Portuguese Easter food: a gastronomic Easter tour of Portugal

Learn all about Portugal's gastronomy during the Easter season / Unsplash
Learn all about Portugal's gastronomy during the Easter season / Unsplash
18 March 2021, Marilia Poiares

Easter 2021 is around the corner and with it comes another amazing time of the year, when families traditionally get together to celebrate and, of course, to eat. Due to the coronavirus outbreak and continued restrictions, this year may be a little different with smaller celebrations. Even if the celebrations are a little more low-key than usual, you can still enjoy these delicious Easter treats at home, or even have a go at making them yourself! Whether you live in Portugal or not, it is time to find out about these delicious typical dishes that can find in Portugal during Easter festivities.

Dishes vary from region to region, but all Easter food in Portugal has something in common: abundance. After a hard winter, Easter is the time to enjoy a rich feast, marking the end of Lent (as Portugal is traditionally a Catholic country). Dinner tables fill up with everything from sausages, liquor and lamb to the traditional bola and many sweet dishes and Easter desserts.

Get your Easter spirit fired up and find out more about the traditional Portuguese food you must try this Easter 2021!

Minho

The traditional roasted lamb served during Easter / Wikipedia
The traditional roasted lamb served during Easter / Wikipedia

In the Minho region made up of Braga and Viana do Castelo, in the north of the country, the celebrations involve the Compasso, a group led by the local priest, who goes from house to house carrying the Holy Cross and offering blessings. As for the locals, they have to have traditional dishes prepared to receive the priest: bolas recheadas (a sort of salty pastry filled with meat and sausages), roasted lamb and the traditional folar or pão-doce, a sweet yellow bread.

For a true Portuguese experience this Easter that you can easily make at home, you should also try broinhas (small sweet bread like cakes prepared with pumpkin or potato and stuffed with raisins), pão-de-ló (one of the most famous Portuguese cakes made with plenty of egg yolks, whole eggs, flour and sugar), or bolo de Margaride as it is known in Felgueiras and borrachos (little fried pastries made with eggs, sugar, breadcrumbs and cinnamon in Valença do Minho).

Trás-os-Montes

A meat filled "folar" / Wikipedia
A meat filled "folar" / Wikipedia

Easter time in this region also means eating of folar like the one mentioned above, but in this region it is a litle different. In Trás-os-Montes, folar is filled with veal, chicken, rabbit, serrano ham and salpicão (a Portuguese sausage), that enrich the dough with their greasy fat. In some cities, folares are shaped to be big and round, like in Bragança ou Mirandela, and in places like Freixo de Espada à Cinta, they are smaller and flatter.

Beiras

In Beiras, the folar is sweet and is prepared with cinnamon and fennel and decorated with eggs, either boiled or painted with colourful motifs. In Covilhã, aside from this sweet bread, you can have broinhas, olive oil cakes or empanadilhas da Páscoa, a half-moon shaped sweet treat, filled with walnuts or almonds. You should also know that in this region, as well as some areas of Alentejo, it is normal to fast from meat, up until the “Enterro do Bacalhau” that marks the end of Lent. From then on, meat starts to dominate traditional Easter dishes in Portugal with lamb, chicken or pork loin taking centre stage.

Alentejo

In the Alentejo region of Portugal, lamb is the main dish of this festive season and every single part of the animal is used to make some spectacular dishes. Tripe is used to prepare sarapatel and even the brains of the lamb are cooked and are considered a delicacy. You can also find queijadas (cheese-based pastries), bolos fintos and like in the majority of Portugal, folar, of course.

In Elvas you can find the traditional doce pascal (“Easter’s sweet”) that is shaped like animals from lizards to lambs, little chicks and doves and then covered with white almonds and boiled eggs. In Castelo de Vide you can also find this sweet treat but, instead of animals, it is usually shaped like a double heart.

The Algarve

In the Algarve, you can find all the traditional dishes we have told you about so far, but one of them offers a delicious twist. In the country’s southernmost region you can find a different kind of folar, called folar de folhas, that is deliciously sweet. The falar in the Algarve has cinnamon, brown sugar, lemon and butter as the main ingredients.

Easter is all around

The colourful almonds you can have during Easter / Pixabay
The colourful almonds you can have during Easter / Pixabay

As you might be able to tell by now, there are dishes that are popular all around the country, but they are all different thanks to unique touches that are added in each city or region. Aside from these traditional sweet and savoury dishes, there are two other popular Easter elements  in Portugal: chocolate and almonds.

During the Easter season, godparents, grandparents and parents usually spoil children with chocolate eggs, from tiny ones to gigantic ones, chocolate figurines like the Easter Bunny and almonds. According to tradition, godparents must also give almonds to their godchildren as gifts for Easter and you can find them in any shape or form: natural, covered in sugar, coated in chocolate, filled with chocolate - the list goes on.

Get your recipe books ready to try making these delicious Portuguese treats at home this Easter. Gastronomy lovers are in for a treat! 

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