FRANCESINHA: Where to Find the Best Porto Sandwich

If you love sandwiches, you will love the Porto Sandwich, the Francesinha, literally translated to “little French woman”, a Portuguese sandwich recipe created by Daniel da Silva. Find out where you can eat the best Francesinha, how to make your own Porto sandwich, and the origins of this unique dish!

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What are the origins of the Francesinha?

According to the story, it was a Portuguese emigrant named Daniel da Silva who, in the fifties, created the original recipe for Francesinha or Porto sandwich while working at the restaurant “A Regaleira” in Porto.

Having been an emigrant in France, he came up with the idea of the Francesinha sandwich by having the “Croque-Monsieur”, one of the most typical sandwiches in France, as his inspiration.

Francesinha Porto typically served with french fries.

What is Francesinha exactly?

Francesinha, or Francesinha sandwich, is a type of sandwich that is traditionally made with two slices of lightly toasted thick bread enclosing the sandwich, with then a slice of bread in between each layer of cheese and meat: beef steak, linguiça (Portuguese sausage), mortadella (cured meat) and fresh sausage.

The famous Francesinha sandwich topped with an egg.
The famous Francesinha sandwich is topped with an egg.

When piled up, the Francesinha is then covered with multiple slices of cheese and oven-baked until the cheese is melted. This is likely not a meal your doctor will approve of, but it’s a cultural experience so the calories don’t count right!

Finally, the most important ingredient of Francesinha is poured over the top: a hot, juicy sauce, slightly thick and spicy. The Francesinha sauce is definitely the key ingredient of a Francesinha. Its flavor may vary because of the diversity and quantity of alcoholic beverages used, making it more acidic or sweeter. Despite that, Port wine is mandatory in a Francesinha recipe.

Francesinha sounds like “fran·suh·see·nyuh”.

To complement the dish, be sure to order it with a side of french fries and a cold beer because that is the way to eat a Porto Francesinha just as a local would.

Where can you eat the best Francesinha?

It is undeniable that to eat the best Francesinha you must visit Porto, the city where Francesinha was born. Here is a list of restaurants approved by local Porto residents where you can eat a true Porto Francesinha. It might help to be able to pronounce it when you order it!

The Porto Sandwich the Francesinha is often served with French fries
The famous Porto Sandwich the Francesinha. Credit: Ines Tito

Barcarola Restaurants

Founded in 1974, Barcarola’s concept is based on a restaurant project that integrates the values ​​of Portuguese traditional dishes, with high-quality ingredients and fast-paced service in comfortable and familiar spaces. Barcarola assumes itself as “Francesinhas Cathedral” so much so that the term Francesinha à Barcarola is widely known in Porto.

Francesinha at Barcarola
Tender steak is a feature of a good sandwich. Credit: Barcarola

Where: ArrábidaShopping, Praceta de Henrique Moreira 244 Loja 239, 4400-346 Vila Nova de Gaia
When: 9am-10.30pm
More information: There are a couple of branches of Barcarola in Porto, but this is the closest to the city center

Francesinha Café

High-quality ingredients and friendly staff make this place one of the best Francesinhas restaurants in Porto. Their Francesinha comes “decorated” on the top: a slice of ham, a little sausage, or even some appetizing prawns. You will find the restaurant ten minutes from the Marquês metro station, very close to the highest point in the city of Porto.

Prawns decorate the top of a Porto sandwich here Credit: Francesinha Cafe

Where: Rua da Alegria, 946 4000-000 Porto Portugal
When: 12pm-3pm and 7pm-11pm
More information: The Franceshinha Cafe Facebook

Brasão Cervejaria

Brasão is, without a doubt, one of the best Francesinhas restaurants in Porto. It has a diverse menu, with fabulous starters and vegetarian dishes, in which the oven-baked Francesinha has, naturally, a prominent place. There are three Brasão restaurants at the moment: one near Avenida dos Aliados, another right next to the Coliseu do Porto, and another in Foz.

Where: Rua da Alegria, 946 4000-000 Porto Portugal
When: 12pm-3pm and 7pm-11pm
More information: Brasão Cervejaria Website

Café Santiago

Santiago’s Francesinha is famously well received by tourists. The simple space is compensated by the speed of the service and by the Francesinha without blemish. In fact, in 2019 it won TripExpert’s Experts’ Choice Award.

