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Life in Portugal: Top 10 items in Portuguese pantries

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They have just finished lunch and are already thinking about dinner. Does this sound familiar? Indeed, the Portuguese not only love to eat but everything about this national pastime. From talking about food to planning the next meal, debating which restaurant is the best or even buying food! Just visit one of the many local farmers’ markets to see the joy and care with which the Portuguese buy food that is extraordinarily simple, but full of quality and flavour.

Here are some very popular items that you’ll probably find in every Portuguese pantry:

1. Salted codfish

Portugal Realty Bacalhau Salted Cod

Especially at this time of year, salted cod is the king of Portuguese cuisine!

The tradition of eating salted codfish comes from the century-old practice of imposing meat fasting in the days before Catholic holidays. Easily accessible even when the boats couldn’t go out to sea to catch fresh fish, salted cod was and still is a favourite during Christmas Eve dinner in Portugal, known as “Consoada”. This dish includes salted codfish served with kale, chickpeas and a boiled egg.

›› Find out more about Portuguese Christmas Traditions

However, the Portuguese appreciate “bacalhau” all year long and don’t need a special date to enjoy this salty goodness. Baked in the oven and wrapped in heavy cream, grilled on hot coals with “batata à murro”, “À Brás” or “À Zé do Pipo”... there's plenty of options to choose from and thousands of recipes to try!

2. Olive oil

Portugal Realty Azeite Olive Oil

Refined olive oil, virgin, extra virgin, flavoured or organic... Whatever the variety, every home in Portugal has a bottle of Portuguese olive oil in the pantry and a special place for it at the table!

Being an essential part of the Mediterranean diet, the importance of olive oil in Portugal has spanned through generations and is present in numerous dishes. The Portuguese use it for cooking, but also for seasoning and even a simple salad will always be drizzled with the best quality olive oil.

Besides being major consumers, the Portuguese are also one of the world’s best olive oil producers, having won in 2019 the main prize of the World's Best Olive Oils 2019 competition. But the Portuguese don't need medals to know that their “liquid gold” is simply wonderful… just look at their plates!

 

3. Bread

Portugal Realty Broa Portuguese Cornbread

Another must-have in any Portuguese household is bread… and dipping it in olive oil is as Portuguese as you can get!

Traditional Portuguese bread is made with whole wheat flour, kneaded by hand and baked in a wood-fired oven. In more traditional villages, the elders still have the habit of blessing the bread at the end of kneading, making a cross with their hands while praying for the dough to grow.

Another favourite is sweet cornbread, enjoyed along with dishes such as salted codfish with “migas”, made with crumbled cornbread fried in olive oil and garlic.

If you’re living in a small village in Portugal make sure to ask neighbours if your local baker delivers door to door. Can you imagine waking up every day to freshly baked bread hanging on your front door?


4. Olives

Portugal Realty Olives Azeitonas


When you enter a Portuguese “tasca” or restaurant, you’ve probably noticed that one of the first things that are placed on the table are fresh olives. The same thing happens in a Portuguese home!

Whether you prefer black or green, simple or seasoned with olive oil, garlic and oregano, fresh olives are the perfecter starter, and you can also accompany them with Portuguese bread and cheese. The hard part is to eat just a few!

Olives are also widely used in the preparation of salted cod dishes or in the famous “Carne de Porco à Alentejana” (a traditional Portuguese recipe with clams, marinated pork and fried potatoes). They are also the perfect snack to share with friends outdoors while enjoying the wonderful Portuguese weather!

5. Coffee

Portugal Realty café espresso

Like many culinary traditions, coffee in Portugal also has deep historical roots due to ties with former colonies that produce coffee, such as Brazil, Timor, Angola and São Tomé and Principe.

For centuries, drinking coffee has been a part of the Portuguese way of life. Not only is it as a habit when finishing a meal or taking a short break from work, but it’s also an excuse to meet with friends and socialize. In any street café, just look at the tables and you'll certainly see several empty coffee cups!

The most common way of drinking coffee is an "expresso", also known as a "bica" in the southern part of the country or a "cimbalino" in the north, but there are several other varieties available at any café.


