Food & drink in the AlgarveEating and drinking in the Algarve. Bars, restaurants, traditional dishes, cuisines available, supermarket shopping, dietary needs, average prices and more! Uncover your perfect meal in the Algarve with AlgarveUncovered.com
Here you will find lots of useful information about food and drink in the Algarve, Portugal:
- General information about drinks in the Algarve and approximate prices.
- The food you can expect to find when you eat out in Algarve restaurants and approximate prices for meals.
- Food shopping in Algarve supermarkets, including useful Portuguese translation for everyday foods and shopping for dietary requirements and babies.
- Algarve food prices guide for supermarket shopping in a typical “Shopping Basket”.
- Useful Portuguese phrases and numbers for ordering in a restaurant.
- Information for vegetarians and vegans, including supermarket shopping and useful phrases for eating out.
Eating out in the Algarve
With over 200km of coastline, it’s not surprising that the fish and seafood are a staple part of the diet for people in the Algarve. With daily fishing trips bringing in huge amounts of fresh sardines, tuna, bream, cod, monkfish and many other types of fish; plentiful supplies of clams, oysters, prawns, not to mention octopus and squid, it’s easy to understand why.
The traditional Portuguese restaurants normally offer a large selection of fish dishes, one of which is almost certain to be grilled sardines, served with boiled potatoes and vegetables or salad. Also commonly on the menu are a range of omelettes, salads and some meat dishes, like thin pork slices served with a creamy mushroom sauce or chicken piri-piri.The prices are very reasonable, the food is good and the portions are generous. House wine, which is normally a local Portuguese wine, is also very good value and very drinkable! On average a 2-course meal for 2, including house wine, can cost less than €25. (Soup of the day €1.50, main course €7.00 and a bottle of house wine €8). Obviously prices can vary enormously depending on location.
As well as restaurants serving traditional Portuguese food, the Algarve has a huge choice of restaurants serving food from across the world, Chinese, Indian, Italian and English being particularly popular. You will also find Tapas, Mexican, Thai, International Cuisine and Vegetarian (occasionally). All of the popular tourist resorts have a good variety of restaurants, but the more traditional towns and villages will often just have a local Portuguese restaurant, or café-bar serving food.
Restaurants have got a lot better in offering vegetarian dishes on the menu (although don’t expect to see more than one or two in most places) and vegans unfortunately are still poorly catered for.
Starters – “Entradas”
“Couvert” is the traditional start to a meal and normally consists of fresh bread, olives, sardine paté, cheese and carrots that have been lightly cooked and marinated in garlic, olive oil and spices. Most waiters will ask before serving the couvert, but if it is brought to the table and you don’t want it, simply ask the waiter to take it back. Couvert often costs as little as 1.50€ a person, but do check as it can be rather more.
In traditional Portuguese restaurants, the choice of starters will often include soups and seafood dishes. The Portuguese are excellent at making fresh, wholesome soups. Algarve restaurants generally have a choice of vegetable soup (“sopa de legumes” or “caldo verde”), cold “gazpacho” soup made from peppers, cucumber and tomatoes, and fish soups. Generally soups tend to be served tepid, so if you like your soup very hot, then ask the waiter for it to be “Bem quente” (pronounced ‘bem kent’). “Conquilhas” (small clams) are often served as a starter, as are various prawn dishes.
Main Courses – “Pratos”
A lot of the main dishes in Algarve restaurants are based around fish and seafood. The fish is normally simply prepared and served with salad and boiled potatoes or chips. You will find lots of types of fish to choose from, such as swordfish (“espadarte”), tuna (“atum”), stone bass (“cherne”) sea bass (“robalo”) and red mullet (“salmonete”). Sometimes the price is for the dish, but a lot of fish is sold by weight (euros/kg) so it is worth checking before ordering.
“Bacalhau” (pronounced “bakel-yow”) is probably one of the most traditional dishes that you’ll find in the Algarve. It is dried salt-cod, preserved in the same way as it was in the days of the first sea voyages in the time of the Portuguese Discoveries. The cod had to be preserved with salt to provide the sailors with a substantial food source while they were on a voyage. Since then, Bacalhau has become a staple part of the Portuguese diet and the Portuguese have come up with so many different ways off eating it that you will find a different Bacalhau dish to try each time; reportedly there are 365 different ways of cooking it!
