Local Cuisine & Foods – An Algarve Residents Favourites
Wondering what’s in store in the wine and food department if you plan on moving to the Algarve? Well here are our top recommendations of local offerings we are sure you will love!
Find the Local Hidden Gems
There are some great local restaurants that are real hidden gems right across the region, once you have found your favourite I guarantee you will be back again and again.
The local restaurants tend to be much cheaper than those aimed at the tourist sector and of course they are genuine local Algarvian cuisine. And we know you will be amazed at some of the local restaurants and the food they serve.
Basic Decor But Value For Money
However, we should say if you are looking for comfort and style in a swanky modern restaurant you may not find what you are looking for in the local Algarvian restaurants. For this, you need to take yourself down to the tourist quarters and pay through the nose!
Having normally been run by the same family for generations they do tend to be very basic with outdated furnishings. Any establishment frequented by locals is normally a good sign of quality and value.
However, if you are looking for value for money tasty meals and a great welcome then explore the wonderful world of Algarvian cuisine. These are the places those in the know often frequent.
Forget nouveau cuisine and arty food dishes, the local restaurants are for those looking for the real Algarve experience. If you are retired or living on a monthly budget they are an ideal night out with family and friends.
The Traditional Algarve Cuisine
The food in the Algarve is renowned for its emphasis on seafood, as well as other traditional Portuguese meat dishes. Here are some of our favourite Algarvian delicacies.
Fish and Seafood
Being located on the Atlantic coast, seafood is an important part of the local cuisine. Some popular seafood dishes include cataplana (a seafood stew cooked in a traditional copper pot). Try Prazeres in Olha where the fish comes straight off the fisherman’s boat into the restaurant.
Grilled sardines are another popular dish both for a snack or main course. The daily catch is grilled on the BBQ and brushed in olive oil with a pinch of salt. With an amazing sea view and great sardines, the Sardinha Assada Restaurante in Armação de Pêra would be a good choice.
Arroz de Marisco is a mixed seafood rice dish and is also recommended for seafood lovers. A variety of different fruits of the sea cooked in a risotto type rice, it is normally enough for two to share. One of the best places to visit is the O Marisco restaurant in Loule.
The most popular fish in the Algarve is bacalhau, which in English translates to the good old cod. Coming in various forms from fresh fillets to cardboard-like salt-dried cured versions.
Well-known traditional local dishes using this as the main ingredient are Bacalhau à Brás, a dish made using flaked cod mixed with matchstick chips infused with herbs and held together beaten egg.
The cod also take pride of place for the Algarvian Christmas eve dinner, using the cured salted version in fillet form cooked in olive oil and served with fresh veg and boiled potatoes.
The Algarve is also known for its grilled meats, such as pork, chicken, and beef straight from BBQ. O Retiro in Boliqueme is a popular choice for both locals and residents alike with fresh meat grilled on an open BBQ in the front house.
Leitão or suckling pig maybe not be to everyone’s liking as it is a piglet that has been fed only on its mother’s milk. The piglet is between the ages of two and six weeks before being slow-roasted whole. A great restaurant to experiment with this dish is the Restaurante Antiquários Dos Leitões in Patã de Cima near Boliquieme.
Chicken Dishes: Probably the most famous local dish in the Algarve has to be the Chicken Piri Piri. Freshly roasted chicken straight from the hot coals of the BBQ with or without a hot chilli oil dressing (Piri Piri).
To name but a few of the most popular and in our opinion best Piri Piri restaurants would be “Marrufo” or chicken shack as it is sometimes called, in Quarteira. Xicken & Cia, which is one of the largest to be found in the Algarve, can be found in Conceição near Tavira.
You will find many restaurants and takeaway chicken outlets serving “Frango da Guia” which basically means small chicken. The original and some say the inventor of this succulent dish can still be found in the centre of Guia near Albufeira.
Turkey also forms the heart of many dishes in the Algarve normally served as a steak with chips and salad or with a creamy mushroom sauce and rice.
You will no doubt come across Iberian Black Pork when reading the menus in local restaurants, it is somewhat of a speciality in the Algarve. The dark colours pigs are only found in Portugal and central Spain. Living in forests, their staple diet consists of acorns which give the meat its distinctive flavour.
Other obscure dishes will include wild boar, kid goat, and rabbit along with some dishes made with obscure parts of an animal! Snails and weird-looking sea animals can also be found.
Vegetables and Fruits
The Algarve is home to a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and oranges.
These ingredients are often used in dishes such as Salada Mista (a mixed salad) and gazpacho (a cold soup made with tomatoes and other vegetables). So everything the vegan or vegetarian diet requires.
Try the Vida Leve Vegetariano in the centre of Faro or for those in the Western Algarve and looking for something a little different call into Mó Veggie Bistro in Aljezur.
