Being Vegan in Portugal

Being Vegan in Portugal-Leafy Souls Vegan Blog Post

Portugal Caters To Vegans

If you’re a travelling vegan you know how hard it can be to find a meal that doesn’t involve animal products and isn’t a bowl of fries. Besides the language barrier in some countries, it’s a simple fact that many restaurants and cafés don’t offer vegan options. With the growing trend towards vegetarianism and veganism, it’s about time veggie-friendly options became more widespread. 

The first country to get ahead of the curve and make sure everyone is catered for? Portugal!

In 2016, the Portugal Vegetarian Society (Associação Vegetariana Portuguesa) gathered more than 15,000 signatures requesting that public institutions and eateries serve at least one vegan option. In 2017, the law was implemented by the Portuguese parliament.

All Portuguese schools, canteens, universities, hospitals, prisons and all other public buildings are legally required to serve plant-based food.

Here are two examples of some Portugues-inspired vegan dishes.

Vegan Arroz Malandrinho

This Portuguese Tomato Rice was inspired by a delicious dish calledarroz malandrinho. It consists of long-grain rice cooked in a tomato sauce, with a texture similar to risotto but less creamy and with a slightly more soup-like consistency. It is flavored with smoked paprika and coriander and dotted with black beans. This dish is not only super flavorsome but also really versatile! It’s hearty and satisfying enough to make up a whole meal but also works really well as a side dish.

Equally, it’s quick and easy enough for weeknight meals, but also delicious enough to feed to guests!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or sub coconut or vegetable oil)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne chili pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice (or sub brown rice if you wish, but bear in mind it will take longer to cook and may require more water)
  • 1  vegetable stock cube (ensure gluten-free if necessary)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 400 g (14oz) tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
  • Salt + pepper, to taste

To serve (optional):

  • Roasted red peppers
  • Fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan
  2. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and fry for around 10 minutes until softened
  3. Add the smoked paprika (and cayenne pepper if using) and fry for a further couple of minutes until fragrant
  4. Add the rice and fry, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes
  5. Add the stock cube, tomatoes, black beans, and water and bring to the boil
  6. Cook for 10-15 minutes until rice is softened (taste a little and check) - add more water and cook for longer if necessary
  7. Taste and add extra salt if necessary. If it tastes too acidic because of the tomatoes, add a small amount of sweetener of choice to balance out the flavors
  8. Once the rice has cooked, add the coriander, stir and leave to sit with a lid on for 5 minutes before serving

To serve (optional):

  1. Top with roasted sweet red peppers and scatter over extra chopped coriander

Pastéis de Nata 

This classic recipe is even easier than the traditional one and only uses 7 ingredients that are easy to find anywhere.


Vegan custard ingredients:

  • 200ml plant-based milk (soy, almond,...)
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 25g corn starch
  • 3 tsp vanilla essence
  • 200g full fat coconut milk (roughly 1/2 can)

Other ingredients:

  • 1 roll puff pastry
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (360F).
  2. Add all-vegan custard ingredients to a pan (apart from the coconut milk) and mix well with a whisk so that there are no lumps.
  3. Then heat up the mixture over a stove at medium to high temperature and stir constantly to make sure it doesn't burn. Add the 200g of full-fat coconut milk (that's roughly half of a can of coconut milk) and mix in.
  4. After a while, the starch will change consistency and will begin to thicken the mix. Keep stirring until you get a custard-like consistency. Then set aside and let cool down completely.
  5. Roll out a puff pastry sheet (most of them are vegan). And then tightly roll in the long side again. Cut into halves and then divide the halves again. And finally cut each into thirds.
  6. Push each of them down with either your fingers or your palm to flatten them. Then add to a muffin mold and push up the sides so you get nice little baskets.
  7. Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on them.
  8. Spoon in the custard into each of them and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  9. Let cool down and sprinkle icing sugar on top or serve warm. Enjoy!

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