Chicken (“frango”) dishes are also popular in Algarve restaurants and you will frequently see chicken piri-piri (“frango piri-piri”) on a menu. This dish uses the tiny bright red piri-piri chilli pepper, which is used to spice up many other Portuguese dishes too and is even used as table condiment. Barbequed chicken (“frango no churrasco”) is also a favourite for the Portuguese and not surprisingly since the great all-year-round weather has created a tradition of out-door cooking.
Other Algarve specialities include “Feijoada”, a thick bean stew with pork, bacon and sausage which originally came from Brazil and “Cataplana”, a dish of Moorish influence which uses a clam shaped copper pan to cook clams, or a mix of fish and seafood, with spicy sausage, tomatoes, wine, garlic and herbs. Another popular Portuguese dish is “Bife à Portuguesa”, which is beef sirloin topped with smoked ham, cooked in a clay dish served on a bed of French fries. Wild boar, pheasant and hare are also popular during the hunting season, but tend to be found on the menu more in inland areas.
Desserts – “Sobremesas”
The Portuguese make the most wonderful desserts and pastries and a visit to the Algarve wouldn’t be complete without sampling one or two of them! The best-loved desserts are “Pudim Flan” (crème caramel), “pasties de nata” ( a creamy, custard tart) and “tarte de amêndoa” (almond tart) and are highly recommended! Figs, almonds and locally produced honey in various combinations also feature highly on dessert menus along with fresh fruit.
Dining with children
Children are always welcome, day or night, and although there may not be a special children’s menu, they are always catered for…either ask for “meia dose” (pronounced ‘maya dose’) which is a half portion, or a meal to be shared.
Drinks in the Algarve
Alcohol in general tends to be very reasonably priced in the Algarve (in fact, probably considered cheap compared to most countries), with bottles of wine from as little as 1€ in the supermarkets! The prices of drinks in bars and restaurants can be very reasonable, a glass of wine €1.20 to €2, spirits (normally good sized measures) about €3 and small draft beers from €1 to €1.50, however they can also be a bit extortionate, especially in popular bars in tourist season, up to €6 for a spirit and mixer. For some of the best prices, stop at one of the many local cafés because they are a lot cheaper than the bars. With so many orange trees across the Algarve, its not suprising that fresh orange juice is widely served in cafes, bars and restaurants; a glass can cost as little as €2 but may be as much as €4, but it is well worth it!
Wine – “Vinho”
A lot of the wine sold in the Algarve comes from other parts of Portugal (for example from Bairrada in the north, Estremadura near Lisbon and Alentejo) but the Algarve does also produce its own wine, most of which comes from the Lagoa, Portimão and Tavira areas. Most restaurants will only have Portuguese wines on their wine list.
The ‘house’ wine (“vinho da casa”) in white (“branco”) and red (“tinto”) is nearly always a local Portuguese wine and good value. You can also opt for “vinho verde” which is a young ‘green’ wine, slightly sparkling, light and refreshing and goes very well with fish and chicken dishes, or rosé – Mateus rosé being the best known.
Beer – “Cerveja”
If you prefer to drink beer (“cerveja”), there are really just three national brands that you will become familiar with: “Sagres” (named after the Algarve’s Sagres, but it isn’t produced there), “Super Bock” and “Cristal”. You will also find, a number of imported beers and lagers that you are used to drinking at home, but these may be a little more expensive. If you are ordering draft beer, then ask for “um imperial” if you would like a regular glass and “uma caneca” if you would like half a litre.
Port, “Aguardente” & “Medronho” Spirits
After the meal you may want to try a glass of port, Portugal’s best known drink. Produced from a blend of wines, port is available in ‘ruby’ (a young and full-bodied sweet port), ‘tawny’ (a lighter port, best served chilled) and ‘white’ (which is dry and better served over ice as an aperitif). The Algarve is also famous for its spirits – there are two main ones to look out for when you come, “Aguardente” and “Medronho”, but be warned, for both you need to have a very sturdy palette! Aguardente is a rough Portuguese brandy, which is guaranteed to warm your cockles, with a throat-burning sensation turning to warmth in your stomach. Medronho (or ‘fire water’ as it is perhaps better known) is made from the strawberry like fruit of the arbutus and can literally bring tears to your eyes as you sip it. It is said that this potent spirit can knock grown men off their legs after one too many!
