Algarve food you must try
The Algarve is a region of Portugal favored by the warm Mediterranean climate. Known and sought after for its spectacular beaches and cliffs it is a much sought after holiday destination. Being synonymous with the good life, relaxing on the beach, esplanades and summer vibes.
Although not as well known for its cuisine, the Algarve has a lot to offer in that respect. Much more than it gets credit for. It is the ideal place to eat fresh fish, delicious fruit, especially oranges, and has a wide variety of sweets. Not to mention the terrace culture where it is ideal for snacking and having a cool drink.
We have gathered here everything you should eat in the Algarve to guide you to enjoy the best of Algarve cuisine.
Starters and Snacks
Carrots Algarvian Style
This starter is something you should definitely try, it may sound banal or nothing special but it is simply delicious. Carrots Algarve style is a starter or even a side dish consisting of cooked carrots, chopped garlic, chopped coriander and finally seasoned with vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
It has to be left to marinate in the fridge for a few hours but ideally for a day or two. It's a winning combination.
Conquilhas à Algarvia
Conquilhas or Cadelinhas are bivalve molluscs typical of the Algarve. They are similar to clams but smaller, and live near the break of the sea, buried in the sand a few centimeters deep.
Conquilhas are a great starter or snack, and represent the Algarve and the summer, in essence, the good life. They are made with garlic and coriander and sprinkled with a little lemon at the end. When you go to the Algarve, this is a dish you have to try and probably want to repeat.
Besides being used as a starter or snack, cockles are an important ingredient in Algarve cuisine, there are several typical dishes in the Algarve where the main focus is on cockles such as Xerém de conquilhas, Cataplana de conquilhas, or soup of cockles.
An interesting fact is that in Lagos the Conquilhas are called Condelipas. According to history the name of this bivalve comes from Count Luppi in the 18th century, who was very fond of cockles.
General Luppi was hired by Portugal to reorganize the troops, and it is said that the Count loved the Conquilhas of Lagos, and the molluscs became known as Conde d'Lippe. So you know when you go to Lagos and want to eat shellfish you have to look for Condelipas.
If you like Oysters the Algarve is one of the ideal places to eat in Portugal. Being one of the largest producers of Oysters in the country, you can eat deliciously fresh Oysters. The production areas of Oysters in the Algarve are the Alvor and Formosa estuaries.
You can find this delicacy in most fish and seafood restaurants in the Algarve. Cancela Velha between Tavira and Monte Gordo has a reputation for cheap and delicious oysters.
When in the Algarve you must take the opportunity to eat plenty of seafood and fish. The Algarve has a strong connection to the sea, with its abundant coastline, all the coastal towns had fishing as their main activity.
Is there anything better than sitting on a terrace enjoying the Algarvian sun and nibbling on the various seafood offerings that the Algarve has to offer? A must try are barnacles, cockles, razor clams, clams, lobster, crabs and shrimps. You will find these delicacies in almost all fish restaurants and seafood restaurants.
Tuna in the Algarve
Tuna is one of the main fish consumed in the Algarve. The Atlantic red tuna was one of the most caught fish in the Algarve. This migratory fish travels long distances to spawn in the Mediterranean, and its passage along the Algarve coast is compulsory. In the 19th century Portugal was one of the main tuna fishermen.
Considering the history of tuna fishing, it is normal that this muscular fish has a great importance in the Algarve cuisine. Tuna is known as the steak of the sea, and is ideal for grilling or even drying and salting - the so-called muxama, traditional in Olhão.
One of the most traditional tuna dishes in the Algarve is Tuna à Algarvia. This dish is made as a stew of tomato, red pepper and white wine and tuna, which has been marinated with lemon juice. The tuna is accompanied with potatoes and topped with parsley. It is a very comforting dish.
Cataplana is the Algarve's most iconic dish, and there are various types of cataplanas, both meat and fish. The most popular cataplanas are seafood cataplanas, fish cataplanas, clams in cataplana, and even the Pork cataplana with Clams.
Cataplana not only refers to the dish but also the name of the vessel used to make it. It is a copper vessel of Arabic origin, formed by two concave parts connected by a hinge which closes with the help of two lateral latches. The cataplana steams slowly, retaining the flavor and aroma of the ingredients. Besides producing delicious food, cataplanas are beautiful.
Cataplana is a must try dish when visiting the Algarve, it is not only delicious but also a unique experience to eat this traditional dish.
Swordfish is a fish similar to tuna, also known as steak of the seas. It is caught deep in the ocean. It is a fish with a very succulent white meat.
Swordfish is widely used in Algarve cuisine, it is usually grilled on charcoal but is also often made with onions, known as Swordfish with onions. This traditional dish is made with fried swordfish with onions and garlic.
Fried little Choquinhos Algarve Style
Choquinhos fritos à Algarvia is a popular dish eaten in the Algarve and ideal to eat in the summer on a terrace with a cool drink.
Choquinhos fritos is a dish made with small or medium-sized cuttlefish, which are fried in olive oil with garlic and chilies. Add white wine and fry until tender. Serve with boiled or fried potatoes and coriander. Some people also make this dish with small cuttlefish in ink.
Do not confuse this dish with fried cuttlefish, which is a typical dish from many coastal towns in southern Portugal, such as Setúbal, Lisbon and Porto Covo, which is also delicious.
As in other coastal areas of Portugal eating grilled fish is almost a must. Besides the fish in Portugal being delicious and fresh it is one of the cheapest countries to eat fish. Although in the Algarve prices can be a bit higher than in the rest of the country due to the large amount of tourism.
The best way to eat fish is grilled over hot coals and the most common species in restaurants are sea bream, sardines, sea bass and sole.
