So, you may be wondering what to eat in Madeira when you head to this beautiful archipelago. Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal has its own unique and delectable flavours that make its traditional dishes a must-try.  

Whilst on holiday, sampling traditional Madeiran food should be high on your list. Typical Madeira food is an eclectic mix of filling dishes, juicy seafood and even grab-and-go street food. 

Be sure to check out this list of traditional food in Madeira to make your island trip more authentic.

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QUICK SUMMARY – BEST FOOD IN MADEIRA

  • MUST TRY FOOD: Espetada, Scabbard Fish, Limpets and Bolo do Caco
  • TYPICAL DRINK: Poncha
  • BEST FOOD TOUR: Food and Wine Walking Tour
Food in Madeira

WANT TO TASTE THE BEST MADEIRAN DISHES? Join the food tour in Funchal. You will be with a local guide who will take you to the best restaurants and bars in town and you’ll get to try the most delicious dishes. See prices here.

Scabbard Fish with Banana (Espada com Banana)

Restaurante Cachalote in porto muniz

Let’s start with the ultimate food in Madeira, the scabbard fish with banana.

OK, if you just see an unprepared scabbard fish you might be completely deterred from trying it. It’s got piranha-style sharp teeth and is long, slimy and black. So why is this Madeira cuisine you should try?

Because Espada com Banana when prepared to perfection is one of the most delectable Madeira fish dishes.  

This is one of those dishes that locals always recommend you try. Usually, this meal is a combination of black scabbard fish, bananas, egg, garlic, breadcrumbs, and oregano.

The scabbard fillets are dipped in flour then eggs and then breadcrumbs before frying. The same sort of process then ensues for the bananas. 

This Madeira cuisine has been a traditional part of the island’s culture for a long time. It is believed that scabbard fish has been fished in the region since the 14th century.

That’s a lot of practice at serving up the best Espada com Banana around. 

If you are looking for the best place to find this Madeira delicacy, then head to Chalet Vicente Restaurante. They serve up authentic Espada com Banana as well as a plethora of other dishes. 

Espetada

Espata in Madeira

Espetada is beef served on skewers. This super tasty beef is seasoned with garlic, salt and bay leaves and cooked over a charcoal or wood fire.  

Today Espetada is a popular Madeira street food among both locals and tourists. However, this wasn’t always the case.

The price of beef used to be so high that it was more of a luxury than a common day snack or food.

Espetada is traditionally served with wine, but today people also wash down their beef skewers with Laranjada, a popular orange flavoured fizzy drink. 

If you head to Câmara De Lobos, you’ll find a bunch of restaurants to try Espetada. Check out Restaurante O Polar or Lagar for some of the best beef skewers on the island. 

Bolo do Caco

Madeira bolo do caco

If you love bread, then you should definitely try this food in Madeira. Bolo do Caco is a round flatbread that’s cooked on a basalt stone block.

What sets this aside from most breads is the fact it’s made from flour, yeast, water, salt and…sweet potatoes!

You can just eat Bolo do Caco by itself or it is often served with a yummy garlic butter.

You can pick up this traditional Madeiran food literally everywhere. What’s better is it doesn’t matter where you buy it from, it’s such a staple food in Madeira that everyone prepares it well. 

This bread is believed to have originated from Porto Santo Island, one of the Madeira archipelagos. It originated as a way of not wasting leftover dough, but now it’s something that people will make no matter the occasion. 

Bolo do Caco can be accompanied by an array of sides. Many people in Madeira eat swordfish, octopus, hamburgers, and steak with this yummy bread.

It’s also used to make sandwiches. If you are in Funchal, make sure to head to Casa do Bolo do Caco. They serve delicious sandwiches with steak or bacon in a bolo do caco.

Limpets

Restaurante Cachalote in madeira

Some of the best Madeira dishes you can try are seafood. Madeira is a set of islands so of course there are going to be many seafood delights to try. Limpets or lapas are a must-try whilst on holiday in Madeira. 

These limpets are served in a moreish garlic, butter, and lemon dressing. If you are a regular beach goer, then you’ve seen limpets, but you may not have ever tasted them.

When they are served, they look like clams or mussels, as they sit in their easy-to-grab shells. 

You may be wondering what exactly to expect from the taste of a limpet. Well, limpets taste like a cross between mussels and clams, with a slightly chewier texture.

Searching for the best place to have these Madeira food specialities can sometimes be tricky! But head to Muralhas Bar and the limpets will certainly not disappoint.

This place is affordable, usually crowded, and serves up some of the best and freshest seafood around. 

Fried Maize

Another of Madeira’s food specialities is fried maize, otherwise known as milho frito. This is a must-try Madeira cuisine, and it makes for the perfect on-the-go snack. 

Milho frito is deep-fried cornmeal filled with kale. Now, don’t turn your nose up at kale, these are really scrumptious and dangerously irresistible.

This deep-fried cornmeal is cut into small cubes and served either by itself or with a side of meat or seafood. Many people choose to eat fried maize with espetada, a great combination. 

With an abundance of maize on the island, this has always been a popular dish among locals, because it’s cheap to prepare and it’s filling. 

