Pineapples grown in São Miguel, Azores

A guide to the food and drink of the Azores

Like other islands, the Azores have their own unique foods and beverages. Because my husband and I spent our whole trip in São Miguel, we tried a lot of the local delicacies from there, but many foods typical of the other islands were widely available, so we tried some of those too. 

You’ve probably guessed that fish and seafood are abundant, but the Azores are also known for their excellent beef and cheeses. Owing to the subtropical climate, pineapple, passionfruit and melon are grown there, too. Even tea and coffee are cultivated in the Azores.

I’m afraid there is one prized plate I wasn’t the biggest fan of (more below), but I’m not exaggerating when I say that I enjoyed every single other thing I ate.

Some Portuguese foods like caldo verde and chouriço are certainly available and eaten in the Azores – there’s even a brand of chouriço made in São Miguel – but I didn’t include them here because they’re not specifically Azorean. 

I can’t claim that this post contains every single traditional or local food of all the Azores, but I’ve done my best to make it as comprehensive as possible. If I’ve missed your favorite Azorean food, share it in the comments!

Azorean wine and other products at the Prince of Cheese in Ponta Delgada

A guide to the food and drink of the Azores

Azorean sweets and baked goods

Queijadas da Vila

Azorean queijadas often resemble their better-known relatives, pastèis de nata, but they have a variety of different fillings.

The first I heard of queijadas was from our Portuguese friend who helped us plan our trip. Because we decided to take his recommendation to base ourselves in Vila Franca do Campo, he said we had to try the town’s queijadas.

It didn’t take us long to encounter them – our AirBnb host had left us some. Also referred to as Queijadas do Morgado, these little tarts, like many others, are believed to have originated in a convent. Some claim that the original recipe is still a secret. 

I have looked at a few of the not-secret recipes available online, and it appears they all have similar ingredients: sugar, butter, flour, egg yolks, and a do-it-yourself cheese (basically a quick ricotta). Queijadas da Vila are very sweet, with a creamy texture – there is no prevailing taste of cheese. I enjoyed the one I had, but I’m pretty sure two would have been too sweet for me.

Queijadas da Dona Amélia

Created by local bakers in Terceira island for a royal visit of the queen and king of Portugal to the Azores in 1901, the queen is said to have loved these little tarts so much that her name was bestowed upon them. 

Queijadas da Dona Amélia contain honey, molasses, raisins, and cinnamon that flavor the base of sugar, eggs and corn flour. Here’s a recipe from Maria Lawton, aka the Azorean Green Bean.

Queijadas da Graciosa

Star shaped, these queijadas are perhaps a bit simpler than their counterparts. The filling is made primarily with eggs and milk, and, like Queijadas da Dona Amélia, they’re flavored with cinnamon. 

Queijadas do Ponta Delgada

A more recent creation than others, Queijadas do Ponta Delgada were designed to capture some typical Azorean flavors in a tiny tart: oranges, pineapple and cinnamon lend an almost Christmassy taste to these fragrant little pastries. I added them to the list because we had them in Ponta Delgada – they were actually one of the very first things we ate – and we really enjoyed them. 

Queijadas do Ponta Delgada
Queijadas do Ponta Delgada

Malassadas

My Azorean grandmother used to make malassadas, so these are probably one of the first foods of the Azores that I ever encountered, not in the Azores, but in Rhode Island, where my grandparents lived. 

Yeasted dough is fried golden and then dusted with sugar, much like a doughnut. My grandmother used to make little them into little balls, and she also made larger ones that looked more like the fried dough you’d get at an American fair, but they were super light and never greasy. 

Apparently, malassadas have made it much further than Rhode Island – all the way to Hawai’i, in fact, where they’ve been adapted to local tastes.

Quinta dos Açores ice cream

Thanks to the milk produced by the Azorean cows we saw all over São Miguel, Quinta dos Açores makes some  delicious ice cream in the island’s most famous flavors, including Queijadas da Dona Amélia pineapple, passionfruit, and even chocolate and cheese.

Quinta dos Açores ice cream
Quinta dos Açores ice cream

Bolos Lêvedos

Bolos lêvedos are described by most as a kind of Portuguese English muffin, with the differences being that they’re slightly sweetened, that they have a fine crumb, and that they have no nooks and crannies. Basically, they look like an English muffin from the outside, but not the inside.

