day), bifanas, Serra da Estrela cheese, requeijão, the olives, and the wide availability of fresh bread.

I also really enjoy caldo verde… but does anyone have any tips on how to eat it without grabbing the entire mass of greens at once with your spoon?? :rofl:

I’ve had a lot of amazing pastries such as queijada de laranja, and many croissants, which are delicious and very different from the types of croissants I’ve had in the past. I was confused by the chocolate salami at first, but I loved it when I finally tried it! I also like that passion fruit is such a common flavor here. In the U.S., it was fairly rare.

I would love to find a photo guide to all the sweets here. I sometimes see something tasty in a pastry shop, but I don’t know what to call it when I order. I had something really good that was a large flat circle that tasted like it was made of chunks of coconut and maybe nuts and some sort of cookie-like dough, topped with powdered sugar. If anyone knows what I’m talking about, let me know what it’s called!

I used to live in San Diego, where there is a ton of good Mexican food and Vietnamese food, so easy access to burritos, fresh salsa (the tomato kind, not parsley!), banh mi, and pho are probably the things I miss the most.

@david2019 I was not fully vegan or vegetarian, but I used to eat a lot less meat before moving here. I have seen a few vegetarian restaurants here and there, but I would imagine your options would be a bit limited. In my experience, even most of the salads and soups contain a little bit of meat. It depends on where you’re located, too. Lisbon seems to have a lot more veggie options compared to Porto, for example.


Hi, Joel! Thanks for this great reply! Glad to hear that you eat pretty much vegetarian! Perhaps, one day, there will be bacalhau de soja!
I hope the law stays around. It seems to me a very small thing to ask that restaurants have at least one vegan/vegetarian dish, and it would open up their clientele a good bit.

I have always managed in pretty much any country we’ve visited to find something, and I actually fondly recall the lettuce/tomato/onion salads in Lisbon! Seriously! Your dessert photos are great! Most things can be veganized to a greater or lesser extent–even desserts. Very interested in anyone’s posts here regarding the topic.

1 Like

Hi, Molly!
Quite a varied diet!

Just a note on the caldo verde. When we visited Lisbon, we asked at one restaurant that, I guess, specialized in caldo verde, and the waiter had the cook actually prepare, while we waited, a batch of caldo verde with water as a base and with no linguiça. It was great! I, myself, have made it at home, but I never quite know how much kale to put in it–it sometimes resembles a giant kelp forest!

Yes, Portugal does, indeed, know how to do comfort food!

1 Like

In Madeira, there are more vegan options on menus than a couple of years ago and chefs and restaurant staff are beginning to understand that more and more people don’t eat anything that comes from an an animal! Often, in the past, if you asked if they had vegan options, they’d suggest an omelette or something with cheese, and even once, chicken!
Like you Joel, I am pescatarian and there is always a fantastic selection of very fresh fish in Madeira with increasingly more restaurants with vegan options.

1 Like

Haha you’re not exaggerating, I’ve had this happen too. I’ve asked for something vegetarian and they’ll said “este prato é com fiambe… não é carne, é só fiambre!” (This dish is with sliced meat… it’s not meat, just sliced meat!) :man_shrugging:

That’s a great sign that you’re seeing improvements :slight_smile:

1 Like

Here are some results of my portuguese pastery skills :slight_smile:


Incredibly beautiful, Matthias! Did you master this skill in Portugal?


Thank you David2019 :slight_smile: I first tried pastéis de nata at home. The first ones were terrible. Then I started to look for recipies in the internet. I finally found one that was good for me. But it took more than 20 tries. Before that I asked a lot of people in Lisbon in summer 2017 how is the best way to make pastéis de nata. But most of the people told me that they did not know how to make them because they do not make them by themselves because it is easier to buy them there. But in Lisbon I could buy 25 of the metal forms. In Germany it is impossible to get those.


Meu deus that is impressive!! Your persistence has paid off. He who can make pastries shall befriend any Portuguese local! :joy:


Haha, I should open up a pastelaria in Lisbon. But it would be like bringing owls to Athens :slight_smile:

1 Like

Congratulations, Matthias, looks great! I hope you’re not baking them all the time (please do, for all of us), because you’d never burn all those calories off (who cares? it’s pastel de nata!) :stuck_out_tongue:


@matthias.wintzer Uhhhhh do you want to share your secret recipe?? Those look incredible.

1 Like

@David2019 I bet you could actually make a really good vegan version of the francesinha too. With a cheese substitute, a thick chunk of grilled portobello mushroom, soyrizo, good bread, and some sort of veggie stock, tomato, and beer sauce. It could work! There must be a restaurant out there that has tried something like this.

1 Like

Hey Molly, this is the best recipe I found.

Bom apetite!


Yeah or that seitan or tempeh stuff could work too!

Molly and Joel, these are good ideas. I actually have found vegan recipes online for Francesinha, but, to be honest, those are not healthy recipes, either, in addition to being lots of work!

1 Like