Porto’s iconic sandwich, the francesinha, is one of the city’s culinary wonders and a must-try for many visitors passing through the country, but as it’s filled with sausages, steak, bacon, ham, and, depending on the chef, other meats, vegetarians usually detour around this stop on their gastronomic journey in Portugal. These days, however, more veggie francesinhas are appearing, allowing vegetarians in on the fun. Covered in cheese and swimming in a rich, spicy sauce, they may not exactly be health food, but if you don’t mind that so much, we’ve got a few suggestions for you.
Casa da Horta is more than a restaurant: it is a cooperative group where the cooking is communal and anybody wishing to help can join in, which means you can have a hand in making your own vegetarian francesinhas when attending on Friday Francesinha Nights. Using local ingredients fresh from nearby farms, the focus at Casa da Horta is on sustainable and ethical living, which is pretty cool. Although it is a non-profit organization, there is an association fee to pay if you’d like to participate.
A great spot in Porto for francesinhas is Lado B Café, located in the middle of many attention-grabbing landmarks; but it doesn’t get lost in the mix, and the crowds entering and leaving are a good indication of its popularity. This is an ideal place to go with a group in case some people prefer a traditional francesinha, which costs €8.25; the vegetarian option is €8.95. There is a second Lado B Café in Braga, which some regulars claim has the best francesinhas north of Porto.
To browse through a menu that’s 100% vegetarian, visit Lupin Restaurante, located a block north of the University of Porto’s Faculty of Arts campus and Capa Negra, a famous traditional restaurant also known for fantastic non-vegetarian francesinhas. Unlike at most other spots you’ll come across, the francesinhas as Lupin Restaurant are not smothered by cheese, although there is a nice layer on top of each sandwich, and even the sauce is vegetarian.
Not only is Moment’ Um Pão de Chocolate a family-run bakery with a wood oven that sells veggie francesinhas in addition to pastries, but they sell francesinhas that are also vegan, meaning that everything from the bread to the filling to the cheese and the sauce are 100% free of animal proteins. Why not make this your first stop in Porto if arriving by train? Moment’ Um Pão de Chocolate is located just outside of Porto Campanha, one of the city’s two main stations.
Em Carne Viva offers an innovative experience that blends traditional Portuguese dining with sustainable living practices. In addition to their popular vegetarian francesinha, Em Carne Viva has adapted other classical Portuguese dishes into veggie-friendly counterparts, like caldo verde soup and alheira sausages. The stylishly decorated dining area has been predominantly constructed using recycled materials, including the wood, glass, and fabrics.
For a delicious vegetarian francesinha in Lisbon, consider making your way to this fantastic local-loved spot off the beaten track by hopping on the yellow metro line to Entrecampos and then walking an additional 10 minutes. Restaurante Lucimar is a traditional Portuguese restaurant with many classic recipes on the menu, including the traditional, meat-filled francesinha, but they also serve one that is 100% veggie-filled, and even the sauce on the vegetarian version is made without using meat. Topped with an egg and served in a traditional clay dish, you might think it’s just as good as the francesinhas from the north.
Some of the best francesinhas in Portugal may actually be about 40 miles (70 kilometers) north of Porto, in Braga. Taberna Belga is one of those spots with competitive francesinhas that some locals call the best in the country. The beautifully modern tavern is also known for its well-equipped stock of national and international beers, as well as for Portugal’s other favorite sandwich, the prego no pão (garlic-flavored steak sandwich).