Credit: Café Santiago

The location is perfect–right in front of the Coliseu do Porto; it invites you for a relaxed walk or a fun drink with friends. I highly recommend you to go early, because it gets crowded quickly!

Where: R. de Passos Manuel 226, 4000-382 Porto
When: Noon – 11pm (10.30pm on Mondays)
More information: Check the website to view the menu

Restaurante Cufra

Restaurante Cufra is one of the oldest restaurants in Porto, and one of its most famous dishes is the Porto Sandwich. It is even said that only three people know the secret of Cufra’s Francesinha sauce, which was perfected from the recipe at Regaleira, the first restaurant in Porto to serve Francesinha.

Porto Sandwich
Credit: Restaurante Cufra

In fact, it serves one of the best Francesinhas in Porto, with quality sausages, its secret sauce, and properly toasted bread. With 7 types of Francesinhas on the menu and open until 2 am, this is the place to head for a late-night feast.

Where: Avenida Boavista 2504 4100-119 Porto
When: Noon – 2 am
More information: View the menu here

Try the Francesinha at home

While the Porto Sandwich may not be as pretty as Lisbon’s Pastel de nata, it is just as special to the Portuguese. Why not make your own? It’s one of the easiest Portuguese traditional dishes to make, cheap and delicious too. Please keep in mind that this is one Francesinha recipe. There are many other recipes out there. Follow this Francesinha recipe or find a different one.

So, let us first look at what ingredients to prepare:

A Francesinha Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 6 bread slices (2 thick slices and four soft slices)
  • 8 cheese slices
  • 2 small beef steaks (instead you can use pork steak)
  • 2 fresh sausages
  • 2 linguiças (Portuguese sausage) (instead you can use ham steak)
  • 2 ham slices
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

For the sauce:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 4 dl beer
  • 3 tablespoons canned tomatoes pulp
  • 0.5 dl brandy or rum or whisky
  • 0.5 dl port wine
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of white wine
  • 1 tablespoon margarine (instead of margarine, you can use olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch flour
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and Piri Piri to taste

Preparing your sandwich

The sauce:

  1. Peel the onion and the garlic, chop them coarsely, put them in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the margarine (or olive oil). the white wine and the bay leaf, bring to a boil and cook until the onion turns translucent.
  2. When the onion turns translucent, add the canned tomatoes pulp, beef stock, beer, and bring to a boil.
  3. In a separate container, dissolve the cornstarch flour in cold water with the help of a hand mixer. When properly dissolved, add all the container contents into the medium saucepan while constantly stirring the sauce with a hand mixer.
  4. Taste the sauce and, depending on your preferred texture, rectify the salt and season it with Piri Piri.
  5. Finally, add the brandy(or rum or whisky) and Port Wine and bring the sauce to a boil. Let the sauce simmer. For a little more flavor, you can add beef broth to it.
  6. Remove the sauce from the heat, grind everything with the magic wand.

The Meat:

  1. Cut the sausages in half, then again in half lengthwise, and season with salt and black pepper.
  2. Season the beef steaks with salt and pepper as well. Over high heat, grill the steaks, and sausages to taste.
  3. When you are done with every steak and sausage, move on to prepare the bread for your sandwich.

Assembling the sandwich:

  1. On a frying pan, lightly fry the slices of bread, one at a time. When it’s toasted, put one slice on the plate and reserve the remaining ones.
  2. Cover the first piece with a slice of ham, then add the steak and then place another piece of bread. After, add the Portuguese sausage and the fresh sausage, and cover it with a cheese slice and another piece of bread. Put the remaining beefsteak, ham, and cheese on top and cover it with another piece of bread. Finally, put the remaining bread slices on top, with a slice of cheese in between them.
  3. Move the sandwich from the plate to an oven-resistant recipient and turn the oven to 200°C. While you wait for your sandwich, re-heat the sauce on the stove with low to medium heat. If you have trims of the steaks’ own fat, you can now add it to the sauce for more flavor.
  4. When you see melted cheese, remove the sandwich from the oven and serve it on a soup plate. Drizzle the hot sauce on top of the sandwich,
  5. Then on the final bread slice, you can put a fried egg, try to make the egg yolk visible. Remember that the egg on top is optional. To complete this traditional dish, don’t forget the french fries, preferably drizzled with the remaining sauce ingredients or with the sauce on the side so you can dip your french fries in it.