I’ve spent a lot of time in Porto, and a lot of that time was spent eating. Over the years I’ve tried everything on this list, often making special pilgrimages to find each of the dishes.
Hopefully it’ll help you, fellow foodie, make the most of your time in Porto.
Loosen those belts foodies! Porto has some great regional dishes, many of which you’ll struggle to find in the rest of Portugal.
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Francesinhas, hot dogs, tripe, and Port – food in Porto is an eclectic mix of the weird and the wonderful. It’s all worth trying at least once but, if you’re short on time and belly space, I have highlighted the dishes that I think are worth prioritising.
You’ll notice that some dishes like pastéis de nata or piri-piri chicken aren’t on this list. That’s because those dishes, while Portuguese, aren’t typical Porto dishes: pastéis de nata come from Lisbon and piri-piri chicken comes from the Algarve.
While you will find both of those foods in Porto, and you’re welcome to try them there, this article focuses on the most typical dishes from Porto.
The bifana is one of my favourite things to eat in Porto. Yes, you can get bifanas in the rest of Portugal but the bifanas from Porto (called bifanas à moda do Porto) are much better than those in the South.
Here’s the difference between the two: Bifanas à moda do Porto are all about the sauce. The meat is served dripping in the sauce and, although it can be a bit soggy and you’ll work your way through a few napkins, it’s very tasty.
Bifanas de Vendas Novas, the kind you’ll find in the Alentejo and the south of Portugal (including Lisbon) don’t have a sauce but people make up for the lack of sauce by squirting squeezy yellow mustard on top.
The bifanas de Vendas Novas is still a good bifana, don’t get me wrong, but the bifana à moda do Porto is definitely the winner of the two.
Want to try a bifana while you’re in Porto? Here are a few places to seek out:
This is the dish that Porto is most famous for and, if you’re visiting Porto, it’s worth trying at least one Francesinha. Or, if you don’t think you can stomach a whole one, find a friend who’s willing to share or just give you a bite of theirs.
Although you’ll find Francesinhas all over Porto, and even restaurants that specialise entirely in Francesinhas, they’re actually somewhat of a recent invention. The Francesinha was only invented in the 1960s and took a long time before it became quite as popular as it has.
Some people love Francesinhas, some people think the idea of one sounds horrific, and other people try it but just don’t get why there’s such a fuss about a soggy sandwich.
I have to admit that I empathise with the last group. It’s fun to try a Francesinha, but I’ve never fallen in love with them in the same way as the Portuguese and most tourists have.
Personally, I’m much more of a fan of bifanas a moda do Porto, the sande de leitão, or the sande de pernil.
If you want to try a Francesinha, though – and you definitely should – here are some of the top-rated places to try them in Porto:
- Bufete Fase (map)
- O Golfinho (map)
- Café Santiago (map)
- Lado B (map)
- Yuko (map)
- Francesinha Café (map)
- Capa Negra II (map)
Tripas à moda do Porto
The Francesinha isn’t the typical dish of Porto. That dish is actually Tripas à moda do Porto (tripe in the Porto style).
These days, almost nobody eats tripe, and I don’t know if anyone ever liked tripe, so it’s not surprising that Porto adopted the Francesinha as its dish with such fervour.
Although I’m not a fan of the texture of tripe, the dish itself is tasty enough. I probably wouldn’t recommend trying it if you don’t like tripe – or don’t think you would – but if you’re looking for something really authentic to try, tripas is definitely it.
The eclair is something that you might be more likely to associate with France than with Portugal but, surprisingly, it’s actually seen not only as a typical Porto food but as the sweet of the city.
Leitaria da Quinta do Paço, a former dairy shop, is the place that made eclairs in Porto a thing but, these days, you’ll find eclairs in pastelarias all over the city.
I think it’s worth going to Leitaria da Quinta do Paço (map) to try one, though. Not only do they have the classic cream flavour eclairs, but also flavours like toffee, lemon, snickers, Ferrero Rocher, and red fruits and Chantilly cream.
Their classic flavour, the thing that separates them from French eclairs, is whipped cream. Traditional French eclairs, in comparison, use vanilla pastry cream that’s made with eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.
For a business that dates back to 1920, the decor of the café itself is disappointingly modern inside. However, the taste of the eclaires more than make up for that – and I’m not someone who really likes cream-filled pastries.
