Food From The Southern Algarve and Algarvian Cuisine

Check out our grilled sardines recipe here.

Plate of grilled whole sardines from the southern Algarve

Food and family

Very important to the Portuguese. Think loud and convivial local tascas filled on a Sunday lunchtime with sometimes four generations of family, from bizavó (great-grandmother) to newborn. In rural areas, a home-cooked meal could be a galo (cockerel) despatched by the avó (grandmother) that morning on her farm, as was common during my childhood at my grandparents’ farm.


Eating etiquette

It’s fairly standard that one doesn’t start eating until everyone is at the table. Typically, the host would say ‘bom apetite’ or ‘bom proveito’. There is great respect for elders, culturally, so when they speak, others provide full attention. Children are encouraged to eat dinner with the adults, and tablets and phones are frowned upon – although this is not to say it doesn’t happen.

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Breakfast

This could be at a padaria – a local bakery and café – with a bica (small, strong coffee) and pastel de nata (custard tart), or dunking pão torrado (buttered toast) into a large milky coffee known as a galão. Some Algarvians might have scrambled eggs and chouriço with locally made bread, if eating at home.

Traditional Portuguese pastry - pastel de nata - on a market stand

Eating out

Most restaurants, whether family-run or more upmarket, offer a prato do dia (dish of the day). Most meals start with couvert, local bread, olives and carrots marinated in garlic and coriander.


Fish

There’s an abundance of line-caught fresh fish – robalo (sea bass) and dourada (sea bream) being very popular – and vegetables available at local markets, with great focus placed on seasonality and fresh ingredients.


Prawns

Camarão de Quarteira are the prawns named after the fishing town of Quarteira, which is close to where I am from in the Algarve. These gambas da costa (prawns from the coast) can be boiled but my favourite recipe is pan-fried in olive oil and garlic with piri-piri, as we do at Casa do Frango.

shrimp al guillo main dish high angle view photography background Portugal with parsley and bread

Churrasqueiras

The ubiquitous grill houses where only wood and charcoal are used (no gas), and the grill chefs are known for their mastery of the fire. They serve grilled fish, chicken piri-piri, ribs and steaks. We say ‘fala com o fogo’ (he/she speaks to the fire).

Faro, Portugal - October 22, 2021: Delicious sausages and chicken grilled on charcoal during Santa Iria Fair in Algarve

Snacking

Snacking is encouraged and many do this at the padarias or pastelerias (pastry shop) in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon, with the tosta mista (ham and cheese toastie) being very popular.


Shots

Matabicho, including medronho made from strawberries, and aguardente made from grapes, is a strong alcoholic shot believed to kill the stomach bugs. Cocktails are not so popular among older locals, who instead prefer Portuguese vinho da casa (house wine), beer (usually Super Bock) and port wine after dinner.

Read our guides to vinho verde wine, Portuguese red wines and ports to try.

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