Portuguese Fish: 20+ Fish You’ll Find on Menus & At the Market

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James Cave / Last Updated: May 20, 2020 / Posted in: Food & Drink

Fresh fish from a market in Portugal

Ordering fish in Portugal, whether it’s in a restaurant or at a market, can sometimes be intimidating. The sheer variety of different types of Portuguese fish can be overwhelming, and the fact that all of the names are in Portuguese doesn’t make things easier either.

It doesn’t need to be, though, thanks to this guide to Portuguese fish which is here to help you ordering fish in restaurants and at the market. Below you’ll find a list of all the different types of fish that you’ll find in Portugal, with suggestions on what they might taste like and different ways they might be cooked. It’ll also be of help if you want to buy fish at a market in Portugal.

(Tip: to cook most fish at home, all you have to do is season it with salt and olive oil and bake it in the oven).

Olive oil is isn’t just something you’ll use for cooking at home, you’ll also use it when you’re eating grilled fish in a restaurant and it’s just one of the ways that peixe grelhado (grilled fish) gets its flavour. Unlike other cuisines, the fish isn’t really marinaded or seasoned before being cooked. This is because the Portuguese like to be able to taste the fish itself rather than any type of seasoning, and they also want to be able to taste the flavour the grill gives it. They also like to season it with olive oil.

Look around at other the other people in the restaurant who’ve ordered fish. Most will reach for the olive oil (most tables will have a bottle of olive oil and vinegar) and they’ll douse their fish and potatoes in it. It’s not the lowest calorie way to eat fish, but it’s definitely very tasty.

If you find this article useful, you’ll also enjoy some of these other guides to Portuguese food:

Fun fact: Did you know that Portugal eats more fish per person than Japan, according to studies? Only a few countries like Iceland eat more. 

Fish that you’re likely to find on a Portuguese menu

The following are some of the different fish you’ll see on the menu.


Seabass, mild taste. 

Robalo is seabass, a white fish with tender flesh. Along with dourado (below), Robalo is one of the fish that you’re most likely to find on a Portuguese menu particularly at lunchtime when it’s often one of the options on the lunch menu. It’s usually grilled (grelhado) and served with boiled potatoes and salad.


Bream, mild taste. 

Dourado is bream and, like Robalo, it’s a common feature on menus in Portugal. It may be difficult to taste the difference between robalo and dourado at first, as they’re both white and mild-tasting, but over time you’ll probably come to have a favourite.

Peixe Espada

Black scabbard fish, mild taste. 

Peixe Espada is black scabbard fish, and it’s one of the most terrifying-looking fish that you’ll see in the market. This fish is part of Madeira’s regional cuisine. Here, they have quite an unusual recipe: the fish is breaded or battered, then fried, and served with a banana on top. Often, there’s a passionfruit custard sauce as well. It’s quite an unusual recipe, and one that you’ll only really find in Madeira. Outside of Madeira, Peixe espada is usually served grilled with boiled potatoes, vegetables, and salad.


Salmon, medium taste. 

Salmão (salmon) is a fish everyone will be familiar with, and may even eat regularly. Most people cook it in the oven or fry it, but it’s worth experiencing it grilled. This adds a new flavour to it that you won’t get when you cook it at home.


Tuna, strong taste. 

Atum is tuna, and it’s usually a tuna steak (bife de atum). Again, this is a fish that many people will already be familiar with although a lot of people may only really be used to the flavour of tinned tuna.


Salt-dried cod, mild taste. 

Bacalhau is cod that has been preserved by being salt-dried, and it’s Portugal’s national dish. Prior to cooking, the bacalhau is desalinated for 24-72 hours and this removes pretty much all of taste of salt and gives it a slightly chewier texture.

Removing all the salt means that the bacalhau itself is fairly mild-tasting, although the specific bacalhau recipe may affect the flavour of the cod. There are more than 365 different ways to cook bacalhau: it can be baked in the oven (bacalhau assado no forno), it can be cooked with potatoes and cream (bacalhau com natas), it can be fried with chopped potatoes and onions (bacalhau frito com cebolada).

Most recipes are generally fairly mild (you probably won’t find a bacalhau curry, for example). If they don’t already include lots of olive oil in the recipe, it’s assumed you’ll be adding it once it’s served.


Sardines, strong taste. 

The Portuguese loves sardinhas and, when they’re in season, there’s always a constant whiff of grilled sardines (sardinhas assadas) in the air. To truly experience their love of sardines, it’s worth attending one of the many Portuguese festivals that put sardines at the forefont.

Dia de Santo António, which takes place in Lisbon in June, is one of the best places to try grilled sardines.

Portimão in the Algarve, meanwhile, has an entire festival dedicated to sardines which have been a big part of the local industry. This usually takes place in August near the waterfront, where restaurants like the ever-popular Dona Barca will cook up thousands of sardines per day for attending locals.


