Best 25 Brazilian Foods (With Pictures!)
Brazil is a country of continental proportions with a huge variety of traditional dishes that are the embodiment of a country proud of its complex, multicultural heritage.
The country had a long period as a Portuguese colony worked by African slaves, receiving colonizers that were very hostile toward the indigenous communities. But this was not enough to suppress the amazing legacy that lingers in every facet of the lives of the Brazilian people until this day.
Because of this heritage, Brazil has a vast, rich cuisine with diverse flavors that come from a fertile land blooming with the most exotic ingredients.
Cuisine is the art of mixing many different ingredients to get a harmonized, single dish. And it can come as no surprise that Brazilians are so successful in the art of blending stuff together for unbelievable results.
Here is a nice list of the 25 most popular Brazilian foods!
The typical Brazilian feijoada is a dish consisting of black beans slowly cooked in a pot with chunks of meat, mostly pork, to the point where the thick broth has a powerful flavor in itself.
It is traditionally served with white rice, braised cabbage, slices of raw oranges, and the crunchy “farofa” (see number 13).
Most Brazilian dishes are specific to the region they were created in and are mostly cooked and consumed in one of the five major regions of the country. The most glaring exception to this is the Feijoada.
Even though it has its roots in the state of Pernambuco (northeast) and was later popularized in the state of Rio de Janeiro (southeast), the simplicity of the recipe, which uses readily available ingredients, together with the sheer power of its taste has made it the undeniable “Number 1 Brazilian dish” that it is today. Central to special family gatherings, served in just about every restaurant on Friday afternoons, it is a “feast” in itself.
Owing to the ingenuity of the African slaves who used the leftover bits of pork that were thrown away, pork ears, paw, tail, and whatever was available, were thrown into the stew, resulting in a mesmerizing scent that could be smelt from miles away.
Today, most restaurants serve their feijoada with finer cuts of meat, but if you explore enough, you can still find the traditional feijoada with all kinds of weird shapes of meat in it. But don’t you worry, fine adventurer.
You will inevitably end up surprised at how fast the distaste you felt when seeing that piglet ear floating in the stew vanishes into thin air and you find yourself making space for a third serving of amazing feijoada.
If the feijoada is the number 1 Brazilian food, the brigadeiro is hands down the number one dessert. You could have a birthday party without a cake, but if there aren’t enough brigadeiros to fill a table, the guests might end up leaving early.
The brigadeiro is a very simple Brazilian bonbon about the size of a golf ball, made out of condensed milk, chocolate powder, and a fair amount of butter. The secret for the perfect brigadeiro is to stir the mixture non stop over a low heat for about 30 minutes until it is thick enough to be rolled up into a small sphere that is then finally covered with chocolate sprinkles.
When done correctly, the brigadeiro is incredibly sweet, but yet not an overwhelming kind of sweetness with excessive flavor. The brigadeiro is made with surgical perfection; it is sugary enough that after dozens of pieces, you finally realize it might be a good idea to stop, maybe after one… last… bite…
3. Pão de Queijo (Cheese Bread)
Perhaps the most famous Brazilian dish that is served abroad, luckily for the many aficionados, one can satisfy an urge to have a pão de queijo in nearly every international airport on the entire planet. The pão de queijo took the world snack business by storm and I feel it has still not reached its fullest potential.
As a literal translation, it’s called cheese bread. But the pão de queijo contains no wheat. Its dough is made of crunchy manioc flour in contrast to its smooth, squidgy interior that is in its entirety mushy, ripping cheese. The best way to eat a pão de queijo is steamy hot, straight from the oven!
4. Carne de Sol (“Sun Meat”)
Carne de sol is a heavily salted piece of beef that is left to cure for a couple days until it is dried out under the scalding sun of the Brazilian northeast sertão. This was originally used as a method of food preservation. It is a very similar process to that used by Portuguese colonizers to preserve their codfish and the technique was likely acquired from them.
Even with the advent of very effective refrigeration of the 20th century, people didn’t stop producing the carne de sol in the traditional way, proof of the special flavor it creates. It is usually served with a generous amount of onions. The strong, pungent taste of the meat has made it a popular serving in every corner of the country up to this very day.
A recipe that has been since well before Portuguese colonizers came to this country, the word tapioca has Tupi origins, an indigenous tribe native to the northern region of Brazil.
Tapioca is a white dough made from the manioc plant. It is served like a crepe with fillings varying from the traditional tapioca served with a stick of butter to more elaborate ones such as cheese, ham, fruit jam, chocolate, or even meat.
Tapioca doesn’t have much flavor on its own, but that is easily solved with the many creative fillings. The key characteristic that makes the tapioca a staple Brazilian food, besides it’s health benefits, is its unique consistency. It is at the same time a solid dough and a gummy paste, incredibly easy to eat, yet delicious!
It is served in most hotels for breakfast, but is also sold on small tapioca stalls around the cities during the entire day. Be careful though, the best stalls tend to have large queues!
