You might have heard of Evora, one of the most beautifully preserved medieval towns in Portugal with its fascinating historical monuments.
Did you also know that Evora, capital of the Alentejo region, is a must-visit for food lovers in Portugal?
Alentejo food is one of the richest and most original in Portugal. This unique cuisine has developed from the creativity of the poor rural farmers and natural ingredients from the land.
Nothing goes to waste in Alentejo cuisine. Entire animals are cooked and used fully – from the pig’s nose to its tail. You’ll find pig ears, cheeks or chicken brains on Evora restaurant menus.
Known as the breadbasket of Portugal, you’ll find delicious wines, olive oil, cheese, Alentejo bread and the famous black Portuguese pork.
Alentejo is considered to be Portugal’s most authentic and picturesque region. Évora, the capital, is the ideal place to explore Alentejo cuisine.
Here are the top 10 reasons why Alentejo food in Evora is a must experience for travelers.
1- Things to Do, Eat & Drink In Evora – A Surprising Medieval City
A City Gem to Taste Alentejo Food
Evora is a historic city in the heart of Alentejo and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors are drawn to Évora for its Roman ruins, Moorish forts and cultural monuments enclosed within the 14th-century medieval walls.
With gourmet and traditional restaurants, pastry and wine shops as well as a local farmers market, you will have many options to taste Alentejo food in Evora.
Discover the medieval city as you walk off the delicious Alentejo food. Take a break at Giraldo Square where all the streets converge.
Soak in the sun and adopt the relaxed Alentejo pace.
Things to Do in Evora
Across the local farmers market, don’t miss the unusual Capela dos Ossos, or Chapel of Bones, at the Church of San Francisco.
This striking chapel is made entirely of human bones and skulls. It was used by the monks as a meditative place reflecting about life.
Not far is the pleasant Jardim Publico where you can visit the Royal Palace of Évora.
Further in town and next to Enoteca Cartuxa wines, you will see the vestiges of the impressive Roman Temples also called Templo de Diana.
Continue down the street to visit Santa Maria Cathedral, the largest Cathedral in Portugal.
As you walk through downtown Evora to your next wine tasting, you will notice the reminiscence of the Moorish invasion at the Palace of the Condes de Basto.
2- Favorite Alentejo Food – World Famous Black Pork
The Alentejo pig breed known as porco preto or black pig is one of the most renowned ingredients in Alentejo cuisine. What makes the flavors so exceptional is that fact that the pigs are allowed to roam freely in the countryside eating acorns of the cork and holm oak trees.
These pigs are most commonly known as Iberico pigs (the Spanish name for them) and their ham, Jamon Iberico de Bellota is one of the most expensive cured ham in the world.
What most people don’t know, is that not all of this pork is from Spain. Many of the pigs are actually raised in Portugal, in the Alentejo region feeding on the same acorns from Cork and Holm Oak trees.
Black pork, also known as raca Alentejana, is a speciality found only in the Alentejo region. This ham is protected under the designation Protected Designation of Origin (DOP).
Porco preto is a favorite food and Evora restaurants have black pork on their menu. You’ll find it in dishes like plumas or secretos, which is pork shoulder. You can buy it from the butcher or enjoy it at a restaurant as slices of presunto (ham). And, you can also find it in traditional sausages like paiola.
The meat takes on flavors second to none. The texture is unbelievable the Portuguese black pork just melts in your mouth. It is truly amazing.
Related: The 5amêndoas Restaurante, an award-winning restaurant at the Vitória Stone Hotel is known for their exceptional black Portuguese pork.
Read more in our article The Best Evora Hotel to Immerse Yourself in the Alentejo Cuisine
3- Alentejano Bread – A Staple of Alentejo Food
Alentejano bread or Pão Alentejano is the base of Alentejo cuisine. With its distinct shape, a round base with a head, you cannot miss this rustic bread on the bakery shelves.
Made with wheat flour from Alentejo and traditional yeast, it must be cooked in a wood-burning oven to be authentic. It has a unique very slight acid flavor.
The inside is dense while the crust is thick and crispy. And, it can weigh anywhere from 2.0 to 3.5 pounds.
Traditionally, this bread was bought to last a whole week. It is eaten in the form of soups, such as açordas or migas. Used either mashed and sliced it is found in almost all the regional soups.
You can also have it served with cheese, olive oil and Portuguese ham, making for a wonderful appetizer or meal.
To buy Alentejano bread, head to the nearest market or local bakery.
4- Açorda and Migas – the Most Surprising Alentejo Food in Evora
One of the most recognizable Alentejo foods are the açordas or sopas de pão which translates to bread stew or bread soup.
