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Essential Ingredients in Portuguese Cooking

Essential Ingredients in Portuguese Cooking

Portuguese cooking is famous for its spicy flavors and vivid colors. The meals are usually hearty and comforting on a cold day, and feature flavorful meats paired with potatoes, rice, beans, and vegetables. If you'd like to try your hand at Portuguese cooking, here are some of the most common ingredients to start you out. With a good variety of these ingredients in your kitchen, Portuguese cooking will be fast and convenient.

Olive Oil

Like many Mediterranean nations, Portuguese cooking relies heavily on olive oil. Not only is olive oil common in Portugal, but it's also high in "good" cholesterol, is lower in calories than other fats such as butter, and adds its own unique flavors to the dishes you cook.


Peppers provide much of the spicy flavor and the rich colors found in traditional Portuguese dishes. Common ingredients range from chili peppers to Bell peppers to piri-piri, a small and fiery pepper from Africa. Oftentimes, Portuguese recipes use peppers in paste form.


Paprika is another reason why many Portuguese dishes have a distinctive red color. This spice, which is derived from bell peppers, can be either hot or sweet and is sometimes smoked for additional flavor.

Onions and Garlic

Many Portuguese dishes are highly aromatic, thanks to a love of onions and garlic. These vegetables offer many health benefits including better cholesterol levels and protection against some forms of cancer. Plus, they infuse any dish with pungent flavors.


Like most Mediterranean cuisines, Portuguese cooking relies heavily on tomatoes for color and flavor. Tomatoes, onions, and olive oil are also common ingredients in Portuguese salads.


Wine is used to flavor many Portuguese meals. A classical Portuguese dish is thinly-sliced beef steak sautéed in wine and topped with a fried egg. Red and port wines are most commonly used in Portuguese cooking.


Sausages like choirico, linguicia, and alheira are important staples of many Portuguese dishes. Choirico, which is made from pork, gets its fire-engine red color and spicy flavor from smoked, dried red peppers. Linguicia is flavored with onions, garlic, and paprika. Alheira is traditionally made from poultry and game.

Potatoes, Beans, and Rice

Potatoes are a common ingredient in Portuguese cooking, whether fried, sautéed, or boiled. They accompany dishes like sausages, fish, and steak. Beans are commonly served with dishes like tripe, stews, and mixed with sausage or other meats. Rice is consumed more often in Portugal than in any other country in Europe.


Portuguese cooking takes advantage of the bounteous seafood in the region, with a variety of dishes featuring shrimp, code, lobster, sardines, eels, tuna, clams, and much more. The methods of cooking seafood in Portugal vary widely, and fish like cod are often cooked in a clay pot, fried, roasted, or boiled.


This dark green, leafy vegetable appears in many Portuguese recipes. Kale is an excellent ingredient to add to your cooking, because it provides more flavor for the calorie than nearly any other food, and is rich in essential vitamins like K, A, and C. Kale is oftentimes used in Portuguese soups and stews.


Portugal is known for many types of cheese, typically fragrant goat's and sheep's cheeses. Most Portuguese cheeses are served as an appetizer, not used as an ingredient in recipes.

If you are trying to stretch your cooking ability with filling and delicious meals, look to Portuguese foods for inspiration. With these common Portuguese ingredients, you can introduce new flavors to your family's meals while improving the healthiness of your meals. Try some traditional Portuguese recipes, or simply take inspiration from the flavors of Portugal to add a new twist to a beloved dish.

Article provided courtesy of Only Cookware – a consumer guide to cast iron, copper and stainless steel cookware.

                       © Gil Sequira, 2003 All Rights Reserved.



                                            © Gil Sequira, 2003 All Rights Reserved.