Portuguese Cacoila Recipe – carne de vinha d’alhos

This Portuguese Recipe, also called, carne de vinha d’alhos is a crowd-pleaser. Tender and juicy with a punch of flavor from the spices and fortified red wine.

Cacoila Portuguese Style Pulled Pork MAIN

Cacoila is a Portuguese recipe for a slow-simmered beef or pork dish. Pronounced traditionally as Kah-Soy-La, my family pronounces this dish as Kah-Sir-La. This is one of my favorite Portuguese dishes from childhood.

In Portuguese cuisine, every family has their own variation of Cacoila recipe. Every recipe, however, uses an inexpensive cut of meat. The meat is simmered for several hours until it’s tender. I like to add crushed tomatoes but you may omit them without substitution.

In fact, a more expensive cut of meat like pork tenderloin will not work well with this method. It lacks the fat needed to keep the meat juicy during the long cooking process.

The ingredients for Portuguese pulled pork (cacoila) on a table.

What Ingredients are in Cacoila – Portuguese Pulled Pork?

  • Boneless Boston Pork Butt Roast – I used a 4 lb boneless Boston butt half roast
  • Crushed tomatoes – use the best variety for your budget. I use San Marzano tomatoes [paid link]
  • Tomato sauce – Use the best variety for your budget, I use San Marzano tomatoes [paid link], if I cannot find them, I use steam-peeled, low-sodium tomato sauce
  • Madeira Red Wine – This is the best Portuguese red wine for this dish but is only found in liquor stores that sell wine. If you cannot find Madeira wine, try another sweet red wine. See Notes below on wine selection and alternatives.
  • Onion – I use sweet onions but yellow or white onions will also work here.
  • Paprika – sweet or hot, depending on your desired heat level, both work well in this dish.
  • Piri Piri Peppers – Piri Piri peppers are traditional – if you have those on hand, use them here. Otherwise, crushed red pepper flakes make a good substitute.
  • Portuguese Allspice – substitute regular allspice. Portuguese allspice is a blend of cinnamon, allspice, anise, orange zest, and ground black pepper.
  • Bay Leaves – dried leaves from Bay Laurel tree used to add flavor to the sauce. These are removed before serving so leave them whole.
  • Ground cinnamon** – If not using Portuguese allspice, add a pinch of cinnamon to regular allspice to add warmth to the sauce.
  • Star Anise** – tastes like black licorice. Add two whole stars if you are using regular allspice.
  • Dried Orange Zest** – add a pinch if you are using regular allspice and not Portuguese allspice.
  • Salt and ground black pepper – more or less to taste. 

What’s the Best substitute for Madeira Wine? 

It would make sense that Portuguese food would call for a wine made in that country. Madeira is a fortified red wine. Since the wine is fortified with brandy, this wine can usually only be purchased in a liquor store and will not typically be found in the grocery store.

Madeira wine gets its unique flavor from heating the wine during production giving the wine some fascinating flavors like roasted nuts, stewed fruit, caramel, and toffee.

As an alternative, use another sweet red wine in its place. Yellow Tail makes a Sweet Red Roo which I enjoy in this dish. This wine has flavor notes very similar to those in Madeira wine.

Barefoot also makes a Sweet Red wine but I do not care for that flavor profile in this dish.

If you do not have red wine, substitute sweet white wine.

How to Make Cacoila Recipe

  1. Place all the ingredients, aside from the sandwich buns, in a 6-qt Slow Cooker [paid link]. Portuguese pulled pork (cacoila) in the crock pot
  2. Simmer on LOW for 10 to 12 hours until the meat is tender and easily pulled apart with a pair of forks. Shredded pork for cacoila in the slow cooker.
  3. Serve alone or on buns as sandwiches.
  4. To make it a meal, serve with fava beans, boiled potatoes, rice, or greens.A Portuguese Pulled Pork Sandwich, Cacoila, on a cutting board with a green towel in the background.

Why this recipe works

Overall, cacoila is a delicious and satisfying dish that combines the elements of marination, slow cooking, and well-balanced flavors to create a flavorful and tender pork dish that has stood the test of time in Portuguese cuisine.

