Sea delicacies you must try in the Algarve

Algarve region has taken advantage of its position towards the Atlantic for a long time. People gained a lot from the close relation with the ocean and to what it was able to provide to them. It is only normal that here, and in Portugal in general, there is more fish consumption per capita than the European countries average. We would be crazy if we would not do it, right? This long and intricate coastline is full of different varieties of fish and seafood to choose from. Also, up to these days, many typical dishes in the region are prepared with the same processes and elements that they once were. Each ingredient was and should be respected and the waste avoided to the maximum.

This list contains some of the sea delicacies that most of the locals appreciate to have on their tables. This is not an exhaustive list, but I tried to go for a representative selection, moving from Algarve’s West coast towards the East coast.

Gooseneck Barnacles (Percebes)

Hoy, percebes...

Gooseneck Barnacles, in Portuguese, Percebes, are the gold of the Atlantic. The fact that they aren’t always available, together with the fact that people actually risk their life to harvest them are factors that make them an even more desired product. There are a good amount of people from the southwest coast that live from the sea, including from the gooseneck barnacle harvest, since it is a product that people are willing to pay good money for.  They are at their best during the winter season and the bigger they are, the better. This is not a type of seafood you can find everywhere because they can only be found in areas where the waters are cold, wavy and rich in plankton. It is a real luxury to have a product like this around. They are cooked simply in boiling salted water, sometimes people even boil them directly in sea water. Tasting gooseneck barnacles it is like tasting the sea.

Where to find: Mostly found in small pubs and restaurants between Odeceixe, Aljezur, Sagres, Vila do Bispo up until Lagos.

Fried Moray (Moreia)

Moreia Frita

Fried moray is another petisco (tapas) typical from the southwest coast. The moray is open and sun-dried with skin on (ideally), then it is fried and served. Usually, it is either served as a sandwich or in bite sized pieces with some bread slices. It might seem a bit odd or even not the most presentable dish, but it a real treat.

Where to find: Usually found in small pubs and restaurants between Odeceixe, Aljezur, Sagres, Vila do Bispo up until Lagos.

Mussels (Mexilhão)


Mussels and Eggs

Like Gooseneck barnacles, mussels are also very common to find in the Vicentine Coast, therefore, there are many people harvesting them to make a living in this area. Usually the most common way to eat them is sauteed in a bit of olive oil, white wine and garlic. The final touch is just a squeeze of lemon juice on top of it, this will help to balance the dish richness. The mussels are also used as the basis of many local dishes, they give that extra ocean taste to rice, pasta, corn flour (Xerém) dishes or even in the famous Cataplana. The strangest pairing that I tried them with was in the middle of scrambled eggs and it was delicious.

Where to find: Usually found in small pubs and restaurants between Odeceixe, Aljezur, Sagres, Vila do Bispo up until Lagos.

Fish Eggs (Ovas)

If you visit any fish market in the Algarve you will for sure find fish eggs. We cook those big fish eggs and serve them sliced in cold salads along with the usual chopped onions, garlic and maybe some potatoes. They are usually served as simple starter or as petisco.

Where to find: A bit all over the Algarve coast.

Conquilha Clams and Regular Clams (Conquilhas e Amêijoas)


Clams, conquilha clams or regular clam varieties, can be found a bit all over the Algarve. Most traditional dishes using Conquilha clam variety can be found in Lagos, here they also go by the name of “Condelipas” recalling the name of their great fan, the Count Lipe. Usually, they are simply sauteed, but they can also be found in the base of local soups, in the Cataplana or in Xerém.

Where to find: Can be found a bit all over the Algarve coastal cities.

Razor Clams (Lingueirão)

Razor clams can be simply sauteed and served as a starter or as a main dish, for instance in the  form of Razor Clam rice. This rice is meant to be creamy, moist and have a delicate sea flavour finally balanced with the freshness of some coriander leafs.

Where to find: Mostly found in Olhão and Tavira areas.

Sauteed Cuttlefish Eggs (Ovas de Choco)


Cuttlefish eggs are hard to find, mainly because you need a good quantity of cuttlefish to turn their eggs into a meal, but they are totally worth searching for. In some restaurants or in some fish markets, especially in Olhão area, these amazing delicacies. The product is usually so fresh that they should be simply sauteed with a bit of olive oil, garlic, white wine and topped with coriander. This orange tone doesn’t come from the tomato sauce, the eggs themselves contain a small pocket of a red coloured caviar-like goodness that colours the sauce.

Where to find: It can be found mainly in Olhão area (markets and restaurants) or in other fish markets (by previous request).


Muxama de Atum

Muxama, as many people describe it, is the prosciutto of the sea. A prosciutto made from cured tuna instead of pork. This is something typical from Tavira, the east part of the Algarve, closer to the spanish border. In this particular area, the local economy used to be based on the fishing industry, mostly tuna fishing.  Muxama is made from  a salted tuna fillet that is then dried, using a technique that was left in the region by the arabs more than 2000 years ago. The product was mainly consumed by the fisherman class in times of food shortage. Nowadays, it is produced in very small quantities, which makes it a gourmet product. It is served thinly sliced, sometimes paired with orange, tomato, or even dried almonds and a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil .

Where to find: Commonly found in the east part of the Algarve, namely Tavira.

Oysters (Ostras)

Estavam deliciosas!

Close to the Spanish border, in the small village of Cacela Velha you can find great oysters coming from this natural protected area, the Ria Formosa park. Some of these take up to 4 years to reach the right size to be consumed and obviously are not available in big quantities. If you are a fan of oysters, than this is the place to visit. The view from here it is actually a pretty good reason to visit it too.

Where to find: Cacela Velha.

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