By Bridget Castner
Don’t let being vegetarian or vegan deter you from taking a trip to see the breathtaking sights of Portugal. While Portuguese food does mainly contain meats like pork and beef, many restaurants like Lisbon Vegan Restaurante and Vegana By Tentugal are broadening their horizons and serving more plant based options.
To help guide you, here are some of the top vegetarian Portuguese foods to try when you travel to Portugal!
Pimientos de Padrón
Try some pimientos de Padron, which is a tasty assortment of grilled peppers! Be sure to ask your server for some torricada, or crispy garlic bread with drizzles of olive oil and salt. Some restaurants do serve this with fish and cheese, so just be sure to ask that they be left out if that’s what you prefer.
Tip: During your trip to Portugal, you can say “Sou vegetariano” to express that you’re a vegetarian, or “Não como carne” to say you don’t eat meat.
A great meal that is vegetarian and vegan friendly is a Portuguese “Orange" Soup. This soup consists of a base of pureed pumpkin, potato and onion, or carrot to make a thick orange soup. To compliment the richness of the soup base, garlic is often added along with cooked greens like nabicas (kale), espinafres (spinach), or feijão verde (green beans).
Another delicious dish is a creamy stew with a risotto-like consistency called Acorda. White wine and olive oil mix together to form a porridge that is often served with beans, vegetables, or even with poached eggs. There’s also the classic salada mista, a mixed salad of lettuce, tomato and onion that can be found at most restaurants. Perhaps the best part comes alongside – boiled bread that comes to life with seasonings like coriander and garlic served with it. Delicious!
A common Madeira side dish that’s vegetarian friendly is milho frito. This dish is made of cornmeal, finely sliced kale or collard greens, water, garlic and oil. The bread is cut into cubes and fried. Yum! This can pair nicely with some temocos, or lupini beans, which are usually served with a refreshing ice cold beer.
Have a hankering for something sweet? Portuguese marzipan is made from almonds, sugar and water – making it vegetarian friendly. You'll typically find cute fruit-shaped pieces of marzipan in Portugal, with extra sweet marzipan in the Algarve region where these treats are often stuffed with Fios de ovos.
Pastel de Nata
Another popular dessert in Portugal is the egg custard treat called pastel de nata, which is dusted with a thin layer of cinnamon and has a crisp, puff pastry base with a creamy custard filling. Thankfully, you can find vegan pastel de nata's in Portugal at quite a few restaurants, including deTerra Bairro Alto in Lisbon and Pastelania Batalha in Malveira.
Nuts and Couvert
In the Autumn and Winter, roasted chestnuts are popular across Portugal and are easily accessible from many street vendors. Another great option that's good all year-round is couvert, which is a plate of olives, bread, butter, cheese and carrots. While it isn’t totally vegan, you can always ask for the cheese and butter to be left out.
Which of these delightful meals will you try when you travel to Portugal?