Alcatra – Portuguese Pot Roast

Most often at the Portuguese Festa, or Holy Ghost Festival as some call it. The story goes like this:

I’ve had many requests for the Alcatra recipe recently but I waited until the weather got a little cooler to share it with you.

Alcatra is a pot roast very popular in the Azorean Island of Terceira in Portugal. It is mostly made during the Holy Ghost Festivals which are celebrated at all the other Azorean Islands, as well as in many Azorean immigrant communities in the United States and in other countries with an Azorean – Portuguese immigrant community. Here’s a list of Holy Ghost and other Festas.

You can learn more about the gastronomy of the Azores here or read this book: Sopas: A brief History of Portuguese Islanders, the Cape Cod Town of Falmouth, and the Feast of the Holy Ghost (2012) Lewis A. White.

This following recipe for Alcatra is from the cook book;

Portuguese Home Style Cooking by Author Ana Patuleia Ortins

Thank you Ana!

Alcatra – Beef Rump

“The Azorean Portuguese from the Island of Terceira are famous for this unique dish, Simply seasoned with allspice, pepper, salt and bay leaf, it is traditionally served on the Feast of the Holy Ghost, but can be served on other occasions as well. Cooked in red wine, the meat takes on a deep mahogany color.

Other Azorean Islands have versions of this popular meal. Some cooks use white wine for a lighter color. Served with rice as a separate coarse after the Soup of the Holy Ghost. (see page 40 of cook book), or is prepared in a clay pot.

The traditional pot is somewhat like an inverted lamp shade in shape. Similar deep, unglazed clay bakers may be found at kitchen specialty shops (or see resource guide at the end of the book). New -clay pots must be seasoned. Unglazed clay pots must be soaked before each use and placed in a cold oven to prevent cracking.”


1 – Pre soaked unglazed 4 quart red clay pot or 4 quart dutch oven or casserole pan *soaking instructions below*

1   Stick of soft butter

3  Large onion, thinly sliced

½  Pound slab bacon cut into 1 inch pieces

6   Cloves garlic

2   Bay leaves

1    5 Pound rump or chuck roast, bone in, cut into 4 inch pieces

1   Pound shin bone (if using rump roast)

½  tsp whole allspice (Jamaican is best)

½  tsp black peppercorns

1   tsp coarse salt

4   tbsp firm butter, cut into pieces

1   cup water

4-6 Cups medium bodied red or white wine


1.  Generously grease the interior of the pot with the soft butter

2.  Place half of the onions in the bottom of the pot followed by half of the bacon, garlic and 1 bay leaf. Add the meat, including the bone from the roast or shin bone. Followed by the second bay leaf, the garlic and remaining bacon. End with the remaining onions. Scatter the allspice and Peppercorns over top along with the salt. Dot the top with pieces of the cold butter.

3.   Mix the water with 1 cup of the wine, pour over the ingredients followed by enough additional wine to cover everything by 1 inch.

4.   Place the pot in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 400 degrees F. When the liquid begins o boil, reduce the temperature to 300 degrees, cover the pot with foil and cook, without turning the ingredients until tender –  about 3-31/20 hours more.

5.  Turn off the heat. Uncover the pot and remove some of the broth for cooking the rice. Leave the uncovered pot in the oven just until the oven heat has dissipated.

The top will brown a little. Serve meat with rice cooked in the broth.

Soaking & Seasoning Pot – Notes:

Lucia Costa, who learned to prepare this dish as a young girl in Terceira, says long slow cooking is necessary to cook this dish.

A new unglazed clay pot needs to be seasoned to avoid passing an earthy flavor to food.

To season; fill the pot with water and add several cabbage or collard leaves and and some onion peelings.

Then place the pot on a flame diffuser over medium heat. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 hours and then drain.

When you want to cook in the pot, immerse it in water and soak for 24 hours. Then proceed with the recipe by generously greasing the interior with butter.”(Portuguese Home Style Cooking by  Ana Patuleia Ortins)

Alcatra Photo credit:

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  1. marg cordeiro says:

    Canja – I would love the recipe for this one. This is a favourite of all the kids when we visit grandmas house.

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