Food Vocabulary – Main Food Groups

Food groups are convenient to help us learn food-related vocabulary in a more organized way.

Dairy Products – Laticínios

Portuguese Term English Translation
o leite (pl. leites) milk
o iogurte (pl. iogurtes) yogurt
o queijo (pl. queijos) cheese
a manteiga (pl. manteigas) butter
o gelado (pl. gelados) ice cream
a nata (pl. natas) cream

Leite, iogurte and queijo are a part of many Portuguese people’s breakfasts and snacks. Queijo, in particular, is very important and there are several tasty varieties. As for leite, there are at least three types:

  • Leite magro Skimmed milk – Very low-fat content

  • Leite meio-gordo Semi-skimmed milk – Medium fat content

  • Leite gordo Whole milk – High-fat content

Fruits, Vegetables, and Beans – Frutos, Legumes, e Leguminosas

Frutos is the actual proper term for the plant structures that carry seeds, but the most used in daily life is fruta. Frutas, which is the plural of fruta, can also be used, but the latter is a collective noun, so both are correct. Frutos would, scientifically, include tomatoes, even though we often consider them to be vegetables. In Portugal, fruits can be added to salads or treated as sobremesas desserts or snacks.

Comeste fruta hoje?Did you eat fruit today?
Os legumes Vegetables are included in most meals, as part of saladas salads or sopas soups. They include vegetables, cooked or raw, and also the leafy greens, like as alfaces lettuces and as couves cabbages. You’re probably asking yourself why don’t we use the word vegetais for vegetablesand that’s because we reserve that word for when we are talking about plants. We use the expression as leguminosas legumes for all kinds of beans. (I guess because the word legumes was already taken for vegetables…)

Here are some examples of fruta and legumes:

Portuguese Term English Translation Portuguese Term English Translation
o morango (pl. morangos ) strawberry o tomate (pl. tomates) tomato
a laranja (pl. laranjas) orange a alface (pl. alfaces ) lettuce
o ananás (pl. ananases) pineapple a cenoura (pl. cenouras) carrot
a banana (pl. bananas ) banana o pepino (pl. pepinos) cucumber
a maçã (pl. maçãs) apple a cebola (pl. cebolas) onion

As for leguminosas beans, legumes, they are present in a wide variety of Portuguese dishes. Here a few common ones:

Portuguese Term English Translation
o grão de bico (pl. grãos de bico) chickpea
o feijão (pl. feijões) bean
a ervilha (pl. ervilhas) pea
o amendoim (pl. amendoins) peanut
a lentilha (pl. lentilhas) lentil
a soja (pl. sojas) soy

Carne e Peixe – Meat and Fish

Being a coastal nation, Portuguese cuisine is spectacularly rich in fish and seafood, but meat also gets plenty of attention.

When it comes to meat, you can have:

  • As carnes vermelhas Red meats in which we include a carne de porco pork and a carne de vaca beef;

  • A carne branca white meat which includes a carne de aves poultry meat and fish.

Notice how carne de vaca  translates to beef? In Portuguese, there isn’t a word for beef, so we use vaca, whether we’re talking about the cow or its meat. The same goes with pig, turkey, and chicken. In Portugal they all count as meat, so we say o porco, o peru , and o frango when referring to the meat or the animal. Now, be careful because the Portuguese word bife looks and sounds very similar to beef, but it actually means “steak”. Don’t get confused!

As for fish, we don’t say that they have meat. A carne the meat, just like os ossos bones, are words that we only use for land animals. The meat of a fish we just callo peixe , like the animal, and as espinhas for its bones.
O bacalhau cod is the most appreciated fish and can be found in many dishes. O marisco seafood is also popular. Below you can find some of the most common species of fish and seafood present in our cuisine:

Portuguese Term English Translation Portuguese Term English Translation
o bacalhau (pl. bacalhaus) cod o polvo (pl. polvos) octopus
a sardinha (pl. sardinhas) sardine o camarão (pl. camarões) shrimp, prawn
o atum (pl. atuns) tuna o mexilhão (pl. mexilhões) mussel
o salmão (pl. salmões) salmon a amêijoa (pl. amêijoas) clam
o carapau (pl. carapaus) mackerel a lagosta (pl. lagostas) lobster

Cereais – Cereals

Portuguese Term English Translation
o trigo (pl. trigos) wheat
o milho (pl. milhos) corn
a aveia (pl. aveias) oat
a cevada (pl. cevadas) barley
o arroz (pl. arrozes) rice

Os cereais are very much present in our daily lives. They are the basis for our everyday breakfast cereals, especially for kids. They are used in making farinha flour, which is then used to make massa pasta, or the very traditional broa de milho corn bread, for example.

They’re also a part of our second most favorite drink, as cevada is the main ingredient in cerveja beer.


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