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Six Portuguese Foods You Didn't Know You Could Find at Trader Joe's

From everyday items to occasional surprises, keep an eye out for these six Portuguese-inspired foods at your local Trader Joe's.

If you're Portuguese and a Trader Joe's fan, you probably already keep your eyes peeled for pastéis de nata in the freezer section. And as soon as you spot this seasonal treat, you stock up on five boxes. Because that's the fun of Trader Joe's, they never tell you how long seasonal items will stick around for and therefore you stockpile.

You can probably even remember the first time you their blue box of pastéis de nata caught you by surprise, quietly nestled between mini ice cream cones and mochi. It was practically a cultural moment in the Portuguese-American community. We follow tons of Portuguese pages on social media and everyone was posting about it. That's because it was the day that Portuguese food made it into grocery pop culture — yes, we know some big box grocery stores carry linguiça, but we're talking Trader Joe's here! And pastéis de nata!

The First Portuguese Food Item at Trader Joe's — It's Not What You Think

If you can believe, it's been at least three years since Trader Joes first debuted their pastéis de nata. And if you thought that was the first Portuguese item sold at Trader Joe's, you'd be mistaken. Really. Long before, they had been selling a couple of wines from Portugal including its famous vinho de porto and vinho verde.

Since adding pastéis de nata to their international product line, several more Portuguese-inspired foods have been introduced — some with more staying power than others. Check out this list for six Portuguese items we've encountered at Trader Joe's. And at the end, you can tell us which food they should introduce next!

1. Vinho Verde

Status: In Stock

As we mentioned, the first Portuguese item we ever encountered at a Trader Joe's was Espiral Vinho Verde. For our palatte, it's a pleasant vinho verde that doesn't disappoint on the sparkle. And it's very budget friendly ($4.99!) It's definitely a go-to purchase for warm weather wine cravings.

But if you don't take our word for it, take it from Trader Joe's Sommelier. Or the Reverse Wine Snob. Or the Shitty Wine Blog — be warned, they weren't a huge fan of the smell. Apparently what we call bright and crisp, they call Windex (to each their own, we suppose).

When you buy your next bottle of their vinho verde, keep an eye out for Espiral's rosé as well, which Trader Joe's occasionally carries (often right next to the vinho verde).

2. Pão de Agua

Status: Retired or On Pause

When we first spotted pão de agua (literally translates to water bread) at Trader Joe's, we had to look it up because frankly, we hadn't come across it in Portugal's bakeries. But a simple online search told us that this bread is a popular rustic loaf that's light and airy, with one source comparing it to pão de mafra (learn more about Portuguese breads here).

As for the Trader Joe's version, we'd compare it to miniature papo secos. Heat them up in the oven and it's like having freshly baked bread from the padaria! Unfortunately, pão de agua seems to be a limited time offering from Trader Joe's as we haven't seen it in stock for a while. Fingers crossed they bring it back for surprise appearances like the pastéis de nata.

>> Love making your own bread? Try this recipe for Portuguese sweet bread!

3. Pastéis de Nata

Status: Seasonal

Pastéis de nata, or Portuguese custard cups as they're popularly called in English, have stirred a global frenzy the last few years — so much so that Trader Joe's introduced its own frozen pastéis de nata (also its first item with "Portuguese" featured in the name). For Portuguese-Americans who don't live near a Portuguese community where they can buy locally made pastries, these were a godsend!

As "Portuguese cultural anthropologists," we absolutely had to taste these and compare to the real thing. Our honest opinion? They're pretty good. While comparing these to a pastel de nata from a pastelaria in Portugal would be like comparing apples and oranges, they hold their own with a decently flaky pastry and a pleasant custard filling.

Because you have to bake them for 20 to 25 minutes, you get to enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth experience of a fresh-out-of-the-oven pastel de nata, which is no guarantee in Portugal (unless you're going to one of those trendy shops in Lisbon that sell nothing but pastéis de nata.) It's only a shame Trader Joe's doesn't sell these year-round!

>>Want to try making pastéis de nata at home? Try this recipe from a Portuguese-American baking show contestant.

4. Sardines

Status: In Stock

Although not likely to excite the masses like pastéis de nata, Portuguese-Americans should be thrilled to know that they can find Portuguese-sourced sardines at Trader Joe's. And believe it or not, they carry a couple of varieties. These tinned seafood delights are slightly smoked and preserved in olive oil, making for a flavor-packed toast topper. Not to mention they're an inexpensive protein and a great source of healthy omega-3s.

Our favorite way to prepare them is in an Italian-inspired puttanesca pasta. Just sauté a few tomatoes, capers, and chopped tinned sardines in a pan. Add to a bowl of spaghetti, then top with olives (preferably those soaked in olive oil) and fresh Italian parsley. It's muah, chef's kiss!

5. Bacalhau Tartelettes

Status: In Stock (possibly seasonal)

Trader Joes' first foray into bacalhau (or dried salted cod fish for our newbies to Portuguese culture) is with these Portuguese bacalhau tartelettes. We'll admit, we're surprised they didn't opt for pastéis de bacalhau or pataniscas instead. Although we hadn't heard of a bacalhau pastry before, it is in fact based on a Portuguese dish called tarte de bacalhau, a Portuguese take on a quiche.

New to our palatte, we had to try these tartelettes (and the name reminded us of a favorite Friends scene)! Right out of the oven, they taste like a spoonful of bacalhau com natas baked into puff pastry. That means we liked it! They're a perfect bite-size for snack time or a party appetizer. And they pack a creamy flavor punch. Time will tell if these tartelettes become seasonal, permanent, or go by the wayside. So grab a box while you can!

6. "Flor de Sal" Salt

Status: Retired

This Portuguese flor de sal seemed appeared like a blip at Trader Joe's. One day it was there and the next it gone, but as always, we were excited to see a new Portuguese item make the shelves. Thankfully, we were able to snag one before they sold out. And it seems that they've since become a hot commodity, selling for over $20 on Amazon!

If you haven't heard of flor de sal (which translates to salt flower), it's essentially a high-end, delicate sea salt that's manually harvested from the surfaces of seawater. Portuguese flor de sal in particular is mostly produced in Aveiro and the Algarve, with food connoisseurs calling it "white gold." As for taste, it's a finishing salt you can use to top off a delicate soup, grilled steaks, and dessert. We especially love the savory pop it gives a freshly baked brownie or chocolate chip cookie!

Bonus: Piri Piri Sauce

Status: In Stock

We conclude our list with a bonus item: Trader Joes' peri peri sauce! Although their sauce is from South Africa, peri peri (often spelled piri piri in Portugal) is also a popular hot sauce in Portugal. If you're a fan of piri piri chicken, you know what we mean!

Piri piri's spice comes from the malagueta, a chili pepper that originates in Brazil. Portuguese colonists brought the pepper back to Portugal and eventually introduced it to African countries as well that were former Portuguese colonies (i.e.. Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde).

The Trader Joe's version of this sauce differs from the Portuguese variety in that it's creamy in texture, but it's still got that kick you expect from a true piri piri sauce. We're happy to report that it appears to be a TJ's staple, so pick up a jar on your next trip.

What Portuguese food should Trader Joe's introduce next?! Take the poll below!


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Which Portuguese food should Trader Joe's introduce next?

  • 0%Rissóis (shrimp turnovers)

  • 0%Queijadas (sweet cheese pastries)

  • 0%Broa de milho (cornbread)

  • 0%Alheira (sausage with bread pieces)

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