  1. Balanced Flavors: The marinade ingredients, particularly the vinegar and garlic, provide a harmonious balance of acidity and savory flavors. The vinegar not only imparts a tangy taste but also helps tenderize the meat. The garlic adds a rich, aromatic quality.
  2. Slow Cooking: Cacoila is traditionally slow-cooked, which further enhances the tenderness of the pork. This slow simmering allows the meat to become fork-tender and develop a depth of flavor as it absorbs the marinade.
  3. Spices and Seasonings: Spices like paprika and cumin, along with bay leaves, are often used to season cacoila. These spices add layers of complexity to the dish, creating a flavorful and aromatic profile.
  4. Customizability: Every Cacoila recipe will most likely vary from one household to another, allowing for customization to personal preferences. Some people may prefer a spicier version, while others might opt for a milder one. The recipe can be adjusted to suit individual tastes.
  5. Versatility: Cacoila can be served in various ways, making it a versatile dish. It’s commonly served as a sandwich or over rice, but it can also be used as a filling for tacos or as a topping for potatoes or pasta.
  6. Cultural Tradition: Cacoila is deeply rooted in Portuguese culinary tradition, and its preparation has been passed down through generations. This cultural significance adds to its appeal and ensures that the recipe is tried and true.

Recipe tips and kitchen tricks

  1. Read the Recipe Thoroughly Before Starting: Before you begin cooking, take a few minutes to read the entire recipe from start to finish. This will give you a clear understanding of the cooking process and help you avoid surprises or mistakes along the way.
  2. Prep Ingredients in Advance: Mise en place, or preparing and organizing all your ingredients before you start cooking, can save you time and reduce stress during cooking. Chop, measure, and have everything ready to go.
  3. Master Basic Techniques: Focus on mastering fundamental cooking techniques like sautéing, roasting, and braising. These skills are the building blocks for many recipes and will serve you well in the kitchen.

Recipe Variations

  1. Chicken Cacoila: Instead of pork, use boneless chicken thighs or breast pieces. Marinate the chicken in the traditional Cacoila marinade with vinegar, garlic, and spices. Adjust the cooking time to ensure the chicken is cooked through while remaining tender.
  2. Beef Cacoila: Substitute pork with beef cubes or strips. Marinate the beef in the traditional Cacoila marinade for a rich and flavorful beef version. Simmer the beef until it becomes tender and delicious.
  3. Spicy Cacoila: Add heat to your Cacoila recipe by including spicy ingredients like hot chili peppers or red pepper flakes. Adjust the spiciness to your preference by adding more or less heat.

Serving Suggestions

  1. Cacoila Sandwich: Serve Cacoila as a sandwich filling. Place it between slices of crusty bread or rolls, and add your favorite toppings like lettuce, tomato, onions, and cheese. You can also spread mayonnaise or mustard for extra flavor.
  2. Cacoila Rice Bowl: Serve Cacoila over a bed of cooked white or brown rice. The flavorful sauce from the Cacoila recipe will soak into the rice, creating a delicious and satisfying meal. Add steamed vegetables or a fried egg on top for extra variety.
  3. Cacoila Tacos: Fill soft or hard taco shells with Cacoila, and add your favorite taco toppings such as shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges for a burst of freshness.

Storing, freezing, and reheating instructions

Storing Cacoila:

  1. Refrigeration: Allow the Cacoila to cool to room temperature before refrigerating it. Store it in an airtight container or a sealed plastic bag.
  2. Label and Date: Label the container with the date of preparation so you can keep track of its freshness.
  3. Refrigerate: Place the container in the refrigerator, where it can be stored for up to 3 to 4 days.

