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Portuguese Espetada (Beef Skewers) Recipe

Portuguese Espetada (Beef Skewers) Recipe

Espetada is a Portuguese dish primarily consisting of large cubes of beef which are skewered and barbecued. The beef is marinated in salt and garlic and later skewered on a bay leaf stick.

Espetada is a popular delicacy, particularly on the island of Madeira, where it is typically served as a main dish during the summer months.

Also consumed at Madeira parties and picnics, it is recommended to serve espetada with a glass of cold sangria. Although, they are generally served together with potatoes or white rice and salad, foods like Bolo do caco, milho frito and fried squares of solid polenta can also be used as a side dish.

Served with the skewer swinging perpendicular from a hook, espetada is a perfect combination of flavor and aesthetics.

Origin & Cultural Significance

Unlike today, espetada was not accessible to all the citizens of Madeira. The most deprived people of society only got to taste it during festivals, traditional events or during Madeiran pilgrimages. The reason simply being the price of beef back then.

Religious festivals held on the island of Madeira were considered to be very significant for those of the Christian faith. People from other communities also gathered on those days to celebrate and relish some of the “privileges” that weren’t otherwise accessible to them. However, today Espetada is one of the most eaten delicacies at parties, pilgrimages and in family and private gatherings on the island.

It was in the mid-1950s that espetada was first introduced to restaurants. Francisco da Silva Freitas launched the first espetada restaurant in Madeira and since then people have been visiting the restaurant to enjoy the authentic and the traditional espetada.


Portuguese Espetada Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes


  • Beef tenderloin - 2.2 lbs
  • Garlic - 2 heads
  • Bay (laurel) - 1 branch
  • Coarse salt - to taste
  • Black pepper - to taste


  1. Take the meat and cut it into cubes of equal sizes. Keep them aside.
  2. Next, take the garlic, black pepper, and the bay leaves and crush them in a mortar.
  3. Using laurel wood skewers, skewer the beef. You can also use iron skewers if you don’t have laurel wood skewers. While skewering, keep in mind to make sure that all the fatty parts of the meat are facing the same side.
  4. Next take the meat and season it with the freshly prepared garlic, black pepper and bay leaves mixture.
  5. Sprinkle a little bit of salt on top (according to taste) and cook over embers. Make sure to cook from all sides until the meat turns brown in color and remember to keep turning it continuously.
  6. Once the espetadas are cooked completely, get rid of excess salt by striking two skewers against each other.
  7. Serve hot with bolo de caco (Madeiran flatbread), milho frito (fried cornmeal), and some garlic butter and there you have it, your espetada is ready to be eaten!
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 666Total Fat: 49gSaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 170mgSodium: 232mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 49g

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