A week ago, my husband and I were blessed to spend a week and half traveling in Portugal. We stayed in Lisbon, Sintra, Porto and Algarve (about 2 days in each), and along the way we tried a few vegetarian restaurants. At most Portuguese restaurants that aren’t specifically vegetarian/ vegan, there aren’t that many veggie options, but usually options will include soups (they surprisingly have vegan soups almost everywhere), bread and olive oil / olives, and for vegetarians, there will also be batatas bravas and cheeses. On this trip, I flexed to vegetarian as I sometimes do, but will specify options that are vegan friendly.
Vegan Soups and Fresh OJ everywhere
Most places will have a ‘sopa do dia’ and amazingly they are almost all vegan – generally vegetable based purees – and they are pretty filling and delicious. My favorite soups were the pumpkin soup from The Garden in Lagos – a pretty, outdoor garden setting in the charming town of Lagos in the South (though my husband who eats meat thought the food was mediocre)- and the squash soup at Esencia in Porto – a beautiful, very highly ranked vegetarian restaurant (more on this restaurant below).
I also quickly learned that Portugal grows incredibly juicy oranges and there is fresh squeezed OJ at most cafes, bakeries and restaurants. Or you can also grab some oranges (from the fruit market next to the Time Out market in Lisbon, from stands on the side of the road in the South, or at any market) and squeeze your own.
Lisbon: Natural Terra, Time Out Market and Batata heaven at Alto do Bairro
My friend Kerry, who spent a few months in Lisbon, said that a vegetarian must was Natural Terra, and we weren’t let down. We went for lunch where there is an all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet (w/ vegan options, although vegan options were mostly salads and fruit). The food was plentiful and the quaint, tucked away garden setting was lovely, and it was very reasonable for ~10 Euros each. I especially enjoyed the salads, soup, fruit, iced herbal drinks and the garden setting. They had a delicious sounding vegan berry crumble dessert, but alas I was too full to try it this time. Only a few blocks away, there was another similar concept with a veggie buffet and garden called Jardim Dos Sentidos. While we didn’t get to try it, it has even better reviews on TripAdvisor so could be worth checking out.
In Lisbon, we also had amazing batatas at Alto do Bairro, a very little hole-in-the-wall that made this magical dipping sauce (pretty sure it’s vegetarian and not vegan b/c it had an aioli-like taste). Everything else was just okay, but it’s worth stopping by for the yummy potatoes and magic sauce.
Lastly, we stayed just a few blocks away from the Time Out Market – a large open market with many different restaurants / food stalls and large communal tables. While we didn’t try any standout dishes, the vibe is really fun and alive, especially at night. During the day, there is also the neighboring fruit market, which has really high quality produce at affordable prices.
Porto: Tapas, Olive Oil Tasting and Essencia
One of my favorite restaurants in all of Portugal was Wine Quay Bar in Porto. Perched in a prized location above the beautiful Douro river, this small tapas joint had both amazing food and service. The shitake mushrooms in a beautiful olive oil accompanied by warm crusty bread was simply perfect. For those who flex vegetarian we also got a delicious spicy sheep’s cheese served with a fun guillotine slicer my husband was obsessed with :). Would definitely come back here on a future trip!
We also stumbled upon Oliva, an olive oil specialty store where for 2 Euros (or they waive the fee if you purchase anything), you can taste regional olive oils. It’s a lovely shop and definitely worth stopping in for a tasting. We also bought some lemon garlic green olives that we loved.
Lastly, there is a very highly ranked vegetarian restaurant (w/ vegan options) called Essencia and we went for lunch where they had a fixed menu of appetizer, entree and optional dessert for 10-12 euros. It’s a couple miles from town so you’ll likely want to drive or take a taxi. The ambiance is lovely (see garden below), and while I loved the soup and juice, the vegan lentil main dish didn’t settle well with me. Based on the reviews, I’d give it a chance but it wasn’t my personal favorite, and in fact I didn’t feel very well afterwards.
Algarve: Terra in Sagres
While road tripping along the Southern coastline, we stopped at Terra, a beautiful spots w/ vegetarian and vegan (and meat/ fish) options right across from a really nice beach (Praia Beliche). Surprisingly there weren’t that many places that we found that had good salads, and here I enjoyed a delicious salad, soy cappucino and ocean views. We then sauntered across the street to Praia Beliche, a beautiful beach in a protected cove where there were quite a few surfers out.
Not food related, but magical Airbnb recommendation in Sintra
Of our four stops, Sintra was by far my favorite. The history, the magical castles, the incredible nature walks, and our stunning Airbnb made me not want to leave. Our Airbnb was a beautifully restored villa with fairy-tale-like gardens and views overlooking Sintra. Our host also left us delicious breakfast and her thoughtful touches and care for the property were simply amazing. One day I hope to go back and spend at least a week!
Hope you find these tips helpful, and if Portugal isn’t already on your bucket list, you should add it now!