Traveling to Brazil and want to know what Brazilian food to try? Or perhaps you want to make some traditional Brazilian dishes at home? We break down all the best Brazilian foods to have your own Brazilian barbecue in your backyard or to try when you visit South America’s most exciting country! So get your shopping list ready, this weekend calls for a feast of Brazilian food.
Best Traditional Brazilian Food
There are few cities in the world that rival Rio de Janeiro’s beauty and energy. The people of Rio know how to party, making it one of the liveliest cities in South America. It is also an amazing place to eat well.
We toured the city sampling everything from lunch at Confeitaria Colombo and choice meats at Majórica Churrascaria to sipping on Brazil’s delicious national drink the Caipirinha at the Girl From Ipanema Cafe. After two weeks of hearty eating in Rio de Janeiro and Iguazu Falls, we learned quite a bit about Brazilian dishes and had the extra notch in our belt to prove it! So let’s sample some of the best food in Brazil.
The traditional Brazilian feijoada is a stewed black bean dish cooked in beef and pork. This dish is considered the national dish of Brazil and you’ll find it on every buffet in Rio de Janeiro.
The beauty of this dish is that it is one of the easiest Brazilian recipes to make. The black beans are mixed with salted pork or beef. But the good cuts are left for the churrascarias. The feijoada gets all the trimmings like ears, feet, and tails. If that doesn’t sound appetizing, just think sausage. Sausage is always stuffed with bits of the animal.
Add some black beans, white wine vinegar, chili peppers, onions, and garlic, and then mix it all together in a heavy saucepan and you have yourself a dish. Serve it over rice and you’ve got one fatty delicious mouthwatering dish! If you want the full recipe, check out this recipe.
If you love sweets then you have to try Brigadeiro when you are in Brazil. This traditional Brazilian food is made from condensed milk, cocoa powder, butter, and chocolate sprinkles It is a type of chocolate fudge ball that is traditionally rolled in chocolate sprinkles and served at parties, birthdays, and other celebrations.
The history of Brigadeiro dates back to the 1940s. The story goes that when a group of Brazilian women wanted to raise money for political candidate, Eduardo Gomes. They needed a sweet treat to sell at fundraising events, and thus the Brigadeiro was born.
The original recipe called for cocoa powder, butter, sugar, and milk, but condensed milk soon became a popular substitute for sugar and milk, as it was more affordable and readily available.
Making Brigadeiro is quite simple to do at home. Just combine the cocoa powder, condensed milk, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat and continue to stir until the mixture gets thick. Then remove it from the heat, let it cool, and then roll it into balls. Sprinkle it with chocolate sprinkles and now you have a sweet treat that is one of Brazil’s favorite desserts.
Coxinha is a popular Brazilian snack that is dough stuffed with chicken meat and shaped like a small chicken drumstick. It is made with a dough that is typically filled with shredded chicken and spices and then fried until crispy.
The origins of Coxinha can be traced back to the late 1800s when it was created in the state of São Paulo. According to legend, Coxinha was invented by a chef who was working in the kitchen of the Paço São Cristóvão (Imperial Palace) in Rio de Janeiro.
The chef wanted to create a new snack for the Empress of Brazil, and he came up with the idea of shaping the dough like a chicken leg, hence the name “coxinha,” which means “little thigh” in Portuguese. The Empress loved the snack, and it soon became popular throughout Brazil.
Coxinha is a beloved part of Brazilian cuisine and popular street food. It is often served at parties, festivals, and other events. There are many variations of the recipe, but the basic ingredients typically include flour, water, butter, chicken, onions, garlic, and spices.
Coxinha is usually served hot and can be enjoyed on its own or with a variety of dipping sauces (we suggest Brazilian hot sauce). Get the full recipe here.
4. Churrasco Brazilian Barbecue
Vegetarians beware, meat is king in Brazil. When I think of food in Brazil, the first thing that pops into my head is a visit to a Churrascaria (A Brazilian Grill) that serves an abundance of meat. If you are a Vegetarian, don’t read any further, instead check out our 15 tips for Easy Vegan Travel.
