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There were many reasons I was excited to move to Portugal. As well as the weather, culture and ‘grammable tiles, I was keen to find out what to eat in Porto and fully immerse myself in the Porto food scene.
The only Portuguese dish I knew before visiting was pastel de nata and, as I discovered, they don’t even originate from Porto. Yup, I was in for a food education (fooducation, did I just invent a word?) involving meat, carbs, cheese, more meat, more carbs… It’s been a learning curve, the latter word applying to my waistline the more typical Porto dishes I consume!
Accommodation: Booking.com / Hostelworld
Getting there: flight (Skyscanner), train (Omio), bus (Flixbus)
Food tours & activities: EatWith
Getting around: walk / Metro / bus / taxi
Guidebook: Lonely Planet Porto
A bit about food in Porto
Porto’s food scene may be lesser-known than Lisbon’s but that’s always the way when the two cities are compared. Personally, I like that you don’t have a predefined image of Porto before visiting; cities like this let you form your own opinions.
Porto’s culinary scene has centuries of history and takes influence from various regions. It’s meat and dairy-heavy with many traditional Porto dishes using all parts of the animal. How many eggs fuel Porto’s endless supply of pastéis de nata? The limit surely does not exist.
To summarise, Porto is a fantastic city for foodies. There are no-frills local restaurants serving the same dishes for centuries, quirky Porto coffee shops, fine dining and places to go for brunch in Porto. In this guide, I’ll be talking less about where to eat and more about WHAT to eat in Porto, Portugal.
Read next: 80 best things to do in Porto
Best food in Porto: 25 must-try dishes
These dishes are in no particular order alhough the first is most definitely my favourite…
1. The ultimate Porto food – francesinha
The number one Porto food to try is, of course, the ubiquitous francesinha. When I first researched food in Porto, I could barely believe my eyes when I saw photos of this ridiculous sandwich oozing meat, cheese and simmering in a bath of thick sauce.
So, what exactly comprises a francesinha? Well, an outrageous amount of meat. Recipes vary depending where you eat in Porto but generally include steak, sausage and ham at a minimum, stuffed between thick slices of white bread.
The calorific creation is drenched with melted cheese, topped with a fried egg and laid to rest in a pool of sauce made from tomato and beer. Yes, beer.
History of the francesinha
I can’t lie, I was a little disappointed by the story of the francesinha, which translates as ‘little French woman’. I was hoping for a tale about an inspirational woman, forever commemorated as a sandwich (note to my loved ones – this is what I want!) but the inventor, Daniel Silva, was simply inspired by the French dish, croque monsieur.
He returned to Porto and began serving an early, simple version of the francesinha at Regaleira restaurant, a place that still exists but is no longer known as the best place to eat it. For this, I can have a few suggestions…
Where to eat francesinha in Porto
As the most famous food in Porto, francesinhas can be found everywhere from pastelerias to late-night snack bars. From dawn to dusk, locals tuck into francesinhas and tourists gingerly try to finish them while trying to decide if it’s the best or worst dish ever invented. If you try it at a cheap snack bar, you may think the latter!
A few notable places to try francesinha in Porto include:
Brasão – this restaurant with branches in the city centre, Foz and beside Jardim Marques de Oliveira is my recommended option if you only have time or inclination for one francesinha. The meat is perfectly cooked and the sauce rich but not overpowering. As well as full servings, Brasão offer a half francesinha and a veggie version from €9.50.
Cafe Santiago – with over 60 years’ experience and an atmospheric old-school vibe, most Porto food guides will tell you to eat at Cafe Santiago although I personally preferred the quality of the meat at Brasão. Still, the Santiago offering is the whole shebang with mortadella, fresh sausage, linguiça sausage, beefsteak and ham.
Related activity: make your own francesinha during a cooking class
2. Prego em prato
I ate this classic Porto dish within my first 12 hours in the city, following a day of brunch, cod cakes, chorizo, pastel de nata and port wine. It truly was the most indulgent day of my life (probably).
Prego em prato is a dish combining steak, ham, egg, chips and cheese. A reformated francesinha, if you will, minus the sauce.
