Find out about the traditional Algarve food you won’t want to miss
Though many head to the Algarve for their annual dose of sea, sun, and sand, the region offers so much more… not least its food! Recognised as following the Mediterranean diet, the best food in the Algarve is plant-based, seasonal, and fresh. From the use of world-renowned olive oil and fresh herbs to lots of garlic and tomatoes in everything, Algarve dishes are light while still being packed with flavour – the perfect combination for a memorable meal in the sunshine. Then there are the desserts featuring locally sourced figs, almonds, and oranges.
Your mouth already watering? Then read on for a full list of traditional Algarve food.
Best food in the Algarve: Starters
Whether sitting down to a hearty lunch or pulling up a chair to a memorable dinner, there’s no better place to start than an entrée. Though you’ll often find bread, olives, and cheese on the table at any Portuguese restaurant, other welcome additions to the winning selection are sure to whet your appetite. The most popular? Algarve-style carrots, clams, and the freshest locally caught oysters.
Best food in the Algarve: Mains
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to mains in the Algarve, especially if seafood floats your boat! A region known for the sheer variety of sea creatures that call it home, the Algarve’s distinct ecosystems – from the cool Atlantic to the warmer waters of its two far-reaching lagoons – make the perfect habitats for sealife big and small. And the locals know just how to prepare each one to perfection. From Algarve-style tuna steak or fried squid to razor clam rice, visitors to the Algarve delight in unique ingredients and new spins on well-known dishes.
Santa Luzia Octopus
Worthy of a day trip, the “octopus capital of Portugal” provides more than a pleasant afternoon stroll along a river-like stretch of the Formosa lagoon. In fact, octopus lovers may need to spend far longer in Santa Luzia to sample even a small percentage of the octopus dishes on offer along the road of restaurants specialising in the very ingredient, caught only metres away.
A remnant of the region’s Moorish past, a cataplana is both a cooking utensil and a dish – or several variations of the same dish, to be exact. Traditionally made of copper and shaped like two hinged clam shells, which come together to form an airtight seal, a cataplana can be made using a wide range of ingredients, from vegetables to shellfish, shrimp, and octopus, and even some meats – most often pork.
Something a bit different
If you’re looking for something lighter, Algarve (montanheira) salad or gazpacho are similar dishes made up of cubed tomato, bell pepper, and cucumber, providing a light main or fresh side dish. The main difference between the two is the addition of bread and ice to the Portuguese version of the well-known cold soup. Speaking of soup, how about sampling Xarém, a traditional Algarve cornmeal soup with shellfish, also eaten in Brazil and Cape Verde?
And last but not least, you’ve heard of Portugal’s famous piri-piri chicken, right? Though this spicy chicken has spread far and wide, if you want to try the real, authentic recipe (made with a characteristically small chicken), there’s no place like Guia itself!
Best food in the Algarve: Desserts
Visitors to the Algarve will have to end each and every meal with a different dessert to ensure they’ve sampled them all because there are simply none you’ll want to miss. Often featuring at least one, if not all three of the Algarve’s traditional ingredients – figs, almonds, and carobs – the selection truly is delightful. These include a variety of sweet pies, including carob pie, fig “cheeses”, Morgado almond and fig cake, and marzipan “doces finos”, not to mention seasonal Easter treats like Dom Rodrigo “angel hair” egg yolk nests topped with cinnamon and almonds, and traditional sweet folar bread from Olhão.
When it comes to eating well in the Algarve, you never have to go far, so ensure you seek out some of the Algarve’s traditional flavours to give your holiday a delicious spin.