Algarve Supermarkets & Food Shopping
If you are staying in self-catering accommodation when you come to the Algarve, don’t worry because food shopping is just as easy here as it is for you at home. There are supermarkets and ‘mini-mercados’ everywhere, and in larger resorts you’ll find several big supermarkets to choose from, as well as lots of little supermarkets and local grocery shops which stock all the daily staples and more. And if you really miss those everyday foods from home, again don’t worry because you can find most of them in the Algarve as well… even the smaller supermarkets keep very good ranges of familiar brands: baked beans, bacon, sausages, jams and marmalades, even frozen English sliced bread is imported, (but it would be a shame not to try the delicious fresh breads which are baked locally).
Daily Food Items:
- Milk – “leite” comes in skimmed (“magro”), semi-skimmed (“meio gordo”) and full fat (“gordo”).
- Cheese – “queijo”; goat’s cheese “queijo da cabra”
- Butter – “manteiga”; margarine “margarina”
- Bread – “pão”
- Water – “agua”
- Tea – “chá”
- Coffee – “café”
- Meat – “carne”
- Fish – “peixe”
- Chicken – “frango”
- Turkey – “perú”
- Pork – “porco”
- Beef – “vaca”
- Lamb – “borrego”
- Veal – “vitela”
- Rabbit – “coelho”
- Duck – “pato”
Some of the other words that may come in useful are:
- Sirloin steak – “bife de vazia”
- Thin pork steaks – “bifanas”
- Steak – “bife de vaca”
- Minute steak – “bitoque”
- Lamb chops – “costeletas de borrego”
- Ham – “fiambre”
- Pork steak – “febras”
- Pork loin – “lombo de porco”
- Mince – “picar”
Sometimes a pack of meat will indicate what type of cooking it is suitable for:
- Grill – “grelhar”
- Roast – “assar”
- Boil – “cozer”
- Stew – “estufar”
If you are buying sliced meats you can either ask for it by weight or by the number of slices that you want, for instance: “Seis fatias” (pronounced “saysh fatee-ash”) six slices.
Gluten-free products are available in ‘Intermarché’ and ‘Continente’ supermarkets as well as health shops and even some of the mini-mercados. They stock pasta, crackers and a range of biscuits and breads (Schar). Pingo Doce supermarkets also stock gluten-free foods but, as yet, no breads.
‘Continente’ stores can be found in Portimão, the Algarve Shopping Centre near Albufeira and in Tavira at the Gran-Plaza centre. Also in the same group are the Modelo Continente supermarkets which are more widely available. These shops stock some ‘gluten-free’ products but not as full a range. It is also possible to find gluten-free beer in the larger Continente supermarkets – it is well labelled so easy to spot!
All of these stores stock sugar free (‘sem açúcar’) biscuits, crackers, chocolate and preserves.
It’s always difficult to know what to pack when you are travelling with babies, so we have checked brand equivalents for some popular baby milks.
- Cow and Gate baby milks are marketed under the ‘Nutrilon’ brand in the Algarve.
- Nutrilon 1,2 and 3 are equivalent to Cow and Gate Premium, Plus and Step-up.
- Nutrilon Omneo 1 and 2 are equivalent to Comfort 1 and 2.
- Nutrilon AR 1 and 2 are for babies with reflux.
- Nutrilon HA 1 and 2 are for babies allergic to dairy products.
- Aptamil milks are still marketed as Aptamil in the Algarve. 1, 2 and 3, being equivalent to First, Extra Hungry and 3.
All of the main supermarkets and many of the smaller ‘mini-mercados’ also stock a good range of jars of baby food.
Fish and Seafood Shopping:
There is a huge variety of fresh fish and seafood to choose from, both in the supermarkets and at local fish markets. So that you know what you are looking at:
- Barnacle – “perceve”
- Bream – “dourada”
- Clam – “ameijoa”
- Clam (small) – “conquilha”
- Cockle – “berbigão”
- Cod – “bacalhau”
- Crab – “Carangueijo”
- Crab (large) – “sapateira”
- Cuttlefish – “choco”
- Hake – “pescada”
- Lobster – “lagosta”
- Mackerel – “cavala”
- Mackerel (small) – “carapau”
- Monkfish – “tamboril”
- Mullet – “salmonete”
- Mussel – “mexhilhão”
- Octopus – “polvo”
- Oyster – “ostra”
- Prawn – “camarão”
- Razor clam – “lingueirão”
- Salmon – “salmão”
- Sardine – “sardinha”
- Sea bass – “robalo”
- Sea bream – “besugo”
- Sole – “linguado”
- Squid – “lula”
- Swordfish – “espadarte”
- Tuna – “atum”
- Whelk – “búzio”
A guide to food prices in the Algarve supermarkets.