I assumed the word prego meant beef since I’d spotted another typical Porto dish on the menu, prego em pão, and I knew that pão meant bread. It turns out that prego means nail and allegedly references garlic slices being pounded into steaks.
Where to eat Prego em prato
You’ll see this dish on many a restaurant menu in Porto. I ate the serving above at República Dos Cachorros near Jardim Marques de Oliveira. It’s not a stand-out restaurant but, if you’re in the mood for meat in excess, you won’t be disappointed by their prego em prato. As the name suggests, the cachorrinhos (Portuguese hot dogs) aren’t bad, either.
3. Bacalhau (codfish)
Fish fans wondering what to eat in Porto need look no further than bacalhau (in English, cod), a dish which locals will tell you there are over 1,000 ways to prepare.
Portugal is the EU country that consumes the most fish: twice the standard level. To summarise, expect several fish dishes in this Porto food guide.
Disappointingly, bacalhau is not fished off the Portuguese coast but from colder Scandinavian waters. Still, you’ll see it everywhere from upscale restaurants to supermarkets where enormous – and very, ahem, fragrant – fillets are salted and airdried. This method of preserving cod kept it fresh in centuries gone by during its long journey back to Portugal.
Look out for bacalhau com natas, a heavy but delicious dish of diced bacalhau baked with cream and potato, and bacalhau à Braga, where the fish is fried and served on a bed of thick potato slices.
4. Bolinhos de bacalhau (salt cod fritters)
The quintessential codfish fritter is easily one of the best things to eat in Porto. Of the 1,000 ways to serve bacalhau, this is my favourite (although I can’t promise I’ve tried the other 999).
These small bitesize appetisers are made from fresh cod, mixed with potato, parsley and onion, coated with breadcrumbs. They originate from the Minho region of Portugal and were invented after potatoes came to Portugal from South America in the late 1700s.
In the south of Portugal, they’re called pastéis de bacalhau (cod pastries) and in the north, they’re usually called bolinhos de bacalhau (cod cakes) but rest assured, they’re the same and equally delicious.
5. Rissoles de carne (croquettes)
From afar, these beige morsels look similar to bolinhos de bacalhau. However, rissoles have a slightly different shape (similar to tiny empanadas) and a different filling. Rather than cod, rissoles de carne are filled with meat, usually flavoursome ground pork mixed with herbs and spices.
Rissoles can be eaten as a starter, snack or main dish with chips and salad.
Where to eat rissoles in Porto
You can’t beat Cana Verde, a small restaurant on Rua dos Caldeireiros in the city centre. This street on a hill is slightly hidden and not one you’d stumble down unless you were looking for something. If that thing is rissoles de carne, don’t delay: this authentic restaurant gets busy at lunchtime.
Cana Verde has a handwritten menu, often changing depending on the ingredients they have in stock.
Another option is Oficina dos Rissóis, a small restaurant with bar seats and tables outside. They serve meat, fish and veggie rissóis with fillings from veal to chorizo, shrimp, truffle and even non-traditional ones like Thai curry! They cost €2-3 and can be eaten with plain-sounding yet delicious starters like fried potatoes with aioli and tomato rice.
6. Rissoles de legumes
Vegetarians hoping to eat some of the best food in Porto needn’t be left out when rissoles are concerned. Rissoles de legumes (vegetable rissoles) are filled with white sauce and vegetables like peas and carrots. They’re great as a starter or picnic food.
Aside from Oficina dos Rissóis, one of the best places to eat rissoles de legumes in Porto is Confeitaria do Bolhao, an old-school cafeteria in the city centre. The earlier in the day you visit, the fresher they’ll be. Brasão, the restaurant I mentioned for francesinha, also serve veggie rissoles as appetizers (just be careful as the ‘cheese’ ones also contain ham).
Finally, Cafe Almada serve veggie rissoles with chips and salad for €4. This isn’t a fancy restaurant but it’s cheap with hearty meals.
Find me a Porto food guide not mentioning bifana... They don’t exist! These meaty Portuguese sandwiches may not be unique to Porto but that’s no reason not to devour several during your trip.
