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This Portuguese acorda recipe combines the classic Portuguese bread soup with shrimp, making a version of acorda, called açorda de camarão. A traditional soup from Alentejo, its hearty, full of flavor and comes together easily in under 30 minutes.
What is Acorda Alentejana?
Açorda Alentejana is a typical soup from Alentejo, a region in southeastern Portugal. The name means bread soup. And it is a traditional soup that made us of left over stale bread.
What’s interesting about this Portuguese bread soup is that it is not cooked. Instead, the flavors come together when different ingredients are mingled together,
Açorda à Alentejana is widely enjoyed throughout Portugal. Recipes vary across the region and from family to family.
The key ingredients of acorda are stale bread, water, Portuguese olive oil from Alentenjo and cilantro or coriander.
Garlic, salt and freshly ground black pepper are the main seasonings. And, a poached egg is added right at the end.
This acorda recipe adds shrimp to the dish for a açorda de camarão version.
History of Acorda Alentejana Recipe
Açorda à Alentejana is a very popular Portuguese bread soup from the Alentejo region.
Considered the “breadbasket” of Portugal, the region covers about 30% of the country.
This traditional dish with a humble beginning was developed from the creativity of poor rural farmers.
The basic available ingredients traditionally used were olive oil, garlic, salt, boiling water and cut up pieces of old bread.
Aromatic herbs like cilantro or coriander were added alongside poached eggs or pork pieces.
The origins of the açorda are said to go back to the times of the Moorish occupation of the Portuguese territory.
Portuguese culinary researchers believe the açorda is an evolution of Moorish bread soups.
Over time, new varieties of have emerged with the addition of ingredients like shrimp, bacalhau for açorda de bacalhau and others.
For this acorda recipe, we are adding shrimp for an açorda de camarão version or acorda with shrimp.
Discovering Açorda à Alentejana in Portugal
In a home cooking class in Lisbon, we had the fortunate opportunity to have Cristina as our host.
Originally, from the Alentejo region of Portugal, she was excited to teach us how to make a traditional dish from her hometown.
Together, in her beautifully tiled Portuguese kitchen, we learned to make açorda à alentejana.
As we cooked we learned about the history of the dish.
Cristina added shrimp to the dish, though she told us “ it was traditionally eaten with pork or nothing at all.”
Olive oil and especially olive oil from Alentejo, we learned was one of the most important ingredients.
This was followed closely by cilantro or coriander, which she added “gives it a very distinct flavor.”
The açorda, with a risotto-like texture, was hearty and full of flavor. The shrimp added a nice contrast to the texture and taste.
Each spoonful into the stunning dense soup was a bite into a much loved traditional Portuguese soup.
Acorda Recipe – How To Make Portuguese Bread Soup at home
We’ll use the main ingredients of the original Alentejo açorda recipe, which are rustic bread, olive oil, garlic, eggs, salt, pepper and chili flakes.
We’ll add shrimp to make the shrimp acorda or açorda de camarão version
- Rustic bread (if possible use pão alentejano)
- Large or medium size shrimp
- Portuguese extra virgin olive oil
- Garlic cloves
- 2 eggs
- Fresh cilantro or coriander
- Chili flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: This acorda recipe comes to life with delicious and quality shrimp. Use these all-natural sourced large shrimp that are peeled, deveined with the tail removed. Containing no chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, or preservatives, enjoy flavorful firm shrimp.
Acorda Recipe Tips
Prepare More like Porridge than Soup
This açorda à alentejana recipe is prepared thick like a porridge and less like a broth based soup. To make this meal thick, you want to first cut bread into small pieces to make to make it easier to absorb the water.
One tip we learned in our cooking class in Libson, is to use only the inside of the bread. In general, the hard crust is not used for the recipe.
The soft interior of the bread offers a smooth soup-like consistency.
Be sure to soak all the small pieces of bread in water. Stir the mixture while it is still wet and leave it for a few minutes to absorb all the water.