Açai is a super food with an incredible energy density. It is a favorite dish for after high intensity activities like going to the gym, spending a day at the beach, or playing soccer.
Its texture can vary from an almost liquid form that can be drunk from a cup to a purple paste that is eaten with a spoon, usually accompanied with bits of banana and granola, turning it into an obscenely high energy meal, with up to 1,000 calories! Best served ice cold.
Açai has a notable bitter taste that might be too much for first timers without adding a bit of sugar, but when the temperature goes up, there is nothing better than a cool bowl of açai to soothen the nerves.
Pamonha is a unique dish that exist nowhere other than Brazil. It can be served savory or sweet. It is made out of fresh grated corn, mixed with milk, and salt (or sugar). The dough is then molded into a nice tube and folded within the corn’s own husk. It is finally cooked in a water bath until it has a solid but extremely smooth pudding-like consistency.
It has become increasingly common to add more complex fillings like sausages or cheese for an ever better flavor! It is served mostly during the Festa Junina, a festival that celebrates the beginning of winter, but you can buy them throughout the entire year in any supermarket, usually frozen.
8. Churrasco de Picanha (Barbecue)
The south region of Brazil is proud of its fine cuts of meat and the picanha is the most famous. It is a cut from the rump muscle of a cow, which always comes with a generous amount of fat.
The picanha is grilled in its own fat, keeping it moist and tasty. It is traditionally seasoned with coarse salt that brings out the flavors and is ideally served rare. If you are a fan of barbecues, there is zero chance you wont enjoy a well prepared cut of picanha.
9. Quentão (very literally translated as “Very Hot”)
What is a list of a country’s most popular dishes without a beverage to spice things up?
The quentão is usually served during Festa junina, a festivl celebrating the coming of winter. Brazilians are very sensitive to low temperatures, and as soon as the thermometers start showing anything bellow 60°F (16 degrees Celsius), they begin to prepare a good quentão.
It is basically a heated, strong cachaça (sugarcane-based distilled liquor) seasoned with sugar, lemon, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.
The perfect blend of the strong taste of the alcohol in contrast with the vast mixture of different sweets is an experience in itself. The fact that it is served hot during the coldest season only adds to the conflictual nature of its flavor, which should be slowly savored. The result is, simply put, an unforgettable experience.
10. Escondidinho de Carne
The escondidinho de carne consists of a large amount of mashed manioc, similar in appearance and consistency to the more common mashed potatoes.
This Brazilian dish uses this inevitable comparison to further highlight how delicate the mashed manioc tastes. With added mozzarella cheese for an even more creamy result, the star of the show is the meat, “hidden” in the middle of the dish, specifically designed to surprise the taste buds.
11. Cachorro Quente (Hot Dog)
You might be asking yourself right now: Hot dog? Surely not a traditional Brazilian food!
But there is no way to talk about the most popular foods in Brazil without talking about the hot dog.
In Brazil you can find a hot dog stall in every corner of a city. What makes the Brazilian hot dog different from those in the rest of the world is the addition of corn, shoestring potato, and a huge amount of delicious sauces and condiments to spice it up.
In Brazil you can find a hot dog stall in every corner of a city.
In every stall there are at least five different sauces to choose from: the traditional “vinaigrette”, made from olive oil, tomatoes, onions, vinegar, peppers, and salt, the strong “pasta de alho”, a paste made of highly concentrated garlic with a very strong flavor that Brazilians love, white sauce, rose, tomato sauce…
There are even cities, like São paulo, where it is very common to have mashed potatoes inside the hot dog. Because of all the fillings, Brazilian hot dogs tend to be really large and a messy endeavor for the unprepared.
The acarajé is a small dumpling that might not look it but can be very spicy!
The dough is made out of a string beans, onions, and garlic and it is fried using palm oil to get its characteristic taste and crunchiness.
The original recipe originates from Africa and was brought to Brazil by slaves.
It is an extremely popular food throughout the north east of Brazil, specially in the state of Bahia. Served with various spicy condiments and dried shrimp, on Bahia beaches there are so many acarajé vendors that it’s appetizing aroma tends to take over the place!
Simple, yet one of the most popular side dishes in the entire country, farofa is nearly always there accompanying servings of fish, chicken, or meat. It is made by frying manioc flour with butter, garlic, and onions until toasted.
In many states, bits of fried bananas are very much appreciated in the farofa, other states use eggs and bacon to the same effect. To a large number of working people in Brazil, the farofa is a blessing that gives the special taste to their everyday nourishment of rice and beans.
14. Cocada (Coconut Candy)
Cocada is a succulent sweet made out grated coconut, condensed milk, and sugar cooked at a low temperature.
It can be served either hot or cold. It’s sweet taste lingers in the mouth for quite a while and because of this, it is one of the Brazilian favorite desserts.
