Food sensitivities can be a challenge when traveling, particularly if you don’t speak the local language. Caution about ingredients can sometimes cause people to miss out on local flavors and unique experiences. But there are delicious local foods that are traditionally prepared without many problematic ingredients, so that everyone can share in the spectacular cuisine of the Algarve.
While the Mediterranean regions of Portugal are famous for their seafood, and the locals rely heavily on a diet of meat, fish, and bread, it is easy to eat delicious, traditional foods even on a restricted diet. The Portuguese favor local foods, hearty portions, and cook in a way that celebrates the freshness of the ingredients. The simplicity of the cooking style and reliance on fresh, local staples means that travelers don’t often have to look for hidden ingredients that may not be apparent at first glance.
Traditional wheat and grain free dishes
Canja de Galinha: Many Portugese meals begin with a course of soup, and Canja de Galinha is a classic comfort food. This soup features chicken and rice, in a broth flavored with olive oil and spices and sometimes garlic and lemon. Served by itself as a light meal, or as the first course of a larger meal, this dish is beloved nationwide.
Carapaus fritos com arroz: This classic dish is a regional favorite in Algarve. Small Atlantic mackarel are fried until crispy and served with a side dish of rice and tomatoes. A traditional lunch for fishermen and workers throughout the region, it’s a delicious staple.
Ameijoas na cataplana: Another staple of the Algarve is clams cooked in a special pan known as the cataplana (sometimes also called the “prussiana”). This pan has a unique clamshell design, perfect for collecting the steam from shellfish. The most famous cataplana dish is ameijoas na cataplana, with clams and ham or Portuguese linguiça sausage steamed with white wine, fish stock, peppers, and spices. Frequently served with a side of rice, this dish is a local treasure.
Traditional meat free dishes
Gaspacho: Gaspacho originated in Spain and Portugal but is famous worldwide and is a brilliant accompaniment on a warm Mediterranean day. This soup is usually made with tomato, cucumber, bell peppers, onion, garlic, and olive oil, and is served slightly chunkier in the Algarve than other regions where it is pureed.
Migas: In Portugal, migas is a dish dating back centuries, although there is a Mexican/Tex-Mex dish of the same name. In Portugal, bread is sauteed in olive oil with salt and pepper, seasoned with garlic and spices, and frequently finished with kale and beans, and sometimes an egg is poached on top. The dish is simple, hearty, and delicious, and a favorite in southern Portugal.
Açorda: Over the centuries, açorda has evolved from being a poor man’s dish into a staple food. Similar to a garlicky risotto, but made with bread instead of rice, it is frequently topped with a poached egg or shrimp but is often served by itself as a savory meal.
Traditional dairy free dishes
Caldo verde: another classic Portuguese soup, caldo verde is made from potatoes, kale or collard greens, olive oil, and salt, but local sausage is frequently added to make the dish more robust. Traditionally served at festivals and weddings, caldo verde is delicious and loved nationwide.
Estupeta: Estupeta or estupeta de atum is the local interpretation of tuna salad, based on tuna fishing practiced in Portugal dating back to the time of the Phoenicians. Tuna is combined with diced onion, peppers, and tomatoes, dressed, and served cold.
Ervilhas com ovos: The Portuguese love hearty stews, and this one features fresh peas and local chorizo topped with a poached egg. This simple, hearty, traditional dish is a family favorite.
Due to the pride the Portuguese take in their food and the preparation, it’s easy to eat local foods that are authentic, traditional, and delicious, even if you are avoiding certain ingredients. Don’t miss out on the unique flavor experiences that await you in this incredible destination!