a close up of food on a table

Discover the Douro in Five Recipes

The Douro River weaves through the fertile landscapes of Portugal’s mountainous north, passing towns and villages untouched by the passage of time. Here, local people stay true to a traditional way of life, and one that values an authentic and time-honoured approach to regional cuisine.

Port wine may be the greatest export of the Douro Valley, but the locals treasure their food, too. This rural region is rich with provincial farmsteads offering fresh produce at the roadside, and many people rely on these farmers, shepherds and artisans to enjoy fresh, local food each day.

As well as these regional producers, the native cuisine of the Douro is still heavily influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. In fishing villages like Afurada and Angeiras, local fisherman can still be seen gathering their day’s catch, with hauls of sardines, mackerel, tuna, hake and bacalhau (cod) making their way to the food and produce markets of Porto and Regua.

Here at Emerald Cruises, we believe a region’s culinary legacy can reveal lots about its culture, traditions and way of life. We also know that, for many of our guests, sampling local food is one of the great joys of a luxury river cruise. So, with this in mind, here we take a tour of the Douro in five delicious recipes — providing step-by-step instructions so you can recreate each dish at home.


Originating from the Beira Litoral Province of the Douro Valley in the 19th century, Chanfana is a Portuguese stew comprising of roasted goat, bacon, vegetables and typical Portuguese seasonings like paprika, bay leaves and ground black pepper.


Legend has it, Chanfana was created during the French conquest of Portugal in 1810, when local people were forced to eat old goats after their livestock was pillaged by the invaders. To ensure the meat was tender, it was braised in a red wine broth with herbs, spices and vegetables for several hours before serving.

Today, Chanfana is enjoyed across Portugal but remains a typical dish of the Douro Valley, where it’s traditionally served in a clay pot from Olho Marinho. Our recipe follows the traditional version of the dish, but you can add or remove certain elements to suit your tastes.

Serves: 8. Prep Time: 30 Mins. Cook Time: 4 Hours.


  • A handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1tsp of paprika
  • 2tsp black pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1tbsp of lard
  • 100ml of olive oil
  • 125g bacon
  • 3kg of goat
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1l of red wine


  1. Cut the goat into medium-sized pieces (or have your butcher do it for you), before seasoning it with the herbs and spices. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day before you plan to serve the Chanfana.
  2. In a large earthenware or cast-iron pot, add the seasoned goat meat, bacon and onions. Next, add enough good quality red wine (preferably Portuguese) to the pot so it just covers the meat. If possible, refrigerate this for an additional 24 hours.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 250°C for at least half an hour. Then, reduce the heat back down to 180°C. Place the pot in the oven and allow it to cook slowly for around 4 hours, making sure to check that it doesn’t need topping up with wine.
  4. After 4 hours, the Chanfana will be ready. For a perfectly balanced dish, serve with boiled potatoes and a hunk of homemade bread.

Cozido à Portuguesa

Like many of Europe’s rural regions, the people of the Douro Valley historically relied on affordable, easy-to-prepare meals that required no specialist ingredients or equipment to cook and prepare. One such dish is the legendary Cozido à Portuguesa, a traditional stew which has existed since Roman times, and has become a staple of Portuguese home cookery from the Douro to the Tagus.


Traditionally, Cozido à Portuguesa was a peasant dish made using leftovers, scrap cuts of meat and any other ingredients people could get their hands on. Recently, however, the dish has experienced something of a renaissance, with top restaurants now serving their own version of this historic classic. A true ‘winter warmer’, Portuguese families often serve this dish during the colder months, when the temperatures drop on the Douro’s exposed mountainsides.

As a one-pot dish, Cozido is very simple to prepare and make, but requires a long cook time. Here’s how to prepare this regional favourite.

Serves: 6. Prep Time: 20 Mins. Cook Time: 1 hour.


  • 500g beef
  • 350g pig ear
  • 500g pork spare ribs
  • 500g pig forefoot
  • 1 meat sausage
  • 1 flour sausage
  • 1 black pudding
  • 3 carrot
  • 6 medium-sized potatoes
  • 3 turnips
  • 1 Portuguese cabbage
  • 500g rice
  • Salt


  1. Season the beef and pork with salt, before adding to a large saucepan. Add enough boiling water to cover the meat, before allowing to boil until cooked through.
  2. Once the meat is cooked, transfer to a preheated oven to keep warm (at around 150°C). Then, using around half of the water used to boil the meat (don’t get rid of the other half), cook the vegetables and sausages (making sure to prick the sausages before placing them in the water).
  3. Bring the other half of the meat cooking water to the boil, and add the rice, cooking for around 12 minutes.
  4. Once the rice is ready, combine the meat, vegetables and sausages, and season with salt and pepper. Serve alongside the rice, with a glass of fine Portuguese wine. 

Arroz de Cabizela

Before the Romans arrived on the Iberian Peninsula, the Douro Valley region was inhabited by small Suevian tribes, who hunted small game like rabbits, wild pigs and chicken. It’s from this era that Arroz de Cabidela originates — a rice-based chicken dish made using chicken blood, vinegar and black beer.

arroz portugal

While Arroz de Cabidela may not sound all that appealing from the outset, this is one of the tastiest dishes to originate in northern Portugal, with the rich blood, balsamic vinegar and chorizo-flavoured sauce adding a depth and smokiness to the poultry. The dish is prevalently served in traditional Portuguese restaurants and tabernas, but is simple enough to make at home.