Freezing Cacoila:

  1. Cool Completely: Allow the Cacoila to cool completely before freezing it. Hot food can raise the temperature inside the freezer, potentially affecting other items.
  2. Portion Control: Consider dividing the Cacoila into meal-sized portions before freezing. This makes it easier to thaw only what you need.
  3. Use Freezer Bags or Containers: Use airtight freezer-safe containers or heavy-duty freezer bags to prevent freezer burn and maintain quality.
  4. Remove Air: Squeeze out excess air from freezer bags to minimize freezer burn. If using containers, make sure they have a tight seal.
  5. Label and Date: Clearly label the containers or bags with the contents and the date of freezing.
  6. Freeze: Place the containers or bags in the freezer. Cacoila can be frozen for up to 2-3 months.

Reheating Cacoila:

  1. Thawing: If frozen, thaw the Cacoila in the refrigerator overnight or use the defrost function on your microwave.
  2. Stovetop: Reheat in a saucepan [paid link] over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally. You can add a splash of water or broth if it has thickened too much during storage.
  3. Microwave: For a quicker option, you can reheat portions in the microwave. Use a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap, and heat in short intervals, stirring in between until heated through.
  4. Oven: To reheat a larger batch, use an oven-safe dish. Preheat the oven to a low temperature (around 275°F or 135°C), cover the dish with foil, and bake until heated through. Stir occasionally to ensure even heating.
  5. Check Temperature: Regardless of the method, make sure the Cacoila reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C) to ensure it’s safe to eat.
  6. Add Freshness: If the Cacoila appears dry after reheating, you can add a splash of broth, water, or wine to restore its moisture and flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Can I make Cacoila with other meats besides pork? Yes, you can make this Cacoila recipe with different meats. While pork is traditional, you can use chicken, beef, or even a combination of meats. Adjust the cooking time and method to suit the type of meat you choose. The key is to marinate the meat in the Cacoila marinade for flavor.
  2. What are some traditional side dishes to serve with Cacoila? Traditional side dishes to serve with Cacoila include Portuguese rice (arroz), French fries (batatas fritas), sautéed greens (such as collard greens or kale), and Portuguese-style cornbread (broa). You can also serve it with a simple salad or roasted vegetables for a balanced meal.
  3. Is Cacoila very spicy? The spiciness of Cacoila can vary depending on the recipe and personal preferences. Traditional Cacoila is not extremely spicy, but it can have a mild to moderate level of heat from ingredients like chili peppers or paprika. If you prefer a spicier version, you can adjust the amount of spicy ingredients to suit your taste, or you can opt for a mild version if you’re sensitive to heat.

Wine and Cocktail Pairings

Wine Pairings:

  1. Red Vinho Verde: A classic choice for pairing with Cacoila is a red Vinho Verde from Portugal. Its bright acidity, light body, and fruity notes complement the flavors of the dish while refreshing the palate.
  2. Tinto de Toro: This Spanish red wine, made from the Tempranillo grape, offers bold flavors of dark fruits and spices. It pairs well with the rich and savory flavors of Cacoila, enhancing the overall dining experience.
  3. Malbec: A full-bodied Malbec from Argentina can be a delightful match for Cacoila, especially if the dish has a slightly spicy kick. The wine’s dark fruit flavors and hints of cocoa and tobacco can complement the dish’s depth of flavor.

Cocktail Pairings:

  1. Sangria: A pitcher of red wine Sangria filled with fresh fruit, brandy, and a touch of sweetness can be a refreshing and fruity counterpart to Cacoila. The fruitiness and slight sweetness of Sangria can balance the dish’s savory flavors.
  2. Caipirinha: This Brazilian cocktail made with cachaca (a sugarcane spirit), lime, and sugar is a zesty and citrusy choice. Its brightness and acidity can cut through the richness of Cacoila.
  3. Portuguese White Port and Tonic: A popular Portuguese drink, this cocktail combines white Port wine with tonic water and a slice of lemon or lime. It’s a crisp and slightly sweet option that pairs well with the dish’s flavors.
Cacoila Portuguese Style Pulled Pork Slow Cooker Crock Pot Sandwich

Portuguese Cacoila Recipe, carne de vinha d’alhos

Ronda Eagle | Kitchen Dreaming
This Portuguese pulled pork recipe is a crowd pleaser. Tender and juicy with a punch of flavor from the spices and red wine, step away from ordinary pulled pork with this caçoila recipe.  This recipe is written for a 6-qt slow cooker [paid link]
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 hours
Total Time 10 hours 10 minutes
Course Dinner, lunch
Cuisine Portuguese
Servings 8 people
Calories 522 kcal