A steak sandwich may sound simple but there’s a formula to the perfect bifana. Pork steaks are seasoned and simmered in a sauce made from white wine, garlic and other spices. Depending where you eat them, they may have a spicy kick.
Bifanas commonly cost between €1.50 and €3 making them one of the best Porto foods for those travelling on a budget.
Where to eat bifana in Porto
Some of the best food in Porto is served at Conga on Rúa do Bonjardim, a modest restaurant open since 1976. Don’t expect any frills but do expect a mind-blowing bifana for €2.30 with piping hot, spicy meat softening the crusty bread. Get there early on weekends or expect to queue!
I also like Taxca‘s €2.20 bifana along with their affordable homemade vinho verde wines. An even cheaper eatery popular with students is Taskinha. Along with cheap drinks and other famous Porto dishes, their bifana is only €1.50!
Sardines are a Portuguese staple and, as a coastal city, you’ll find them in many a Porto restaurant. Often served with potatoes and vegetables such as onion and pepper, they make a tasty – and healthy – meal.
Where to eat sardines in Porto
Many places, but dedicated fish restaurants are always best. You can’t do better than Matashinos, a coastal town just a 30-minute Metro ride from downtown Porto where local restaurants grill freshly-caught sardines on hot coals in front of you.
9. Fresh seafood
As you may have guessed from bacalhau and sardines, many of the best Porto foods are straight outta the ocean. Although I enjoyed all the fish dishes previously mentioned, neither cod nor sardines are my favourite fish.
If you love seafood, you’ll find some of the best food in Porto served in Matosinhos. In this beach town, there are many restaurants ranging from fantastic to average. My top pick is Tito II on Rua Herois de Franca. A meal of swordfish, octopus, appetizers and white wine cost us €17 each.
Top tip – a few of the less amazing Mataoshinos restaurants serve you a bunch of starters which you have to pay for. When dining solo, a €6 sardine lunch ended up being €12 including the appetizers like a vat of tuna mayo. If you don’t want these, just say no before the staff put them down.
10. Canned fish
In many of our home countries, canned fish would be inferior to fresh fish; something you’d find at the back of the cupboard when the fridge was bare. But in Portugal, canned fish is quite the craze.
It all began in the 1800s when Nicolas Appert published a book on the art of canning meat and vegetables to preserve them. Sardines soon became the next ingredient to be canned and later, Portugal ramped up production to provide soldiers with long-lasting food during the world wars.
These days, it’s not just sardines you find in cans but squid, octopus, tuna and more!
Where to buy canned fish in Porto
After the success of the Lisbon store, Loja das Conservas opened in Porto in 2013. If you can fit around the strange opening times (3-7pm), you can learn about the history as you browse shelves of colourful cans. They also sell boxes containing tinned fish, Porto wine and other confectionaries.
Another central store is O Mundo Fantástico das Sardinhas Portuguesas. It’s touristic but you can’t deny it’s impressive: a Disneyland of canned sardines!
Another place to buy canned sardines is Mercado do Bolhão. The main market is currently closed for renovation but you can find the vendors in the basement of La Vie Shopping Centre.
11. Sande de pernil (roasted pork leg sandwich)
Voted one of the best sandwiches in the world by Time Out, the roasted pork shoulder sandwich at Casa Guedes is worth a mention in any Porto food guide.
This modest cafe with tiled floors and hanging hams has been serving since 1987. The sande de pernil (pork sandwiches) are just as uncomplicated: rich, shredded meat piled into a crusty roll with a choice of fillings. The menu comprises simple sandwiches with either meat or cheese as well as combination sandwiches.
Order the ‘pernil com queijo de ovelha’ (pork with sheep’s cheese) or the ‘chef Guedes’ with pork, brie, onion in port wine and rocket. I ordered the latter for €6.90. Expensive for a not-particularly-large sandwich but I guess they’re pretty famous… and I can’t deny it was delicious!
For an extra €1.80, add a croquette to your meal. Choose pork shoulder and sheep’s cheese (pernil com queijo de ovelha) or chicken and sheep’s cheese (coxinha de frango com queijo de ovelha).