Here’s how to make Arroz de Cabidela.

Serves: 4-6. Prep: 15 Mins. Cook Time: 30 Mins. 


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 whole chicken (preferably organic)
  • Some slices of chorizo and prosciutto
  • 300g ‘carolino’ rice (rice with smaller grains)
  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 bottle of black beer (33cl)
  • 1tbsp salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • Parsley
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. Ask your butcher to prepare a full chicken for you, with the blood preserved. They may be able to mix the blood together with red wine vinegar, but you may have to do this yourself.
  2. Chop the chicken into small pieces, and set aside. In a large pan, fry the onion and garlic in olive oil. Add the chorizo and prosciutto, and cook until the mixture is beginning to brown. Then, add the balsamic vinegar and the beer, and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes to bring the mixture up to heat.
  3. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and season with salt, pepper, parsley and a little cinnamon (optional). Cook for an additional 10 minutes over a medium heat.
  4. Next, add the rice to the broth, adding more hot water depending on how much stock is in the pan. Carolino rice usually demands around three times more liquid to cook properly.
  5. When the rice is about done, add the blood and vinegar to the mixture and continue stirring for around 2 minutes. Then, remove from the heat and serve immediately with fresh bread and a glass of red wine

Bacalhau com Natas

Salt cod, or bacalhau as it’s referred to in Portuguese, is a staple fish dish across Portugal, with many households tucking into this tasty delicacy two to four times a week. It’s said that over 1,000 recipes incorporate bacalhau, making this dried and salted cod dish one of the iconic ingredients of Portuguese cookery.

salt cod

Salt cod has been produced for over 500 years, with Portugal being one of the first countries to perfect the technique for curing the fish to preserve it and retain its flavour and nutrients. By the 1700s, the ingredient was so popular and prevalent that it had become a staple dish for Portugal’s ordinary people and not just the upper gentry — something which was unheard of in other parts of Europe where seafood was scarce.

While there are a huge variety of recipes containing salt cod, one of our favourites is Bacalhau Com Natas, a creamy cod bake that’s delicious served alongside seasonal greens.

Serves: 2-4. Prep: 20 Minutes Cook Time: 40 Minutes.


For the cod:

  • 800g salt cod
  • 1kg potatoes (for frying)
  • 2 large onions, finely sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Olive oil
  • 400ml double cream

For the béchamel topping:

  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Milk
  • Bay leaf
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Ground nutmeg


  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Once boiling, add the cod and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain the fish, before leaving to cool for a couple of minutes. Then, flake the fish, taking care to discard all skin and bones.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into small cubes. Then, deep fry them in olive oil infused with bay leaves, before setting aside.
  3. Sauté the onions on a skillet until brown, before adding them to the cod. Then, add the potatoes to the mix and stir them together gently, before transferring the mixture to a baking dish large enough for a layer of béchamel.
  4. Next, make the béchamel sauce by melting butter in a saucepan and slowly adding the flour and milk until you’ve achieved a smooth consistency. Season the sauce with bay leaf, salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste, before pouring this mixture over the fish, potato and onion mixture. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes at 180°C, and serve with seasonal greens and a glass of dry white wine.

Pastéis de Nata

Wherever you travel in Portugal, you’ll never be far from an authentic Padarias (bakery) serving up delicious, just-baked Pasteis de Nata. These moreish egg custard tarts are a staple snack for sweet-tooths across the country, and are often prepared in huge numbers — with the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém bakery in Lisbon said to turn out over 10,000 of these flaky delicacies every day.

pasteis de nata

Pasteis de Nata tarts were first produced by the monks of Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon in the 18th century, but have since spread across the country. In Porto, the capital of the Douro region, these delightful tarts can be sampled at several renowned bakeries across the city, including the Confeitaria do Bolhao and Padeirinha Doce.

If you fancy giving them a go at home, the recipe can be quite complicated, but it’s well worth the effort if you’ve fallen in love with the taste and texture of these typically Portuguese sweet treats.

Serves: 12 tartlets. Prep: 30-40 Minutes. Cook Time: 30 Minutes.


  • 1 whole egg (including the white)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 115g golden caster sugar
  • 2tbsp cornflour
  • 400ml full fat milk
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin. Put the egg, yolks, cornflour and sugar into a pan and mix together until smooth. Then, over a medium heat, stir the mixture continuously until it starts to boil. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract, before pouring into a bowl, covering with cling film and leaving the custard to cool.
  2. Cut the pastry into two pieces and place one on top of the other. Roll them together tightly along the short side so you have a long sheet, before cutting into 12 evenly-sized rounds. Roll each individual round out on a floured surface until it’s around 10cm in diameter, and press the pastry into the muffin tin.
  3. Once you’ve filled the muffin tin with the rounds, pour in the cooled custard and bake for around 25 minutes, until the top of each egg custard has started to golden. Once baked, sprinkle with sugar and a little nutmeg. Eat warm for the most authentic Portuguese experience.

Have these delicious recipes inspired you to visit beautiful Portugal and experience the delightful fare for yourself? Take a look at our collection of luxury Douro river cruises or call us on 855 444 0161 to start planning your dream trip to northern Portugal today.

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