Meagre or Croaker, mild taste. 

Corvina is usually translated as either croaker or meagre, but don’t let the name fool you.  A corvina is definitely not a meagre fish: it can weigh 45 kilos or more.

Although it often features in stews, corvina fish is usually served in steaks and grilled or baked. It’s a very good fish for beginners as there’s really only one big bone in the centre. This is easy to remove so, if you’re not used to eating fish, you won’t spend your entire meal picking out little bones.


Perch, mild taste. 

Perca is a freshwater fish that you’ll often find at the supermarket fishcounters and on menus in Portugal. There are three species of perca that are commonly found worldwide – European, Nile, and Giant. Like corvina, perca only really has one main bone so it’s a very good fish for beginners. It’s normally baked or grilled as postas (steaks), but its texture and shape are both quite versatile so it can be filleted, put on skewers, grilled whole, etc.


Monkfish, mild taste. 

Tamboril is a fish that you’ll regularly see on menus in Portugal, although it’s more common to see it in a rice stew (arroz de tamboril) than it is to see cooked in the oven (tamboril no forno). Monkfish is a fish that most people will have some familiarity with, and will know that it’s a very mild white fish.


Grouper, mild taste. 

Garoupa is another white fish with few bones, and it’s usually served in chunky postas and baked in the oven. Like many of the other fish previously mentioned, it’s quite a versatile fish. You can chop it up into small pieces and put it in a soup, stew, or a pasta sauce, and it’ll stay together. You can also grill it whole, but it’s most commonly served baked in the oven.


Large grouper, mild taste. 

Cherne is a large garoupa, and you’ll find this on menus in Portugal as well. Because of its chunky meat-life texture, it’s often used in mixed fish soups (caldeirada de peixe) or in rice stew dishes (arroz de cherne) and cataplanas (cataplana de cherne), but also baked in the oven with olive oil.


Sea Bream, mild taste. 

Pargo is a small to medium-sized sea bream, similar in shape to Dourada. It’s normally grilled but it could also be baked in the oven, either whole with the skin on or in fillets.

You may also spot pargo assado em crosta de sal on the menu. This is quite a unique way of cooking fish, where the completely covered and baked in a bed of salt. Pargo isn’t the only fish that’s cooked in this way, but it’s a popular fish for this particular recipe.


Sea Bream, mild taste. 

Sargo not only sounds a lot like pargo: they’re both sea breams, similar in shape to Dourada. This means that sargo is often grilled, but it could also be baked in the oven. Restaurants, particularly more traditional Portuguese restaurants, tend to grill fish a lot more than cook it in the oven, while people tend to bake it in the oven at home.


Bream, mild taste. 

Besugo is another type of sea bream that’s commonly found on menus in Portugal and at the fish market stalls. It’s quite a small fish, with delicate flesh and, like the other types of bream, it’s normally grilled and served with boiled potatoes, vegetables, salad.


Mackerel, medium taste.

Carapau is often translated as horse mackerel, but it’s easier to think of them simply as a small mackerel. They vary in size, but are usually either sardine-size or even larger. Carapau are usually grilled or fried whole, but you can also buy them filleted which allows you to use them in a lot of other types of recipes.


Sole, tastes mild. 

Linguado is a dish you may have had before, probably grilled or baked and served with butter. In Portugal linguado is often served grilled (and often with butter), but it’s often fried as well.


Red Mullet, strong taste. 

Salmonete is a small reddish fish that you’ll normally only find in winter. It’s quite a strong-flavoured taste, and may not be to everyone’s taste. Salmonete is often fried, but it’s also common to cook it in the oven as well.


Turbot, mild taste. 

Pregado is a flat and quite unusual-looking fish and, when you visit the fish market, it really stands out among all of the bream and other similar-looking fish. It’s normally baked in the oven, but you can also grill or boil it. Although pregado has bones, they’re quite big and it’s pretty easy to separate the flesh from the bones.


Swordfish, mild taste. 

Espadarte is another meaty fish with few bones that’s good for beginners. It’s normally grilled or cooked in the oven, but you may also come across espadarte fumado as a starter.


Hake, medium taste. 

Pescada is a white fish, and usually one of the cheaper fishes in the supermarket. It’s often served in postas, which means it’s sliced leaving the bone in the centre, but it may also be filleted. Pescada is usually baked in the oven, and is often used in soups and stews.


Lamprey, medium to strong meaty taste. 

Lampreia is something that you probably won’t come across unless you visit Portugal, and in particular Northern Portugal, during lamprey season which is usually between January and April.

The lamprey is an incredibly weird eel or snake-looking creature that feeds off the blood of other creatures. For some people lamprey is a parasite, but in Portugal it’s considered a delicacy.

During lamprey season, lampreys are caught, killed, and then cooked in their own blood along with rice. It’s a very rich dish, and probably not for everyone, but worth trying if you’re interested in experiencing some of Portugal’s weirder dishes.

