With an incredible coastline, a long heritage of fishing industry, and an impressive culinary scene. There is simply so much choice when it comes to fish and shellfish in Portugal. It might be one of our favourite things about the local Portuguese markets, a wide variety of fresh fish available daily. However, there is one considerable problem we’ve faced many times. Whether it is browsing a menu or shopping for fish, sometimes it’s tricky to translate them. It’s not a simple job either. In some cases the fish are simply a different species to what you can find in your home country. So in some cases there isn’t always a translation, but there will be a learning experience, and something tasty.
Where to Buy Fish and Seafood in Portugal
The absolute best place to buy seafood will be in your local fish market – if you have one nearby. If not, then it might be worth travelling to one if it’s not too far. These will have an exceptional range of fish which is usually exceptionally fresh and caught the same day. Our favourite fish market is in either Loulé or in Olhão. Nearly all of the traditional fishing towns with a harbour will have a fish market somewhat close, so you know you’re getting fresh fish and supporting local industry. Most of these markets open from around 8am to around 12ish, or when they simply sell all of their fish stock. If you’re savvy, then a stroll through a fish market after 12 can result in some exceptional bargains as the vendors try to get rid of the stock that’s left. We’ve bought a kilo of sardines for as little as €2 before.
Fresh Seafood in Supermarkets
If you don’t have a market nearby, then you’ll be able to find a wide variety in your local supermarkets. Nearly all of the major supermarkets in Portugal sell a selection of fresh fish and shellfish at fish counters. It’s a really nice part of Portuguese shopping that’s unfortunately disappearing in many supermarkets abroad. They’ll also have a large choice available frozen as well. The frozen variety is especially good for soups, stews, and broths, and will keep in your own freezer for a while. We’ve been consistently told Pingo Doce have the best fish counters of the supermarket chains. I haven’t been able to confirm it, but the rumors are that Pingo Doce maintain their own fishing fleet and supply lines direct to their supermarkets so it’s not only fresh but has high-quality control. As opposed to the other national brands that simply by their fish wholesale from both national and international sources. It’s unconfirmed for now, but it’s what several locals have shared with me on more than one occasion.
Common Types of Fish you Can Find in Portugal
These are the most common types of fish you’ll see on menus and at the fish monger. They’re listed in alphabetical order for both languages for easy reading and reference! If you’re trying to work out what fish you’re eating or being sold, then take a look at the alphabetical list in Portuguese. If you’re trying to find a particular type of fish and you know the name in English, take a look at the list in English. Simple!
English to Portuguese Translations of Fish in Portugal
|English > Portuguese|
|Black Scabbardfish – Peixe-Espada-Preto|
|Chub Mackerel – Cavala|
|Cod – Bacalhau Fresco|
|Common Seabream / Red Porgy – Pargo|
|Croaker – Corvina|
|Grouper – Garoupa|
|Guilt-head Bream – Dourada|
|Hake – Pescada|
|Horse Mackerel – Carapau|
|Monkfish – Tamboril|
|Perch – Perca|
|Rays – Raia|
|Red Mullet – Salmonete|
|Red Sea Bream – Imperador|
|Salmon – Salmão|
|Salt Cod – Bacalhau|
|Sardine – Sardinhas|
|Sea Bass – Robalo|
|Sole – Linguado|
|Swordfish – Espadarte|
|Tuna – Atum|
|White Sea Bream – Sargo|
Portuguese to English Translations of Fish in Portugal
|Portuguese > English|
|Atum – Tuna|
|Bacalhau – Salt Cod|
|Bacalhau Fresco – Cod|
|Carapau – Horse Mackerel|
|Cavala – Chub Mackerel|
|Corvina – Croaker|
|Dourada – Guilt-head Bream|
|Espadarte – Swordfish|
|Garoupa – Grouper|
|Imperador – Red Sea Bream|
|Linguado – Sole|
|Pargo – Common Seabream / Red Porgy|
|Peixe-Espada-Preto – Black Scabbardfish|
|Perca – Perch|
|Pescada – Hake|
|Raia – Ray|
|Robalo – Sea Bass|
|Salmão – Salmon|
|Salmonete – Red Mullet|
|Sardinhas – Sardine|
|Sargo – White Sea Bream|
|Tamboril – Monkfish|
Shellfish and Molluscs in Portugal
These are the most common shellfish and molluscs you’ll see on menus and in fish markets in Portugal. Once again organised alphabetically in both English and Portuguese for reference.
|English > Portuguese||Portuguese > English|
|Brown Crab – Sapateira||Amêijoas – Clams|
|Clams – Amêijoas||Cockles – Berbigão|
|Cockles – Berbigão||Camarão – Shrimp|
|Cuttlefish – Choco||Choco – Cuttlefish|
|Donax Clam – Conquilhas||Conquilhas – Donax Clam|
|Gooseneck Barnacles – Percebes||Lapa – Limpets|
|Limpets – Lapa||Lavagante – Lobster|
|Lobster – Lavagante||Lingueirão – Razor Clam|
|Mussels – Mexilhões||Lula – Squid|
|Octopus – Polvo||Mexilhões – Mussels|
|Oyster – Ostra||Ostra – Oysters|
|Razor Clam – Lingueirão||Percebes – Gooseneck Barnacles|
|Shrimp – Camarão||Polvo – Octopus|
|Spider Crab – Santola||Santola – Spider Crab|
|Squid – Lula||Sapateira – Brown Crab|
Helpful Phrases When Ordering and Asking for Fish and Seafood in Portugal
What’s the catch of the day? Qual o peixe mais fresco de hoje?
Was this caught locally? Este peixe foi pescado na região?
What’s the best way to cook this? Qual a melhor forma de preparar este peixe?
What does this go well with? Qual o melhor acompanhamento para este peixe?
Dried fish? What’s Bacalhau all About?
If you’ve looked around the fish markets, and the fish section of the supermarkets you’ll usually always find, see, and smell Bacalhau. Bacalhau simply translates to cod, but in this context it always refers to the dried and salted kind of cod. It’s a very popular food item in Portugal and has a rumoured 1000 ways of serving. If you’re interested in reading more about Bacalhau, and finding out ways to prepare it, read our guide to Bacalhau here!
Whether it’s simple grilled sardines, or a dish like bacalhau com natas, there are so many recipes and types of fish to try in Portugal. Hopefully this handy guide will help you choose what fish you’ll buy, and how to buy it! Let us know in the comments what you’ve favourite recipes are!