If you want to go all out for a Brazilian-themed party at home, you must have choice cuts of meat. And lots of it! A Churrasca is a Brazilian barbecue served in restaurants, “roving style.” Servers roam from table to table offering choice cuts of meat that they cut off and serve directly onto your plate.
There are Brazilian Barbecues all around North America now so you can go out and sample some of the most popular Brazilian foods at a restaurant near you before you give it a go at home. Niagara Falls has a great Brazilian steakhouse here in Canada.
5. Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)
Who doesn’t love cheese? During our first meal in Brazil, our hosts told us we have to try the Brazilian cheese bread. Made with cassava flour, this typical dish of Brazil is mouth-wateringly delicious! It was heavenly.
Pão de Queijo is made with tapioca flour, which gives it a unique texture that is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The main ingredient in Pão de Queijo is typically cream cheese, although some variations also include other ingredients like herbs or bacon.
These cheese buns originated in southern Brazil in Minas Gerais. This area is considered the dairy capital of Brazil so it is fitting that the origins of Pão de Queijo can be traced to here. During colonial times, the Portuguese brought many African slaves to Brazil who were forced to work in the mines of Minas Gerais, where cassava was a staple food.
They were responsible for processing cassava flour and often used it as a main ingredient in their meals creating the flour balls to eat. The Portuguese settlers later introduced cheese into the recipe and it became known as one of the traditional dishes we know today.
Farofa (toasted manioc flour) is a classic dish served with many Brazilian meals, particularly feijoada, a hearty stew made from black beans and pork. It can be made with a variety of ingredients, including bacon, onions, garlic, spices, and even fruits or vegetables.
Farofa is made by toasting yuca flour/cassava flour (aka manioc flour) in a skillet with butter or oil until it is crispy and lightly browned. Other ingredients are then added to the pan and mixed with the toasted flour. It can be served hot or cold and can be customized with different ingredients to suit different tastes and preferences.
Once again, this dish comes from the fusion of African and Indigenous Brazilian traditions using Farofa. They used cassava flour to create a dish that was easy to make and could be used to stretch out meals. Over time, farofa became a staple dish in Brazil, and it evolved to incorporate different flavors and ingredients, depending on the region and local culinary traditions.
Vatapa originated in the northeastern region of the country in the state of Bahia. It is a creamy stew made from a combination of bread, shrimp, coconut milk, palm oil, and ground peanuts. It is then served with acarajé, a fried bean cake.
To make this dish at home, start by soaking bread in coconut milk and then blending it with ground peanuts, shrimp, and other seasonings to create a smooth paste. The paste is then cooked in a skillet with palm oil and ingredients, such as diced vegetables, peppers, and spices until it thickens into a creamy stew-like consistency.
Vatapa is believed to have evolved from these West African influences, blending with the indigenous ingredients and culinary traditions of the Bahia region in Brazil.
8. Baião de Dois (Beans and Rice)
Baião de dois is a traditional hearty rice and bean dish that is popular throughout Latin America. In Brazil, it has the added flavors of black-eyed peas, bacon, smoked sausage, onions, and spices. The staple dish of Brazil is created by first cooking the beans and rice separately, and then mixing them together with other ingredients and frying in a skillet until it is lightly browned and crispy on the outside, but still soft and flavorful on the inside. It’s that texture that makes Baião de dois stand out from the crow.
The history of Brazilian rice and beans can be traced back goes back to the Colonial days when the indigenous and African culinary traditions merged. These traditions were combined with the ingredients and flavors of their regions to create new and unique dishes, including baião de dois.
9. Quibebe (Steamed Pumpkin)
Originating from the northeastern region of Brazil in the state of Bahia, Quibebe is a savory pumpkin or squash puree that is often served as a side dish or as a topping for grilled meats.
Squash and pumpkin were native to the region, and were often used in indigenous cuisine, and like many traditional Brazilian dishes, Quibebe is heavily influenced by African, and Indigenous influences. When enslaved Africans were brought to Brazil, they adapted their culinary traditions to incorporate local ingredients and flavors, including pumpkin and squash.
