A Brief Introduction to Lisbon's Favorite Summertime Snack: Snails

Caracóis
Caracóis | © Filipe B. Varela / Shutterstock
Nina Santos

Summer in Lisbon has many perks, from beaches to concerts to festivals and… eating snails! Come May, locals begin looking around for signs claiming ‘há caracóis’ (there are snails) and after a week or so, it seems like every small restaurant, known as a tasca, has that sign or another, ‘temos caraóis’ (we have snails). Even the larger restaurants and some cafés (especially trendy, seaside cafés) will sell snails. Actually, the entire country seems to go snail crazy. Read on to find out why.

A delicious dish

Snails in Portugal are really very good. Swimming in a savory broth, they are flavored with olive oil and/or butter, garlic, Portuguese chili pepper sauce known as piri-piri, and a lot of oregano. Some restaurants will add extra ingredients but this list covers the basics, and the little creatures take on the flavor from their sauce.

Caracóis

Appetizer or snack

Eating caracóis is a social affair, either as an appetizer before a meal, as a late afternoon snack alongside a happy hour drink, or as an addictive bite while watching a sporting event and drinking beer. Really, the Portuguese, and especially Lisboetas, eat caracóis the way Americans eat buffalo chicken wings, except caracóis sometimes come with toast on the side for dipping.

Difference in cultures

They probably sound like escargot, but Portuguese snails are a bit different than those served in France. First, caracóis are rather tiny, and even caracoletas or larger caracóis are generally smaller than escargot. Second, these tasty little bites are drowned in broth as opposed to dry herbs or sauce. And don’t confuse them with periwinkles (which are also served in Portugal, but maybe not with so much gusto); caracóis are land creatures while periwinkles are marine intertidal.

A delicacy in Portugal

The Portuguese love them so much that bags are even sold in the grocery store. Before being brave and picking snails off the street to try cooking them at home, keep in mind that they’re thoroughly rinsed and cleaned before hitting the pot.

Summertime treat

Caracóis really are Lisbon’s top summertime treat, and even though locals from Porto may shy from sampling them (they have their own favorite eats), this dish is sold all over the country. Where are the best places to eat caracóis in Lisbon? They are literally everywhere but one venue that has a really good reputation is Caracóis de São Bento.

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

Culture Trips 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. 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 places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

close-ad
Edit article