Obviously this list is by no means exhaustive and prices will vary between shops (our list is mainly based on Pingo Doce, one of the bigger chains in the Algarve). Soya products are widely available in all the supermarkets as are health foods. We have included (at the bottom of the list – no pun intended!) the two best known UK brands of nappies knowing that they are particularly bulky items to pack when travelling with little ones. (The supermarkets have their own brands as well which are cheaper)
6 Eggs (XL) 0.99€
Orange Marmalade (local) 1.33€
100g Jar Nescafe Classic 3.45€
20 Lipton’s Tea Bags 1.29€
25 Twinings Tea Bags 2.25€
Kellog’s Cornflakes 375g 1.99€
Own Brand Cornflakes 500g 1.19€
Kellog’s Bran Flakes 500g 4.39€
Own Brand Bran Flakes 375g 1.99€
1l Fresh milk 0.79€
1l Soya Milk 0.99€
4 own brand yoghurts 1.39€
4 Activia yoghurts 2.49€
4 Alpro Soya Desserts 2.84€
Butter 250g 1.39€
Soya spread 250g 1.29€
Loaf fresh white bread 1€
Tomatoes on the vine 1.45€/kg
Tofu 260g 2.44€
Seitan 300g 1.99€
Fresh chicken 1.99€/kg
Pork ribs 2.49€/kg
Beefburgers (pack of 4) 2.20€
Fishfingers (pack of 15) 2.99€
Heinz Tomato Ketchup 342g 1.65€
Pasta spirals 500g 0.42€
Jar of black olives 0.99€
1L carton orange juice 0.66€
5l bottled water (own brand) 0.29€
1.5L fizzy soft drink 1.12€
6 x 0.33L cans of Sagres beer 3.40€
Huggies Nappies (136 x size 3) 19.29€
Dodot Nappies (equivalent to Pampers) 13.89€/76 for size 3
Useful Phrases for Eating Out in the Algarve
Here are some useful Portuguese words, phrases and numbers to help you order in a bar or restaurant, identify foods, order different quantities or listen to prices.
- “O que deseja comer?” – What would you like to eat?
- “O que os senhores(as) querem comer?” – What would you like to eat?
- “O que você quer comer?” – What would you like to eat?
- “O que (você) recomenda?” – What do you recommend?
- “Faça o favor!” – Waiter!
- “Prato do dia” – Dish of the day
- “Para mim…” – For me…
- “(Eu) vou comer…” – I’ll have the…
- “Qual é a entrada / prato principal / sobremesa?” – What starters / main course / dessert do you have?
- “(Eu) gostaria ver a ementa por favor” – I would like to see the menu please
- O menú de sobremesas por favor – The desserts menu please
- “Para começar quero…” – To start I would like…
- “Como prato principal quero…” – For the main course I would like…
- “Para sobremesa quero…” – For dessert I’ll have…
- “Não como carne” – I don’t eat meat
- “(Eu) sou vegetariana” – I’m vegetarian (f.)
- “(Eu) sou vegetariano” – I’m vegetarian (m.)
- “Uma mesa para duas pessoas” – A table for two
- “Tenho uma reserva em nome de…” – I have a table reserved in the name of…
- “(Eu) queria uma mesa perto da janela” – I would like a table near to the window.
- “Isso não é o que eu encomendei” – That’s not what I ordered
- “A conta por favor” – The bill (check) please
- “O serviço está incluído?” – Is service included?
- “Acho que há um erro na conta” – I think there is a mistake in the bill.
- “O que você quer beber?” – What would you like to drink?
- “Você quer beber alguma coisa?” – Would you like to drink something?
- “E para beber?” – And to drink?
- “Vocês têm um menú de vinhos?” – Do you have wine list?
- “Para beber quero…” – I would like to drink…
- “(Eu) queria uma bica / um cafezinho / um espresso” – I’d like an espresso.
- “Uma cerveja por favor. / Duas cervejas por favor” – A beer please / Two beers please
- “Um café, se faz favor” – A coffee, please
- “Uma água sem gás” – Still water
- “Uma água com gás” – Sparkling water
- “Uma cerveja” – A beer
- “Vinho tinto” – Red wine
- “Vinho branco” – White wine
one – “um”
two – “dois” (doysh)
three – “três” (tresh)
four – “quatro” (kwatru)
five – “cinco” (sincu)
six – “seis” (saysh)
seven – “seite” (sayte)
eight – “oito” (oytu)
nine – “nove” (nov)
ten – “dez” (desh)
twenty – “vinte”
thirty – “trinta”
fourty – “quarenta” (kwarenta)
fifty – “cinquenta” (sinkwenta)
sixty – “seisenta” (saysenta)
seventy – “seisenta” (saysenta)
eighty – “oitenta” (oytenta)
ninety – “noventa”
one hundred – “cem” (sem)
half a kilo – “meio quilo” (mayo kilo)
200 grams – “duzentas gramas”
If you are buying sliced meats or cheeses you can either ask for it by weight or by the number of slices that you want, for instance:
“Seis fatias” (saysh fatee-ash) six slices; se faz favor (se fash fav-or) please.