If you need more water, add it a little at a time to avoid your dish from becoming too runny.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Check our other Portuguese recipe Bacalhau a Lagareiro Recipe: How to Make Cod Fish Lagareiro-Style
Use Portuguese Olive Oil
Olive oil is an indispensable ingredient in Portuguese cuisine. It is used as a dip for bread, splashed over grilled fish, basted over pork chops, used to season potatoes, vegetables and more. It’s difficult to find a dish on a Portuguese menu that hasn’t seen olive oil.
Considered the “Queen of Condiments”, olive oil has long occupied a prominent place in Portuguese culture.
And in this acorda recipe, you want to use Portuguese olive oil in generous amounts, like the Portuguese do.
In this recipe, we use olive oil to cook the shrimp, sautee the garlic and prepare the dish for serving by stirring in olive oil at the end.
Cilantro or Coriander – An Acorda Recipe Key Ingredient
Herbs and specifically, cilantro or coriander, we learned in our cooking class is key for this acorda recipe.
The cilantro leaves offer refreshing flavors and add a nice contrast to the savory garlic and shrimp flavors.
So important to this acorda recipe, that Cristina told us, “if you don’t have coriander, don’t make açorda”. It’s the cilantro or coriander that gives açorda, its distinctive taste.
Bread for Acorda – Pão Alentejano
The Alentejo region, a major grain producer, is famous for Alentejano bread or Pão Alentejano.
This traditional bread, with a large lump that pops out of the top of the bread when baked. It is an important ingredient in several Alentejo dishes and appreciated throughout the country for its quality.
The dough contains wheat flour, water, salt and yeast, and is traditionally baked in a wood burning oven.
The crust is thick, lightly toasted and dusted with flour. The crumb or inside is dense, white, fluffy and moist. The bread can weigh from 2 to 3 lbs or 1 to 1.5 kg.
Getting access to Alentejo bread outside of Portugal is difficult. Use a rustic bread for this recipe instead.
Different Acorda Styles or Recipe Variations
Today in Portugal, you’ll find many versions or variations of the açorda recipe.
- Açorda de bacalhau – one of the most popular variations is acorda with codfish or açorda de bacalhau. Codfish is an important part of Portuguese gastronomy and the acorda uses boneless cod into the soup.
- Açorda de camarão – the acorda de camarao or shrimp acorda, is another popular version found throughout the country. This açorda de camarão or sometimes referred to as açorda de gambas recipe is easy to make at home.
- Acorda de mariscos – around the coastal regions of Portugal, people add seafood to their meals. When it comes to acorda, the popular seafood acorda version is acorda de mariscos. It usually includes clams, mussels, cockles and other seafood.
Acorda Recipe Step by Step Instructions
Prepare Bread And Shrimps
Cut the bread into pieces and add them to a large bowl. Add water and stir so that bread absorbs all the water.
Cook shrimp in skillet with olive oil. Add freshly ground pepper, salt for seasoning and set aside.
- Cut the inside of the rustic bread into pieces and place in a large bowl. Pour in just enough water and soak the bread. Mix with a spoon until all pieces of bread have water . Let the mixture stand for a few minutes for the bread to absorb the water.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat with 3 tablespoons of Portuguese olive oil. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes on each sides until the shrimp turns from translucent to opaque. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Set aside.
- In another pan, pour in the remaining olive oil oil over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add in the drained bread and mix until all the olive oil is soaked up. You may need to add a little more. Turn down the heat to low and stir. Cook for about 10 minutes until you have a dense porridge-like soup. Add more water if necessary.
- Add some salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste. Toss in some chopped coriander or cilantro and mix. Cook for a few more minutes.
- Set aside some shrimp to use as garnish before serving. Add the rest of the shrimp to the mixture, stirring continiously. Crack an egg and pour the egg yolk over the hot Portuguese bread soup. The egg yolk will cook slightly but not all the way through.
- Serve the açorda alentejana in bowls and garnish with the left over shrimp.
- Serve immediately and enjoy while still hot
- Be sure not to overcook the shrimp as they will become tough and shrink. You will start to notice a pinkish color when they are cooked. Cook for approximately 2 minutes on each side in oil over medium heat.
- If you prefer, you can also cook the shrimp in water instead of olive oil. In this case, cook the shrimp in a pot of boiling water for about 2 to 2 ½ minutes.
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Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
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