With an Arab heritage, açordas are usually made with coriander or pennyroyal (herb in the mint family) old bread, olive oil, garlic, salt, and water. This is the basis for all açordas. Depending on the season or wealth, different ingredients can be added to the stew.
One popular style, Açorda á Alentejana is prepared as a soup with large pieces of bread mixed with garlic, cilantro and a poached egg in broth. In the Summer, açorda goes well with grilled or fried sardines, ripe figs, white grapes or celery cut into thick sticks.
Another dish also made from bread and exclusively from Alentejo is Migas. These are breadcrumbs that are fried in butter and typically served with pork ribs, cod or choriço.
There is also a sweet version of Migas called Migas Doces, made with cinnamon, egg yolks, and sugar.
5- Exceptional Dogfish Soup – A Signature Alentejo Food
Alentejo is the largest region of Portugal covering one-third of the country. It borders Spain and goes all the way to the sea, Evora in the past, had limited access to fresh fish as it took days for the fish to get to people’s homes.
With its thick skin, the cação or dogfish was the only fish that stayed fresh after a couple days of transportation.
The Sopa de cacao or dogfish soup is a very popular Alentejo food. This fish soup is made with flour, bread and “spiced” with coriander, a common herb in Portuguese cooking as well as olive oil.
The fish soup is very hearty and filling which can be eaten as a main dish by itself. You can taste an excellent Sopa de cação at Cafe Alentejo.
Read our full review of Cafe Alentejo: Spotlight the Best Authentic Evora Restaurant
6– Award Winning Portuguese Olive Oils
Alentejo is the most important growing region for olive oil in Portugal. Almost two thirds of Portuguese olive oil is produced in Alentejo. The olive oil from Alentejo is protected under the designation Protected Designation of Origin (DOP).
There are several varieties of olive oil and the flavors vary from the north of Alentejo to the interior of the region. The main olive varieties are Galega, Cobrançosa, Cordovil, Verdeal, and Madural.
There is never a meal in Portugal without olive oil. It is a vital ingredient in Alentejo food and found on every dinner table. Many meals are cooked in a generous amount of olive oil.
Paired with Alentejo bread, you have the perfect start to savoring Alentejo food.
7- Taste Delicious Artisanal Evora Cheese
The Queijo de Ovelha or Sheep milk cheese is a common sight at the local farmers market in Évora. The shape is traditional, small and round with a golden crust.
Like the olive oil, the cheese is also protected under the designation Protected Designation of Origin (DOP).
The production of the cheese typically starts in November and runs until April, when the milk production is at its highest.
Unpasteurized, the cheese can be eaten fresh or aged. When eaten fresh, it has a light salty taste with a slightly crumbled texture on the inside.
Older cheese typically age for six to nine months and are dense and dry, and the taste is surprisingly softer.
Thistle flower is used to coagulate the milk imparting a fresh herbal character to the cheese.
As the cheese ages, the flavors become more strong and more distinct.
Evora Cheese is often served before the meal with olive oil and Alentejano bread as part of. When paired with the Alentejo wines, you delight in Evora food.
8 – Appreciate Aromatic Portuguese Herbs in Alentejo Food
The essence of Alentejo cuisine is very much in harmony with the cycles of nature. The cuisine is rural and simple and transformed with herbs like coriander, pennyroyal, mint, thyme, bay leaves, and oregano.
In the Spring, wild herbs like thistle, sorrell, and wild asparagus make for delicious seasonal dishes. The Summer brings an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, beans as well as a variety of fresh fruits.
In the Fall and Winter seasons, the food turns to meat, with hunting in the Fall and pig in the Winter months.
Herbs are used in Alentejo food and also used to infuse liquors and Evora cheese.
Visiting Alentejo is a culinary journey into the seasonal and local produce. Expect an explosion of flavors and gain an appreciation for new tastes.
And above all, delight in what’s in season.
9 – Sample Smooth Alentejo Wines from Indigenous Grapes
In 2014, USA Today, selected Portugal’s Alentejo region as the #1 Best Wine Region to Visit in the world. The wineries, known locally as Herdades, are part of the culture and a must visit in Alentejo.
By following the Rota dos Vinhos do Alentejo you can visit over 60 wineries and take tours of the vineyards, wine tasting and indulge in the local cuisine.
There are numerous vineyards in Alentejo and their history goes back to the Middle Ages. The Romans are said to have influenced and developed viticulture and winemaking in the region.
Portugal has the second largest number of indigenous grape varieties not found in other parts of the world. A large number of these indigenous grape varieties are found in Alentejo and they impart a strong regional distinctive character to the wines.