Tuna Steak

Tuna at cafe Ruins in Sao Jorge in Madeira

Just cooking up a tuna steak might not sound unique to Madeira but the way it is prepared is rather unique. The most important component in this Madeira cuisine is the vilhĂŁo sauce. This special sauce is made from vinegar, olive oil, pepper, and oregano. 

This tuna steak is usually served with fried maize. It may look simple but it’s juicy and seasoned to perfection. You can find this popular Madeira dish at most traditional Madeira restaurants.

Head to Leeno’s Bar & Restaurant for some of the most tender and tastiest tuna steaks around. You’ll find this Madeira restaurant in the city of Funchal. 

Prego Sandwich

If you are wondering what to eat in Madeira for lunch, then you should try a Prego sandwich. 

This mouth-watering sandwich is served with bolo do caco (rounded sweet potato bread) and stuffed full of delights. The bolo do caco is filled with cheese, lettuce, tomato, ham, and egg, all on top of a succulent steak. Oh, and not to forget the garlic butter spread. 

Many attest to this being their favourite traditional food in Madeira. A sandwich, the best meal you’ll have? But seriously it’s that good.

What’s even better is that it’s an economical lunchtime option, that will fill you up for an afternoon exploring Madeira. 

If you want to try this oh so appealing Madeira street food, then order a prego sandwich to go at Madeirinhas Café in Funchal.

But not to worry, if you don’t find yourself in Funchal then just about every cafĂ© and restaurant serving lunch will have a prego sandwich for you to try. 

Octopus

Madeira octopus

Calling all seafood lovers, you absolutely must try the octopus whilst in Madeira. Of all the Madeira fish dishes this one is guaranteed to blow you away. 

Octopus isn’t exactly a traditional Madeira food, but it is super popular, you are on an island after all.

Head to the main city of Funchal and you can try tenderly sauteed octopus with soya sprouts at Restaurante do Forte. 

O Celeiro also serves some of the best octopus on the island. Octopus is served in a variety of ways in Madeira.

Sometimes it’s served as a starter, sometimes as a main with rice. Pair your octopus with a glass of Portuguese white wine for the best possible combination. 

Cozido Madeirense

There’s nothing better than a hearty stew to fill you up after a long day of exploring. Cozido Madeirense is a pork-based stew that’s crammed full of vegetables, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. 

This stew gets its incredible flavours because it’s cooked on a wood fire with all the components mixed in together. This traditional Madeiran dish is a filling evening meal.

The meat is marinated in an adobo-style sauce that’s made from garlic, spices, wine, vinegar, and salt. 

Cantinho de Serra is a reliable place to try this typical Madeiran cuisine. This stew is often served around Christmas time or at family gatherings. 

Picadinho

Picadinho or Picado is a traditional Madeiran food that you’ll find in nearly every restaurant. This is a superb dish to share with friends or family.

When ordering this meal, you are always asked how many people will be eating it so they can be sure to make enough. 

It’s traditionally prepared with meat that’s been cut into small cubes and fried. It is then served with French fries that are stacked high around the meat in the centre of the plate. 

People either eat this shareable dish using toothpicks or a fork. It’s a great dish to encourage conversation as you enjoy the filling food. There are also some establishments that serve octopus and squid picadinho. 

Carne Vinha D’Alhos

This is one of Madeira’s popular Christmas day foods, though it is eaten throughout the year. This is another meat-based Madeiran delicacy.

This dish’s name translates to mean meat marinated with wine and garlic. Most people prepare carne vinha d’Alhos with pork (in adobo style).

The addition of vinegar, bay leaf only adds to the delicious flavours. 

If you want to try the ultimate authentic carne vinha d’alhos then head to Funchal Farmers Market. There is nothing better than trying a traditional dish right at a Madeira street food market. 

This dish has been adapted around the world, with people in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago calling it garlic pork. 

Passion Fruit Pudding

With all the good savoury and Madeira fish dishes it’s time to recommend something sweet and fruity. Passion Fruit Pudding sounds so good you can almost taste it.

If you like passionfruit you will absolutely devour this dessert, and even if it’s not your favourite you’ll still love it. 

Depending on where you eat this dessert, they may serve it in a different style. Most serve this passionfruit yumminess in a glass dish. This pudding is basically a mousse, it’s super simple but mouth-watering. 

Usually, recipes consist of just three ingredients, passionfruit (of course), heavy cream, and condensed milk. Many top their mousse with a juicy passionfruit puree. 

Papa Manuel do Lido is one of the best places to try this dessert, just make sure you leave room to indulge on passionfruit. 

Wheat Soup

Wheat soup is one of the many Madeira food specialities that will fill you up and warm your insides. Traditionally each household does their own take on this soup, adding different flavours and secret ingredients. 

Many recipes consist of wheat, beans, seeds, pumpkin, pork, turnips, onions, water, and sweet potato. First, the wheat and beans are soaked a day before eating.

Then the wheat, beans and pork are cooked in water. Once cooked, unpeeled seeds are then added. Some choose to serve the sweet potato in the soup as well and others serve on the side. 

