Brazil is a vast land known for tropical beaches, football (not soccer, sorry guys!) and Carnaval. As a Brazilian writing this, I can say the country is much more than that, but today’s post is about a lesser-known aspect of the country’s culture: Traditional Brazilian Food.
As a country made by immigrants, Brazilian food has an influence from these cultures, as well as local animals and plants. The food from the North of the country has a lot of influence from Amazonian ingredients, whereas in the Northeast you will find African roots and a stronger European influence in the South of the country. All of these elements generated some delicious traditional food, check out our list below of the main food you should try when visiting the country:
Brazil’s favorite sweet, brigadeiros are small round sweets made from condensed milk, cocoa powder, butter and chocolate sprinkles. It’s extremely popular, found at all children’s parties, bakeries and even gourmet shops specialized in the sweet! The curious fact is that brigadeiro was created in the 1940s, in honor of a Brigadier, hence the name.
2.Pão de Queijo
Another national darling, literally translated as “cheese bread”, it has African origins and consists on a baked type of cheese roll of elastic consistency, and it’s also present at any bakery and specialized food chains. Very traditional in the state of Minas Gerais, it’s a common snack and breakfast food. In other South American countries, there is a very similar alternative, called chipas.
The most traditional dish on Saturday lunches, feijoada is a stew made from black beans, different types of sausage and pieces of pork. Served with rice, sometimes slices of orange and kale, it’s a heavy but very common dish in the country. Worth a try!
A delicious fish stew from the states of Bahia and Espirito Santo. Moqueca is made from saltwater fish (sometimes prawn and other seafood as well) in a delicious gravy made of coconut milk, onions, tomatoes, coriander, palm oil and a little pepper. It’s served with rice, manioc flour and a side dish called pirão. In my humble opinion, there is a lot of South Indian influence in this dish (coconut milk fish curry, coriander, pepper…), which would totally make sense, considering the Portuguese “discovered” Brazil on their way to buy spices in India.
A lot of countries have their own version of barbecue, and in Brazil, it’s no different. Traditionally from Southern Brazil (Uruguay and Argentina have delicious churrasco as well), it’s prepared on charcoal grills, with big pieces of meat stuck on huge skewers. It’s a Sunday afternoon favorite, along with a football match on tv and your best friends eating and drinking some beer. The Brazilian steakhouses are quite an experience, with waiters walking around tables with these big skewers and cutting pieces directly on your place, apart from the traditional “all you can eat” buffet with salads, appetizers and side dishes. You better be hungry when you visit a Brazilian steakhouse!
6. Brazilian lunch: Rice, beans, meat, and fries
The most traditional everyday lunch in the country. Rice, “carioca” beans, which are lighter in color than black beans, a type of grilled meat (usually beef) and fries. Many restaurants have variations of this dish, which is quickly prepared and served in big individual portions, called “prato feito”.
A deep fried dumpling of African origin, very common as a street food snack in the Northeast states (especially Bahia) as well as several African countries. The dumplings are made of peeled beans fried in palm oil, served with different types of paste: shrimp, pepper or a paste called vatapá.
Hello, Amazon! A traditional Amazonian dish, tacaca is a soup made with shrimps, a wild type of manioc called tucupi and a type of green leaf called jambu. You won’t really find this in other areas of the country, so if you go to the Amazon area, you must try it!
This is a famous one abroad, called “assai berries”. A fruit that comes from a specific type of palm tree from the Amazon, açaí is commonly used in desserts, sometimes with the same function as an ice cream. There are several specialty shops that serve açaí with different types of toppings: banana, granola, and milk powder are the most common ones.
A classic from my home state (the Southern state of Parana). Barreado is a meat stew slowly cooked in a sealed clay pot until the meat seems to melt. The origin of this dish seems to be the Portuguese island of Azores, and it became the most traditional dish of Parana. Served with rice, manioc flour, and slices of bananas. It’s delicious!
A dessert loved by everyone, Brazilian pudding is made with eggs, condensed milk and a caramel topping. Baked in the oven and later kept in the fridge, it’s a common option at most restaurants, and there are several variations – with holes, without holes, with or without lemon, etc.
Along with brigadeiro, it’s the typical snack served at children’s parties, and also very commonly found at coffee shops and bakeries. Coxinha is a deep-fried dough shaped as a chicken leg (called “coxa” in Portuguese, therefore the name), filled with shredded chicken breast and sometimes cream cheese. It’s delicious, irresistible and impossible to eat only one (unless you order it at a bakery, where they make huge ones!)
Tapioca is a type of starch flour made from cassava grains, and very usual at several dishes, native to Central-West Brazil. There is a dish though, simply called by the ingredient’s name, which is a type of tortilla with a variety of fillings. Due to its starchy consistency, simply pouring the flour on a hot pan is enough to cause it to stick and become a tortilla, and so all you have to do is add your favorite filling and fold it in half. It can be sweet or savory, and popular options are condensed milk with coconut, or ham and cheese.
The most delicious street market snack. Vegetable markets are very common at certain days of the week in Brazilian streets, and you can always find delicious stalls selling pastel, a square deep fried dough stuffed with minced beef, cheese, ham, or any other flavors, including sweet ones. It can also be found at bakeries, but the fresh ones from street markets are always the best! It’s served very hotly, so make sure to let some of the hot air inside out, or you’ll get burned!
Ok, this is not really Brazilian, but it’s arguably the most loved dish in the country. Traditionally a Russian dish made of meat with a fresh cream gravy, the Brazilian version is made of meat, and a gravy with fresh cream, tomato sauce, mushrooms and a bit of ketchup and mustard. Served with potato chips and plain rice, it’s hard to find a person who doesn’t like estrogonofe, and you can find versions made of chicken or shrimp as well.
Well, everyone knows pizza is an Italian food. What you might not know is that Brazil has a huge Italian colony, that lives mostly in Sao Paulo, and therefore, the pizza in Sao Paulo was perfected over the years. In fact, the pizza from Braz pizzeria, one of the most traditional in Sao Paulo, has been considered one of the top 10 best pizzas in the WORLD! You won’t regret a visit to Braz, I guarantee!