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Brazil is one of the most famous travel destinations in the world. This is thanks to the country's rich history, tropical beaches, iconic carnival festivals, and natural sights. Plus, it is surrounded by the Amazon rainforest. But more than that, you should not miss having a culinary experience when in Brazil. Whether you are a foodie or not, Brazilian cuisine allows you to step out of your comfort zone and expand your palate.
That's because it reflects what every region in the city has to offer. It also demonstrates the influence of other cultures. That said, we have listed the best foods you must try when in Brazil:
For chocolate lovers, you might want to start with Brazilian desserts so you can go with something familiar first. Well, one Brazilian dessert that you should try would be a brigadeiro. A brigadeiro is a chocolate confectionery. It comes in the form of a bite-sized truffle made primarily from condensed milk, chocolate, and butter.
A brigadeiro is usually covered in chocolate sprinkles to top it all off. It can also come in a white chocolate version, with others hiding a whole delicious strawberry inside. Traditionally, this confectionery is served during birthdays, after the birthday cake is gone. However, it’s also done after celebrations like a wedding or reunions.
Every country probably has its version of barbecued meat. But when you are in Brazil, your experience is incomplete without trying Brazilian barbecued meat. Given that Brazil is one of the more prominent barbecue icons in South America, there’s even more reason as to why you should get barbecue here.
Premium cuts of meat only flavored by coarse salt to make the barbecued meat the star of the show is what you’d expect from a Brazilian barbecue. Aside from that, you can expect to see some sausages and even chicken heart roasting alongside the barbecued meat.
Traditional Churrasco (Brazilian Barbecue) - probably what people elsewhere on the planet mostly associate with Brazilian cuisine - originates from the southernmost state of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul. Meat is usually seasoned only with rock salt and then cooked on iron skewers directly over fire.
One would say all barbecue taste the same, but clearly they haven't tasted Brazilian BBQ. It's nothing like the meat you eat every day. Also in this state, one of the most popular dishes besides churrasco is arroz de carreteiro. It is basically a dish made of rice, cooked meat or charque (dried, salted meat) and some herbs (usually parsley).
Rio de Janeiro is also famous for Feijoada, one of the national dishes of Brazil. It is basically a black bean and meat stew, served with white rice, kale, pork rinds, fried manioc and some orange slices.
Hearty stews are beloved dishes everywhere, and for Brazil, they are no different. What the country considers their national dish is a stew made from black beans and various cuts of pork and beef (although it is primarily pork). This hearty stew that we’re talking about is the Feijoada.
The most common companion for Feijoada is a sprinkling of Farofa on top, also known as toasted cassava flour. Many will describe the addition of Farofa to many Brazilian dishes as a must. It creates a bacon-like crunchy texture on top of whatever meal you sprinkle it with. Altogether, you will usually have Feijoada with a side of rice while sprinkling Farofa on top of it.
Feijão Tropeiro is also a traditional dish from Minas Gerais, made with beans, bacon, sausage, collard greens, eggs and cassava flour.
4. Pão de Queijo
A breakfast in Brazil is never complete without Pão de Queijo, which means Cheese Bread, which is pretty much all you have to know about it. It tastes great and makes your breakfast complete and delicious. Queijo coalho is a firm but very lightweight cheese produced in Northeastern Brazil, with an almost "squeaky" texture when bitten into. It is usually grilled and commonly eaten with molasses.
Pão de Queijo is a famous Brazilian dish that you can find in many international airports worldwide. Aside from that, there are even some groceries outside of Brazil that offer frozen versions of these. You heat these versions whenever you’re craving them. Well, by now, if you’re wondering what it is, then it’s merely a Brazilian cheese bread.
When eating a Pão de Queijo, it’s often served and eaten while drinking a hot cup of chocolate. It's more of a snack instead of a meal, but it’s great for a light breakfast or as a partner with whatever soup you may have.
Cheese and milk is part of most meals, including Minas’ most famous snack, the Pão de queijo, translated as cheese bread, made with cassava starch and Minas cheese, usually consumed along a tiny cup of sweetened coffee.
Beiju (also known as tapioca), for instance, is a grainy crepe-like flatbread that was originally created by the indigenous people of Brazil. It’s made with cassava starch that’s first moistened, passed through a sieve as a coarse flour, and then sprinkled on a hot pan. The heat makes the starch bind together. Beiju can be buttered for breakfast or filled with sweet or savory ingredients as a snack.
We've previously mentioned Feijoada before. Maniçoba is under the same family as it is a stew made from dried meat, salted pork, and even bacon or sausages. Feijoada's difference is that it uses cassava leaves instead of beans boiling for around four days after people finely ground it.
Maniçoba is not necessarily an everyday dish as it is usually served during a specific religious festival in Brazil, the Círio de Nazaré. Just like Feijoada, though, this dish is served with rice and Farofa.
