Exploring the History and Traditions Behind Portuguese Grilled Chicken

Portuguese cuisine is known for its rich flavors and diverse influences from around the world. Among the most popular dishes from Portugal is the grilled chicken, or “Frango Assado.” The dish has become a staple in many Portuguese households and is also a favorite in Portuguese restaurants around the world. In this article, we will explore the history and traditions behind Portuguese grilled chicken.

Historical background of Portuguese grilled chicken

Portuguese cuisine has a long and fascinating history. Over the centuries, it has been influenced by the culinary traditions of various cultures, including the Moors, Romans, and Phoenicians. The Portuguese have also had a significant impact on other cuisines, particularly in Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, and other former colonies.

The origins of Portuguese grilled chicken can be traced back to the rural areas of Portugal. Historically, the dish was prepared during village festivals and celebrations, where the chicken was typically marinated in wine, garlic, and spices before being grilled over an open flame. The dish was popular among the working-class population and was often prepared during outdoor gatherings.

Cultural Significance and Traditions of Portuguese grilled chicken

Portuguese grilled chicken is a beloved dish in Portugal and is deeply rooted in the country’s culture. It is often served during family gatherings and special occasions, such as weddings, baptisms, and religious festivals. In some regions of Portugal, the dish is also a popular street food, served from roadside grills.

Traditionally, Portuguese grilled chicken is marinated in a blend of garlic, wine, olive oil, and herbs such as oregano, paprika, and bay leaves. The marinade is often left to soak into the meat for several hours or overnight, resulting in a succulent and flavorful chicken.

When it comes to cooking chicken, there are different techniques employed across Portugal. Some regions prefer to cook the chicken on a charcoal grill, while others use a gas grill or wood-fired oven. The chicken is typically cooked until it is tender and juicy, with crispy skin and a smoky flavor.

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Ingredients and preparation of Portuguese grilled chicken

The key to preparing delicious Portuguese grilled chicken is in the marinade. The traditional marinade is made up of a combination of garlic, wine, olive oil, and herbs such as oregano, paprika, and bay leaves. Some recipes also call for the addition of chili pepper or piri-piri sauce, which adds a spicy kick to the dish.

To prepare the marinade, the ingredients are mixed together in a bowl and the chicken is placed in a large plastic bag or container. The marinade is then poured over the chicken and rubbed in thoroughly, ensuring that the meat is evenly coated. The chicken is then left to marinate for several hours or overnight, allowing the flavors to penetrate the meat.

It is time to grill the chicken after marinating it. The chicken is typically grilled over medium heat for around 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally to ensure that it cooks evenly. The chicken is then served hot, often accompanied by a side of salad, fries, or rice.

The evolution of Portuguese grilled chicken in modern times

In recent years, Portuguese grilled chicken has become increasingly popular around the world. The dish has been adapted and modified to suit different tastes and preferences, resulting in a range of contemporary variations.

One such variation is the use of different spices and marinades, such as lemon and garlic or honey and mustard. Some recipes also call for the addition of beer or other alcoholic beverages to the marinade, which can add a unique flavor to the dish.

In addition to the traditional method of grilling the chicken, other cooking techniques have also been employed. Some restaurants now offer Portuguese grilled chicken that has been smoked or slow-cooked, resulting in tender and flavorful meat. Others have created fusion dishes by incorporating Portuguese grilled chicken into wraps, sandwiches, and pizzas.

Despite the evolution of the dish, the traditional methods of preparing Portuguese grilled chicken remain popular in Portugal. The dish is still a staple in many households, particularly in rural areas where it is often cooked over an open flame or charcoal grill.


Portuguese grilled chicken is a delicious and flavorful dish that has become a beloved part of Portuguese cuisine. Its history and traditions can be traced back to rural celebrations and outdoor gatherings, where it was prepared using traditional marinades and cooking techniques.

Today, Portuguese grilled chicken is enjoyed around the world, with contemporary variations and fusion dishes adding to its popularity. However, the traditional methods of preparing the dish remain popular in Portugal, where it continues to be a staple in many households.

As we have seen, the history and traditions behind Portuguese grilled chicken are a testament to the rich and diverse culinary heritage of Portugal. Whether you’re enjoying it at a family gathering or in a Portuguese restaurant, this classic dish is sure to delight your taste buds and transport you to the vibrant and flavorful world of Portuguese cuisine.