Address: Praça dos Poveiros 130.
12. Prego no pão
On the topic of meaty sandwiches, we can’t discuss food in Porto without mentioning prego no pão. The prego is a classic beefsteak, sandwiched between two crusty slices of bread.
Some say the prego no pão is named after the movement of a nail (prego) being hammered like garlic into a steak, while others vouch for the story that this simple sandwich is named after a cafe owner from Sintra, Manuel Dias Prego.
Mull over who you believe while tucking into one!
Prego no pão isn’t a traditional Porto food but a dish found the length and breadth of the country. Unlike some dishes, there aren’t too many regional variations but then, why would there need to be? A steak sandwich needs no improvement, surely.
Where to eat prego no pão in Porto
There are many places but I can vouch for Lareira. Their pregos cost between €5.60 and €6.50 whether you choose to add egg, cheese or ham. The bread is crusty yet soft inside, the steak was perfectly cooked, and the egg and cheese just finished it off.
Washed down with a glass of house red, I paid €7 for lunch. Visit the Baixa branch at 8 Rua Das Oliveiras.
When I heard one of the best things to eat in Porto was a hot dog, I was initially sceptical. My mind instantly goes to limp pink sausages in soft bread buns, although after discovering the best German dishes, I probably should have known better.
The Portuguese cachorrinho is a skinny, spicy sausage in an equally skinny bread roll (crispy, baguette-style). When sliced and shared, they can be eaten as an appetizer or, if you’re not a sharer (I feel ya) with a side of fries as a main dish.
Where to eat cachorrinhos in Porto
Just as the sande de pernil has become synonymous with Casa Guedes, the cachorrinho has become associated with Gazela, partly due to the late, great Anthony Bourdain.
Open since 1962, it was a local institution long before Bourdain visited Porto. After he graced the bar stools of this snack bar and brewery, it only increased in popularity.
Sip a light or dark Superbock beer in a glass as skinny as your cachorinnho. You won’t find a better place to eat cachorrinho in Porto than this!
Address: Travessa Cimo de Vila 4-10, 4000-171 Porto.
14. Cachorro especial
A ‘special cachorro’ is a regular hot dog given the ‘francesinha treatment’ AKA covered with cheese and francesinha sauce, served on a bed of fries. If there were health inspectors for calorie control, I imagine they’d ban this Porto dish in an instant!
15. Tripas a mode
One of the stranger foods in Porto is tripas a mode. Although tripe usually refers to the intestine of an animal, this typical Porto dish is made from cow’s stomach. Not for the faint of heart!
Unlike other dishes found all over Portugal, tripas a mode is a traditional dish from Porto. It’s a complex recipe often including steak or veal, ham, butter beans, carrots, garlic, cumin, paprika and other seasonings. I enjoyed the rich bean stew but found the texture of the meat very off-putting.
With decades of history, Restaurante Líder is known as one of the best places to try tripas a mode in Porto.
16. Alheira (Portuguese sausage)
Leaving talk of innards behind, these sausages are what to eat in Porto when you fancy a delicious meaty meal. Deriving from the word garlic (alho), they no longer need to include it to qualify but many still do, alongside other ingredients like bread, red meat, poultry, herbs and seasoning.
In a 2011 vote, it was decided that alheira is one of Portugal’s seven gastronomic wonders. The rumour goes that when Portugal’s Jewish community were hiding in the Trás-os-Montes mountains, they invented sausages made from bread and poultry (rather than pork) to reduce suspicion from the locals.
I’ve since been told this is a rumour and they were simply invented as a low-cost food item during times of famine. A shame as I like the first story more!
These days, alheira is commonly made with pork or beef mixed with bread but I believe sometimes poultry is still sometimes used.
17. Caldo verde (green soup)
What’s this, a Porto dish made from green veg rather than cheese-drenched red meat? Yup, they do exist.
There are a fantastic selection of Portuguese soups to try during your trip, the most popular being caldo verde. Translating as ‘green soup’, this dish is made from stewed greens, potatoes, garlic, onion and black pepper.
On a cold winter day, it’s one of the best things to eat in Porto to warm you up.
