The most traditional Christmas dishes in Portugal

pratos tradicionais natal portugal

Portugal is known for its gastronomical richness and quality, and Christmas is not an exception, between sweet and savoury, from north to south, you’ll find a variety of delicacies.

It’s here, the time of year in which every region of the country prepares to set a table filled with the most delicious traditions of the festive season. We’re presenting you with some of the most typical Christmas dishes in Portugal and a traditional recipe for your Christmas Eve dinner!

Portugal is one of the world’s largest cod importers, which we cook the most varied ways, as we like to say: there are “1001 ways to cook cod”. With boiled potatoes and cabbage, this ingrediente can not be missing from the Christmas table and, for that golden touch, it’s served with a good quality olive oil, for a true national flavour. 

This is the most cooked dish all over the Portuguese mainland on Christmas Eve. In Madeira and the Azores, tradition means preparing meat kebabs on laurel sticks and roasted or stewed chicken,respectively.

When it comes to Christmas Day lunch, the variety of dishes is even greater all around the country.  In Trás-os-Montes, Alto Douro and Minho the tasty  roupa velha is prepared with the leftovers (codfish, potatoes, cabbage and eggs) from the Christmas Eve dinner, sautéed in a whole lot of olive oil and garlic. Even so, it is also very common to make roasted lamb as an alternative option. On the other hand, in the southern part of the country, roasted turkey is the king of Christmas Day lunch.

Both in the north and the south, Christmas desserts are intense and frequently have a cinnamon aftertaste. The fried desserts made with egg, milk and sugar, such as rabanadas (Frenchtoasts), filhoses and sonhos (fried cakes) fill the house with Christmas aromas, while the rice pudding, sweet vermicelli and crème brûlée shine bright on their platters. 

To top everything off, bolo-rei (the traditional Christmas cake) is always present on every Portuguese family’s table, between Christmas and Epiphany. This dessert is the most symbolic and traditional, with the golden crust representing the gold, the crystallised and dried fruits representing the myrrh, and its aroma representing the frankincense, the gifts brought to Jesus by the Three Kings.

In order to encourage you to prepare a traditional Christmas dessert we suggest rabanadas with Port wine. You can find the recipe below.

Rabanadas with Porto wine recipe:


  • 1 baguette
  • 500 ml of milk
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 lemon rinds
  • 1 orange rind
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 small glass of Port wine
  • Oil for frying (as needed)
  • Sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle (as needed)


  • Start by slicing the baguette. Reserve.
  • In a pan, heat the milk, the sugar, the lemon and orange rinds, and the cinnamon sticks until boiling. Whenit starts boiling, lower the heat for 3 minutes, to let the milk absorb all the flavours. Turn off the stove and add the Port wine. Stir and let it sit until it’s warm. Reserve.
  • Whisk the eggs in a bowl and reserve.
  • Heat the oil for frying.
  • Once it’s warm, dip the bread slices in the milk, drain the excess and then dip them in the whisked eggs.  Fry the slices in the hot oil.
  • Once they’re golden on both sides, take them out of the oil, draining the excess, and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
  • Place all the slices in a deep platter, so you can add the syrup.


  • 2 teacups of water
  • 2 teacups of sugar
  • 1 orange rind
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 tablespoons of Port wine

  • In a pan, mix the water, the sugar, the cinnamon stick and the orange rind. Let it boil and then add the Port wine. Lower the heat and let it cook, stirring continuously until it thickens. 
  • Finally, pour the syrup over the rabanadas(French toasts).

Mouthwatering enough for you? Roll up your sleeves, put on your apron and surprise the family. Enjoy!
You rather skip the hard work, but still want to taste this season’s best dishes? Check out HF HotelsChristmas and New Year’s Eve offers at the official website.

Happy holidays!

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