Francesinha – a sandwich with a kick

hot sandwich with cheese, egg, meat and gravy

What is it? It is a hot sandwich with gravy! Sounds quite wrong doesn’t it however, it is tasty. 

A general description of this Portuguese sandwich is different meats and cheese, placed between two thick slices of bread with a hot sauce poured over the top. Often served with an egg on top and chips as a side dish.

The francesinha, meaning little Frenchie, is linked to the northern Portuguese city of Porto where each establishment keeps the sauce top secret, each claiming their recipe far superior to their neighbours’. The filling is usually thin beef steak (left-over roast beef would be fine), sausage (chouriço, linguiça, fresh sausage) and ham but this can differ whereever you eat.

It is believed that the recipe was based on the croque-monsieur , a hot sandwich made with ham and cheese served in French cafés and snack bars. But there is some debate as to the origins of the francesinha. One emigrant restaurant owner claimed he devised it on his return from France in the 1950s. However, in the period during the two World Wars, the word francesinha was used to describe a hot mixed sandwich with cheese melted on the top slice of the bread and a varied filling added to the usual ham and cheese of the croque-monsieur

Brazil also claims to be part of the history of the glorified sandwich. In the 1960s many of São Paulo’s cafés and snack bars sold a “hot mixed sandwich” with the words “French type” in parenthesis – the croque-monsieur. At that time, the majority of these business owners were from northern Portugal.

Whatever the history, francesinha is obviously the Portuguese version of the French croque-monsieur

Here in Algarve, visitors can taste this wonderful concoction at Portuguese cafés and snack bars, although it is not a common item on the menu.

We would recommend Snack Bar Boutique, close to Alvor, Portimão  Easy parking available, owner Daniel and his family are currently open for takeaway.

In 2018 the francesinha appeared in’s “Under-the-radar sandwiches you won’t believe exist” and they even created a quiz for readers of the article.

And why not give it a go at home? Adam Liaw’s francesinha is a tried and tested recipe and of course you can adapt it to suit your taste – even make it vegetarian.

For those who would like to try cooking more traditional (easy) Portuguese recipes click here for a soup (caldo verde) and for two main courses, jardineira and bacalhau de Pascôa, click here.


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