  • 4 lbs boneless pork butt
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 28 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups Sweet Red Wine, Madeira See Notes
  • 1 large onion , sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon Portuguese Allspice See Notes
  • 1 tablespoon Paprika
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes , more or less for spiciness
  • salt and pepper , to taste
  • 2 Whole Bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic more or less to taste

Optional Ingredients:

  • 8 Hamburger buns or Rolls [See Note]


  • Place all the ingredients, aside from the sandwich buns, in your 6-qt slow cooker [paid link].
  • Simmer on low for 10 to 12 hours until the meat is tender and easily pulls apart.
  • Stir the shredded meat back into the sauce. Serve as is or as sandwiches.


  1.  Portuguese hard rolls are not available in all areas of the world. Chicago rolls would work well here. Nutrition is calculated with a hamburger bun.
  2. Traditionally, cacoila is served on a bulky roll but it may also be served over rice or potatoes for a more hearty meal.
  3. Beef is equally delicious in this recipe and for that, I use a cut of meat like stew beef.
  4. If Portuguese allspice is not available, use regular allspice and a pinch of each of the following: ground cinnamon and dried orange peel. Then add two whole star anise pods. Remove the star anise pods before serving.
  5. Madeira Red Wine is a fortified wine typically found in the liquor store. Because of the fortification, it is not usually found in the grocery store. If you prefer, you may substitute the Madeira wine with a sweet red table wine. I recommend Yellow Tail Sweet Red Roo for its similar flavor notes. I do not recommend Barefoot Sweet Red for this recipe. 


Serving: 1cupCalories: 522kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 50gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 136mgSodium: 1016mgPotassium: 1547mgFiber: 4gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 1075IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 166mgIron: 7mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

12 thoughts on “Portuguese Cacoila Recipe – carne de vinha d’alhos”

  1. Grew up eating portuguese food but its interesting how we all had versions of this dish. Its so good but I always use pork shoulder (less fat) and we use crushed red pepper instead of the tomato sauce and marinate the meat for 2 days before cooking. SO DELISH! Thanks to the portuguese peeps for posting.

  2. Trying out this recipe today I omitted the star anise because I can’t stand that licorice flavor I didn’t have any orange peel either so I’m hoping it’ll still work just fine. I also added a few cloves of minced garlic because to me there’s always garlic in a Portuguese recipe.
    Can’t wait for dinner

  3. My little brother just came in from out of town and the first thing he said when he came in is how good the apartment smelled. So now the three of us – him, my husband, and myself – are standing in the kitchen, stuffing our faces with the most tender, flavorful pulled pork we’ve ever had.
    It’s so tender, it keeps slipping out of the tongs. So so SO yummy!

    Link to my pic:

  4. Madeira is from Madeira(the Portuguese islands off of Africa), not the Azores. The Azores do make a fortified wine, but it’s not very common.

    Great recipe…

    • Hi Ryan.
      Thanks a lot. My family always said it was Portuguese wine and I think we assumed it was from the Azores. I will check out your great info and update my article. Have a great day!

  5. I’m originally from southeast Mass and grew up eating Portuguese food. I am now living the military lifestyle and moving often and boy do I miss it! Last time we visited my parents back home they made a huge pot of kale soup! :) I am excited to make this recipe and surprise my husband as its one of his favorites! Not sure if he will be so excited when he finds out I’m stealing some of his Madeira wine he has in the cabinet from the Portuguese Feast! Haha!

    • You can also find madeira wine in the liquor store. Since it’s fortified, it is usually only found in the liquor store in most areas. I hope you enjoy – we just enjoyed this last week. I love kale soup, too!

  6. Im from New Bedford originally. I grew up eating this dish and have been making my own version ever since. I am 35 and an executive chef now. I lovie cooking this dish for people who have never had it here in Palm Bay/Melbourne Florida.


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