Portuguese flexitarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Lisbon
Portugal is a delicious destination for travelers who love eating meat and fish. Lisbon is full of incredible seafood restaurants and, some of the most typical Portuguese dishes, do indeed revolve around meats, particularly pork. We love these traditional comfort foods and even their contemporary versions, often reinterpreted by younger chefs who put their personal spin on the classics of the Portuguese cooking repertoire. But we also recognize that not everyone enjoys the same type of food.
Whether it may be because you have dietary restrictions due to health reasons, or you choose to follow a specific eating pattern which best matches your values, one thing can’t be argued, and that is that most folks love eating and spending quality time with friends around the table. Food (and drinks) have the power to bring people together, to help create bonds, and it’s just a lovely experience to be able to go out to a restaurant with someone whose company you enjoy, and not have to worry if there’s going to be something for everyone to eat.
Traditional Portuguese restaurants focus mostly on typical dishes which usually revolve around animal proteins, with sides of carbohydrates and some vegetables. The only vegetarian dishes you are bound to find in old-school establishments are vegetable soups – unless you’re out of luck and the soup of the day is canja, that is, chicken soup – and a few starters such as omelets and scrambled eggs with other ingredients mixed in, fritters, or regional Portuguese cheeses.
Thankfully, times are changing and, because they realize they’d be missing out on business by limiting their menu options, many of our favorite Portuguese restaurants are now also including plant forward dishes, not just for vegetarians or vegans, but for the general population with a growing flexitarian inclination to be able to enjoy too.
If you’re going out to eat in Lisbon, and would like to have more options other than meat and fish, these are some great Portuguese vegetarian-friendly restaurants you should check out:
We have previously highlighted Ofício, when writing about the best contemporary taverns of Lisbon. Indeed this is an “atypical establishment”, as they literally sell themselves as. We love that Ofício is very Portuguese in its essence, but it doesn’t shy away from doing things according to their own personality. This eccentric take is also responsible for making this Portuguese restaurant a great establishment to go eat out at when you are in a group of people with mixed tastes and dietary preferences. One of their best sellers is actually vegetarian and it comes in the form of dessert. We’re talking about the much praised baked cheesecake by chef Hugo Candeias which is in such demand, that they actually bake it to order for take-away too. When dining in, know that meat-lovers will get their kick at Ofício – after all, this is indeed a Portuguese restaurant. But they also have very good dishes for vegetarians and even a few vegan options, including desserts.
📍Rua Nova da Trindade 11k, 1200-301 Lisboa
Even though the management changed in 2017, Faz Frio is a long-standing Portuguese restaurant in the trendy neighborhood of Príncipe Real which initially opened its doors back in 1872. Their main focus is traditional Portuguese food, elevated at least when it comes to platting. Because they are keeping up with the times not only when it comes to presentation, Faz Frio makes sure to serve some vegetarian dishes too. Those range from traditional Portuguese petiscos such as peixinhos da horta, a deep-fried green bean dish which was the precursor of Japanese tempura, to reinvented Portuguese classics such as Brás, which forsakes the codfish in favor of mushrooms and truffle. Old and contemporary rarely come together in such perfect balance at a Portuguese eatery.
📍Rua Dom Pedro V 96, 1250-094 Lisboa
For a different take on Portuguese cuisine in our capital city, we highly recommend Taberna Albricoque, where chef Bertílio Gomes draws inspiration from his roots in the south of the country to present innovative cuisine with a very personal touch. At this cozy eatery by the train station of Santa Apolónia you’ll get to taste Algarvian cuisine, with as many elements prepared from scratch as possible. We’re talking about home-made sourdough bread, pâtés, pickles, artisanal ice-cream and even rare treats such as plant-based morcela – that is, the (in)famous Portuguese cured sausage otherwise prepared with pork fat and blood. Deep down, Taberna Albricoque is all about Mediterranean cuisine which is, in its very essence, flexitarian by default. It includes animal protein but in moderation, and fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes, are an integral part of it too. Apart from some dishes, most appetizers and even mains at chef Bertílio Gomes’ place are ideal to share – go there with friends and have a delicious time around the table.
📍Rua Caminhos de Ferro nº98, 1100-395 Lisboa
Thankfully, an increasing number of fine dining and even Michelin-starred restaurants in Lisbon are starting to cater to a variety of diets. If not vegans, at least vegetarians can taste Portuguese cuisine in its more refined form. And you don’t even need to go to Encanto (Largo de São Carlos 10), the 100% vegetarian restaurant by Portugal’s most popular celebrity chef, José Avillez. At Cura, both omnivores and vegetarians can enjoy a delectable tasting menu thoughtfully prepared by one Michelin-starred chef Pedro Pena Bastos and his team. Pena Bastos is known for his elegant dishes which are meant to highlight some of the best products from all over the Portuguese territory. As seasonality is a key factor when curating the dishes at Cura, the menu keeps changing throughout the year, according to availability. When you dine at Cura you can choose signature dishes a la carte, or opt for one of the three tasting menus, including Raízes, the vegetarian menu which would honestly make any omnivore happy too.
📍Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca 88, 1070-051 Lisboa
Baldracca is one of the most exciting contemporary Portuguese restaurants in Lisbon. Despite its name, it doesn’t feel like a typical tasca, but it’s not too fancy of a place either. The restaurant is run by Brazilian trio Pedro Monteiro, Bruno Gama and Octavio Delmonte, who have previously worked at a wide range of restaurants serving distinct cuisines, both in Portugal and abroad. At Tasca Baldracca the focus goes towards Portuguese food with a very funky Brazilian touch. They serve small plates to share, so you’d be happy to know that there are options if your company or yourself have any kind of restrictions or preferences. You can be munching on some tangy rabbit escabeche with bacon, but also enjoying different textures of carrots with olives and yogurt. Even if everyone in your party eats meat and fish, don’t be mistaken thinking the vegetable forward dishes are for vegetarians only. If you skip them, trust us, you’d be missing out.