Octopus of Santa Luzia
Octopus is one of the most coveted and appreciated dishes in the Algarve and is especially famous in Tavira and Santa Luzia, the Octopus Capital. It is a dish that can be prepared in various ways but is always delicious. We can have Octopus stewed in wine, breaded, grilled, with rice or baked in the oven with olive oil and potatoes to wall.
Try Octopus in every possible way you can, especially in Santa Luzia restaurants that are specialists in cooking one of Portugal's finest ingredients.
Meat dishes from Algarvian Cuisine
Chicken from Guia
Chicken da Guia is the Algarve dish best known by foreign tourists, the famous "Piri Piri Chicken . Frango da Guia is a barbecue chicken made in the parish of Guia in Albufeira. The first restaurant to make it and make it known was Ramires restaurant in 1964 by José Carlos Ramires.
Mr. Ramires used a recipe that originated in the overseas territories. This dish, which originated in the former Portuguese colonies, became known as frango da Guia.
Nowadays there are many places that make barbecued chicken similar to that of Mr. Ramires, but frango da Guia has always remained famous. Many people claim that the best frango de Churrasco is from Ramires and Tiodosio restaurants, both in the parish of Guia.
Although this dish does not have its roots in the Algarve or Portugal it is cherished by all. It is a fast food dish from Portugal that you can eat in the restaurant or take with you and eat anywhere without needing many ceremonies.
Carne de Porco Alentejana is a reference dish in the Algarve that is served in almost every restaurant in the Algarve. This dish is made with pork from the Alentejo (hence the name of the dish), clams and diced fried potatoes. The dish is seasoned with garlic, paprika, wine, bay leaf and coriander.
Although it is a traditional Algarve dish, it can be found in other regions of the country such as Alentejo and Lisbon. It is a delicious dish that combines the good of two worlds, seafood and meat.
Xarém or Xerém is a traditional Algarve dish that is not very well known and unfortunately not the easiest to find in restaurants. The dish consists of porridge made from maize flour and is accompanied by different ingredients such as chorizo, smoked ham, bacon, cracklings, pork or clams.
Xarém is thought to have originated from an Arabic dish as the name means porridge. It is a particularly traditional dish in Olhão.
Sweets and desserts of the Algarve
Doces finos are a typical sweet of the Algarve and are very cute and fluffy not to mention delicious. It is a sweet made with almond paste and sugar, known as massapão, and can be filled with fios de ovos. They are moulded into different animal or fruit shapes and can be decorated with chocolate or food colouring.
It is very easy to find these sweets, which are very original and keep for a long time, being ideal as presents. In our opinion, they are not the tastiest sweets in Portugal, especially if you are not a fan of marzipan.
Dom Rodrigo is a conventual sweet, i.e. it was created in a convent, traditional in the Algarve and in particular in Lagos. The sweet is made with egg yarn, almond kernels, sugar in syrup and egg jam. Yes, it is a bomb of sweetness and egg candy, as is characteristic of convent sweets but it is so good.
The sweet originates from the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Carmo, and was created to honour the captain general of the Algarve, D. Rodrigo de Menezes, hence the name of the sweet.
It usually comes wrapped in coloured tin foil in the shape of sweets as seen in the picture but it can also be eaten in a bowl and eaten with a spoon.
Tarte 3 delicias do Algarve uses three very common and traditional Algarve ingredients - fig, almond, and carob. The combination of these ingredients creates this amazingly delicious pie.
The base of the tart is made with figs, Maria biscuit and almonds. The filling is made with eggs, almonds, gila jam, carob flour and wheat. Bake for 10 minutes and sprinkle some carob flour on top of the pie.
It may seem like a strange combination especially because of the carob which is bitter, but in this recipe the ingredients connect very well, the contrast of carob with the sweetness of the figs and the gila jam works.
Morgado and Morgadinho
Morgado is a typical Algarve cake made with almonds and filled with gila jam and soft eggs. The cake has the shape and appearance of a cheese and is covered with fondant or ovos moles. It is often decorated with flowers made of marzipan (almond paste) imitating almond trees in bloom.
Traditionally it is a cake for parties such as christenings and weddings although nowadays it is eaten on all occasions. It is a very different cake from the typical Portuguese but also very beautiful.
Morgadinhos are smaller versions of the Morgado cake. They are round in individual portions and there is the version covered with fondant or simple.
The balls of Berlin are not originally from the Algarve (or Portugal) but have become a cult food on the beaches of the Algarve. Who has never heard the famous chanting on the beaches of the Algarve "OOOLHA A BOLA DE BERLIMMM.....". Well, if you haven't heard it, let's let you know one of the wonders of the beaches of the Algarve and beyond.
Several beaches in the Algarve have street vendors selling Balls of Berlin, who walk along the beaches with a little box and sell these delicious Balls of Berlin. There is nothing better than after a dip in the sea to eat a Bola de Berlim. A Bola de Berlim is a fried cake, filled with egg custard, and topped with sugar. It is the best beach food ever.
This Algarve tradition has spread to many other beaches in Portugal and nowadays you can find them from North to South.
The Algarve is famous for its sweets and fish, but one of the best things to eat in the Algarve is the local fruit, especially the orange. The Algarve orange is the best orange in Portugal, and that means a lot since Portugal is known for its oranges. In fact the word orange in many countries is Portugal.
Algarve oranges are juicy, sweet and have a thin peel. The best time to eat oranges in the Algarve is in December-January or June-July as it is harvest time and ripe.
But besides oranges you should try peaches, apricots, raspberries, watermelon. The warm Mediterranean climate allows the fruit to be sweet and very tasty.
Although the Algarve is not considered a culinary destination, there are without a doubt several typical dishes that you must try. From fish, seafood to various sweets, not to mention the wonderful Algarve oranges. There is plenty to delight you during your stay in the Algarve.