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When most people in America think “Portuguese food”, their minds tend to wander over to pastéis de nata — Portuguese Custard Tarts, which seems to be the one Portuguese mainstay that has really taken hold in the mainstream American foodscape. However, Portuguese cuisine spans fans beyond (creamy and delicious) tarts. Did you know that tempura was introduced to Japan through Portugal? The same goes for hot chilis and Asia, and even tea and England.

That’s right, Green Monsters. There’s a whole wide world of Portuguese food out there, and we here at One Green Planet are going to walk you through it — and then we’ll help you make it plant-based, of course.

What Defines Portuguese Food?

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Portugal, mainland Europe’s westernmost country, is known for warm, spicy, fresh, and vibrant Mediterranean food. While Portugal is widely famed for its seafood — Portugal is the world’s largest consumer of cod —  it also makes use of plenty of different ingredients and spices which it obtained via former trade routes years and years ago.

The experience of eating authentic Portuguese cuisine is like traveling back in time. Traditional and regional dishes are a product of the diverse ingredients and influences of the Roman Empire, the Age of Exploration, the Roman Catholic Church, and more. Essentially, if you’re a fan of fusion food now, just know that fusion wasn’t actually a modern invention — Portuguese cooks were fusing together spices, proteins, cooking techniques, and more, centuries ago.

Portuguese Essentials

Herbs, Oils, and Spices

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When we think Portuguese cuisine, first we think spices: piri piri (which means “pepper pepper” in Swahili) is a hot and spicy chili sauce that is prominent in Portugal and many African countries. Cinnamon, vanilla, and saffron are also widely used in Portuguese cookery. Garlic, bay leaves, and parsley are also mainstay flavor agents. Olive oil is used widely in Portuguese cooking.

Bread and Rice

Bread and rice are always present at a Portuguese table, with wheat bread, in particular, being a staple since the 8th century. Cornbread and carob bread are popular, too. The recipe pictured above for Whole Wheat Sourdough Boule will likely be your new go-to bread for daily breakfasts and sandwiches. It’s a fine blend of whole wheat flour and enough stretchy gluten strands to yield a light, relatively airy loaf.

Did you know that of all European countries, Portugal consumes the most rice? For savory rice, you’ll likely to find tomato-based rice dishes in Portugal (also called arroz de tomate), while sweet rice pudding (arroz doce) is present, too. Portuguese arroz doce traditionally includes milk, eggs, and cinnamon. This recipe for Nepali Rice Pudding is loaded with cinnamon, but is dairy and egg-free. This recipe for Ayurvedic Tomato Rice is fluffy and savory.


After cod and seafood, sausages are favorites for people in Lisbon. But don’t despair Green Monsters — there are plenty of plant-based sausages out there for you to enjoy.

If you enjoy the taste of Portuguese chouriço, which is essentially like a less-fatty chorizo, enjoy plant-based chorizo in this recipe for Puff Pastry Stuffed With Chorizo and Peppers. You could throw this Homemade Chorizo Crumble in any dish, or switch it up and try out this Tofu Chorizo and Lemon Cauliflower Rice dish.

Don’t limit yourself, however. Learn How to Make Vegan Sausages That Will Hold Up on the Grill and check out these Seitan Sausages Four Ways, pictured above.

Cheese and Wine

Portugal has a centuries-long history of producing tasty wines and cheese. While port is certainly their most popular export (check out this recipe for Slow Cooker Tempeh Braised With Figs and Port Wine for an idea of how to use it in your cooking), Madeira, namd for an island off the coast of Portugal, is a high-quality, fortified wine that’s popular too.

Portugal is all about the soft and gooey cheeses. Think this Macadamia “Goat” Cheese, pictured above, or gourmet cheese. This Camembert is French, but it’s creamy and earthy, and this Gooey Grilled Cheese Sandwich isn’t Portuguese, but it puts gooey and warm plant-based cheese to good use.

For more Mediterranean cooking tips, check out this feature on Ingredients to Always Have in Your Pantry for Easy Mediterranean Cooking.

We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!

Lead image source: artem evdokimov/Shutterstock

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