Talking About Food

Portugal is a country of food lovers, so we use a lot of different expressions to describe the food we eat and how we feel about eating it. The 2 ways to say “I’m hungry” in Portuguese are:
Estou com fomeI'm hungry | Tenho fome paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I'm hungry

Hunger and Satisfaction

I’m Hungry!

For starters, instead of saying I am hungry, in Portugal we start thinking about food when we have hunger or when we are with hunger. In Portuguese, this translates to:

  • ter fome paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio feeling hungry (to have hunger) or estar com fome paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio being hungry (to be with hunger)

If you’re really feeling quite peckish, you can say:

  • Estou esfomeado paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I'm famished or even Estou a morrer de fome paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I’m dying to eat

We take our hunger very seriously…
Tenho fome. O que há para comer? paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I'm hungry. What's there to eat?
Vamos depressa, eu estou a morrer de fome! paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Let’s go quickly, I’m dying to eat!

I’m Full!

Once we’re full, we say:

  • Estou cheio paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I'm full
  • or the more elegant alternative Estou satisfeito paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I'm satisfied
  • or the rare Estou saciado paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I'm satiated

estou cheio, não consigo comer mais. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I'm already full, I can't eat anymore. (male speaking)
Bear in mind that, because it is an adjective, cheio must agree in both the gender and number with the object it refers to:

  • Here are the 4 different forms: cheio paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio full(masc., sing.) cheia paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio full(fem., sing.) cheios paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio full(masc., pl.) cheias paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio full(fem., pl.)

Não consigo comer mais nada hoje, sinto-me demasiado cheia. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I can’t eat anything else today, I feel too full. (female speaking)
Há bolo para sobremesa, mas eles já estão cheios. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio There is cake for dessert, but they’re already full.

Meal Names and Structures

In Portuguese, the main refeições paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio meals of the day go like this:
o pequeno-almoço paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio breakfast
o almoço paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio lunch
o lanche Play normal audio snack
o jantar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio dinner
a ceia Play normal audio supper
Lanche is usually an odd one for English speakers. It roughly corresponds to the British afternoon tea, that is to say, a light meal or snack eaten in the middle of the afternoon, between lunch and dinner. It can also refer to a light morning snack before lunch.
The larger meals, almoço and jantar, can be broken down like this, particularly at restaurants:

  • entradas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio appetizers, starters
  • prato principal paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio main dish
  • acompanhamento paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio side dish
  • bebidas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio drinks, beverages
  • sobremesa paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio dessert

Food and Flavour

When discussing food, we like to describe its flavour, temperature, or just how tasty it is! Here are some common adjectives for talking about food in Portuguese:

  • quente paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio hot, warm
  • fresco paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio fresh fresca paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio fresh
  • frio paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio cold fria paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio cold
  • podre paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio rotten
  • saboroso paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio tasty saborosa paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio tasty
  • doce paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio sweet
  • insosso paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio bland insossa paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio bland *
  • delicioso paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio delicious deliciosa paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio delicious
  • salgado paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio salty salgada paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio salty
  • condimentado paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio seasoned condimentada paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio seasoned
  • temperado paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio seasoned temperada paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio seasoned
  • The correct technical term for describing something as bland is insípido(a), which is equivalent to “insipid”. Insosso refers specifically to food lacking salt. The majority of Portuguese speakers will nonetheless use insosso(a) when describing something bland or tasteless. As an alternative, you could also say: Não sabe a nada paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio It doesn't taste like anything

Remember, since these are adjectives, they must agree in both gender and number with the object they’re referring to.
Examples:
Este bife está muito salgado. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio This steak is very salty.
A sopa está muito quente. Vou juntar água fria. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The soup is too hot. I'll add cold water to it.
Este frango é delicioso, mas o arroz não sabe a nada. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio This chicken is delicious, but the rice is bland.
A salada está bem temperada! paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The salad is well seasoned!

Comments

  • How do the Portuguese define or differentiate “jantar” and “ceia”? In English, we tend to use these interchangeably, I think: we can refer to the evening meal as “supper” or “dinner.”

    • Olá, David. For us, “jantar” is the main evening meal (it would correspond to our lunch, if it were daytime). “Ceia” is a smaller meal post-dinner, before going to bed. It’s more of a snack, really, not a proper meal.

  • In this sentence: ‘Não consigo comer mais nada hoje, sinto-me demasiado cheia’ shouldn’t it be ‘demasiada’ for feminine?

    • You can call it “lanche” as well 🙂 If you want to be more specific, you can say “lanche da manhã”. I’ve just added that info to the Learning Note.

    • Condimentado and temperado are synonyms when used to describe food. You can use either one of them, because both are extremely common. Apart from that, the word “temperado” has other uses, such as when talking about a “clima temperado” (temperate climate) or about “temperar as nossas emoções” (moderate/control our emotions) 🙂

  • Hi everyone,
    The part of the UK I’m from would not use supper for dinner and would stop work to eat around 12-1pm, always calling it lunch.
    Also some would call lunch, ‘dinner’. and dinner, ‘tea’!
    In fact having your ‘tea’ (as the main meal of the day), would be around 5-6pm and then, if having supper, this would be much later and only a very small snack before bedtime.
    Those who have ‘dinner’ (as the main meal of the day) would eat this around 9pm and be considered quite ‘posh’….
    Much of this confusion seems to come from the English obsession with ‘class’
    This made it quite tricky when inviting people for a meal…… by ‘dinner’ did you mean lunch…..So it’s not just the Portuguese who make language difficult to learn!
    Really enjoying the course. Well done! The opportunity to tea pronunciation is particularly useful for me.
    Just hope my failing mental capacity can retain most of it..

  • Bother…in the last post it should say ‘test pronunciation’ not ‘tea pronunciation’…damn spell correct!!

  • In Canada and the US, a “snack” is basically anything thing that you eat between the three main meals, usually something small. A mid-morning snack or mid-afternoon snack for example, or a bedtime snack. And nothing stops you from having several afternoon snacks! 🙂

    • No, everyone seems to have just adopted the English word. You’ll find (or would, pre-pandemic) lots of places in Portugal advertising their trendy “brunches” 🙂

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