Before I moved to Lisbon from the United States, I was used to driving in my car to one big box chain store such as Walmart and finding everything in one place. My local Walmart was a super-sized one that combined fresh produce with organic and frozen foods along with bread and bakery, a pharmacy, cookware, clothing, cosmetics, furniture, and even a large section for car items and camping.
If I needed a certain pot or cooking utensil, I could walk across the store to that particular section after picking up the ingredients on the grocery side of the store. I could also make copies, get photos processed, and even pick up a new book all at the same store. In Lisbon, and any other place without the amount of cheap land it requires to build and maintain such a superstore, this is not the case.
A Shopping Challenge
When you are used to finding everything in one or two places, Lisbon is going to present a challenge, especially if you are searching for specific exotic ingredients to make food from your home country. These are likely ingredients that Portugal isn’t used to putting into their Mediterranean-style diet with its focus on fresh fruits, meat, vegetables, and seafood.
After three years in Lisbon, I can tell you that almost everything that you are looking for is waiting for you somewhere in the city. You just have to know where to look. You may need to go to four or five different shops to get the things that you need, but you can find what you need without having to grow it yourself. Searching for these ingredients becomes a game in itself. Once you have found your ingredients of choice, you may want to buy in bulk or plan ahead to save time and make prepping easier.
Before I go any further, let me caveat all of this by saying that I love Portuguese food and its fresh ingredients. I have made several local recipes and it is definitely easier to shop for the local cuisine. I also love experimenting with food from around the world, which is what led me to start looking for different ingredients and seeing what I could find.
Without further ado, let’s look at the 9 best specialty shops to help you find those special ingredients that you’re looking for.
1. Continente Colombo
Of all the different places that I’ve visited in central Lisbon, Continente Colombo is the biggest and thus the most likely to have what you are looking for, including the closest thing I’ve found to one of the holy grails in Lisbon: spring onions, known as cebolinha fresca in Portugal. These are not exactly the same as spring onions, but they are close enough for many of the Asian dishes that you might want to cook.
Continente Colombo is located inside the biggest shopping mall on the Iberian peninsula, Colombo Shopping Centre in Carnide, which has 340 stores, 9 movie screens, and even a bowling alley.
Protip: whenever you’re looking for a particular thing and don’t want to shop online, Colombo is where most people end up in Lisbon. This also means that you’re going to find more variety of food at Continente Colombo than anywhere else.
As one example, at my local Pingo Doce supermarket, I cannot find the French style of green beans or brussels sprouts. The store just doesn’t carry them. The Lidl a bit further away also doesn’t carry French green beans, although they do offer brussels sprouts. Another difficult ingredient to find at the typical supermarket is ground cumin. This can be found at Continente Colombo along with some other items on our list. Knowing that it’s a rare ingredient will help you pick it up when you see it.
Address: Av. Lusiada, 1500-392, Ground Floor, Metro Station Colégio Militar/Luz (Blue Line)
Opening Hours: 8:00 AM – Midnight, Every Day
Celeiro is a Portuguese organic market and health food store that opened its first location in Lisbon in 1974. Today, it has 51 stores spread across Greater Lisbon, Porto, and other major cities in the country. It sells a very nice range of products including gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options.
Celeiro carries many products not available in any other physical store in Portugal. Today, you can find a host of vitamins and supplements as well as unusual spices, cereals, natural cosmetics, and even fresh produce. The prices are moderate to high here but for those with vegan and gluten-free diets, this is your best option.
Celeiro opened its online store in 2014 and is the fastest-growing health food store chain in Portugal.
Address: Av. Lusiada, 1500-392, Ground Floor, Metro Station Colégio Militar/Luz (Blue Line)
Opening Hours: 9:00 AM – Midnight, Every Day
3. El Corte Inglés
The Spanish supermarket chain El Corte Inglés has only one location in Lisbon, and it is a foodie’s delight, both for its basement supermarket and also for its 7th-floor gourmet experience. Like Continente in Colombo, it is quite a large store with entire aisles dedicated to foreign ingredients and spices. There are also a number of bath and body products with more brands available than your local supermarket. I mention this because when I first arrived in Lisbon, I had no idea where to buy shampoo or sunscreen and ended up paying high prices at a local pharmacy until I realized that the place to buy these things is at a large supermarket such as El Corte Inglés.
The 7th-floor El Corte Inglés Gourmet Dining experience, besides having a number of high-quality eateries with outdoor dining options, also has a gourmet food section. This is a great place to buy a gift for your favorite fellow foodie. A large number of spices including Namibian sea salt, Sicilian pepper, and Madras curry. If you are a true foodie and want the widest range of exotic spices, this is a great place for you. To get a wider range of Asian spices, however, you will need to go to #6 on this list.
Address: Av. António Augusto de Aguiar 31, 1069-413, Metro Station São Sebastião (Blue and Red lines). The Gourmet Experience is on the 7th floor.
