Brazilians are great with food, not only because they enjoy eating, but also because they eat a bit of everything. Find out in this article which are the most traditional Brazilian dishes.
The cultural diversity of the country, colored by many nationalities that arrived and established here during the centuries, can also be perceived in the Brazilian culinary. Indian, Portuguese, Italian, and African influences can be easily perceived on it.
Many of the preparation techniques and ingredients are of indigenous origin, which went through adaptations by African slaves and the Portuguese during the colonization of the country. The African slaves and the Portuguese started to adapt their traditional dishes by replacing the original ingredients, that were missing in Brazil, with corresponding local spices. Feijoada, a typical dish of the country, is one example of it.
What the slaves brought to Brazil, from the late sixteenth century, amounted to national culinary elements like oil-for-palm and couscous. The waves of immigrants received by the country between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, coming in large numbers from Europe, brought some innovations to the national menu and simultaneously strengthened the consumption of various ingredients.
Culinary Diversification Per Regions
But, it is also important to remember that Brazil is a vast territory, which means, that not only foreign influences compose the diversity, but each region of the country has its own characteristics that can be also perceived in food.
The most visible culinary belong to the states of Minas Gerais and Bahia, which are known throughout Brazil and even honored in food fairs in Europe. For example, the culinary Baiana (from Bahia) is famous for its spicy taste, and the food Mineira (from Minas Gerais) is known by the presence of pork meat and heavy dishes.
The daily Brazilian diet is basically organized in three meals. The breakfast, which involves drinking coffee with milk, bread, fruit, cakes, and sweets. Rice and beans for lunch, which is the most traditional Brazilian dish, consumed by all Brazilian Regions. Lunch in Brazil is very rich, besides the rice and beans, other dishes are added to the meal, such as pasta, meat, salad, and potato.
For dinner, Brazilians don’t change a lot what was eaten during the lunch. This meal is usually less heavy than the one consumed in the lunch, but present, basically, the same dishes. In addition, soups could also be consumed, but not as an entree like in other countries. The soup in Brazil represents an entire meal.
Coxinha is one of the most famous Brazilian food, widely consumed by the whole population, and can be found anywhere in Brazil. The Coxinha's format is similar to a raindrop that can be in big sizes – like the size of a hand – or in small sizes – just like a chocolate bonbon. The food is fried and it's very greasy, filled with chicken and a very creamy cheese called “catupiry”.
Pão de Queijo
Pão de Queijo is a brother of Coxinha, same sizes, sold in similar places, classified in the same category – what Brazilians called Salgados – but composed with a completely different ingredients. Pão de Queijo is simply a bread made of cheese. The food is little rolls of bread with cheese baked into it, and can be found in small portions or large sizes.
Pastel is a deep fried empanada that can be found in all Brazilian street fairs, but could also be found in bakeries, frozen in the supermarkets to be cooked at home, or even in special stores which are open only to make Pastéis. It also works as an appetizer in bars, in happy hours, with beer. The Pastel can be filled with any type of stuffing, whether salted or sweet. Normally, the most usual stuffing are: meat, cheese, fish, tomato, banana or chocolate. This food is very tasteful, popular, and the cheapest in Brazil, and that's why it is so largely consumed.
Acarajé is probably the most famous dish of the Bahia culinary. This gastronomic specialty has African-Brazilian origins. Is made with a paste of feijão-fradinho (a type of beans), onions, and salt. The mixture is then fried in palm oil. Acarajé can be served with chili, dried shrimp, vatapá, caruru, etc., which means that the dish can be served with almost all components and typical dishes of the cuisine of Bahia.
Feijoada is the most Brazilian dish, and is very famous even to foreigners. The dish consists of a bean stew with meat, usually served with rice, cabbage and farofa. It is a dish which originated in the Northern part of Portugal, and, today, is one of the most typical Brazilian dishes. In Portugal, feijoada is usually made with white or red beans and also includes other vegetables (like tomatoes, carrots, or cabbage) along with pork or cow meat, which can be joined by chorizo, blood sausage, or sausage.
In Brazil, it is made from a blend of black beans and various types of pork and beef, and comes to the table accompanied by farofa, white rice, steamed cabbage, and sliced orange, among other ingredients. The origin of the Brazilian feijoada is not a very well known fact. One theory is that the dish was created by the African slaves who entered the country during the colonial period.
The story tells that the slave owners handed over to their slaves the rest of the pork meat they didn't consume, such as the tongue, the tail, and the ear. The slaves, then, started to consume this pork parts with beans, and then created the Brazilian feijoada. Truth or not, feijoada is an old Brazilian dish that is still very popular among the country’s population. Many restaurants have the tradition of serving feijoada on Saturdays.
Is a very typical and popular food in Brazil, being poor or rich. Farofa is eaten by everybody in every part of the country. It’s usually consumed with rice and beans, or with Feijoada, being also a component of the Brazilian Barbecue. Farofa is a fried cassava flour. It can include eggs, bacon, slices of onion, bananas, olives, and other add-ons.
Tutu de Feijão
Baked, steamed beans and thickened with manioc flour, can be found in different regions of Brazil. In Minas Gerais, where the recipe is one of the main attractions in the kitchen, it is customary to use the feijão-roxinho (a type of beans) or black beans, crushed into pure form before receiving cassava flour. The result is a soft pirão, companion to rice, cabbage, pork rinds, and fried pork.
Moqueca de Camarão
The moqueca (term used in Brazil) is similar to stew, made with boiled fish and other seafood with various spices. It’s very traditional in Espírito Santo and Bahia cuisine, presenting variations in Pará. Originally, this dish is a variation of the typical Indian dishes originating in the coastal region of Espírito Santo and Bahia. The moqueca de camarão is a moqueca made with shrimps and has its origins in Bahia. The stew has, as main ingredients, shrimps, palm oil, and many other Bahia spices.
Escondidinho de Carne Seca
Escondidinho is a very popular dish in the Brazilian Northeast states, and, later, was also appreciated in Minas Gerais and in the rest of Brazil. The escondidinho de carne seca is made with carne-de-sol (similar to jerked beef), or shredded chicken, topped with mashed cassava, seasoned with manteiga de garrafa (a type of butter) and gratinated with cheese.
Brigadeiro is another food that calls not only Brazilians', but foreigners', attention. The food is a candy made of chocolate and condensed milk, covered with chocolate sprinkles. The candy is usually eaten at birthday parties or any type of commemoration. But, it can also be found in many establishments, like in bakeries and in professional stores that sell only gourmet versions of brigadeiros, of many types. Brigadeiros are usually small just like chocolate truffles, but can be also found in larger sizes.
Beijinho is a candy made with coconut, very similar to brigadeiro and also consumed in birthday parties. It’s made of coconut milk, coconut, and condensed milk, all are mixed in a pan and cooked. The candy is also similar to a chocolate truffle, but is white and covered with flaked coconut.
Romeu e Julieta
Just as the name of the Shakespeare romance, Romeo and Juliet is a Brazilian sweet, very popular in country areas. It's composed of a slice of white cheese and a slice of Brazilian Goiabada – a type of jelly, only more consistent, and made of Goiaba fruit. The slices are put together one above the other, and it's eaten with either hands or fork.