📍Rua das Farinhas 1, 1100-177 Lisboa
Casa do Alentejo
Restaurants which focus on Alentejo cuisine are, by default, great places for flexitarians. Even though some of the most popular dishes of Alentejano cuisine involve copious amounts of pork – think, for example, carne de porco à alentejana, featuring fried pork cubes and clams – the truth is that we are talking about a cuisine rooted in peasant lifestyle, akin to the cucina povera from Italy. Historically speaking, the Alentejo was a mostly agricultural part of Portugal, where still many of our food products come from now-a-days, and, as such, people would eat what the land would provide them with. Furthermore, as it was back in the day quite impoverished, people would make do with little and had to get creative. This translated into outstanding vegetarian dishes which may not sound like much but that do pack a lot of flavor (and nutrition!) when cooked right. Casa do Alentejo is Lisbon’s institution for all things Alentejo related – cuisine and culture. On the upper floor of this stunning Arabic inspired building you’ll find Casa do Alentejo restaurant, serving opulent dishes in abundant servings, while on the entrance floor you can get a seat at the more informal Taberna da Casa do Alentejo, where drinks and small plates perfect for sharing are the stars. Vegetarian dishes you can get at Casa do Alentejo include soups like açorda or Alentejo’s typical tomato soup with a poached egg, scrambles such as those with seasonal wild green asparagus, and a selection of lovely regional cheeses and desserts.
📍Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 58, 1150-268 Lisboa
This project in the up and coming Lisbon neighborhood of Beato aims at “discovering and sharing the best national products”. Its name translates as “the market” and, in its core, that’s exactly what A Praça is – a shop, both physical and online, where consumers can get access to regional products from all over the Portuguese map, from carefully selected small producers, which we would otherwise hardly come to know living in the capital. Because they have first hand access to products of amazing quality, A Praça is also cooking with them and serving meals at Hub Creativo do Beato. Their range of daily changing dishes is great for those who’d like to keep discovering Portuguese foodstuffs, without having to cook them at home. From Algarve raised oysters, to artisanally made pickles from the Alentejo, to plant-based burgers made with portobello mushrooms grown in Portugal, there are surely plenty of options at A Praça to keep most folks happy!
📍Tv. Grilo 1, 1950-145 Lisboa
Insaciável is more of a wine bar than a full-on restaurant. In their own words, they focus on “vibrant wines and pratinhos”, that is, small dishes you can munch on or, if you’re with company, share so that you can try as many things as possible. Keeping up with the trends of the neighborhood they are nestled in, Santos, the folks at Insaciável focus on farm to table food, which normally translates in good variety of ingredients, and therefore dishes, as seasonality and availability, allied with the chefs’ creativity, end up dictating the show. As natural wines are indeed the stars at Insaciável, we recommend selecting a bottle that tickles your fancy, and then ask for a variety of little plates to match. They serve good diversity and enticing options such as Azorean limpets with butter; the most intensely flavored carrots with apples, almonds and lemon vinaigrette; pork terrine; cheeses from around Portugal; and so much more. If you want to sit inside the restaurant, be advised that you need to book in advance, but they do welcome walk-ins for their outdoor section.
📍Rua da Esperança 156, 1200-660 Lisboa
Chef Carlos Duarte Afonso, formerly cooking at O Frade (Calçada da Ajuda 14), opened OITT8, which means eight in Portuguese, referring to the number of the door that they are housed in Largo do Picadeiro, in the central neighborhood of Chiado. Following what customers came to get used to and love at O Frade, at OITT8 chef Afonso still cooks regional Portuguese cuisine, but this time with a more elaborate approach. Meat lovers will get their kicks at OITT8, being able to taste dishes such as roasted goatlin with oven-baked rice, while those who prefer fish could delight themselves with a thinly cut medium-rare tuna steak, served with citrus and coriander infused rice, as a nod to the cuisine of the Azores islands. Of course diners who prefer to see a variety of vegetables on their plate won’t be disappointed either, both when it comes to savory dishes as well as the very tantalizing range of desserts!
📍Largo Picadeiro 8-A, 1200-026 Lisboa
Estrela da Bica
Even though Estrela da Bica doesn’t entirely focus on Portuguese food, it serves a mix of world cuisines with decidedly local elements. The menu is inspired by the travels of chef Marta Figueiredo, also responsible for the bakery-restaurant Terra Pão (Mercado de Arroios Loja 8, R. Ângela Pinto 40D). Her menu could be defined somewhere between modern Portuguese and market cuisine or, as she herself puts it, as “travel inspired cuisine”. This is the type of restaurant we love to keep coming back to as there’s always something new and surprising on the menu. Think about roasted cabbage covered in gooey stilton cheese topped with crunchy buckwheat; tempura oysters from the Sado river served with wasabi mayo; salted cod served inside a full loaf of sourdough pumpkin bread; and so many other alluring dishes. Great news: not only vegetarians have good food to eat at Estrela da Bica, vegans do so too. Super centrally located in the Bica neighborhood, just five minutes walk away from either Bairro Alto or Pink street for a night cap, Estrela da Bica is a great option for a night out with friends in Lisbon.
📍Tv. do Cabral 33, 1200-073 Lisboa
If you’re following a plant-based diet and feel like the restaurants we suggest above won’t be enough to fulfill your foodie dreams in Lisbon, we recommend checking out the best places for Portuguese vegan food and wines in Lisbon. Remember that you can always hit us up on Instagram for more tips: #tasteoflisboa
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