Opening Hours: Monday-Thursday, 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM, Friday-Saturday, 9:00 AM – 11:30 PM, Sunday, 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM
4. Liberty Store
Liberty Store is a godsend for Americans who have been craving certain hard-to-find items from back home. However, it may make some people recoil in horror at the sugar and preservatives staring back at them through the store window. Sugary snacks and drinks such as Reeses, Twizzlers, and Dr. Pepper are available here. There is also one refrigerator full of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream!
Where Liberty particularly excels compared to traditional Portuguese supermarkets is its baking section. You can find cake, brownies, and icing mixes that do not exist in the meager Portuguese baking departments. Certain spice blends, pickle relish, and salad dressings are also available.
Surprisingly, there is also a range of cleaning and cooking products from the US. If you’re looking for Ziploc or American-size coolers, Liberty can meet your needs. As you might expect, there is no fresh produce on offer.
Address: Largo de São Sebastião da Pedreira 9D, 1069-413, Metro Station São Sebastião (Blue and Red lines)
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM
5. Portuel Kosher Food Store
There are also a few supermarkets in Lisbon catering to the Jewish community. I came to Portuel looking for one particular thing: kosher salt. I couldn’t find it anywhere else in the city, but I was able to find it here in both table and sea salt form.
Portuel is not big, but the owner Dror is very friendly and eager to help. The supermarket is clean and its products are laid out in neat rows. You can also find products such as hummus, zaatar, chanukah candles, and wine.
Address: R. Gomes Freire 146 A, 1150-180, Metro Station Picoas (Yellow Line)
Opening Hours: Monday-Thursday, 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM, Friday, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
6. Amanhecer/Mercado Oriental Martim Moniz
Amanhecer Mercado Oriental in Martim Moniz will likely be a place you return to again and again. The bottom floor is spread out over two rooms with the first focusing on Asian dried and frozen foods and fresh produce. On the border between the two rooms, you can find bottled and canned Asian drinks.
The second room starts with cookware and a small corner for cleaning products followed by a wide range of spices, condiments, and noodles from several different countries. There are aisles devoted to India, Thailand, Korea, and Japan followed by Portugal wine and souvenirs closest to the check-out counter.
One of my favorite things about the Mercado Oriental is the Asian food court on the ground floor and first floor. For a reasonable price, you can order a plate of pad thai from Thailand, get a banh mi from Vietnam, a bowl of Malaysian noodles, etc. While the quality is admittedly not on the level of Asia itself, this is a one-of-a-kind opportunity in Lisbon to travel through the flavors of Asia in one place.
Note: The entire Martim Moniz area has the biggest concentration of international food in all of Lisbon, and our next two supermarkets are located in this same area.
Address: R. da Palma 41 A 1o andar, 1100-390, Metro Station Martim Moniz (Green Line)
Opening Hours: 10:00 AM – 8:30 PM, Every Day
7. Khan Mercado
Located in Martim Moniz, Khan Mercado caters to those looking for halal meat. They also have Asian products available and an array of spices. The shop comes highly recommended by the Muslim community and is known for having a 100% halal butcher. While the shop isn’t very big, it provides particular ingredients that are hard to find in other parts of the city.
Address: R. do Benformoso 62, 1100-394, Metro Station Martim Moniz (Green Line)
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9:00 AM – 7:30 PM
8. Shere Punjab Supermercado
Shere Punjab Supermercado is also in the Martim Moniz area. It specializes in Indian ingredients including authentic basmati rice that is different from the basmati rice that you can find in classic Portuguese supermarket chains such as Pingo Doce. This supermarket also has a small cafe that serves fresh samosas and tandoori chicken.
Compared to Portuguese supermarket chains, the prices can be a little high, but this is typical of import stores in Portugal. Fresh produce is also available here along with pickles, chilis, and other traditional Indian items. I would buy only the specialty items that you need here and buy general items that you can find anywhere at a cheaper shop.
Address: R. da Palma 284 A, 1100-394, Metro Station Martim Moniz (Green Line)
Opening Hours: Thursday-Monday, 8:00 AM – Midnight, Tuesday-Wednesday, 8:00 AM – 10:30 PM
9. Mercado Santos
Mercado Santos is a small but well-stocked supermarket serving the western side of the city. A friend sent me here to get dill, which is very hard to find in average-sized Portuguese supermarkets, but I found it here on the first try. This supermarket has some great fresh produce in the front and a nice array of vegetarian and vegan options along with specialty meats and cheeses. While it doesn’t look like anything special from the front, I encourage you to go inside and see if you can find some hidden treasure to bring home and make for dinner.
Address: R. Santos-O-Velho 56, 1200-643, Metro Station Martim Moniz (Green Line)
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7:30 AM – 9:00 PM, Sunday, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Although I am not going into detail here, Portugal has a variety of supermarkets available with Pingo Doce, Lidl, Continente, and Auchan being the most common around central Lisbon. Aldi is gaining more of a foothold in the country along with the Spanish Mercadona chain, which is not yet in central Lisbon but has several locations now in Portugal.
Once you find the shops that carry your ingredients, start tracking where you can find them and plan your shopping accordingly. I now make sure to stock up at the specialty supermarkets so that I only need to go every couple of months.
Lisbon has a surprising amount of international ingredients available. You just need to know where to look.