Fish dishes that you’ll see on a menu

In Portugal, fish is usually grilled (grelhado), and served with boiled potatoes, vegetables, and salad. That way you get to taste the fish, the grill, and the olive oil, rather than any marinade or seasoning.

Some dishes, like cataplanas, aren’t grilled though, and it’s worth trying a few of these types of dishes if you get a chance. Along with cataplanas, the following are just a few different non-grilled fish dishes that you can expect to find on a Portuguese menu.

Arroz de Tamboril/Peixe

A type of liquidy rice stew that’s usually made up of several types of fish (arroz de peixe) or one type like arroz de tamboril. You’ll also find ‘arroz de’ fishes made from seafood (arroz de marisco).

Cataplana de Tamboril/Peixe/Bacalhau

cataplana sweet potato octopus
Sweet potato and octopus cataplana

A cataplana is a type of stew that’s named after this dish it’s cooked in. Cataplana sauces tend to be a little thicker and chunkier, often due to ingredients like the onions, while the liquid in arroz de stews is thinner.

Pastéis de Bacalhau (or Bolinhos de bacalhau)

Bacalhau that’s mixed with potatoes and deep-fried. Pastéis de bacalhau are sometimes included as part of the couvert, but most likely you’ll find them on a petiscos menu.

Açorda de Bacalhau

A bread-based soup that comes from the Alentejo. Açorda doesn’t always contain bacalhau, but this particular variation does.

Have you tried any of these fish while in Portugal? What do you recommend? Share your thoughts, reviews, and opinions by leaving a comment below. 


  1. Great information, had sardines love anyway.
    Had baccalaureate in porto not good experience with it supposed be a decent restaurant against my better judgement we went in (normally eat where the locals go).
    They had the cheek to use chip sticks out of a bag, not nice we will search out local restaurant in future better food.

    • Hi Chrissie,

      Not sure what the English name for this is. Google suggests it's called a blackbelly rosefish (Helicolenus dactylopterus) but I don't know if I've ever seen it outside of Portugal.

  2. What about veja fish? Just had it for lunch in the Azores. They said the translation was parrot fish. The parrot fish I know is from Asia and Mexico. Large red scales.

    • Hi Missy,

      Don't think I've ever had that one. Most of these fish are ones you'll find sold in mainland Portugal. I found when I went to Madeira and The Azores there were lots of new fish that I hadn't heard of before.

      I guess I'll have to take another trip back there and do some research 🙂

  3. When we visited the Azores, we could have eaten a different fish at every meal for the five days. But, in Braga, only cod seemed available. What would account for the huge difference in variety?

    • Hi Patti,

      Braga is a little more inland, but not too far from the sea so I would have thought you would have had some fish options. They mightn't have been on the main menu though. I don't remember eating fish besides bacalhau when I was there, though.

      Braga is famous for its cod dish (Bacalhau à Braga) but I think most of the other regional dishes are meat-based. If the restaurants were mainly serving regional dishes, this could be why.

      • I am from Braga since 57 years and you can find different fishes as soon as you, early, go to the fish market. The common restaurants have not so much variety as almost everyone cooks the fish at home. But there are some that have different fish every day. Not as in Azores for sure, as we are not a seaside area.
        Just a hint, Bacalhau á Braga is a recipe which tries to reproduce an old and famous recipe which is Bacalhau á Narcisa. My wife is grand-grand-daughter of her(Narcisa) and I have the recipe. Both are not comparable at all. 🙂

    • You can find other fish in Braga at the upscale restaurants or in rice dishes. The bacalhau is more common here because the tourist trade is less, and the local residents make lower salaries.

  4. While living in Portugal our favourite restaurant meal was cherne. We always believed is was from the turbot family. Now I know it is a large groupa. We must have eaten it as part of a thick fillet, huge portion, no bones and grilled "simples". So delicious and we have never found it anywhere else.

  5. There are regional variations in fish names. For example, Pargo in northern portugal is very definitely not as described above. It is a large orange tinted fish, a variety of red snapper

  6. When I was in Portugal I was served a large flat, but quite thick, fish.
    It was if I remember right, 4lbs + in weight. I managed to eat it all, but had to leave some of the chips.

    The meat was firm, and I really enjoyed it but have no idea what it was. Any ideas please?


  7. I bought a reddish fish which looks to me like baby schnapper I bought in Australia. It is called Dentao here in Portugal. I have a list of 50 fish with Portuguese and English names but Dentao is not on it. Anyone know what it is?

  8. Beautiful! I need to learn more about Portuguese fish. Moved to Portugal from Sweden and have to say I love the diversity and the possibility of different fish and shellfish in Portugal.

  9. Really helpful for me. I’m going back to Olhao near Faro which has an amazing fish market and fruits and vegetables too. At least this trip I can buy and cook fish and know what is it. Also can’t wait to have another helping of cataplana.

    Thank you.


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