If you are thinking of coming to the DAZZLING SUNNY country of Portugal, and wondering what types of fish they have to offer here or more importantly what Portuguese fish dishes to eat, then you are in for a FUN read.
Whether you knew it or not, Portugal, as small as the country is. Astonishingly eats more fish than any other country in Europe!!
So if you are a fish lover wanting to eat the many types on offer here or you are a fisherman wanting to catch them, you will be glad to know that Portugal has an ABUNDANCE of it.
No matter where you go in Portugal, all the restaurants are pumping out hundreds of kilos of glorious fish every day for their happy paying customers. From Sardines to Sea Bream and of course their beloved Bacalhau (salt cod).
Portugal: The Fish Country Of The World
The Portuguese love their fish! Whether they are making a delicious fish soup, fish stew, grilling them, and mainly cooking them in the oven served with potatoes and olive oil (Portuguese style).
The main culprits are Bacalhau and sardinhas. The Portuguese people celebrate with festivals of bacalhau and sardinhas every year throughout Portugal.
The best and biggest festival of bacalhau can be found in the town of Aveiro in Jardim Oudinot, in the Gafanha da Nazaré. This is a 5-day party purely dedicated to codfish, it is great for families and fish lovers alike. With an array of activities, cooking shows, taverns to try a million ways to cook bacalhau, exhibitions, craft shows, and more importantly WINE TASTING. If you are passing Aveiro between the 12th & 16th of August, it is worth going to try the wonderfully tasty bacalhau dishes.
Sardines, on the other hand, are celebrated more widely around Portugal. The smell of them from June to August can be found all over. For instance, if you are in Lisbon in June, you will be sure to smell grilled sardines from every corner, as they celebrate sardines for Saint Antonio (Santo Antonio) for the entire month. Other sardine festivals can also be found in Portimao (Algarve) in August, where they serve up thousands of grilled sardinhas.
Where To Buy Fresh Portuguese Fish in Portugal
Finding quality fresh Portuguese fish for a reasonable price can seem tricky for any tourists or foreign locals. There are 3 ways you can buy fresh fish here in Portugal.
Pescadores – Fishermen: This is the best and cheapest option available. The Pescadores are dotted around the coast of the Portuguese waters and catch whatever fish are swimming in that region. Locals will gather around the Pescadores to buy kilos of sea bream, sardines, and other types of fish at a cut price.
Peixeiras – Fishmongers: Nothing says fresh fish like the stench of a fishmongers market! The Hussle and Bustle of these places are enough to throw anyone off queuing and bidding for a selection of fresh fish. It’s worth studying the names of the fish you want to buy before visiting, as not many fishmongers away from the cities will speak English. In Lisbon, they are usually very helpful and will know the English names of the fish.
Praças – Market Square: These markets are found in nearly all towns for the local Portuguese people to buy their fresh fish, meats, and veggies. The prices for fish in the markets will vary depending on the month.
A Guide To Portuguese Fish
I remember my first experience going to the Portuguese markets to buy some fish and realizing that I am no fish expert, looking at the wide array on display and thinking what is dourada and robalo?? Needless to say, I came home from the markets with the wrong fish a few times before I started to learn the Portuguese names.
So for anyone visiting this beautiful country, here’s a shortlist of the fish you are most likely to see at fishmongers, supermarkets, and markets.
Robalo – Sea Bass:
A must try in restaurants here. It’s a white fish with flavourful tender flesh.
Dourada – Bream:
Similar to sea bass with its tender white flesh, dourada is found on the menu in most restaurants.
Pargo or Sargo – Sea Bream:
Both look similar to their older cousins dourada, the only difference is pargo is smaller than sargo, and both are tasty grilled with a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon.
Atum – Tuna
One of the most expensive fish to buy in Portugal and also one of my favourites lightly grilled with healthy basting of soy sauce.
Sardinhas – Sardines
The best-selling fish by far over here is sardines, depending on the month of the year, you can pick them up for as little as €1.99 per kilo, which is just amazing for barbecue lovers. Nothing says summer like the smell of grilled sardines and cold beer.
Tamboril – Monkfish
Another popular mild tasting white fish you are likely to see on the menu over here, mainly in the form of arroz de tamboril, which is rather flavoursome.
Pescada – Hake
Possibly the cheapest whitefish in Portugal and found frozen in cubes or freshly filleted. Perfect for stews and soups.
Peixe Espada – Black Scabbard Fish:
Though, you are not likely to come across it on the menu unless all the other fish have been eaten first. You will recognize it by its terrifying looking face. it’s the kind of fish that should be in a horror film.
Bacalhau – Salt Cod
I am sure by now you know that bacalhau is the most famous fish here. It can be cooked 1000 ways and comes salt dried, which means you need to desalt it for days and days before cooking it.
Carapau – Mackerel
Carapau translated means horse mackerel, and for no specific reason really. As they do not resemble a horse and look exactly like a sardine.
Salmonete – Red Mullet
A strong flavoured red fish that is good for frying, not so expensive to buy, and you will either love it or hate it.
