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Recipe ideas for a Portuguese Christmas menu

Recipe ideas for a Portuguese Christmas menu

Gastronomy is an strong part of Portuguese culture. The country's history, the great Portuguese discoveries and Portugal's close ties with countries with incredible flavors make Portuguese cuisine one of the most eclectic.

At Christmas, the meal on 24 December is usually frugal and based on cod (Bacalhau). It is on December 25th at noon that the meal becomes much more copious with multiple starters or petiscos, roasted meat dishes and the famous 13 Christmas desserts.

In addition to the 8 ideas below, if you want to try your hand at Portuguese cooking, take our recipe book (translated into English)


The influence of the Atlantic Ocean can be found in this gastronomy, with many seafood products (fish, shellfish), Mediterranean traditions (bread, wine, olive oil, citrus fruits) and flavors brought back from the former colonies (spices).

Cod, potato, cinnamon or brown sugar, are essential ingredients to prepare a typical Portuguese Christmas meal. To make your taste buds travel on 25 December, from starter to dessert, here are our recipe ideas for a 100% Portuguese Christmas menu.



The Portuguese love to eat small dishes to share as appetizers. Served as tapas, they are called "pesticos".

In our blog, you will already find a few examples of Portuguese recipes for petiscos to surprise your guests at the aperitif. Here are 4 ideas for appetizers to accompany your Portuguese aperitifs.

Pimentos Padron

The padrón pepper is a typical pepper variety from Galicia and Northern Portugal. They are small chillies, olive green to yellowish green in colour, the curious thing about these chillies is that some of them tend to bite, but you never know which one, so be careful!

Fried padrón peppers are perfect as a starter, appetizer or petiscos.


  • Padrón peppers
  • Coarse salt
  • Olive oil


  1. Wash and dry the chillies
  2. Fry them in olive oil over a high heat until they are golden brown.
  3. When they are toasted, remove them from the pan, place them on absorbent paper, add coarse salt, ready.


Rissois are shrimp or meat fritters. In Portugal, they make an easy and economical appetizer using leftovers from other meals. You can make meat rissoles with poultry, pork, beef or suckling pig, depending on your preferences and the availability of the ingredient.

Ingredients for the dough

  • Wheat flour (300g)
  • Water (50cl)
  • Butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Salt

Ingredients for the stuffing

  • Meat (500g)
  • Onion (1)
  • Garlic (2 cloves)
  • Butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Flour (2 tablespoons)
  • Water (15cl)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Ingredients for baking

  • Eggs (4)
  • Breadcrumbs (300g)


  1. Bring a pan of water, salt, butter and lemon rind to the boil. When it boils, remove the rind, turn off the heat, add the flour and stir until it comes away from the pan. Set aside.
  2. Sauté the chopped onion and garlic with the butter over low heat.
  3. When the onion and garlic start to brown, add the tomato pulp and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the meat, water, stock cubes and flour, stirring until the cubes dissolve.
  4. Let the filling cook until it becomes creamy. When it has reached this consistency, turn off the heat, season with salt and pepper, stir to incorporate and leave to cool.
  5. Take the dough, knead it and roll it out on a flat, smooth surface sprinkled with flour. Cut into rounds and place some of the filling on each. Seal by pressing the edges of the meat rissoles with a fork.
  6. Prepare a dish with the beaten eggs and another with the breadcrumbs, dip each rissole in the eggs and then in the flour and fry them in hot oil.
  7. When the meat fritters are golden brown, drain them on paper towels and serve.

Camarões a guilho

Camarões a guilho are a highly praised starter in terms of flavour and aroma. Guilho shrimp, or alhinho, are shrimp cooked over a high heat with a sauce made of olive oil, garlic and chilli.


  • Fresh shrimps (1kg)
  • Garlic (6 cloves)
  • Olive oil (20cl)
  • Beer (50cl)
  • Lemon (1)
  • Malagueta pepper (1)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Coriander


  1. Peel the shrimp, keeping the heads and removing the casings.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves and crush them.
  3. Heat a frying pan with the olive oil and garlic and let them sear.
  4. Add the prawns and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add the chilli and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring so that they cook evenly on both sides.
  6. Pour the beer over the shrimp, allow the alcohol to evaporate and when the sauce has thickened, season with the juice of a lemon and serve the shrimp sprinkled with coriander.

Peixinhos da horta

Peixinhos da horta are green beans wrapped in dough or polenta and fried. Peixinhos da horta is one of the most traditional Portuguese dishes to be served as an appetizer or as an aperitif.


  • Green beans (500g)
  • Flour (150g)
  • Eggs (2)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt 
  • Black pepper


  1. Clean the green beans and cook them in water seasoned with salt for 5 minutes.
  2. Drain and leave to cool.
  3. Place the flour in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, add the eggs, olive oil and water, stirring constantly until smooth.
  4. Heat the oil in a pan.
  5. Dip the green beans, one by one, in the cream, let them drain a little
  6. Put them in the oil and fry them until they are golden.
  7. Remove them and let them drain.


In Portugal, cheese is best enjoyed as an aperitif. Melted and spread on bread or cubed and eaten with a toothpick, the cheeses preferred by the Portuguese are often creamy, made from goat's or sheep's milk.

Azeitão, Rabaçal and Serra da Estrela cheeses are typical of Portugal and make up your cheese board.

For even more flavour, add a cherry jam and a bit of salt with pepper to your platter.

