While most people recognize Algarve for the beautiful beaches and sunny weather during the entire year, the truth is that Algarve has plenty to offer. And one of the things that you’ll be able to enjoy there is the amazing gastronomy.
As you should imagine, with 200 km of coastline, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that both seafood and fish are present in the diet of the people that live in the Algarve. With fishermen going to the sea every day, you can expect to have fresh fish and fresh seafood every single day. The ones that you will always find are the sardines, cod, bream, tuna, monkfish, prawns, oysters, clams, squids, octopus, among so many others.
In most Algarve restaurants, you’ll find big menus that make sure to include a wide selection of fish dishes where they usually stand out the grilled sardines with boiled potatoes and salad or vegetables. There is also a wide selection of chicken dishes from which the most common one is the chicken piri-piri, omelets, and thin pork slices.
Since Algarve is a region that tends to attract a lot of tourists from many different countries, besides restaurants that serve traditional Portuguese food, you’ll also find a lot of restaurants that serve food from numerous parts of the world. You won’t have any problems finding an Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Italian, and English restaurant or an International Cuisine restaurant.
However, when you are headed to a small town or city, you may simply find a traditional Portuguese restaurant.
So, what are the main dishes that you need to make sure that you try out?
#1: Algarve typical Starters:
There are mainly two different starters that are a habit among Algarve restaurants that serve Portuguese food. The first one is the „couvert“. The „couvert“ usually includes fresh bread, cheese, butter, olives, sardine paté, and sometimes, carrots that are marinated in spices, olive oil, and garlic.
The second starter that you’ll probably find in most restaurants is Conquilhas. Conquilhas are simply small clams that can be cooked in a wide variety of ways. They are so popular in Algarve that you can easily find them on any fish counter in Algarve. Just to give you an idea, when you’re at the beach, just notice the people who are on the shore-line digging their heels in the sand. You’ll see that they are putting something in their bags. Can you guess what it is? Yes, conquilhas.
#2: Algarve typical Main Courses:
Just like we said above, many restaurants in Algarve have most of their menus filled with fish and seafood dishes. Most fishes are traditionally grilled, and they are served either with chips or boiled potatoes and they usually also include a salad. Most of the times, they only get a bit of salt and go directly to the grille. You’ll be able to choose from red mullet, sea bass, stone bass, tunafish, swordfish, sardine, among others. Just appreciate the freshness of the fish!
Seafood is also a part of the restaurant menus. You’ll be able to easily find any kind of seafood from shrimps to lobster, loafer, crayfish, prawns, clams, squids, octopus, cuttlefish, just to mention a few. While sometimes they will be served separately according to what you prefer, you can also try out Arroz de Marisco (Seafood rice) or an amazing Cataplana de Marisco.
However, you need to try out some of the best Portuguese and Algarvian gastronomy. And to do that, you just need to eat Bacalhau. Bacalhau can be eaten in many different ways and it’s one of the most common dishes in Portuguese tables.
Bacalhau is the result of the dried salt-cod. This is a preservation method that dates back to the Portuguese Discoveries time.
Another main dish that is a regular presence in most Algarve restaurant’s menu is Chicken, especially the Chicken Piri-Piri or the Barbecued Chicken. The first one uses a red chili pepper to give it a different flavor and the second one is a great choice when the weather is good, which is pretty much the entire year in Algarve.
One of the things that you might notice when you go to a restaurant in Algarve and you see a local eating sardine, is that they will tend to place the sardine on a single slice of regional bread and will eat it on one side. Then, they will flip the sardine and eat the other side. They repeat this process for all the sardines with the intention to eat at the end the bread full of sardine taste.
When looking at traditional dishes from the area, we just can’t miss the Feijoada, which is a thick stew with sausage, bacon, and pork, but in the Algarve they usually do with sea food. And the famous Cataplana de Ameijoas, which is a clam dish made with wine, tomatoes, spicy sausage, herbs, and garlic.
#3: Algarve Typical Desserts:
One of the things that you’re going to love in Portugal is their amazing pastries and desserts.
One of the pastries that you just can’t miss (even though it’s not a tradition in the Algarve) is the pastel de nata, which is a custard and creamy little tart. You also need to make sure that you try out the Pudin Flan, which is a kind of crème caramel, and the “Tarte de Amêndoa” (almond tart). This last one is particularly special because it includes almonds that come from this region.
In what concerns with the conventual and traditional desserts that Algarve has to offer, you’ll notice that most of them include almond as well as some other fruits that grow in the region like figs, oranges, and carob. So, most of them will use almond and sugar to produce „maçapão“ cakes which can be shaped as fruits and animals. Some other delicious sweets that you need to try out are the Dom Rodrigo and the Morgado.
#4: Algarve Drinks:
While you can order some beer or wine to spice up your delicious meal, at the end, you may want to try out some of the best drinks in the Algarve and Portugal. One of them is the traditional Vinho do Porto (Port).
Besides, you can also try out to of the Algarve specialties in terms of spirits – Aguardente and Medronho. Aguardente, the translation is firewater, is similar to a rough brandy that will probably heat your throat down to your stomach. The Medronho is also a similar drink. Please notice that these two spirits are quite strong. Plus, you just can’t miss the Licor de Alfarroba (Carob Licour) which is also made with Aguardente but it uses alfarroba (carob) to give it a unique flavor. When you taste it, it will almost seem like a pretty good mix of chocolate and fig, and it is a great digestive.
In case you are in the mood for a good beer, make sure to try out the Marafada and Moura’s craft beers. These still use some of the oldest traditional methods to make beer and their taste is very exquisite.
If you are a wine lover, the Algarve wines are getting more attention on the last years. You can try Barranco Longo rose wine or the Red wine of Quinta dos Vales. Another one that was first edition in 2017 is the red wine Negra Mole from João Clara wineyard.
As you can see, there are plenty of traditional foods that you can try out when you go to Algarve. From the starters to the main dishes, not forgetting the desserts or the spirits, you can be sure that you’ll love the gastronomy.