Maniçoba is a dish of indigenous origin, made with leaves of the Manioc plant that have been finely ground and boiled for a week for at least four days. To these boiled leaves (called maniva in Portuguese), salted pork, dried meat, and smoked ingredients, such as bacon and sausage, are added. The dish is served with rice and farofa.
Moqueca is a delicious fish stew made from various ingredients that differ from where you are getting it, as is usual with food. That said, one version of a Moqueca that you can expect would be one made from fresh white fish, bell peppers, cilantro, garlic, onions, tomatoes, coconut milk, and various other spices.
This fish stew is often made to serve alongside rice, or you can eat it with bread as well. The state of Espírito Santo has one typical dish known nationwide, the moqueca capixaba. This fish and seafood stew is slowly cooked in a terracotta casserole with tomatoes, onion, coriander and urucum (annatto), then served with pirão, which is a puree made with the same ingredients, but using mainly the fish leftovers.
Moqueca Baiana is like a stew prepared slowly in an earthenware dish. It is prepared with fish, peppers of various colors, tomato, coriander, pepper, palm oil and coconut milk. Moqueca can be made with prawns or a mix of boneless fish species, like small shark, swordfish etc. This dish starts with the smell of the milk of coconut combined with seafood and spices.
The Sopa Leão Veloso is a seafood soup named after Leão Veloso, a Brazilian diplomat who developed a taste for bouillabaisse during his service in France. Upon returning to Brazil, he tweaked the recipe for the famous French classic, most likely due to unavailability of some ingredients. This rich and spicy soup is typically made with whole grouper and various shellfish.
Freshwater fish from Pantanal, like pintado no urucum (Spotted sorubim in annato) and piranha are also cooked in stews or even deep fried and served with manioc recipes.
Also in the state of Pará, but in the rest of the North as well, pirarucu, one of the largest freshwater fishes of the planet, is widely consumed in many different ways. Other local fish, such as filhote, are also a local tradition. A plate of filhote frito (fried battered filhote) is usually consumed with an açai bowl and manioc flour.
In the state of Amazonas and the other states of the North (Amapá, Roraima, Acre, Rondônia and Tocantins), a huge assortment of freshwater fish from the Amazon river like tucunaré, pirarucu, filhote and biju-pirá are consumed all over. The colossal Brazilian freshwater fish known as tambaqui (black pacu)- and especially its ribs, which are the size and shape of pork baby back ribs - are a local specialty.
If you feel the wind starting to have a bite to it, then you might want to whip out a Canjica, which is a Brazilian White Corn and Coconut Porridge. This warm dessert is perfect during the winter. It is made from white corn, coconut, milk, coconut milk, condensed milk, and a sprinkling of cinnamon. This creamy and warm dessert is most commonly served in Brazil during the Festas Juninas or the June Festival.
Bahia cuisine is known around the country as some of Brazil’s best cuisine and many of its dishes are also popular elsewhere in the country. Azeite de dendê, red palm oil, is an essential ingredient in many iconic Bahian dishes. It has a distinct flavor and texture and can be hard to digest if you’re not accustomed.
Pimenta malagueta, malagueta pepper, is a chili popular in Brazil as well as some Caribbean and African countries. If you’re missing the spice in many traditional Brazilian dishes, head to Bahia and this chili will fire you up.
If you didn’t know by now, Brazilians love stew, which is why Vatapá is a famous thick stew in the country. This meal is made from shrimp, coconut milk, a paste of various herbs, bread, palm oil, and nuts. Again, you usually serve this with rice, and you can replace the shrimp with other things, like tuna, chicken, or plain veggies.
The Vatapá is the typical dish of the Bahian cuisine. It is made with bread crumbs or flour, ginger, pimenta malagueta, peanut butter (peanut), dendê oil, coconut milk and onion. It is usually eaten along with acarajé.
Bobó de camarão, is a chowder-like Brazilian dish of shrimp in a purée of manioc (or cassava) meal with coconut milk and other ingredients, flavoured with dendê oil.
In the coastal areas the consumption of fish and seafood is popular and many Bahian foods are also consumed. Some of the highlights are crab meat, used in dishes like casquinha de siri, a mash made of manioc flour and the swimming crab. Lobsters, of the spiny lobster variety, are also very popular all over the Northeastern coast. Caranguejo-uçá (swamp ghost crab) are also consumed all over the North (as well as the Northeast).
Of course, this list of Brazilian foods is not complete without some local alcoholic beverages. This is where Cachaça comes in. Cachaça is fermented sugarcane juice, a popular distilled alcohol in the country. It is often mixed in caipirinhas. Unaged varieties are usually cheaper and have a clear white or clear color. Aged Cachaça, on the other hand, is more gold or yellowish.
10. Bolo de rolo
Bolo de rolo (rollcake) is a typical Brazilian dessert from Pernambuco state. The cake batter is made with flour, eggs, butter and sugar. This dough is wrapped with a layer of goiabada, giving the appearance of a swiss roll. However, layers of dough and goiabada are much thinner than the ones used in the swiss roll, and the taste is completely different.
