Cozido Das Furnas: The Portuguese Stew Cooked in A Volcano

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Written by: | Last updated on February 29, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes
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Cozido à portuguesa stands out as a beloved traditional dish throughout Portugal, known for its rich combination of vegetables (such as cabbages, beans, potatoes, carrots, turnips, rice) and an assortment of meats (including chicken, pork ribs, bacon, pork ear and trotters, and beef parts) complemented by smoked sausages (chouriço, farinheira, morcela).

This hearty meal enjoys widespread popularity among locals, though it might be a bit overwhelming for tourists unfamiliar with such dense, hearty fare. As such, it’s not a Portuguese dish that’s usually recommended to visitors unless they really like their meat.

The exception is Cozido das Furnas, exclusively found in Furnas, a town on São Miguel Island in the Azores. This version gains its uniqueness from being cooked beneath the earth, utilising the natural heat and steam from the region’s volcanic activity.

Preparation Method

cozido cooking at lagoa das furnas
Cozido cooking at lagoa das furnas – © Portugalist

The creation of Cozido das Furnas starts with assembling a diverse mix of meats, including various cuts and blood sausage, alongside vegetables like potatoes, cabbage, and carrots in a pot, without adding any liquid. Instead, the natural volcanic steam is solely responsible for cooking the contents.

Early at around 4:00 AM, the pot is placed in a meter-deep hole near Furnas Lake’s hot springs, where it remains buried and cooks at approximately 100°C for six to eight hours.

By noon, restaurateurs retrieve their pots in a spectacle often witnessed by tourists and visitors, who gather to watch the steamy cauldron emerge from the earth. After that, the stews are taken to nearby restaurants in the town of Furnas.

Cultural Significance

For the inhabitants of São Miguel, Cozido das Furnas represents more than just an elaborate meal; it embodies a vital piece of their cultural heritage. The tradition, extending back 80 to 90 years, has been preserved and passed down through generations.

Initially a dish for celebrations and Christmas, it has now become an integral part of the island’s culinary offerings, inviting every visitor to experience this volcanic-cooked delicacy. Of all the Azores foods, it’s one of the most famous and one of the most memorable.

Where to Try Cozido das Furnas

After exploring the scenic trails of São Miguel, you’ll have worked up an appettie big enough to take on the hefty Cozido das Furnas.

You’ll find restaurants serving this dish in the town of Furnas. Some of the top spots include:

  • Vale das Furnas: Renowned for its high-quality smoky sausages and hearty vegetables, served on vibrant plates.
  • Terra Nostra Garden Hotel Restaurant: Specialises in Furnas stew and provides guests with access to its natural thermal pools, including one with a distinctive orange hue from iron content. While it’s the priciest option, the cost includes entry to Terra Nostra Park, making it more affordable.
  • Caldeiras e Vulcões: A popular restaurant in Furnas, known for its stew and seafood dishes.
  • Restaurante Tony´s: Another popular restaurant for Cozido das Furnas, although it includes other dishes, such as octopus, as well.

To ensure a spot, especially during peak summer months, making a reservation in advance is advised. Also, be sure to try the sweet corn in Caldeiras das Furnas, which is also cooked underground.

Cooked corn in Caldeiras Furnas
© Cooked corn in Caldeiras Furnas
Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.