Where to Eat

Algarvian Eats: Southern Portugal’s Top Food Finds

Your guide to must-try traditional and delicious Algarvian dishes

The Vacationeer
Beautiful image, table and chairs, outdoor seating, stunning coastline, Algarve, Portugal.

Portuguese food, particularly in the Algarve region, has evolved to include a blend of cultural influences. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Moors occupied this southernmost port at various times during its 3,000-year history. These communities each established trading posts, mined for salt, cultivated spices, fished and introduced a variety of agriculture. As a result, a definitive set of regional dishes emerged, all stemming from various native roots.

Beautiful image, traveler walking, Algarve street, buildings, citrus trees, Portugal.    

Hilton Grand Vacations Owners will soon have the opportunity to taste the region's flavor once Vilar do Golf, a Hilton Vacation Club in Portugal, opens in 2023. The property is located 30 minutes from Faro, a can't-miss town during your Algarve vacation, where you can find these must-sample items mere steps from your Suite.

Keep reading to dig into the specialties you can look forward to enjoying in this vibrant region.


The Moors, who occupied the Algarve most recently, had the largest and longest-lasting impact on the area. Like the Romans who brought olives and grapes, they planted crops that flourish today: almonds, figs and oranges. You can see the far-reaching effects on desserts like the “Queijo de Figo,” a round, compact cake formed from ground figs and almonds. These highly textured, fragrant cakes are both unmistakable and irresistible.

Beautifully plated traditional and delicious Algarvian sweet desserts.    

“Dom Rodrigos,” most commonly found in Tariva in the eastern Algarve, is another cake that uses almonds. Also comprised of eggs, sugar and cinnamon, this sweet is a cross between a cake and a pudding and looks like soft yarn. The sticky and gooey treat is wrapped in a small bag, like a gift. 

Also very sweet, “Doces finos do Algarve” are everywhere in the region. Shaped into vegetables, fruits and animals, these adorable and delicious pieces of marzipan are brightly hued and draw the eye. Nestled into frilly paper cups, they're ideal for the Instagram feed and the palate. Many are elaborate and artistic, and shops try to outdo each other with their designs.


Portuguese food is shaped by its renowned aquaculture, which makes sense given the country's coastline geography.

Restaurants typically serve a multitude of popular fish from the Atlantic:

  • Pargo, “orata” and “dorada” (bream)
  • Garoupoa (grouper)
  • Tamboril (monkfish) and “robala” (sea bass)

But “sardinhas,” or sardines, are a particular delicacy in the Algarve. Usually served grilled, these small, pungent fish are especially noteworthy in Portimão in the Western region. Every August, a festival devoted to sardinhas sets up near the waterfront. Dozens of booths allow locals and visitors alike to sample this regional treat.

Mouthwatering image traditional and delicious Algarvian seafood dish.   

While not everyone loves sardines, almost everyone has heard of them. But this may not be so with “percebes”(sometimes spelled perceves) — goose barnacles. Divers sever them in clusters from underwater rocks, and they look like bony hands from a horror movie. Don't let that deter you. 

Pulled from its tubing and perhaps dipped in butter or just consumed with a squeeze of fresh citrus, the flesh tastes like a cross between a clam and lobster. Funny enough, percebes also means "Do you understand?" in Portuguese, and many diners don't get that goose barnacles are delicious until they try them. Percebes are freshest in the Western and Southern Algarve.

Oysters, of course, are far more familiar to most visitors. But as oyster lovers know, each one takes on the characteristics of the environment in which it grows. The Pacific variety harvested from Moínho dos Ilhéus, located in the Ria Formosa Natural Park, is so good that you'll find it in the finest restaurants. From September to June, you can book an oyster-tasting tour to see the farming process and taste these oysters in their natural habitat.         

Other Algarve Food Specialties

Idyllic beach scene, colorful row boats along shore, Portimão, Portugal.    

One of Algarve local cuisine staples is “cataplana” — a name for both a stew and the dish in which the stew cooks. Descended from the Moorish tagine, the traditional vessel is round and opens into two flat sides joined by a hinge, much like a large clam shell. (Some more modern versions offer different designs.) 

The cataplana first allows the chef to sauté and simmer and then close up to steam food. The most well-known cataplana — referring to the stew — is made with clams (‘amêijoas na cataplana’), tomatoes and peppers. Still, other ingredients might include prawns, oysters, monkfish, cod, octopus and “chouriço” sausages.

That sausage, variously called “chouriço,” “chouriças” and “enchidos,” is a specialty of the inner Algarve. A holdover from Roman times, the chopped pork and pork fat is liberally spiced with paprika and garlic and then stuffed into casings — which may be natural, made from intestines, or artificial. The sausage is then fermented, dried and smoked. Chouriças are spicy or “dulce” (sweet), but both ways are indispensable in Portuguese cuisine, often used as the main ingredient or as a flavoring agent.

Traditional Algarvian dish, “piri-piri” chicken.    

Speaking of spice, “piri-piri” chicken is a sought-after item in the port town on Guia. This dish is also renowned in African countries such as Mozambique, where Portuguese sailors brought the bird pepper.

Piri-piri chicken drips with hot sauce as it barbecues until the poultry falls off the bones. Mouthwateringly delicious, it's just the right way to satiate a growling stomach after a day spent in the salty sea air.

Of course, nationally heralded Portuguese food specialties like “bacalhau” (salt cod) and “pasteis de nata” (egg custard) are also available throughout the Algarve. You'll encounter them wherever you go during your Algarve vacation. Vilar do Golf puts you into the heart of this incredible region, where you can eat to your heart's content. 

Read “5 Unconventional NYC Pizzerias You’ll Love” for more foodie-inspired travel ideas.


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The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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