In Evora, you can sample local Alentejo wines at several places. Start at the Wines of Alentejo Tasting Room where you can taste free samples of the local wines as well as pick up a map of Alentejo’s wine route.
At Adega Ervideira, an exclusive family-owned winery, you will be warmly welcomed and served generous tastings of their delicious Ervideira wines.
Cartuxa, one of the oldest wineries in Alentejo produces some of the best wines from the region. Their Cellar Shop in the city also has a restaurant section. You can either sample wines at the bar or enjoy a meal accompanied by a selection of Cartuxa Evora wines.
10- Queijada de Evora and other Delightful Portuguese Desserts
The variety of sweets, desserts, and cakes in Alentejo is immense. Some of the popular regional treats not to miss are the Bolo Real or Royal Cake, Queijinho do Céu, little cakes with an almond, marzipan and egg cream filling.
And one of our favorites, Queijada de Evora, similar to the delectable cakes we discovered while eating our way through Sintra.
Find many of these local sweets at the pastry shop, Pastelaria Conventual Pão de Rala in Evora.
One of the most unusual desserts we tried is the Pastel de Toucinho, which translates into bacon pastry or pork pastry.
This Portuguese dessert comes from the use of the entire animal, a practice that defines Alentejo food. Loaded with sugar and a smooth creamy texture, the slight pork taste is felt only at the very end.
In Portugal, Evora may not be as famous as Lisbon or Porto. However, it is a destination that should be on every food lovers list.
Alentejo food offers a truly authentic experience where the local products are enhanced by the taste and flavors of spices and herbs.
The dishes reflect the creativity of the people as well as the cultural and regional bounds. Evora food is good and can be described as honest food.
With these top 10 reasons to visit Evora, we hope we have opened your appetite to taste Alentejo and the food in Evora for yourself.
Have you been to Alentejo, Portugal? What Evora food surprised you the most? Please let us know in the comments below.
Savor the Adventure!
Our visit to Évora was supported by the Visit Alentejo Tourism Board. Opinions expressed in this article are always our own.
Where to Stay in Evora – Vitoria Stone Hotel
Born out of an immense passion for genuine Alentejo, the Vitoria Stone Hotel, where we stayed, is rooted in tradition with a sophisticated side. The bold architecture integrates the use of the local materials of granite and cork, in a very tasteful manner.
The award-winning restaurant 5amêndoas Restaurante, serves exceptional Alentejo food in Évora. The ingredients are sourced from small regional producers and they include the very best of Alentejo cheese, olive oil, meat, bread, wine and more.
Located just 200 meters from the outer walls of Évora, Vitoria Stone Hotel is the perfect location to explore the city and the region.
Lisbon to Evora – How to Get to Evora from Lisbon
There are four main ways to get from Lisbon to Evora. They are all convenient and it really depends on how much time you plan to spend in Evora. If your dates are not fixed, we recommend spending at least one or two nights as there is plenty to explore in the region.
From Lisbon to Evora by Train
From Lisbon’s Oriente station, you can take the train which also takes about 1.5 hours. This is the option we took and we enjoyed having the space and the ease of train travel.
We recommend booking your tickets in advance at Comboios de Portugal. One way ticket prices range €12.40 to €16.50 depending on whether you book 1st or 2nd class tickets.
In Evora, the train will drop you at a station that is within walking distance to the medieval city
From Lisbon to Evora by Bus
From Lisbon, you can take the bus from either Lisbon’s Sete Rios bus station or Lisbon Oriente bus station. The Rede Expressos buses depart frequently and they trip from Lisbon to Evora takes about 1.5 hours.
The cost one-way is €11.90 per person. The drop off in Evora is also walking distance to the city.
From Lisbon to Evora on a Tour
With a local guide, you will visit the most important sites in Evora. After a Portuguese lunch, you will stop for an Alentejo wine tasting and visit a nearby village.
From Lisbon to Evora by Car
Driving time from Lisbon to Evora will take about one hour 15 minutes. The distance is about 135 km or 85 miles. When you rent a car in Portugal, be aware that the majority of rental cars are manual transmissions. If you want a car with automatic transmission, reserve one in advance.
Bridges and highways charge tolls. At the car rental station, get a transponder and pre-pay €10 euros for toll charges. When you get to Evora, park your car outside the city walls (or at the hotel parking) and explore Evora on foot. And don’t forget about travel insurance.
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Claire is a culinary explorer who travels the world in search of the best local foods. She is always looking for her next culinary adventure to bring you the best bites while exploring new places.