Salmao – Salmon
This will be the easiest fish to recognise, and the name is almost the same, but the fish is quite pricey compared to others.
Portuguese Fish dishes To look Out For
Bacalhau Com Natas
A must try when visiting!! Bacalhau com natas can be found, in nearly all restaurants and at any time of the year as it is extremely popular amongst the local people. It is a creamy potato layered dish baked in the oven with cod fish.
Arroz de Marisco
Think of Paella, and you will not be too far off from what this is. A recipe full of seafood and in a FINGERLICKING GOOD sauce.
Grilled Carapau & Sardinhas
Any restaurant that has a grill will have this on the menu, and they go perfectly well with a classic Portuguese salad and boiled potatoes.
Arroz de Tamboril
A type of Monkfish risotto in a devilishly Moorish gravy that will warm your heart up.
Caldeirada de peixe
A fish stew that is a very common meal for dinner and consists of a selection of fresh fish and seafood in a tomato and herb gravy.
You are likely to see most Portuguese people eating this in the summer in a beach front restaurant. Its base ingredients are crab meat mixed with mayonnaise, shallots, mustard, boiled egg, and paprika. Served in the crab shell and toast or crackers for dipping.
Another seaside speciality that you will find on the menu. It is fried cuttlefish in a tasty batter. For the best experience, order a cold beer to go with it.
Fishing In Portugal
If you’re a seasoned angler, then you should try Portugal for your next fishing trip. The Portuguese waters are packed with a variety of fish from trout, salmon, carp, bluefin tuna and much more.
Fresh Water Fishing – Portugal has a wide variety of trout species spread about in the many rivers, and the best time to catch them is from March to August.
Atlantic Salmon can also be found here in Portugal in the Lima and Minho Rivers during the spring and early summer months. Though they are not as big as their Pacific cousins, these fellas are a great catch for any fly fishing fanatics.
Another popular freshwater fish is bass. Like trout, they can be found throughout the country, and the season starts from July to March.
Salt Water Fishing – The warm currents off the shores of Portugal attract some of the biggest predator fish around. Local seasoned pros here can catch the huge Blue Marlin weighing from 20kgs up to 250kgs. For the best Marlin bites, head over to the Azores or Madeira islands during July and October.
Tuna is also a huge fish found off the coast of the Algarve in July. You can find many types of tuna like Yellowfin, Albacore, Bigeye, Skipjack, and the crown jewel Bluefin tuna.
Other fish to be found in the Portugal oceans are Swordfish, Seabream, Common Pandora, Mackerel, and Seabass. There’s really no limit to what type of fish you could reel in here and the amount of fun doing it in the sunshine.
Easy Portuguese Fish Recipes
Arroz de Polvo – A typical Portuguese dish, consisting of diced octopus and rice, with a flavourful base of tomatoes, sautéed onions, garlic, and spices. The recipe is a thick, hearty winter meal perfect for a winters evening.
Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato – Mouth-watering clams cooked in white wine, olive oil, onion, and garlic. You will want to serve this up with some bread to dip in the sauce.
Caldeirada – A saffron-infused Portuguese stew with a variety of Portuguese fish like salmon, cod, prawns, and mussels cooked in stock and white wine with potatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and herbs. One of my favourite meals to eat at restaurants and also a very simple recipe to make at home.
Bacalhau à Lagareiro – A simple cod fish recipe baked in lots of olive oil and potatoes.
Traditional Portuguese Delicacies
Just like a good English pub serves up some tasty fish and chips or a steak and kidney pie with a cold beer, Portugal has their small tascas serving up some rather tasty but not so filling dishes. It is common here to drink a few bottles of Super Bock, or Sagres whilst nibbling on some petiscos (snacks).
In summer, you will see signs everywhere with Há Caracóis (devilishly tasty snails). These little slimy creatures get cooked in a delicious herby broth, and you can either suck them out of their shell or use a toothpick to eat them.
Also, on the petiscos menu, you will find choco Frito (fried cuttlefish). The Portuguese version of calamari’s.
If you fancy some pork dishes, you should try Pica-Pau, Assadura, or Carne de Porco Alentejana. All of these Portuguese dishes can be found throughout Portugal, and each dish has its own unique flavour. For the best Portuguese experience, drink a glass of red wine whilst devouring the tender pork.
My name is David Greenhalgh, I am 32 years young and I am married and have a beautiful daughter.
I am a professional chef, a writer, and a full time super-dad. My main passions are cooking and football, but now I have found a new love for content writing.
Excellent! A wonderful, professional guide to the many fish specialities in Portugal. Thank you David for this extensive information! It’s exciting, also for anglers too, i think. We hope to go on a vacation trip to Portugal soon.
With best regards, Rosy
hey thank you very much for your kind comment! much appreciated. 🙂
I really, really enjoyed reading this! As someone who knows little about Portuguese food, this article has been a delightful introduction to the country’s rich culinary world for me. Many thanks for a wonderfully informative read!
hello Christine sorry for the late reply- thank you so much for your comment!! much appreciated.