Vegetarians & Vegans: Eating Out & Shopping in the Algarve
For those who adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, traditional Portuguese restaurants can be a bit limiting although most of the local restaurants do offer vegetable soup, olives, omelettes and salads. It is always worth asking if they can prepare you a vegetarian dish as we have found some restaurants to be only too happy to oblige.
If you fancy a bit of variety, try restaurants offering international cuisine. The Algarve has lots of Chinese, Indian, Italian and Mediterranean restaurants to choose from and they can be great for different vegetarian options. For vegans, it can be very difficult (or certainly restrictive) to eat out in the Algarve. Although restaurants are catering for vegetarians, most dishes include cheese and eggs and it’s hard to escape foods with any diary products in them, so you’ll often be faced with the single option of another salad!
Vegetarian and Vegan Foods in the Supermarkets:
Vegetarian products are now a lot easier to find than a few years ago. “Intermarché” and “Modelo” have a good spread of branches across the Algarve and stock a good range of tofu and soya products like sausages, burgers and grills, dried soya pieces and tofu blocks, soya spreads, soya milk plain and flavoured and soya desserts and vegetarian pate. Intermarché also stocks vegan mayonnaise. “Continente” supermarket has a particularly good health food section which includes vegan cheese, very reasonably priced fresh tofu blocks and various jars of flavoured tofu.
“Pingo Doce” has shops from Lagos to Tavira and also now has a good range of products including dried soya chunks, ‘steaks’, veggie ‘hot dog’ sausages, tofu blocks, soya desserts, soya spread and soya milk – their health food section generally is expanding. Their own brand of soya milk also works well in hot drinks and doesn’t curdle as many do.
The Portuguese use a lot of beans (“feijões”) in their cooking and these are plentiful in all supermarkets either canned or dried. Pulses are also readily available.
There are normally some vegetarian meals in the freezer section, but do check the price….we have come across a pack of 4 vegetable grills for just under 10 euros in one shop and less than 5 in another!
So far, the only places we have found to stock “Quorn” products is “Supermercardo Baptista” in Luz and “Apolonia” in Almancil and Albufeira; they also stock Linda McCartney veggie sausages, burgers etc. and a wide range of health foods plus all those ‘English’ things you might miss!
Not all food is clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians, so some of the words to watch for in the ingredients are:
- “ovos” (eggs), “leite”(milk), “queijo” (cheese), “manteiga” (butter)
- “carne” (meat), “peixe” (fish), “frango” or “galinha” (chicken),
- “gelatina” (gelatine), “gordura animal” (animal fat), “banha” (lard)
- “derivados do leite” / “laticínios” (milk/dairy derivatives)
Useful Phrases for Eating Out in the Algarve
- “Eu sou vegetariano” – I am a vegetarian
- “Eu sou vegano” – I am a vegan
- “Você poderia me prepara um prato sem carne ,peixe, derivados do leite ou ovos por favor?” – Can you make a dish without meat, fish, dairy products or eggs please?
- “Eu não como carne, peixe ou frango” – I don’t eat meat, fish or chicken
- “Eu não como queijo” – I don’t eat cheese
- “Você tem algum prato vegetariano” – Do you have any vegetarian dishes?
- “Eu como ovos, leite e queijo” – I eat eggs, milk and cheese
- “Eu não como ovos, leite ou queijo” – I do not eat eggs, milk or cheese
- “Isso tem algum produto animal?” – does it contain any animal products?
- “Café sem leite” – coffee without milk
- “Eu não como nada preparado com gordura animal” – I don’t eat anything cooked with animal fat
Just to point out, even though there is a word for “vegan” in the Portuguese language, it is so seldom used that no one seems to understand what it means, so to qualify what you say, it is probably best to say “eu sou vegano, eu não como carne, peixe, ovos, leite ou queijo (derivados do leite) ou nada produto animal”.