In addition to the queijadas do Ponta Delgada, we had bolos lêvedos for our first breakfast in São Miguel. Their taste, like so many other foods I’ve had in Portugal, sent me right back to Rhode Island, to my grandmother’s house. If I closed my eyes, I was there, having a bolo for breakfast at the round wooden table in her pristine kitchen. 

You can further sweeten bolos with the addition of butter and jam, or you can opt to make them slightly more savory with a slab of creamy Azorean cheese (more on those below). I opted for the latter. However you do it, just make sure you eat 1,000 of them while you’re in the Azores. 

Bolo Lêvedo in São Miguel, Azores
Bolo lêvedo for breakfast

Massa sovada

Another Azorean specialty that my grandmother made, massa sovada is also known as sweet bread. Similarly to bolos lêvedos, the slight sweetness of the bread gives it a unique twist, and its fluffy texture makes it easy to inhale. 

Massa sovada

Biscoitos de Orelha

When the first Portuguese settlers arrived in the Azores, certain ingredients weren’t always easy to come by, so some recipes, like the one for Biscoitos de Orelha, were designed to last a long time.

These simple biscuits are made with flour, butter, sugar, egg and salt. Mildly sweet, they’re typically served with coffee, tea or milk. 

Espécies de São Jorge

These holiday cookies have some unique ingredients, including breadcrumbs, pepper and fennel, as well as some others that are more widely associated with cookies, like cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, lemon zest, and butter. 

To make espécies de São Jorge, a spicy center is wrapped with dough, formed into a ring, and then cut into with a decorative roller to become a little spicy Christmas wreath.

Fofas da Povoação

The first settlers on São Miguel set up shop in Povoaçao, in the island’s southeast. Nowadays, you can stop there for the town’s signature sweet: fofas, which are similar to an eclair, with cooked cream in the middle and a strip of chocolate on top. 

Bolo da Sertã

This cornflour flatbread contains no yeast and is cooked in a cast-iron skillet, making it quick and easy to put together. 

Sauces and spreads

Mel dos Açores (honey)

Honey has been produced in the Azores since the sixteenth century. There are two typical varieties: incense honey, which comes from the nectar of a tree native to Australia and is lightly colored, and the darker variety, which comes from various flowers.

Read more about Mel dos Açores here.

Jam

Like I said above, several delicious tropical fruits grow in the Azores, and most, if not all of them are made into jam. This includes pineapple, passionfruit, guava and bananas, as well as many others. 

Hot sauce

One of the souvenirs we brought back for ourselves and some friends was hot sauce made from pimenta da terra (more below). It adds a slight kick to just about anything you want – we liked it best on some of the the local cheeses we tried.

Azorean seafood

Octopus

I’m generally not a huge fan of octopus, but I had the best ever in São Miguel. Sometimes, it’s rubbery, but this octopus was perfectly tender. Salty with charred stripes, I was already full when it came along on our food tour, but I ate every last bite anyway. 

Octopus in São Miguel Azores

Polvo guisado (octopus stew)

I did not try polvo guisado on our trip to São Miguel, but it sounds like something I would like. Sautéed onions, scallions, parsley, red peppers and garlic are combined with tomato paste, wine, and, of course, octopus in this stew, which often includes potatoes.

Caldo de peixe dos Açores (fish stew)

Given the abundance of fish in the Azores, it’s no surprise that fish stew is eaten in the islands. It appears that the recipe that has been diffused originated in Pico, where it was commonly eaten by fishermen, especially in the winter.

Chicharros fritos (fried mackerel)

Being a huge fan of fried anchovies and a lover of mackerel, I’m extremely disappointed that we didn’t try chicharros fritos during our time in São Miguel. I guess that means we have to go back!

These little fish are fried and eaten whole.

Lapas grelhadas (fried limpets)

Alright, this is the one thing I didn’t love on our trip. I’m slightly disappointed, because it’s one of the locals’ best-loved dishes, but c’est la vie. We tried them at a nice restaurant, but I found the texture to be chewy, and they had a lot of grit in them.

What I did love was that they were served with melted garlic butter, but alas, that was the thing I enjoyed most about my lapas grelhadas.

Grilled limpets in São Miguel, Azores

Azorean produce

Fruit

Again, the Azores are home to an incredible variety of fruits, owing to the island’s microclimates and fertile ground. Among others, you’ll find pineapple, passionfruit, guava, bananas, cantaloupe (meloa de Santa Maria), berries, figs and oranges.

We didn’t make it, but there’s a pineapple plantation just outside of Ponta Delgada if you want to learn more about how they grow in São Miguel.