The best Porto drinks to try
When discussing Porto’s culinary scene, it would be rude to leave out the famous beverages, especially since one in particular is known around the world and named after the city.
Wash down your food in Porto with a glug of the following…
18. Port wine
There’s no competition when it comes to the most popular drink from Porto. Delectable port wine is a syrupy sweet beverage often served as a dessert after your meal (although I don’t think we should restrict ourselves to only drinking port at certain times of day).
With a long history dating back to the 1600s, port wine is produced locally with the grapes grown in the UNESCO-protected Douro Valley just an hour from Porto by car. The British invented port when searching for a new wine supply after the French raised taxes on Bordeaux wine. When Portuguese wine spoiled on the journey back to Britain, it was infused with brandy to preserve it.
The rest is history!
The different types of port to try include:
Tawny: Red grapes aged in wooden barrels create the dark colour of tawny port. With a nutty quality, it’s usually sweet or medium dry.
Ruby: This is the most fruity style of port as well as the easiest to find overseas due to the affordability of its production and export process. It’s stored in concrete or stainless steel to preserve its bright red colour.
Rosé: This brand new style of port was invented in 2008 in an attempt to get young people drinking port, leaning away from its reputation as an old-fashioned drink. As a young(ish) person, I have to say it’s my least favourite and I prefer the OG ruby and tawny varieties.
Sweet white: Although it’s less commonly exported, white port has been made in Porto for almost 100 years. If you like sweet white wine, you may enjoy this variety. Personally, it’s WAY too sweet for me.
Dry white: Those who like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio will prefer dry white port to sweet white port.
The most popular Portuguese beer is worth trying during a trip to Porto. With 100 years of production under its belt, it’s a local favourite found in almost every restaurant, bar, cafe and food market in town. Try the light or dark variety.
20. Vinho verde (green wine)
A Porto beverage I LOVE is vinho verde. If you’ve never heard of it before, you may be thinking, green wine? What the…?
Vinho verde isn’t green in colour; the name means ‘young wine’ and refers to the process of wine being released 3-6 months after the grapes are harvested. It originates from the Minho province in Northern Portugal where there’s a dedicated Vinho Verde valley.
Red, rosé and white vinho verdes are characterised by their fresh, light flavour. Bottled, shop-bought versions follow the formal production process and are flat, but local restaurants often make their own with a hint of fizz. Both are worth a try and the latter can be particularly affordable.
Read next: the best wine and cocktail bars in Porto
What to eat in Porto – desserts & sweets
There’s really only word needed when discussing Portuguese desserts: egg custard!
I’ll never forget visiting a pasteleria with some vegan friends and asking if there was anything suitable to which the cafe owner replied, ‘no, every single thing is made with egg!’.
While it’s fair to say the desserts in Porto get a little samey (how many times do you need egg, cream and sugar in pastry before you get the gist?), they’re undeniably delicious. Trying to work your way through a pasteleria’s counter is a lot of fun.
A few of the best sweet foods in Porto include…
21. Pastel de nata
A Porto food that needs no introduction is pastel de nata. Although they originated in Lisbon, they’re now wildly popular in Porto, something I’m eternally grateful for (but my arteries probably aren’t).
These egg custard tarts are best eaten freshly cooked and still warm, topped with a generous dusting of cinnamon. If this isn’t automatically in reach, ask the cafe for some. In Portugal, cinnamon (canela) is never far away.
In my humble (yet meticulously-researched) opinion, the two best places to eat pastel de nata in Porto are Manteigaria (Rua de Alexandre Braga 24) and Fabrica de Nata (Rua de Santa Catarina). Both cafes are equally impressive: Manteigaria is bright and modern while Fabrica is traditional with tiled floors and chandeliers. Make sure to follow those pins as both cafes have smaller, less atmospheric branches elsewhere.
Nata D’ouro is also worth a visit to try flavoured nata like lemon, orange and port wine.
You’ll pay around €1 for pastel de nata in these popular cafes. In quiet neighbouhood pastelerias, they’re as little as 70 cents.
22. Bola de Berlim
How did a German doughnut become so popular in Portugal?
