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Apart from a high quality international cuisine that stems from the expanding tourism industry, the Algarve is offers a flavourful traditional gastronomy, strongly influenced by the Mediterranean cuisine, with two distinct geographical areas; the coast and the inland areas of the Barrocal and Serra Algarvia. Dishes using fish and shellfish as their main ingredients can be found on the Algarve coast, whereas poultry and pork, along with fresh vegetables and dried pulses are the primary ingredients in the majority of dishes cooked in the Barrocal and Serra Algarvia.
Firmly rooted in the Algarve's gastronomic heritage, olive oil is used both for seasoning and for cooking, alongside onions, tomatoes, peppers, garlic and fresh herbs such as parsley and coriander. Algarvian bread is very tasty and often used as a main ingredient in the preparation of certain dishes.
On the coast, the main source of ingredients is the sea, with a variety of fish, such as sardines, mackerel and tuna, or seafood such as clams, oysters, crayfish or prawns. Octopuss is also very popular specially in the eastern Algarve, and can be prepared in a number of ways, all of them perfectly delicious. Typical coastal dishes include fish or shellfish stews cooked in a unique copper pan called “cataplana”, marinated horse mackerel with sweet potato, grilled sardines served with bread and salad, and Algarve-style tuna steak. to name but a few.
In the Barrocal and Serra Algarvia the traditional dishes are slow-cooked meat stews with pulses and fresh vegetables and the snacks between meals would often consist of bread and olives, and small amounts of chorizo sausage.
Almond, fig and carob trees grow in abundance in the area’s dry orchards, providing the ingredients for the finest sweet treats.The tempting cakes pastries of the region translate the strong influences of artistic baking using sugar and almond to produce exquisite ‘maçapão’ cakes shapped like little animals or fruits. Other delicious sweets are the “D. Rodrigo” or the “morgado”. The challenge to the visitor is to choose from such a wide variety of delicacies.
The Algarve benefits from an exceptional combination of climate, soil and location, making it, in specialist wine terminology, an excellent terroir for growing vines. Make sure you ask for Algarvian wines at the local restaurants, or look in the supermarkets and wine shops for the many available options.
The Algarve is also famous for its “Medronho”, a traditional fruit brandy made from the strawberry like fruit of the Medronho trees that grow wild on the inner Algarve.
Check out our selection of Algarve traditional recipes.