The alheira is a type of Portuguese sausage, made with meats other than pork (usually veal, duck, chicken, quail or rabbit) and bread.
Although its name derives from the Portuguese word for garlic (alho) and was once used to describe any sausage seasoned with it, present-day alheiras don’t necessarily contain garlic (although it is still a common ingredient).
The type of sausage currently known as “alheira” was invented by the Jews of Portugal, who were forced to convert to Christianity, as a way to deceive the Portuguese Inquisition. Since their religion didn’t allow them to eat pork, they were easily identifiable by the fact that they didn’t hang sausages in their smokehouses (fumeiros in Portuguese). As a cover, they replaced pork with a large variety of other meats, such as poultry and game, which would then be mixed with bread for texture. This recipe would later spread among Christians, who added the ever-present pork to it.
Alheiras were traditionally grilled or roasted and served with boiled vegetables. Nowadays, however, they tend to be fried and served with chips and a fried egg. They are often one of the cheapest courses in restaurant menus, although those made with game can be expensive.
Although typically associated with the city of Mirandela, the regions of Beira Alta and Trás-os-Montes are also famous for their alheiras.
Varieties with PGI protection status include Alheira de Vinhais and Alheira de Barroso-Montalegre.