A hot dog is something you’d expect to see as a regional food in America not in Portugal, but you’ll find cachorrinhos in restaurants and cafés all over Porto.
Normally a Porto cachorrinhos consists of a hot dog sausage and cheese toasted in a mini baguette. Some places also cover the hot dog in Francesinha sauce as well. Regardless of whether you get your cachorrinhos with sauce or without, it’s almost always paired with a cold Super Bock beer.
Like the Francesinha, the cachorrinho is a relatively new addition to Porto’s regional cuisine. Snack-Bar Gazela in Santa Catarina, which is the most famous place for hot dogs, has been making them for around 50 years – so the dish is just a little younger than the Francesinha.
If you want to try a cachorrinho, here are a few of the most popular places in Porto:
- Snack-Bar Gazela (map) – The original and most popular cachorrinho joint.
- Lado B (map) – A cachorrinho served in their famous Francesinha sauce.
- Conga (map) – A cachorrinho with bifana meat and cheese.
- The Dog Casa dos Cachorros (map) – Popular place for a cachorrinho.
- Alma do Cachorro (map) – Popular place for a cachorrinho.
You can’t talk about Porto without mentioning its most famous export: Port Wine.
For many people, Port Wine isn’t something that they either know a lot about or have even tasted that much. Port is often seen as a big stuffy and something that older people drink and, with the exception of at Christmas time, it rarely makes an appearance.
By the time you leave Porto, you will be a converted Port drinker. Guaranteed.
Aside from the perceptions people have of Port being stuffy or old-fashioned, one of the other reasons Port doesn’t have the following it deserves is because most people have only ever tasted a very basic Ruby or Tawny Port. That’s all most wine shops and supermarkets outside of Portugal stock.
Try an LBV or, better yet, a vintage Port or an aged Tawny and you’ll soon see what the fuss is all about.
I recommend visiting one of the many Port Houses located on the banks of the Douro. They’re all located very close to each other, so you can visit more than one if you want as well.
It’s interesting to learn how Port is made, and you get to try a few different styles of Port as well. Most Port Houses have two prices: one for standard Ports and one for slightly better Ports. The difference between the two isn’t a lot (usually about €3), so it’s worth paying the difference to try the better Ports.
To really take advantage of being in Porto, though, it’s worth heading to somewhere you can try Port by the glass without having to buy a whole bottle. Many of the Port Houses have bars and restaurants, and this is a good place to start. Sandemans has The George, for example.
Garrafeiras or wine shops are also a great place to try a variety of Port styles as many offer special tastings events.
Sande de Pernil
Although you’ll sometimes find the sande de pernil outside of Porto, this is a sandwich that originates from Porto. And while there are a few places where you can get this sandwich in Porto, it’s worth going to the place that started it all: Casa Guedes (map).
This sandwich, which consists of succulent pork leg and serra da estrela cheese, is one of the best sandwiches in Portugal.
Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá
You can’t leave Portugal without trying at least one bacalhau dish. The Portuguese are said to have more than 365 different recipes for bacalhau, many of them regional, and Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is the most typical bacalhau dish from Porto.
And, as bacalhau dishes go, it’s a good dish too. It’s loved all over Portugal and it was also a finalist in the “7 gastronomic wonders of Portugal” competition that the Ministry of Culture ran to find the country’s best dishes.
Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is a deconstructed version of bolinhos de bacalhau, the cod fritters that you’ll see all over Portugal. The recipe was created by José Luís Gomes de Sá
Bacalhau à Zé do Pipo
This isn’t actually a recommendation for this dish: I personally can’t stand it, although lots of Portuguese love it.
Bacalhau à Zé do Pipo was invented in the 1960s by Zé do Pipo, a restaurant owner from Porto. The dish, which is baked in the oven, combines bacalhau that has been cooked in milk, onions, mashed potatoes, and mayonnaise.
Yes, that’s right: warm mayonnaise.
The dish won awards during the 60s, probably back when mayonnaise was seen as a revolutionary cooking ingredient, and was adopted by restaurants all over the country.
It’s rare to see it on menus these days, but it does pop up from time to time. If you’re committed to trying all of Porto’s regional dishes, this one deserves a place on your “to eat list” as much as the Francesinha and the Cachorrinho.
Broa de Avintes
Broa de Avintes hails from Avintes over in Vila Nova de Gaia, around 11 km from Porto, and it just scrapes onto this list.
The bread is made from cornmeal and rye flour, and it’s dense, dark, and very different to the whiter breads typically found in Portugal.