Cuca de uva, a legacy of German immigrants, is a flat cake made with eggs, wheat flour, butter, grapes and covered with a sweet crumb topping or just sugar. It is very similar to Streuselkuchen, a traditional cake from German cuisine.
11. Baião de dois
Baião de dois is a mixture of two quintessential ingredients of the Brazilian diet - rice and beans, cooked together and enhanced with a few or several delicious ingredients, such as bacon, cheese, sausage, scrambled eggs and fresh coriander.
Carne-de-sol (sun-dried meat) or jabá is a dish from the Sertão of Northeastern Brazil. It consists of heavily salted beef, which is exposed to the sun for one or two days to cure and then used for various dishes and/or grilled.
Escondidinho de Carne Seca can be served as a full entrée or as an appetizer – sometimes prepared in individual small casseroles, which makes for a really cute presentation. Carne-seca is the equivalent of a very high quality jerky beef. In this dish, the carne-seca is “hidden” in between the two layers of a velvety manioc purée.
Paçoca de carne seca is a popular dish that is also a culinary legacy of the indigenous traditions. Nowadays this dish is nearly identical to the original: a mixture of carne de sol or carne-seca and manioc flour placed in the mortar, then crushed with the pestle.
Filé Oswaldo Aranha is a traditional carioca dish consisting of a beefsteak that's topped with large amounts of fried garlic and served with white rice, crunchy potato chips, and farofa on the side.
Picanha is often called rump cover or culette in the United States. Most Americans aren't very familiar with this meat. As a note, if you ever visit Brazil, make sure to include a night out eating Picanha as one of your adventures.
Fried and stuffed with chicken slices, cheese or meat, you make your choice! Palmito is also what you can stuff it with, making the taste even more satisfying. Pastel, half-circle or rectangle-shaped thin crust pies with assorted fillings, fried in vegetable oil is a popular snack in all Brazilian states.
You could be walking around the streets then spot some friendly old man walking his cart while yelling out catchy and rhyming phrases about this snack. Different countries around the world have developed their version of Pastel. Most countries make it smaller in size, some of them stuff it with only one kind of ingredient, and some have even invented new ways of making something similar. But to get the true taste of it, make sure it is Brazilian!
The cuisine from Paraná also has meat as the main dish, but there are variations. The most famous example is barreado, which is basically a dish made of meat cooked in a crock, served with manioc flour and, sometimes, bananas.
Although there are differences between dishes made in Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, their cuisine is very similar. Both use a lot of chicken and local vegetables, making dishes like galinhada, a rice preparation that includes both.
Virado à Paulista, is a very popular dish, which consists of a platter of beans cooked in sautéed onion, garlic, fat, and salt; dried, toasted manioc flour; a pork chop; fried sausage; breaded and fried plantain; eggs, preferably with the soft yolk; kale, cut into strips and braised in fat; rice; and torresmo, a crisply cooked pork rind.
16. Bolinhos de bacalhau
Portuguese influence in Rio is huge and has brought some portuguese cuisine to this part of the country. Bolinhos de bacalhau (Codfish balls) are about as classic an example of both as they come in Brazil. They are traditionally made from salted cod.
The cuisine of Salvador, the capital of Bahia, shares the history of the people and ingredients that came to settle in the city. Local ingredients, a mix of global flavors, and a strong culinary tradition make Bahian cuisine particularly memorable. Salvador’s seaside location also makes it the perfect place to sample delicacies from the ocean.
Acarajé, a dumpling deep-fried in azeite de dendê made of cowpea, onion, peppers, various spices and shrimp, is one of the symbols of the very distinctive Bahia cuisine.
Cocadas are one of the most traditional desserts in Bahia, but also throughout the whole Northeast. It is made with a mixture of coconut grated with milk, cinnamon, vanilla and condensed milk. There are various colors, the typical white, the browns ones, which have cooked coconut before, and there are even some with dulce de leche.
Tacacá, is a soup common to Northern Brazil, particularly the states of Acre, Amazonas, Rondônia and Pará, and is well loved and widely consumed. It is made with local herb jambu, and tucupi (a broth made with wild manioc), as well as dried shrimps and small yellow peppers.
20. Pato no tucupi
Pato no tucupi (duck in tucupi sauce) consists of a boiled duck cooked with jambu in tucupi sauce.
The ubiquitous Molho vinagrete, or molho à campanha is made of tomato, chopped onion and green bell peppers, olive oil, vinegar, either parsley (in the Southeast and South) or coriander (in the North and Northeast), and salt. It is technically a salad, even though it is more often consumed as a sauce.
One of the excellent ways to get to know a country is by enjoying its local cuisine. In the case of Brazil, their local food is colorful and vibrant! It also showcases what every region in the country has to offer.
Brazilian cuisine is also a hotpot of other cultures and countries. That's because their local food has Portuguese, European, African, and South American influences. Combine that with the products harvested from native farms, mountains, and coastlines, and you have diverse and exciting food.
That said, make sure to have a taste of the food listed above whenever you are in Brazil.
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