Pineapples grown in São Miguel, Azores
Pineapples grown in São Miguel

Pimenta salgada

A huge variety of vegetables also grows in the Azores, but I loved the way in which one was served in particular. Red peppers are salted and then sliced and served with meat and in sandwiches, seasoning whatever they come with juuuuuust right.

Azorean meat and cheeses

The steaks and cheeses that we had in São Miguel were some of the very best things we ate on the trip. Just emphasizing that you should eat an abundance of both on your trip to the Azores!

Bife à Regional (Regional Beef Steak of the Azores)

Absolutely one of the top meals I had (at the Restaurante Associação Agrícola de São Miguel – more here), this Azorean-style steak is cooked in white wine and comes with garlic, pimenta salgada and a fried egg on top. It is a meal I could happily eat regularly.

Bife à Regional in São Miguel Azores

Cozido das Furnas

Cozido das Furnas is one of the most interesting – and surprising – dishes I’ve ever eaten.

Cooked underground for hours by geothermal heat, this hearty stew is a meat-lover’s paradise, with some tender veggies thrown in for balance. We ate it at Restaurante Tony’s and wished we had ordered two portions instead of only one. More here.

Cozido das Furnas at Restaurante Tony's in São Miguel, Azores
Get it at Tony’s!

Morcela (Blood sausage)

We saw quite a lot of blood sausage on menus, and had it a few times – once in the Cozido das Furnas and once with pineapple, which proved to be a great salty-sweet combo. 

Alcatra of Terceira Island

Alcatra is pretty much my dream dish: beef rump is slow-cooked in red wine, with onion, garlic and black peppercorns, until it falls apart. I had it on our last night in São Miguel. More here.

Sopas do Espírito Santo

Traditionally served for Pentecost, there are lots of variations of this soup, but many of them contain cabbage, sausage, beef, and some include liver or chicken. I didn’t see this on any menus in São Miguel, so I’m not exactly sure what it looks like, but most images show it served with big slabs of bread for soaking up the broth.

Cheese

We tried many, many cheeses during our week in São Miguel, and I could have tried many, many more. This article details some of them.

My favorite, which we bought vacuum-sealed to bring home for ourselves and friends, is the black-rind, nine-month São Miguel cheese. Before flying out of Ponta Delgada, make sure you stop at O Príncipe dos Queijos – the Prince of Cheese – and fill your suitcase.

Azorean cheese board

Azorean drinks

Kima sodas

Available in pineapple or passionfruit, this soft drink is an Azorean specialty. I almost never drink soda, but I made an exception for the passionfruit flavor – its cold tang was perfect after a long walk in the woods.

Kima passionfruit soda in São Miguel, Azores

Laranjada

Produced by the same company as Kima, Melo Abreu, which is actually a brewery, this is the Azores’ version of orange soda.

Tea

One of the highlights of our trip (is anything really a highlight if you loved it all?) was our visit to the Gorreana Tea Plantation, which is one of the only ones in Europe. If you do the free tour, you’ll be able to sample as much of their green and black pekoe teas as you want. 

Coffee

On the island of São Jorge, you’ll find one of Europe’s verrrry few coffee plantations (a Google search revealed that there is one in Gran Canaria and apparently, some experimental coffee growing in the UK). 

This Sprudge article gives a great description of what the plantation in São Jorge is like to visit and about where you can taste the coffee grown there.

A Mulher de Capote Licores

As we pulled into Ribiera Grande, we noticed signs pointing towards a factory that makes liqueurs. They give short tours and sell their alcoholic beverages, many of which capture some of the Azores most distinct flavors. They also make rum and gin.

Wine

Although the production of wine in the Azores has changed over the years owing to the introduction of a series of plant pests and diseases, wine is still produced on four of the islands. This article breaks down where and which varietals and grown on which islands. 

Beer

Like I said above, Melo Abreu produced beers and sodas in São Miguel, and there appear to be a couple of craft breweries here and there, too, like Korsica and Cerveja Brianda. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this culinary tour of the Azores as much as I have. Speaking of culinary tours, if you find yourself in Ponta Delgada and want to learn more about Azorean cuisine and culture, do a tour with Hungry Whales. We had a great experience with them and learned so much!

Did I miss your favorite Azorean food? Let me know in the comments!

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Want more tips for the Azores?

Here’s my seven-day itinerary for São Miguel

Here’s my list of places to eat in São Miguel

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