Along with Broa de Milho, it’s often served alongside Caldo Verde – one of the most popular soups in the North of Portugal. At Christmas time, it’s often fried in olive oil with garlic.
Foods That Didn’t Quite Make the List
The following is a list of foods that almost made the list but just didn’t have a strong enough tie to Porto to be on this list.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek them out, of course. Many of these dishes come from very nearby, are sometimes considered to be Porto dishes, and are also very easy to find in Porto as well.
Caldo Verde is probably the most typical soup that you’ll find in Portugal. Although it isn’t strictly from Porto, it is something that’s eaten during the São João do Porto Festival that takes place every year on June 24th.
The soup originates from The Minho province of Portugal, just to the North of Porto but is popular throughout the country. It’s often served as a starter in restaurants, and also a typical dish at weddings and other celebrations.
So popular is this dish that it made the final 7 for Portugal’s “7 Gastronomic Wonders of Portugal.”
Pastel de Chaves
As the name suggests, the Pastel de Chaves comes from Chaves. Chaves in a small city, close to the Spanish border, and around 150 km from Porto.
So, given that Chaves is quite far from Porto, why’s it on this list?
Firstly, because a few food tours in Porto feature this dish on their tours and people have been asking why it’s not on the list. Secondly, because there is a very good shop in Porto that specialises in these – A Loja dos Pasteis de Chaves (map) – and, given that very few people go to Chaves, being in Porto gives you a good opportunity to try one.
Bolinhos de bacalhau
Bolinhos de bacalhau is the name used in Porto for cod fritters. In the South of Portugal, they’re called pastéis de bacalhau. Either way, they’re found throughout Portugal.
It’s hard to work out the origins of this dish, but the consensus seems to be that it originates in the Minho region. So, for those reasons, bolinhos didn’t make the list.
Dobrada is incredibly similar to tripas, so similar that people often confuse the two. It’s difficult to work out the origins of this dish, particularly as it’s so similar to tripas, and there are quite a few recipe websites that say that it comes from Porto.
Digging deeper, it seems like this dish is more generally associated with Northern Portugal whereas tripas is always associated with Porto.
Unless you really love tripe, one of these dishes will be more than enough for anybody.
The Jesuita originates from a town very close to Porto and, geographically speaking, it’s probably the closest of all the dishes that didn’t make the list.
Santo Tirso, the small city that the Jesuita originates from, is located around 32 km from Porto. These days, it would be considered to be within commuting distance of Porto but back when the dish was first created it was a world away from Porto.
To try a truly authentic Jesuita, you would normally have to go to Confeitaria Moura in Santo Tirso. Thankfully, you don’t have to make that journey anymore as the shop now has branches in Porto as well.
Papas de sarrabulho
Papas de sarrabulho is another dish from the Minho that didn’t make it onto this list but that you can usually find very easily in Porto.
Sarrabulho translates as porridge, and this definitely describes to the texture although it may mislead you on the taste. It’s an incredibly meat-tasting dish, made from chicken, pork, pork blood, sausage, ham, chorizo, cumin, lemon, and either bread or corn flour.
This is a winter dish, not just because it’s so stodgy but that’s when the pigs are slaughtered. Also, people don’t traditionally cook with blood in the summer as it can go off quickly in the heat.
If you’re visiting Porto in the winter, you’ll see this a lot more on menus than you would in the summer. It’s still definitely possible to get it in the summer these days, though. Conga, for example, has it on their menu all year round.
The Douro and Porto have a strong wine-making connection: grapes are grown in the Douro some 100km away and turned into Port in Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite Porto.
Non-fortified wines don’t quite have this same tie to Porto but, as it’s the closest wine-making region, there’s still a connection there. Go into any restaurant in Porto, and the wine menu will mainly be made up of Douro wines.
This is Portugal’s best and most famous wine region so, as you’re visiting Porto, it’s a good opportunity to sample some of the best wine Portugal has to offer.
Broa de Mel
Broas are a type of biscuit made from bread that you’ll find all over Portugal.
You’ll find all kinds of variety in Portugal, so many that I lost count of how many there were, but the broas de mel from Porto and the north of Portugal are my favourite type of broa.
These broas, shaped like a cookie and different to the broas de mel found in other parts of the country, are incredibly thick and dense, which means they’re very filling as well – so filling that some people will struggle to finish one.