Have a bowl or two of wheat soup and you’ll be fully satisfied for the entire day. It’s not everywhere that serves this traditional soup.

It’s well worth asking a local to point you in the right direction to find it. But try asking where the best place to eat sopa de trigo!

Castanhetas

Castanhetas are small, rounded fish that are plentiful, in the Sea of Madeira and Azores. This is one of the simplest Madeira dishes but if you are a lover of fish, you won’t be able to resist. 

These small fishes are fried and served with lemon. They are the perfect healthy snack or starter. Head to the village of Caniçal to Amarelo, it’s a fantastic restaurant that prepares castanhetas to perfection. 

If you love fish, then there is no better fish to try whilst on one of the Madeira islands. 

Bolo de Mel

So, you have a sweet tooth and are searching for a traditional Madeiran dessert? Bolo de Mel is a type of traditional cake; in fact, it is Madeira’s oldest dessert.

Original recipes date back to the 15th century when they used spices from Europe and India. It is believed that this dessert was created by nuns from the Convent of Santa Clara in the coastal city of Funchal. 

Madeira used to be a significant sugar producer and used to be made from molasses (though now people prefer to use honey).

This Portuguese honey cake consists of flour, brown sugar, anise powder, eggs, honey, olive oil, cinnamon, almonds, and butter. It’s a simple cake that you can whip up at the last minute.

The spices used are not overwhelming, only used to combat the sweetness of the honey. 

One of the best places to buy this traditional cake is from Fabrica Santo Antonio in Funchal. You’ll get a super authentic taste and the cutest traditional packaging. 

Queijadas

Queijadas are small flattened rounded cakes. They are perfectly irresistible, sweet, fluffy and a perfect treat. Queijadas da Madeira are sweet and traditionally baked across the archipelago.

They are popular among locals and when tourists discover them, they become a firm favourite. 

You can find this pastry at most Madeira bakery shops. You can enjoy it as a dessert, at breakfast or as an after dinner snack. 

Queijadas are made from requeijĂŁo, which is a type of Madeiran cottage cheese. In addition to the cottage cheese, they also add egg, milk, sugar, and flour.

They are often baked in cupcake tins and then coated in icing sugar once they’ve been cooked. 

Broas de Mel

This is another traditional Madeiran food that’s sweet. If you visit Madeira at Christmas time, you’ll see a lot of these popping up in the bakeries and cafes. 

Broas de mel is a kind of cross between a cake and a biscuit. They are made with a simple biscuit recipe, but they have sugarcane honey, cinnamon, and lemon zest in them as well.

If you try one, it should be accompanied by Madeira liquor, a popular fortified wine. 

You can find these Madeira honey cookies in supermarkets and bakeries across the islands. 

PastĂ©is de Maracujá 

Madeira does the passion fruit mousse well, but they also do passion fruit pastries. 

This traditional Madeira food is served in little cupcake cases. It is a fruity infusion of the original Portuguese cream cake, Pastel de Nata.

This particular pastry is stuffed full of the creamiest passionfruit cream you’ve ever tasted. A delectable combination.   

If you are looking for some of the best places to eat Pasteis de Maracujá then you should check out these bakeries.

A Confeitaria and Petit Fours Patisserie are some of the top bakeries in Madeira and serve up this delicious passion fruit pastry.  

Custard Apple

You may be surprised to hear that custard apple doesn’t have anything to do with custard or apple! 

Custard apple, otherwise known as anona, is a regional Portuguese fruit, but one which originated from Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru. 

One of the most comparable foods to the custard apple is the artichoke, it has the same sort of outer skin but tastes different.

The pulp inside is white and has an almost indescribable taste. It’s like a creamy tropical blend of yumminess. 

English Tomato (Tamarillo)

The tamarillo or English tomato is originally from the Andes but on Madeira Island you can find them everywhere. They are grown intensively in Santana and Santa Cruz. 

As you can probably imagine from the name, this fruit has strong similarities with the tomato. It’s more oval in shape, red like a tomato but slightly pointed.

This fruit is both acidic and sweet. Many people enjoy this fruit simply by itself and eat it with a spoon. Or alternatively you can enjoy a nice salad with tamarillo. 

Many people enjoy tamarillo because of its antioxidant properties and its super healthy. 

If you head down to Funchal’s city centre to the farmers market (Mercado dos Lavradores) to pick up the freshest tamarillo. 

Madeira Cherry

Unlike tamarillo, the Madeira cherry doesn’t taste so similar to the classic cherry. The Madeira cherry isn’t like the cherries produced in mainland Portugal. It’s much smaller in size, they are still super juicy and packed full of fibre and goodness.

They are the perfect refreshing healthy snack as you wander around Madeira. 

The main cherry cultivation happens in Jardim da Serra in the municipality of Câmara de Lobos. Head to Jardim da Serra during May and June and you might even catch the Cherry Festival.

The cherry festival is an explosion of colour and flavours that takes to the street. They have live music, a traditional parade, record-breaking cherry desserts and re-enactment.

So, now that you know everything about the best foods in Madeira, the only thing you have to do is to try them all! Enjoy!

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