Well, the Berliner (a doughnut with no central hole) has made its way across Europe and can be found in many countries with different names and slight variations. In Portugal, it’s not cream but egg custard found inside. Shock!
These doughnuts have become a typical Porto food and can be found in the counter of every pasteleria in town for around €1.
23. Tarte de amêndoa
A Porto dessert that deviates from the usual egg custard combo is almond tart (tarte de amêndoa). A good one is light and moist with a sweet topping made from flaked almonds held together with a light glaze.
24. Bolinhos de Coco (coconut cakes)
Coconut is used in many Portuguese desserts including bolinhos de coco. Desiccated coconut is made into balls and held together with a sweet and sticky glaze. They’re inexpensive and delicious washed down with strong coffee.
Jesuítas are triangles of puff pastry topped with a layer of sugary icing. You can try them at any bakery but they can be dry and flavourless.
The place I’d recommend is Pastelaria e Confeitaria Moura, a family-run bakery with 125 years’ expertise. Here, the puff pastry is light and fluffy. Pull them apart and place the sugar layer face down on the other half to make a ‘sugar sandwich’.
Apparently, the recipe is top secret and the siblings who run the cafe won’t travel together in case of an accident! Now that’s dedication to dessert…
Where to eat the best vegan food in Porto
When I first arrived in Porto, I didn’t think it was a city suitable for vegans. But as I prepared for my sister to visit, I realised there are plenty of Porto vegan food options, and many of the traditional Porto foods can be made vegan. Here are a few of the best.
For ALL the best, head over to my Porto vegan guide
Vegana by Tentugal – for Portuguese dishes in vegan form, this is your place. Despite the good reviews, I found their francesinha sauce unpleasant with a strong, cheap beer taste so I’d recommend the Moving Mountains burger, sandwiches and vegan pastel de nata instead.
Daterra – this may be the best veggie buffet I’ve been to. Help yourself to pasta, veggies, soup, dips, quiches and more for €10. They also serve great vegan cakes.
O Porto dos Gatos – this cat cafe is also a vegan restaurant serving various francesinhas, as well as burgers, bruschettas, cakes and coffee. The meal of the day with a drink, starter and soup is €8.50.
Suribachi – for a hearty vegan meal that will keep you full all day, head to this buffet restaurant and vegan food store in Bonfim. They serve various dishes including rice, grains, stews, soups and fake meats.
Tupi Pasteleria – although this cafe also serves veggie versions of the typical Porto dishes, the highlight is the vegan cake counter which is almost as well-stocked as the regular one. Since it’s not an all-vegan cafe, remember to ask for your coffee with plant milk.
Where to eat vegan francesinhas in Porto
So many places! If you’re vegan, there’s no reason to skip this calorific Porto dish. Try it at:
Thanks for reading!
I hope you have a better idea of what to eat in Porto. You’re in for a feast!
Read my other Porto blogs:
- How to spend 3 days in Porto
- Absolutely everything to see and do in Porto
- 11 places to eat pastéis de nata in Porto
- Things to do in Aveiro, Portugal
- Where to find street art murals in Porto
- Neighbourhood & food guide to Bonfim, Porto
- The best cafes & coffee shops in Porto
- Porto breakfast & brunch cafes
- The ultimate Porto nightlife guide
- 12 best sunset viewpoints in Porto
More Portugal posts:
- Complete Lisbon itinerary
- Lisbon solo female travel
- The hidden gems to find in Lisbon
- Lisbon food tour review
- The best things to do in Aveiro, Portugal
- 50 things to do in Madeira, Portugal
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TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR VISITING PORTUGAL
Getting there by air – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.
Driving in Europe – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in European countries (and all around the world).
Confused about visas? I use iVisa to check visa requirements and apply for visas online.
For trains, I use Omio. The search feature allows you to compare prices, and they show live departure times on the website. This is also a handy tool to compare trains and buses in one search.
For buses, I use FlixBus. Find journeys between European countries from €1!
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.
Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide.
Need travel insurance? I use World Nomads. They cover 150 countries and have 24-hour emergency assistance.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!