What are the very typical Portuguese Petiscos?

During our Porto Food Tours, a common question we often receive is: “What are these petiscos I see on restaurant menus?”. As always, we gladly take on the mission of explaining and sharing insights into the typical and traditional dishes that are an important part of Portuguese gastronomy. Today, we’re diving into the world of petiscos!

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What is the difference?

While you may see the word tapas used on menus in Portugal, do not be deceived; they are most likely serving petiscos. But what is the difference and why do the Portuguese care what word I use? Great question! Let us explain.

The word tapas comes from the Spanish verb tapar, which means to cover, or the noun tapa, which means cover. The legend goes that to keep dirt and insects out of their drink the Spanish would cover, or tapar, their drinks with a piece of bread. But if you have a piece of bread why not toss on some ham and cheese and now we have a snack!

Tapas have evolved far beyond their humble origins and now include a variety of flavors and combinations, although, at their core, they are a bite-sized piece of bread topped with something delicious. Tapas have also conquered the world and are now popular worldwide, found in trendy wine bars from New York to Rio, London to Cape Town.

Now that we know what tapas are, let me explain petiscos. Petiscos are generally small versions of large plates. The genius behind this model is that you can then order and taste more dishes by ordering smaller versions than you would if you ordered full-size dishes. How brilliant is that? We even have a word for it: petiscar; which means eating and savoring these small-sized dishes, generally best done with friends, just like tapas.

Both Tapas and Petiscos have roots in the Iberian Peninsula (the portion of land that now comprises Spain and Portugal). Spanish tapas, internationally known, can be found worldwide, usually in trendy bars also serving Spanish wines. As for petiscos, they are a part of Portugal’s gastronomy and are traditionally found in tascas – taverns or cafés. Lately, we have seen a swell of trendy bars and restaurants, known as Petisqueiras, serving them with Portuguese wines. Unlike tapas, petiscos are fairly unknown outside the country… But not for long!

Pssst… For an authentic experience with petiscos, join our Food Tours of Porto to savor the real deal! »

Which Petiscos can we try?

There are so many dishes to choose from! The good thing is that they come in small portions, allowing you to order three or four of them without feeling guilty. Let us take you on a tour of some of our favorite petiscos.

Octopus salad

Usually served with minced onion and parsley, mixed with plenty of Portuguese olive oil, this octopus salad is absolutely divine. And tastes as good as it looks! You can season it with salt, pepper, and vinegar according to your taste. Mouth-watering, isn’t it?

Smoked ham, sausages and cheeses

Just like the Spanish, we also love smoked ham, sausages and cheese and you won’t have any trouble finding these boards full of regional deliciousnesses.

Amêijoas – Clams

The most famous recipe is Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato. It is as simple as it is delicious. Clams cooked in a buttery and garlicky flavor are what make this dish into one of the most delicious Portuguese petiscos.


Pork, sausages, cheese, and pickles. This requires no further explanation!

Moelas – Chicken Gizzards

In Portugal, almost nothing goes to waste in the kitchen. Moelas is a good example. We managed to take a part of the chicken that would usually go to the trash and created this tasty dish: Portuguese chicken gizzards stew. I know it might look a bit unappealing for some, but trust us, this is one of those classics you can’t skip while in Portugal.

Pataniscas – Salt Codfish Cakes

Pataniscas are so simple yet incredibly delicious petiscos. These are especially good if the idea of codfish turns you off. In these lovely little packets, we combine codfish with onions and parsley then bread it up and fry it, what’s not to love? A Portuguese classic at its best.

There are dozens (if not hundreds) of petiscos all around the country. Tradition and culture in Portugal are intrinsically linked to its cuisine. We hope we have provided you with an insight into this wonderful portion of Portuguese cuisine. And we hope that you will take a chance and try some petiscos. Who knows, you might discover a new favorite flavor.

Taste buds craving for more local flavors?

After trying our petiscos, explore and savor lesser-known local traditional dishes and wines on our Downtown & Bolhão Market Food Tour. Guided by a passionate local host, you will experience the Porto that travelers rarely see, taste important elements of our cuisine and learn about the history, architecture and culture while walking the streets of our beloved city. Let us share our love of Porto with you!

Bom apetite!
Taste Porto Foodie Team

Discover Porto's food secrets and have a wonderfully personal experience on our Food & Wine tasting tours
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