Of course, you must have the famous Azeitão, a sheep's milk cheese, which you can eat with a spoon after removing the cap.

Don't hesitate to present your Portuguese cheeses on a typical Portuguese platter.

Portuguese platter - Luisa Paixão collection


Typical Portuguese gastronomy often consists of seafood. For example, Portuguese starters are often cooked with cod or crab.

Here are three typical Portuguese recipes that you will love to try at Christmas.

Cestinhas com salpicão

A mini version of cestinhas com salpicão are small baskets of puff pastry filled with an original chicken salad.


  • Puff pastry (500g)
  • Chicken breast (200g)
  • Cooked carrots (2)
  • Celery (200g)
  • Red pepper (1)
  • Green pepper (1)
  • Chopped green olives (100g)
  • Sultanas (3 tablespoons)
  • Green apple (1)
  • Chopped parsley (3 tablespoons)
  • Mayonnaise (200g)
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Cut all the vegetables and the chicken into small cubes.
  2. Cut the puff pastry into squares of 10 cm x 10 cm.
  3. Shape the pastry squares into pasta moulds and place them on an ovenproof tray. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C until the baskets are golden brown.
  4. Turn out and set aside.
  5. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt and parsley and add the mayonnaise.
  6. Fill the baskets with the salad. It's ready to go!

Pasteis de Bacalhau

Ingredients (6 people)

  • Codfish (500g)
  • Potatoes (500g)
  • Onions (2)
  • Eggs (2)
  • Paprika, parsley, pepper, salt
  • Olive oil


  1. After desalting the cod overnight, boil the potatoes and mash them.
  2. Cook the cod in boiling water for 15 minutes, then crumble it. Add it to the mash.
  3. Add the egg, finely chopped onion and spices and fry the acras into small quenelles. Place on paper towels and enjoy!

Sapateira recheada 

It is a Portuguese speciality, often served in "marisqueiras" (seafood restaurants). Stuffed crab will look great on your Christmas table.


  • 1 crab (preferably female)
  • Mayonnaise (4 tablespoons)
  • Gherkins (2 tablespoons)
  • Port wine (1 tablespoon)
  • Boiled eggs (2)
  • Cocktail sauce
  • Salt, pepper, parsley
  • Mustard
  • Toast or bread (to serve)


  1. Boil a pot of salted water and add the crab. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes and set aside.
  2. Once cold, peel the crab.
  3. Chop up the gherkins, boiled eggs, two or three pieces of toast or bread and the parsley. Add this to the crab stuffing and mix together.
  4. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, cocktail sauce and a spoonful of port wine. Adjust the seasoning and fill the crab shell with the stuffing. It's ready! Enjoy on bread.

Main courses

If the tradition of Christmas in Portugal is to eat simply on the evening of the 24th, it is because the real Christmas meal takes place on the 25th of December.

On this occasion, the Portuguese enjoy the famous stuffed turkey, which has become very common in recent years. However, there are still some traditional households that prepare the "Leitão assado" or roast kid "à Transmontana", which comes from the Trás-os-Montes region.

Leitão assado


  • Suckling pig (3kg)
  • Bay leaf
  • Garlic (4 to 5 cloves)
  • Onions (2)
  • Chopped parsley
  • Black pepper
  • Water (1/2 cup)
  • Dry white wine (1/2 cup)
  • Smoked bacon (250g)
  • Olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to a medium temperature (170°C).
  2. Place the bay leaf, chopped garlic, onions and parsley inside the piglet.
  3. Sprinkle the pepper and salt on the outside.
  4. Pour the water and wine over the suckling pig until it covers the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the bacon.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour.
  7. Turn the piglet over, removing any liquid that has formed.
  8. Brush the skin with oil and return it to the oven.
  9. Continue cooking until the skin is golden brown and hard.

Cabrito assado a transmontana

Cabrito assado a transmontana - Credit Teleculinaria


A traditional recipe that is one of the most common Christmas meals.


  • Young goat (3 kg)
  • Roasting potatoes (1kg)
  • White wine
  • Olive oil
  • Crushed garlic
  • Bacon
  • Paprika
  • Pepper
  • Bay leaves
  • Chopped parsley
  • Salt


  1. Make a paste of bacon, paprika, crushed garlic, pepper, chopped parsley, bay leaves and salt.
  2. Coat the lamb with this paste and leave it to rest for at least 12 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  4. Peel the potatoes and place them in a baking tray.
  5. Sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper.
  6. Sprinkle them with a little olive oil and white wine.
  7. Place the kid in the centre of the potatoes.
  8. Put them in the oven for 1 hour (or until they are crispy). Baste with white wine while roasting.
  9. Remove and serve.

Traditionally, the kid is cooked over a wood fire, but baking it in a stoneware dish does not alter the qualities of this delicious dish.

Stoneware baking dish with cork base - Luisa Paixão collection


Portuguese gastronomy is very rich in desserts. However, at Christmas, the tradition is that the 13 desserts are placed on the table. Pão de Ló, Pasteis de Nata or the famous Bolo Rei are on every table in Portugal!

To make a success of these desserts, you will need the recipes that you can find in our blog "Discover the 13 Portuguese Christmas desserts" and some typical Portuguese utensils that are often not available outside Portugal.

Pasteis de Nata baking tins

Portuguese pudding baking tin

Pão de Lo baking tin

Egg wire funnel

For those who want to go even further in their culinary discoveries, don't hesitate to browse through our recipe book on Madeira cuisine.


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