11 June 2024

Amidst the vibrant culinary landscape of Portugal, where the pastel de nata, seafood dishes, and sardines vigorate as iconic symbols, the Francesinha emerges as a timeless northern creation worth celebrating. This remarkable sandwich marked by a bountiful array of flavours embodies the essence of Portuguese comfort food and the country’s northern culinary customs.

In this blog post, we embark on a journey through the charming cobblestone streets of Porto, delving into the origins of this beloved dish and how it has worked its way into the destination’s cultural and gastronomic identity. At the end of the day, Francesinha holds a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors, and we want you to know all about it!

What is Francesinha?

5 - Can you adapt it to your taste

Hailing from the cobblestoned streets of storied Porto, Francesinha introduces itself as a unique culinary delight in the form of a sandwich. Picture this: layers of thinly sliced ham, succulent steak, and spicy Portuguese linguiça (a type of sausage), stacked between slices of bread. Melted cheese drapes down as a waterfall of golden rich, beer-based sauce engulfs the dish in a festival of flavours. To top up this one-of-a-kind creation, there can only be a fried egg and a side of crispy fries. Is your mouthwatering yet?

Without a doubt, Francesinha indulges you in a unique gastronomical experience that pays homage to the country’s culinary ingenuity.

What are the origins of Francesinha?

Porto - Origins of Francesinha

Translated to “Little Frenchie” in Portuguese, this culinary delight connects Portugal to France through its emigrants. Rumour has it that back in the 1950s, a Portuguese citizen was inspired by the French dish croque-monsieur to create a mouthwatering, hearty recipe that uses different types of typical Portuguese meats stacked in layers and garnished with a rich, spicy sauce.

Despite its origins being shrouded in mysticism, Francesinha quickly worked its way into the culture and identity of this Portuguese town. Local cafés, taverns and restaurants across Porto, and Portugal, took on this recipe after the Portuguese immigrant Daniel Silva first cooked it to the public in 1953 at a restaurant called A Regaleira. Since then, Francesinha has become a sought-after dish that embodies the flavours of the Douro region.

How is Francesinha connected to the city of Porto?

3 - How is Francesinha connected to the city of Porto

Alongside football, Francesinha is a treasured icon of the town of Porto. It has become a symbol of this Portuguese destination and a quintessential part of its gastronomic identity. Therefore, you will find that restaurants, taverns and cafés in the city present this meal to their customers with their own twist and take on the classic.

Nestled in the town’s historic centre, Brasão Cervejaria is one of the most popular establishments in Porto. Here you will find a delectable menu led by the traditional Francesinha and complemented by side dishes such as fried onion and garlic mayonnaise. Here, there are also a vegetarian variation of Francesinha.

Capa Negra II is another obligatory stop for trying this iconic dish. At this restaurant, the original recipe is the guiding compass to the confection of Francesinha. However, the menu also presents variations of the classic with reinterpretations that include shrimp and bijou bread.


The myth behind the perfect sauce

4 - The myth behind the perfect sauce 2

Many are the whispering tales behind the confection of Francesinha’s iconic sauce. As one takes a bite of this tasty dish, the rich flavours and spicy tang leave one to wonder what ingredients makeup such an invention. Generations of chefs have, throughout the years, guarded the secret behind this dish’s sauce, leaving a certain mysticism to the consumer's imagination.

Some claim the secret lies in the inclusion of a dash of Port Wine, while others swear by a good balance of tomatoes sourced from the local market (Mercado do Bolhão) and a well-confectioned broth. Others even add whisky and fiery chilli without neglecting the inclusion of beer.


Can you adapt it to your taste?

1 - What is Francesinha

Definitely! As a popular dish, Francesinha has benefited from reinventions and reinterpretations of the original recipe, becoming more adaptable to people’s personal tastes. Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free, while visiting Porto, there’s a Francesinha option for everyone at one of the many cities restaurants!

If you only eat vegetables, then to cook your variation of this Portuguese dish, you can use grilled vegetables, tofu and seitan as substitutes for meat. You can even elevate your dish with, for example, mushrooms. For a vegan take, you elevate this vegetable-based recipe and include plant-based cheese to make it even more rich and flavourful.

There are also many other ways in which you can adapt the Francesinha. Try replacing the red meats with chicken or even seafood like shrimp! With this dish, the possibilities are endless!



6 - Recipe

Now, onto the recipe! To nail the perfect Francesinha, it is important to follow a certain set of steps. Key ingredients: Beer, white wine, Port wine, garlic, sandwich bread, ham, steak and linguiça (Portuguese sausage). Olive oil, chilli, bay leaves, onion, corn starch, meat broth and chopped tomatoes are also part of the recipe. As for the quantities, adapt them according to the number of people you are preparing the dish for.



•    The first step is to start stacking your Francesinha. Toast the needed slices of bread and begin seasoning the steak with salt and pepper. Take it to the stove on a frying pan and let it cook with butter on both sides. On your cutting board, take out the linguiça and cut it in half, lengthwise.

•    Once your meat is ready, it is time to assemble the sandwich, following this order: one slice of bread, ham to taste, sausage, steak, another slice of bread and cheese on top to cover the Francesinha.

•    Start preparing your sauce by sauteing an onion, garlic, chilli and bay leaf in olive oil. Then add the tomato, beer, white wine and meat broth to the pan. Let this mixture boil for 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

•    In a small bowl, add cornstarch to cold water and dilute it. Add this to your sauce alongside a teacup of Port wine. Let it boil for another 5 minutes before removing from the heat and blending your sauce.

•    Pour the sauce over your sandwich and take it to bake in the oven in the grill function for about 5 minutes.

•    Once your sandwich is in a perfect golden colour, take it out, place a fried egg on top and add another spoonful of sauce (because you can never have too much sauce), and voilá! You got yourself a deliciously traditional Portuguese Francesinha!


Are you eager to try Francesinha?


Surely, you should try our recipe at home! However, even the best cook could have difficulty recreating the original Francesinha. You must taste the authentic one, made in Porto, where its taste is so special and unique! So, if you were awaiting a sign to travel to Portugal and visit Porto: here it is! We can help you adjust your journey to your wants and needs and design your Portuguese adventure for you!



Topics: portugal, portuguese travel agency, Visit Portugal, gastronomy, Visit Porto, tourtailors, Portuguese Food, cooking, Francesinha, Francesinha recipe

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