Do you want to eat your way in Lisbon? Try not to be vegetarian!
If you are vegetarian and you’re in Lisbon, take a note: you will be put to the test. Several times! Whenever you enter a cafe or a restaurant you will be faced with true culinary temptations that will make you think twice in the decision to quit eating meat or fish.
Just because Portuguese cuisine is so diversified, tasty and visually appealing that it is difficult to resist the appeal of meat (and fish). Besides, we have no great tradition in vegetarian dishes – we think they are better as side dishes – and green options look always less appealing than meat dishes. Of course you can find variations of traditional dishes with tofu or soy sausages, for example.
We’re conscious how challenging can be vegetarian in Portugal. So we did some culinary research and dig into several classic recipes books to select for you several delicious and traditional Portuguese dishes, besides the traditional salad of lettuce and tomato:
Portuguese vegetarian dishes
Baby Fish from the garden (Peixinhos da horta) – “You’re starting with your left feet”, says vegetarians, ‘”we do not eat fish!”. Calm down: these fishes have nothing to do with real fish, they are just pieces of fried green beans wrapped in batter. This is one of the typical dishes of Portuguese cuisine and gave inspiration to Japanese tempura, led by Portuguese Jesuits missionaries to Japan in the mid-sixteenth century.
Migas – Traditional Portuguese dish often described as a plate of herdsman made with old bread leftovers. But how can old bread be turned into a tasty dish? Because the pieces of bread are pre-moistened and sauteed in olive oil until they look golden. In Alentejo, the traditional migas are made with sausages, but the vegetarian version includes asparagus, peppers and herbs for extra flavour.
Soup – The Portuguese like to start any meal with a bowl of soup and there are several options for vegetarians, like creams (cream of carrot or cauliflower cream), vegetable soup, green beans soup, bean soup with spinach or bean soup with cabbage (ask this one without the chorisso slice!). Broths on the other hand tend to have meat or fish as an ingredient. The alternatives are varied and you can always finds a soup in any restaurant.
Lupins – One of the most appreciated snacks by Portuguese, it’s served as an entry or tasted with a cold beer. Can be eaten with or without crust, the most common is to remove it. Normally they are seasoned with salt and sometimes oregano. Very nutritious and low calorie.
Fishtarian dishes – For those who do not eat meat, but to eat fish
Regarding fish dishes there are literally a sea of choices in Portugal. We owned the largest sea territory within European Union: more than 4.000.000 Km2. But we Portuguese love to travel, so we suggest a plate of fish that can’t be found in our waters and is imported from the North Atlantic: cod.
Cod fish cake – Similar to the baby fishes from the garden, it also involves seasoned batter with salt and pepper and sometimes parsley, but instead of green beans pieces, here we use pieces of shredded cod. Flat and spherical, they have a rough and irregular shape and are frequently accompanied by bean rice or tomato rice.
Octupus Salad – Oh Summer!! With the arrival of summer and the promise of warm days, the octopus salad is a delicious option that you can find as a tidbit or a starter in many Portuguese restaurants. For the most curious, it’s not ceviche, because this one takes olive oil and vinegar instead of lemon. The recipe is very simple and, as long you are careful with the pressure cooker, the octopus will come out perfect.
Fish Cataplana – If you already tasted this typical dish from the Algarve region, you know what we are talking here. The Cataplana is both the name of the dish and the pan where you can cook almost everything. It’s known as the “primitive pressure cooker” because allows you to steam without losing flavours and cook evenly. The fish recipe is the most famous and usually the most enjoyed by the Portuguese.
Places to go if you are a vegetarian
The Food Temple – One of the secrets to discover in Mouraria, this small vegetarian restaurant is a safe option for those who want a delicious meal without meat or fish. Just reading the menu is mouth-watering: baked apple soup, leek and pumpkin, beans salad with lemon, garlic and mint, coconut rice with pumpkin, tofu and fresh mango.
Beco do Jasmin, 18
21 887 43 97
Celeiro – A mecca for vegetarians in supermarket version. Here you find everything you need to make a delicious vegetarian dish at home, rice and whole-wheat pasta, organic fruit and vegetables, gluten-free products, tofu, vegetable burgers and even some dairy alternatives.
Rua Coelho da Rocha 102-A
21 397 16 48