When visiting a new country, I’m sure trying local cuisine or a food tour is top of many peoples list of things to do. Mine included, I absolutely love trying new things, and local cuisine is one of my favourite things about travelling – I just have to work that much harder to find it all gluten free!
For Portugal I’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to – here’s where to find local food and dishes throughout the country so if you’re visiting Lisbon, Porto or completing a road trip between the two you don’t have to miss out!
Here’s my round up of my research so you can make it your goal to try one of everything, or create a DIY food tour in Lisbon or Porto! You shouldn’t end the day hungry that’s for sure…
Pasteis de Nata (Egg Custard Tarts)
Located just outside Lisbon, Batarda’s is an amazing 100% gluten free cafe and an absolute must visit! I ordered an incredible gluten free pizza for lunch, and took some baked goods away with me including the best pasteis de nata I tried in Portugal!
A cafe accredited by the Portuguese Celiac Association, Zarzuela has been a popular gluten free spot in Central Lisbon that I’ve had on my gluten free bucket list for years! However, I was sadly disappointed with the pasteis de nata here finding the custard thick and dense, and the tops too dark for my taste. They are the only place I know of in Central Lisbon though that sell gluten free (and vegan) pasteis de nata though and I may have been unlucky as so many rave about this place!
Personally I would choose a different treat – a visit to Zarzuela is still a must!
A 100% gluten free bakery in Braga, outside Porto and oh my their eclairs were so good. I avoided buying a pastel de nata though as they didn’t look very appetising with overdone pastry and hardly any custard in them on the day that I visited.
A wonderful must visit cafe in Porto. I loved my brunch here! I also really enjoyed the pastel de nata. The custard was much silkier and smooth again like I feel it should be, but the pastry was a bit chewy. Still a must buy though for when all your travel companions are eating their way through the gluteney versions and the best gluten free ones I found in Porto.
Gluten Freak is another 100% gluten free restaurant in Porto that we loved! However, the pasteis de nata stocked were frozen ones by Bonna Pastelaria Gluten Free so I didn’t buy any from here.
Bacalhau is so popular in Portugal and there is meant to be 365 ways to eat it! I tried the tinned version bought from Miss Can. Tinned food in Portugal is not like the tinned fish we can buy in the supermarkets at home, it’s a delicacy and have shops selling just this. The Bacalhau we tried was so much better than I expected and we enjoyed it as part of a picnic lunch in the sun!
There are a couple of tables to eat in at Miss Can but I much preferred eating it as part of a picnic and having some gluten free bread to mop up the sauce!
Gluten Freak, Porto – Bacalhau a Bras
Bacalhau a bras is a National dish made up of strips of cod, onions, fried potato strips and scrambled egg but it’s a dish I didn’t get to try! I did notice that 100% Gluten Freak had this on their menu though.
Are you as excited as I was to learn that cod fish cakes at Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau are gluten free?! Such great news for food on the go in both Lisbon and Porto! Note – the edible logos aren’t gluten free so they can give you one from the kitchen that doesn’t have this on yet!
Bifana (Marinated pork sandwiches)
I tried the Bifana at 100% gluten free Com Cuore and it was so moreish. A simple sandwich filled with marinated pork, it was amazing and pretty big. Paul shared it with me and commented on how good the gluten free bread was so that’s praise in itself!
Having tried the bifana at Com Cuore, I tried the Francesinha instead at Gluten Freak to work my way through trying as many local dishes as possible but it is also available here!
Bolas de Berlim (Custard Doughnuts)
Who can resist what is basically a custard filled doughnut? An absolute must buy!
Bolo Rei (Brioche)
I bought a chocolate chip bolo rei after discovering they are a traditional Portuguese bake. I’m not sure if it was the texture of the brioche, or the fact I ate it the next day but it was pretty dry and I wouldn’t rush to buy another.
Cachorro Com Molho de Francesinha (Hot dogs topped in Francesinha sauce)
100% gluten free Com Cuore offers a hot dog covered in Francesinha sauce (see the Francesinha below for details) which I didn’t get a chance to try! A vegetarian alternative is also on the menu.
Calde Verde (Green Soup)
Caldo verde is a green soup from the North of Portugal made using green cabbage or often kale. I can’t say that this appealed to me but I did see it on the menu at 100% Gluten Free restaurant, Gluten Freak. At just €2.50 for a starter this could be a great way to try it, especially on a cold winters day.
Chorizo Asada (Grilled Chorizo)
We ordered a starter at Adego do Ramada in Obidos of grilled chorizo and it was amazing. So Smokey and full of flavour. However, I’ve seen many places serve chorizo asado to the table over its own mini grill which this restaurant didn’t do, so I missed out on the gimmick but it was a great choice all the same.
This is what you should buy if you visit 100% gluten free Bonna Pastelaria located in Braga, and close enough to Porto for a day trip – these were truly amazing.
Francesinha (Local Porto Sandwich topped in Tomato Beer Sauce!)
We had brunch at Com Cuore so didn’t try their Francesinha but I have heard good things about it and if their other goods are anything to go by it will be delicious. Also available as a vegetarian option.
This is where I tried the Francesinha, I mean it had to be done! This is a sandwich filled with beef, sausage and ham (or a veggie alternative is on the menu) and topped with egg, cheese and a tomato beer sauce. I can’t say I found them that desirable to look at, but local food is a must and these would definitely be a fab way to cure a hangover!
