3 dishes you must try in Porto

Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal (after the capital, Lisbon) and one of the most beautiful cities in the Iberian Peninsula. Located along the mouth of the Douro River in northern Portugal, The centre of Porto is one of the oldest in Europe and the core of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996, as the “Historic Center of Porto, Luiz I Bridge and Serra do Pilar Monastery”. Port wine, one of Portugal’s most famous exports, gets its name from Porto, because the city, specifically the cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia, was in charge of packaging, transporting, and exporting the wine. But Porto is not only known for its wine, but also for its unique culinary tradition. The city (like the rest of Portugal) is a paradise for food lovers, and there are many traditional dishes that have their origins here and are really worth trying if you visit the city. We singled out three dishes that can make your visit to the city special.

Photo by Nuno Cardoso on Flickr

The Francesinha sandwich originates from Porto. Its name means “little French girl”, but nothing is little about it. It is food not for the faint of heart. It is made with bread, ham, linguica (smoke-cured pork sausage), fresh sausage (usually chipolata), steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and sometimes a whole fried egg. Finally, it is deep in a hot and thick spiced tomato and beer sauce. It is typically served with French fries. The sandwich was originally a recipe by Daniel David de Silva after his return from France and Belgium. In the recipe, he tried combining the French croque-monsieur with various local products. He introduced the recipe in 1953 at A Regaleira, a restaurant in Rua do Bonjardim in the centre of Porto. In the years that followed, the dish became extremely popular among locals, and it is now considered a traditional local dish. There are many places in Porto that claim to make the best francesinha. However, we eat its best version at O Golfinho (Rua Sá Noronha 137, Porto). This unpretentious local restaurant is like a narrow long corridor with tables on one side and bar stools on the other side, where you can taste a perfect francesinha among the locals. 

Photo by Jessica Spengler on Flickr

The second most famous dish in Porto is certainly tripas à moda do Porto. It is a stew made with beef stomach (tripe), smoked ham, sausage, pork, chicken, white beans, carrots, and rice. The story of the origin of the dish is really fascinating. According to tradition, when Henry the Navigator was preparing to conquer Ceuta in North Africa, he asked the people of Porto for their support. So the inhabitants provided his boats with everything they had and offered all the good meat to those who would sail to Africa. In this way, they had to use the leftovers of the meat in order to feed their families. Thus, through their imagination and creativity, the tripas à moda were created. Although this is a very special dish and not to everyone’s taste, you must try it if you are visiting Porto because it is a dish related to the history of the city (the citizens of the city have the nickname “tripeiros”, which means tripe eaters). The best place in Porto to try this emblematic dish is Abadia do Porto (R. do Ateneu Comercial do Porto 22, Porto). This is a famous establishment in the centre of the old town, popular among locals and tourists alike. Here they make their own version of tripas a moda, which they call “Abadia tripe”, and it is their most famous dish. It is well cooked and rich in flavours. 

Photo by Renata F. Oliveira on Flickr

Bacalhau, the dried and salted codfish, is Portugal’s most famous food product and could be considered a national treasure. There are over 350 ways of preparing bacalhau and even more ways of serving it. One of the most delicious recipes with bacalhau is codfish cakes, which are named pasteis de bacalhau in Central and Southern Portugal and bolinhos de bacalhau in Northern Portugal. They are typically made from a mix of potatoes, bacalhau, eggs, parsley, and onions. They are usually shaped by using a spoon and are deep-fried. They are served as a starter or a main dish. If you want to taste bolinhos, Porto’s version of these fried cakes, there are several good places around town. Our favourite place is Escondidinho do Barredo (Rua dos Canastreiros 28-30, Porto) in the Ribeira area. This small family-run restaurant with no sign outside makes traditional Portuguese dishes and, of course, perfectly fried bolinhos.

Photo by Square Lab on Unsplash

Porto is a destination with unique beauty, impressive sights, and an important history. But surely it is also a culinary destination worth discovering and a place where you can try one of the world’s most interesting cuisines.

*[Photo at the top by Svetlana Gumerova on Unsplash]

If you are visiting Porto, the best way to find out all the gastronomic treasures of this city is to book a tour with Taste Porto. It is Porto’s longest-running food tour company and leader in showcasing the rich history and culture of the city. Their food and wine walking tours feel less like tours and more like taking a walk with a local friend who wants to share the history, architecture, culture, and cuisine of their beloved city. Over the past 9 years, they came out as the top pick for Porto Food Tours on Lonely Planet, The Guardian, and Parts Unknown by Anthony Bourdain.