15. Arroz Carreteiro
The arroz carreteiro is a culmination of the southern Brazilians never-ending love of meat and the ingrained habit that every Brazilian has of eating rice daily as a source of nourishment.
It is made by frying the rice using animal fat and tiny cuts of meat, giving it the flavor of a true barbecue.
16. Doce de Leite (Sweet Made of Milk)
Milk and sugar, those are the only ingredients you need to make the sweetest Brazilian recipe. Created in the state of Minas Geraes, it is made by slowly cooking the milk for hours on end while stirring constantly until it reaches a caramel looking color.
It is so excessively sweet that it’s difficult to eat large amounts at once, unless you are really committed to it. Its sweetness is incomparable and is leaves you craving for some if you go for too long without a bite…
17. Pato no Tucupi (Duck Boiled in Tucupi Sauce)
Pato no tucupi is the most coveted dish for special occasions for the people in the northern state of Pará.
It is a dish made by boiling a duck in a large clay pot full of tucupi sauce.
The yellow tinged sauce is extracted from the root of the manioc tree and is extremely toxic when raw. It has to be boiled for at least three entire days until it is free from all the toxicities and is ready to be used in the recipe! It has a peculiar acidy, citric flavor that complements perfectly the duck.
18. Moqueca de Pirarucu
A moqueca is a delicious traditional fish-based stew cooked in a clay pot with generous amounts of bell peppers of all colors, tomatoes, coconut milk, palm oil, and cilantro. The pirarucu is the largest fish of the immense Amazon River, reaching huge sizes up to 16 feet long.
The characteristic smooth flavor of its meat contrasts with the highly flavored seasoning of the stew, resulting in a surprisingly thick, rich flavored broth that improves no matter what side dish it is served with. The large chunks of white meat deep in the stew are so tender they melt in the mouth.
19. Creme de Cupuaçu (Cupuaçu Cream)
The cupuaçu is a strong flavored fruit native to the Amazon rainforest with a very distinct acidy taste. While too sour to be enjoyed as a fruit, it is the number 1 fruit in the entire country when used in sweet flavored recipes.
By mixing the fruit’s fresh pulp with milk, cream, and a generous amount of sugar in a blender, the result is a refreshing sweet with a slight hint of citrus. Many people like to add cupuaçu cream to their açai, a mix called “Romeo and Juliet”.
20. Feijão Tropeiro (Tropeiro Beans)
Brazilians love their beans boiled in a well seasoned broth. The only exception to this rule is the feijão tropeiro, an amazing recipe where purple beans are fried together with manioc flour, sausages, and bacon, resulting in a delicious dish.
It can be served with any kind of meat, but it is the perfect accompaniment for carne de sol together with huge lumps of fried manioc.
21. Mandioca Frita (Fried Manioc)
The “Brazilian French fries” are usually served as a side dish but are also very popular as a snack, very often in a bar.
There are two things that distinguish a Brazilian bar from any other: the huge television tuned in a live soccer game and the copious amount of fried manioc served straight out of the pan.
It is typically seasoned with salt, sometimes melted butter. There is not a single bar that does not serve an inviting fried manioc for its guests.
Canjica is a desert made out of white corn. It is served hot in a soup bowl, and is very sweet. Seasoned with cloves and cinnamon, you can’t call a festival a “ Festa junina “ if you don’t have a huge queue of people eagerly awaiting their cangicas.
Galinhada is an incredibly flavored recipe originating from the central region of Brazil.
It is a dish made out of cuts of recently slaughtered chicken cooked in the same pot as a specially seasoned rice, with saffron and different kinds of pepper, giving the entire dish a bright yellow, appetizing look.
Even after the fresh chicken cuts have been eaten, the flavor, already entrenched deep inside each rice grain, leaves a deep, satisfying feeling of fullness to everyone that tries it.
24. Espetinho de Coração (Chicken Hearts)
It is entirely normal for a tourist to react with distaste when faced with the option of being served half a dozen chicken hearts skewered on a stick. Understandable, perhaps. But chicken hearts are so ingrained in Brazilian culture that its unthinkable that it might be weird for other people.
The most popular order on every barbecue stall across the country, it is chewy, and even a little sweet. It’s an unforgettable flavor. After eating it for the first time, one starts questioning why they didn’t try it before.
25. Bolo de Rolo (Roll Cake)
It tastes as good as it looks, guaranteed. Bolo de rolo is a dessert originally from the Pernambuco state but sold all over the country. It consists of a highly sugared dough made of eggs and flour wrapped around layer after layer of melted guava. It’s a delicacy made out of a highly flavored spiral of deliciousness. The city of Recife is so famous for it’s bolo de rolo that friends and family expect to receive it as a gift from anyone who visits.
The Brazilian cuisine mirrors the Brazilian people: A country proud of it’s mixed heritage, with a huge variety of options. The ingenuity of the Brazilian people never fails to surprise visitors, whether inside the kitchen or out there in the world.