On the whole, there are many options for vegans and vegetarians across the Algarve as most restaurants now cater for everyone. Fresh fruit is in abundance with orange and lemon groves covering the region’s countryside. Many other more exotic fruits can be bought and grown in the beautiful Mediterranean climate.
Açorda de bacalhau is a cod-based soup topped with rustic bread. Flavoured with garlic and fresh herbs, it can be taken as a starter or eaten as a main course.
Another take on this can be found in the Alentejo where sausage or meat replaces the cod and is normally topped with a poached egg.
Fish soup, or Açorda de Marisco, is obviously another favourite and can come in many different forms. With so many fruits of the sea available the choices are immense. However, prawns seem to be a great favourite.
Canja de Galinha is a hearty and very tasty chicken soup with potatoes, rice or orzo pasta. Chunky local vegetables, normally carrots, celery and onions all flavoured with garlic and lime juice.
You will find a wide range of cured sausages and meats in the Algarve both in restaurants and supermarkets. The best way to find the best flavoured of these is to try them all!
The most popular sausages are chorizo or linguica, both are full of flavour but differ from place to place. Thinly sliced in the frying pan, or grilled over an open flame in a small clay roaster they taste great.
When finely chopped they also make a fantastic additional flavouring for soups and stews. You will find many food outlets serving a huge variety of tapas or a starter plate containing various smoked and cured sausages.
If you are a lover of black pudding, why not try Marcela, this sausage contains no meat and is made solely from fresh pork blood mixed with fat and flour or rice. Sounds a little bizarre but really does make for a tasty menu item!
For those who like the good old Scottish haggis on Burns Night then the local version of Maranhao could fit the bill. Made from a goat’s stomach filled with the same meat cooked and mixed with rice, ham and wine, flavoured with local herbs and spices.
Cured Hams or Presunto
are also in abundance in regions with Barriga Fumada or smoked pork belly again used mainly for flavouring or left whole in soups and stews.
You will find whole cured ham or Presunto taking centre display in many restaurants and bars. Similar to the Spanish Jamon or Italian Prosciutto it is the hind leg of a pig has been cured using salt and then rubbed with olive oil before being smoked and aged.
Again you can order the Presunto as a starter plate with bread or tapas platter. The quality can differ from location to location, however, when it melts in your mouth you will know you have found the best!
Starters or Couvert
When seating in the restaurant you will notice the cover, which is not the charge for seating but a local traditional starter which normally consists of softened carrots & garlic in olive oil, tuna pate which will be either homemade, which is delicious, or a small tub of commercial stuff, make your own mind up there!
You will also be given a bread basket with butter and sometimes local cheese with honey or a selection of Presunto or smoked sausage. The bread dipped in carrot oil is very delicious!
Popular snacks are prego no pão (a grilled beef sandwich served with mustard and onions) or Bifana using pork steak instead of beef. This is sometimes eaten with French fries and salad as a main course. For this local delicacy try Casa do Prego in Lagos.
The Francesinha is another great snack if somewhat a little strange. A ham, sausage and steak sandwich in a bowl topped with melted cheese and covered in tomato and beer sauce! In Porto where it originated, they say it’s a culinary masterpiece, however, others have described it as a culinary disaster!
The Best Desserts
The Algarve is home to a number of traditional sweet desserts, such as the famous Pastéis de Nata which is best described as a small custard tart with an almost burnt skin on top. Served hot they are truly delicious with coffee and Beirão, the Portuguese liquor, over ice.
The best place to experience these little beauties would be the Pastéis de Belém cafe in Lisbon, the home and origin of the sweet pastries. However, in the Algarve, The Shack in Quinta do Lago with an exquisite view across the lake serves them as a breakfast snack and almost matches the makers!
Make sure you try bolo de Arroz (a rice cake), Quijada (cheese tarts) and Mouse de chocolate (chocolate mouse of course!). There you will find it in most of the cafes, and bakeries and are offered as a dessert choice in local restaurants.
Concluding Our Ultimate Algarvian Food Guide
In general, the local food in the Algarve is a mixed blend of traditional Portuguese cuisine with an emphasis on seafood and locally grown ingredients.
Most dishes are cooked in olive oil and served with rice or boiled potatoes and salad so are quite healthy as well as being less fattening. But don’t worry the good old chips are also an option for those not on a diet, and damn good they are too!
However, there are many great restaurants serving tastes from all around the world using the same local or imported ingredients.
For those missing the taste of home, you can easily find English breakfast, fish & chips and Macdonalds anywhere along the coast in the tourist resorts, but for me as a resident, you can’t beat the local Algarvian restaurants.
Google Local Guide for the Algarve. Been living in the Algarve for over 20 years and loving the experience. Now writing about and photographing the Algarve experience to share with others. Contributor to all that is Algarve on Wikipedia