6. Chorizo

Portugal Realty Chorizo Chourico Caldo Verde

Although chorizo is common in all Mediterranean countries, in Portugal it’s mandatory in every home!

Traditional Portuguese “chouriço” (also called “linguiça” in the Alentejo region), is made with pork, seasoned with salt, crushed garlic, paprika paste and white wine, and dried for several days over smoke from a wood-burning fire. The differences in taste depend on the region of the country where it's made.

It’s usually eaten simply sliced or grilled, and accompanied by bread and wine. Portuguese chorizo is also served in several traditional dishes, such as “Cozido à Portuguesa” (traditional Portuguese meat stew), “Feijoada” (bean and meat stew) or the famous “Caldo Verde” soup.

7. Herbs and spices

Portugal Realty Portuguese Herbs Spices


Food in Portugal is anything but boring, and there isn't a Portuguese dish that doesn't have that special touch of spice or fresh aromatic herb. Since Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India, the Portuguese have used pepper, nutmeg, clove and saffron, among other spices to cook. Without forgetting cinnamon, which is generously used in Portuguese pastries and desserts!

As in all typical Portuguese foods, the use of spices and herbs is also is influenced by the country’s landscape. In the north, parsley, bay leaf, onion and garlic are used a lot. As for the South, especially in the Alentejo region, coriander, mint, pennyroyal, oregano and rosemary are some favourites.

In any village or small town, don’t be surprised to find that the herbs used for cooking are home-made! The Portuguese just walk out to their backyard and harvest on the spot... and if you need some, don't hesitate to ask any friendly neighbour. The Portuguese are renowned for their generosity!


8. Cheese

Portugal Realty Portuguese cheese queijo


Cheese is another item that can always be found in any Portuguese pantry!

As an appetizer, snack or meal in itself, there are many regional varieties of cheese to choose from. With different flavours and textures, Portuguese cheeses range from creamy to harder, sweet to savoury, with the most famous being from Azeitao, Serra da Estrela, Nisa, Rabaçal and from the Azores island of São Jorge. Not to mention the different varieties of fresh and curd cheese, which can be enjoyed simple or with a pinch of salt and pepper, honey or jam.

There are so many cheeses, the best thing is to start tasting them now to find out which one you like the most!

 

9. Wine

Portugal Realty Vinho Portuguese Wine

What goes great with Portuguese cheese? A delicious glass of Portuguese wine is the perfect option and the Portuguese keep their pantry stacked… just in case a friend shows up at a last minute’s notice!

The Portuguese drink wine regularly at mealtimes, as a way to celebrate a special date and also use it in different food and dessert recipes.

In rural areas many families still produce their own wine, cultivating grapes that take advantage of the natural terroir of each Portuguese wine region.

›› The where and why of Portuguese wine regions

There is so much happiness in a glass of Portuguese wine, just sit back, enjoy and don't forget to toast with an equally traditional “à nossa!” (the Portuguese version of “bottoms up!”, but literally means “to our health!”).

 

10. Sugar

Portugal Realty Sugar


And last but not least, sugar! The Portuguese have a sweet tooth and are not ashamed to admit it. From the creamy custard pastry “Pastel de Nata” savoured during a typical Portuguese breakfast, to a large variety of desserts widely available at restaurants and cafés… every moment is a perfect opportunity to relish in something sweet!

If you visit a Portuguese home for a party don't be surprised if there’s more than one dessert... or a lot of them actually! The good news is there’s plenty about the Portuguese lifestyle to keep you healthy, regardless of you sharing the Portuguese’s love for food.

›› The name and fame of traditional Portuguese pastry

These traditional ingredients may be century-old habits, but they remain firmly rooted in Portugal's culture and are one of the many reasons so many foreigners have fallen in love with Portugal!


If you'd like to be part of this simple but delicious lifestyle, don't hesitate to visit our real estate offices in the Silver Coast and Algarve! We will always have an espresso coffee waiting for you...


Portugal Realty™ - Properties for sale in Portugal

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