Portugal does not exactly have a white Christmas because there is not enough snow for that. However, we do have a colorful Christmas, and that feast of colors starts right at the table at the end of November.
A Portuguese Christmas is spent at the table surrounded by family. But what do we eat? Keep reading to find out everything about Portuguese Christmas Food.
Bread, cheese & olives. That’s it! The beginning of any Portuguese meal.
Christmas is not Christmas without codfish on the table!
Cod is part of Portuguese tables since the 15th century, and you can easily find one recipe for each day of the year – forever!
Christmas Eve dinner – called Consoada – has cod as the main dish, served with boiled potatoes, cabbages, carrots, eggs, and olive oil, plenty of it!
Even though cod is the most common dish for Christmas Eve dinner, there are some regions where octopus is also served. Meat dishes are for after the Midnight Mess or for Christmas Day.
Lamb (or Turkey)
Meat can only be eaten on Christmas Day. Roasted lamb and goatling are the most common Christmas Day meals, although there are some regions where Portuguese eat turkey. Turkey was common in the past for wealthy families, and it was often eaten after the Midnight Mass. Depending on the area, these are the most common roasted dishes for Christmas Day lunch in Portugal.
The Bolo Rei can be seen on a table anywhere from mid-November until Epiphany. It is a kind of sweet bread and cake with a round shape with crystallized fruits on top. Inside you will find almonds, raisins, nuts, and a fava bean. The family member that gets the fava bean must buy or bake the Bolo Rei next year.
Filhós are a deep-fried dough. After frying, they are dipped in cinnamon and brown sugar.
Rabanadas are the Portuguese version of French Toasts. This is another proof that nothing goes to waste in Portuguese cuisine because you can use bread leftovers in this dessert. The trick is to dip the slices of bread in milk and eggs, and guess what? Yes, fry them in butter! After frying, they are immersed in brown sugar and cinnamon.
Another fried dessert also dipped in brown sugar and cinnamon, but this one is more like a doughnut: crisp outside and airy inside.
The difference between most of the fried Christmas desserts is the dough and the consistency of the dessert. Sonhos means “dreams”, so it is something very soft and light.
There is a pattern, but this is also another fried dough. Coscorões are crunchy and sweet with a bit of orange flavor. Of course, dipped in sugar and cinnamon.
For a break of fried desserts, we have Aletria, which is a sweet pasta. Like sweet rice, this dessert is done with a thin pasta cooked with milk, sugar, cinnamon. If you have a sweet tooth, this dessert is for you.
The rest of the normal
Of course, besides all this, there is still Pão-de-Ló, chocolate mousse, sweet rice, and other cakes.
Q&A about Portuguese Christmas Food?
- What do Portuguese drink during Christmas meals?
For the Consoada meal it is white or green wine. For Christmas lunch it will be a good red wine.
- Do Portuguese drink eggnog?
The real answer is no! Although sometimes it is drank for fun, it is not a traditional Christmas drink in Portugal.
- How can Portuguese eat that many fried stuff?
We definitely already build some resistance, but this is a special occasion. It is not common to eat that much food and that many fried desserts.
- How many people are usually at a table?
It depends. Each household is usually around 4 people, so it can be something between 6 to 12 people in most families, sitting at a table fo Christmas and Easter.
- What happens with leftovers?
Most likely there will be leftovers, even with so many people eating. Everything is divided with other family members to take home. As for the rest, it is eaten in the next days until New Year’s. The table is set for the entire week.
A note is if you are traveling to Portugal or spending Christmas with a Portuguese Family: do not count calories and save the diets for after New Year’s. Read here everything about Christmas in Portugal, from city decorations to family moments.
If you want to learn more about Portuguese cuisine or even venture off on a tasting tour, join our walking tours.