I really liked the sauce, and it wasn’t long before I’d eaten my way through the chips with Paul’s help dunking them all as we went. Paul ordered the lasagne and I’m so glad we didn’t order two of the Francesinha as it was so rich and filling. Paul described it as a bready lasagne as it was meat layered with bread, cheese and tomato sauce! We were told the middle was the best bit and to save that until the end.
It was nice and fun to try, but I don’t need to experience it again very soon but would reorder on a trip to Porto.
This is the restaurant I was going to visit to try the Francesinha originally so that Paul could order a gluteney version but we decided we didn’t need two for lunch and opted for Gluten Freak which I was glad about in the end.
This meant I didn’t try Tasquinha do Be but would definitely have been on the list if Paul had wanted his own. We were also thinking about dinner here for the Saturday night but it was fully booked – so book in advance if you wish to visit, and bear in mind it’s closed on Sundays. A popular choice accredited by the Portuguese Celiac Association.
Ginjinha (Cherry Liquor)
After eating at Bonjardim (see piri piri chicken) we headed around the corner for two shots of ginjinha, the local cherry liquor. A hole in the wall type place where people stand outside to drink it at tall tables, it felt like a must do for €1.40 a glass. A sweet cherry liquor is favourable to many local spirits I’ve tried on my travels!
Many locations – Obidos
Ginjinha was served all over Obidos in plenty of pretty small shops, also serving samples in chocolate cups (you’d need to check for whether they are gluten free though).
Piri Piri Chicken
One of the few restaurants that I ate at that wasn’t accredited by the Portuguese Celiac Association or 100% gluten free, but one of my favourites. I’m not sure if it was because I wasn’t expecting much from a chicken and chips dinner, or because we were hungry from walking the hills of Lisbon but this meal was insanely good for something pretty cheap and cheerful! Sat outside on a November evening I couldn’t have been happier!
The waiter was able to tell us that the chicken and chips were gluten free, with no gluten in the fryers. The creamed spinach though is not gluten free so don’t assume that is safe, and he didn’t go into anything else on the menu but chicken and chips was what everyone was ordering and what we were there for. We had ours spicy which was preferred, and the chilli oil on it definitely had a kick! Otherwise you can have it cooked in salt and garlic.
Our first stop in Portugal was this off the beaten track 100% gluten free, Celiac accredited chicken shop! It is outside Sintra but you’d need a car to make this detour and there were no tourists here, just locals queuing for their chicken lunch. The staff couldn’t speak English but a kind customer helped me and I ended up with two portions of chicken with rice and chips, although I wasn’t totally sure what all the other options were. Thankfully I didn’t have to worry about whether what I’d ordered was safe to eat!
We paid €12 for two lunches and two drinks but the portions were huge and could easily have been shared. We found the food nice enough but a bit bland, but that could have been just what I ordered. If somehow you’re offered sauce or spice I would opt to add it!
Whilst writing up this post, I have been adding websites for the restaurants. The Facebook page for this restaurant shows more gluten free options than chicken, and also some treats so may be worth further investigation over what you could get here.
Miss Can sold all sorts of canned fish, although polvo isn’t one of the ones we tried.
At Adega do Ramada in the beautiful town of Obidos I ordered the polvo and chips for lunch and it was delicious. The owner had excellent understanding of cross contamination and told me that she made gluten free cakes but she wouldn’t advise them due to the way they were made but that I could eat anything that was grilled as everything put on the grill was only cooked in oil and salt and she reassured me that I was pretty safe.
A hotel accredited by the Portuguese Celiac Association with the most fantastic service and care for Coeliac guests I have ever encountered.
The restaurant had a few options on the menu, one of which was polvo. I would have ordered this if we hadn’t have been staying on the same day that I had eaten it for lunch in Obidos! Instead I ordered a gluten free pizza and I didn’t rate it at all. The base was so soft, white and undercooked and came across like a supermarket pizza. Definitely stick to naturally gluten free dishes here as Paul’s food looked amazing.
Porco Preto (Black Iberian Pig)
Paul ordered grilled black pork for his lunch at Obidos and it was delicious. Porco Preto is also available in supermarkets.
Unsurprisingly, Port was everywhere in Porto but we decided to do a tasting at Taylor’s Port so that we could also visit the cellars and have a tour. We obviously also brought a couple of bottles home too!
However, you don’t need to be in Porto or visit Taylor’s as most places sell port so this can easily be added to a DIY food tour!
Sardinha Asado (Grilled Sardines)
Adego do Ramada was a restaurant in Obidos that had an outdoor grill. Everything on this is gluten free and is cooked using just oil and salt! They had grilled sardines on the menu that I would love to have tried, and would be a must eat on a summer visit!
Tinned sardines can be found in all the canned food stores around Portugal, including Miss Can which is the one we bought from.
So that’s a round up of the local dishes that I tried on my trip to Portugal, and where I found them. What dishes have I missed? What would you try first on a trip to Portugal?
If you’d like more gluten free travel recommendations for Portugal and Europe please head to my gluten free guide to Europe!
If you’re reading this as you have a trip booked, have the best time eating your way around this fantastic country.
Note: Writing a gluten free travel blog is a passion project of mine but the website has an annual subscription cost so it actually costs me money to run. If you find my guides helpful please consider buying me a virtual coffee through my kofi link to help me run this free resource for gluten free travel. Thank you!