Are you having a traditional Portuguese Christmas?

Are you having a traditional Portuguese Christmas?

When I spent my first Christmas in Portugal at the house of my ‘sogra’ (mother-in-law), I couldn’t believe the amount of food that was served! 

The family gathered at her house on the 25th, not the 24th; this is because it was easier to get the family together all in one place on that date. Her daughter and son-in-law came with the Grandchildren from Lagos. Her sister, ‘tia Gabriela’ along with her family from Faro and her son and I, ‘the estrangeira’.

After I was hit over the hear with a plastic riffle by one of the kids, much to the amusement of the family – we all sat down for a traditional Christmas meal. It wasn’t what I expected at all.

Each family brought something different to the table; Roast lamb and Turkey served with an abundance of vegetables and what would become my favourite – ‘Lulas Cheias’, stuffed baby squid! (That is what I will be doing this year!)

There was a huge selection of desserts too. Torta de Amêndoa, Pão de ló, Tarte de Natas, cakes, filhós….

All in all it wasn’t too different to Christmas dinner in the UK.

Let’s take a look at what’s on the menu in the various regions in Portugal during the Festive Season. Click on the links for the recipes or descriptions. Maybe you can try your hand at making something traditional this year!

The Algarve

In the Algarve, Christmas dinner can be either a meat or fish dish, in which Galo de Cabidela and cooked cod are options. At Christmas Day lunch the leftovers are eaten along with roast lamb or turkey. In some areas Leitão (sucklng pig) is also eaten. The desserts include Filhós, Rabanadas (French Toast), Sonhos and Leite Creme, the Algarvians add a Torta de Amêndoa to the table along with Empadinhas and Encharcadas from the Alentejo and Morgado de Amêndoa.

The Alentejo

In the Alentejo, Bacalhau, cooked or baked in the oven, is traditionally eaten on Christmas eve and on Christmas Day, roast cockerel (galo) or goat (cabrito). When it comes to desserts, the Alentejanos eat the popular seasonal Filhós, Leite Creme e Coscorões. In addition, Azevias de Grão, Nógado and Encharcadas are also options.

Lisbon and Tagus Valley

The Lisbon and Tagus Valley area is characterized by a collection of typical recipes from various parts of the country, brought by the migratory flow of the 20th century. At supper, on the Eve of Christmas they eat cooked cod and roast turkey. For Christmas Day lunch, roast kid, turkey or lamb is served. For dessert, Rabanadas, Filhós, Sonhos, Vermicelli, Lampreia de Ovos, Azevias and Bolo Rei.


In Madeira, lighter dishes are eaten at Christmas dinner and on Christmas Day, lunch is with Meat cooked in wine and garlic or boiled cod. ‘Madeirenses’ eat Bolo de Mel, to which they add lighter desserts, with fruit, fruit salad, passion fruit pudding, tangerines, pineapple, Tomate Inglês and, also, the “Fruto Delicioso“, a kind of pineapple banana.

Those are just a few examples to get your mouth watering!

What will you be eating this Christmas? Let us know in the comments

Would you like to be able to understand Portuguese recipes?

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2 responses to “Are you having a traditional Portuguese Christmas?”

  1. Very interesting to be able to easily access the recipes, very tempted to try some, thank you.
    As for Christmas lunch here we will still be eating turkey with the usual trimmings however we will enjoy adding delicious Portuguese items to the days indulgences🤣.

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