15 Delicious Dishes Worth a Trip to the Alentejo

Pork skewers
Pork skewers | © neosomoceo/Pixabay
Nina Santos

Foodies who plan on traveling through Portugal would be missing out if they skipped the Alentejo, which stretches from the country’s southernmost region of Algarve to just below the Tagus River in central Portugal. Known for its simple yet mouthwatering cuisine, the food in Alentejo consists mostly of soups, meats, fish and bread flavored with locally-grown herbs like cilantro, mint and local olive oil. Though there’s no end to the amazing gastronomy in rural Portugal, these are the best recipes worth traveling to the Alentejo for.

Açorda

One of the region’s most popular soup dishes is açorda, an herb-flavored broth soaked in slightly stale country bread and (sometimes) topped with an egg. Though this is the basic recipe, variations have developed that incorporate shrimp or a mix of shellfish. The texture of the açorda will vary, depending on the cook’s preferences and the ingredients used.

Açorda

Cozido

Cozido de grão or chickpea stew

Carne de porco à Alentejana

This dish is so popular that it made its way to Portuguese restaurants around the world, such as those of New Bedford and Fall River, Massachusetts. Made of marinated pork that’s then pan-fried, with fried potatoes and clams all soaked in a spiced garlic-wine sauce, it may not be the most diet-friendly dish, but who’s going to complain? This dish may have originated in the Algarve region but is named after the Alentejo because of where the pork meat is sourced.

Carne de porco à Alentejana

Bacalhau com broa à Alentejana

It’s said that the Portuguese have developed a different cod recipe for each day of the year, and in the Alentejo, bacalhau com broa (cod baked with cornbread) is a favorite.

One of the many ways to eat cod in Portugal

Carneiro assado

Pork may be the most popular meat in the Alentejo but lamb isn’t far behind. Roasted lamb is a delicious dish served with roasted or fried potatoes and a medley of vegetables.

Roasted lamb, anyone?

Coelho à caçador à Alentejana

A variety of game also shows up in Portuguese kitchens. This recipe, known in English as Hunter’s Rabbit made in Alentejo style, uses local herbs for added flavor.

Stews are a staple in Alentejo

Sopa de tomate Alentejana

Most food-lovers and vegetarians have heard of Spanish gazpacho, but what they may not know is that the Alentejo has developed its own style of gaspacho that’s not puréed, as well as different varieties of hot tomato soups made with locally grown tomatoes. These are among the few recipes in the region that are perfect for vegetarians (or anyone needing a break from meat).

Traditional tomato soup

Ensopado de borrego

Apparently, Alentejo locals can’t get enough of soups and stews! Ensopado de borrego, or lamb stew, is a favorite recipe that’s flavored with onions, plenty of garlic, bay leaves, cloves, parsley, white wine vinegar and as many more herbs and spices as the cook wishes to throw in.

Lamb stew

Arroz de cabidela

Adventurous diners should opt for arroz de cabidela when it presents itself (and there is a good chance that it will in the Alentejo). This rice dish is made with chicken or game that is cooked in its own blood. And though it’s already rich in flavor as is, it’s commonly eaten with vinegar, which is incorporated into the sauce.

Who doesn’t like rice dishes?

Migas à Alentejana

As in neighboring Spain, migas (a dish made from leftover bread) in the Alentejo are made with day-old bread and flavored with olive oil and garlic. In Portuguese versions, locally-grown vegetables are usually added, like tomatoes, mushrooms and asparagus, as are pork fat and meats.

Migas from Alentejo are a little different than those from Spain

Porco preto

Porco preto (black pork) is an ingredient that finds its way into many recipes in the Alentejo. The pigs are gray and black in color and raised to roam semi-freely and graze primarily on acorns. Their diet is partially to credit for their tasty flavor and plenty of Alentejano dishes use pork made with cuts from this special variety of pig.

Sericaia

Desserts are never forgotten in Portugal and sericaia is a recipe that was developed by nuns in the town of Elvas. Soft and creamy, it is made with eggs and flavored with cinnamon and (sometimes) plums.

Sericaia topped with plum

Barriga de freira com amêndoa

Barriga de freira is a pudding-like dessert that originated north of the Alentejo in central Portugal but is popular all over the country. The name translates to ‘the nun’s belly’ and the pudding is made with eggs and sugar. In the Alentejo, however, it is flavored with the addition of amêndoa, or almonds, and therefore called barriga de freira com amêndoa (the nun’s belly with almonds).

Bolo de (fill in the blank)

The many cakes of the Alentejo highlight different local products such as honey (bolo de mel) and almonds (bolo de amêndoa). The region even has its own version of coffee cake (bolo de café).

Pão de ló

It may be called a bread (pão is the Portuguese word for bread), but pão de ló is really a cake. This is the Portuguese version of sponge cake and a favorite breakfast snack to enjoy with tea or coffee.

Pão de ló
landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article