Quibebe is made by first peeling and dicing the pumpkin or squash, and then cooking it with onions, garlic, and other seasonings like chili paste, black pepper, and chopped parsley, until it is soft. You then mash it up and enjoy heated. Yum!
10. Tapioca (Cassava Flour Pancake)
Brazilian tapioca is a popular street food in Brazilian cuisine. This pancake is made from tapioca starch, which is extracted from the cassava plant and then stuffed with whatever your heart desires. Choose meats and cheese for savory or chocolate and coconut for sweet.
To make Brazilian tapioca, start by mixing tapioca starch with water until it forms a dough-like mixture. You then heat it on a hot griddle or pan until it forms a thin, flatbread-like pancake. The pancake is then filled with it variety of ingredients depending on the chef. Popular choices are cream cheese, coconut, condensed milk, chocolate, or meat, and folded over to create a pocket or wrap.
Brazilian tapioca is a versatile and tasty dish that is enjoyed throughout Brazil and is often served for breakfast, as a snack, or as a dessert. It’s no wonder this is such a popular street food in Brazil.
If you like custard, you will love Quindim. Originating in the state of Bahia, Quindim is a sweet treat made from simple ingredients like eggs, sugar, coconut, and butter.
Like some popular dishes in Brazil, this dish involves a fusion of Portuguese cuisine with the local traditions of Brazil. Custard-based desserts were already popular in Portugal and when these ingredients were combined with coconut, a staple in traditional Brazilian food, the result was the quindim.
To make quindim, egg yolks are mixed with sugar, coconut milk, and butter, and then baked in small, individual molds until they are set and golden brown. The resulting custard is sweet, rich, and flavorful, with a distinctive coconut taste.
Escondidinhois similar to a shepherd’s pie but the Brazilian version is mashed with yuca instead of mashed potatoes. Although it can easily be made at home with potatoes. It is typically made with mashed yuca or potatoes, meat, cheese, and other ingredients such as onions, garlic, and spices.
To make Escondidinho, the yuca or potatoes are boiled until they are soft, then mashed with butter and milk or cream. The meat is usually cooked separately with onions, garlic, and spices, then layered with the mashed yuca or potatoes in a baking dish. Cheese is often sprinkled on top, and the dish is then baked until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Escondidinho is a hearty and comforting dish that is popular throughout Brazil, especially during the winter months.
13. Bobó de Camarão
Bobó de camarão is a popular Brazilian dish that originated in the northeastern state of Bahia. It is a stew made with shrimp, coconut milk, yuca or cassava, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and other seasonings.
The history of bobó de camarão is closely tied to the cultural and culinary traditions of Bahia, which is known for its Afro-Brazilian culture and cuisine.
To make bobó de camarão, the yuca or cassava is cooked until it is soft and then mashed to create a creamy texture. The shrimp is cooked separately with the onions, tomatoes, peppers, and other seasonings, and then combined with the mashed yuca and coconut milk to create a flavorful stew.
Picanha is a cut of beef that is popular in Brazil and other Latin American countries. It is a triangular-shaped cut of beef that comes from the top of the rump, near the sirloin. Picanha is known for its flavor and tenderness and is often grilled or roasted to showcase its natural qualities.
The history of Picanha can be traced back to the gaucho tradition of Brazil, where beef is a staple food and grilling is a popular cooking technique. The gaucho tradition dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries when cattle ranching was a major industry in Brazil. The cowboys who worked on the ranches, known as gauchos, would often grill beef over open fires, using skewers to cook the meat.
Over time, different cuts of beef became popular among the gauchos, including Picanha. Today, Picanha is one of the most popular cuts of beef in Brazil and is enjoyed at barbecues, family gatherings, and other social occasions. It is typically seasoned with salt and garlic before being grilled or roasted to perfection.
15. Arroz com Pequi (Rice with Pequi)
Arroz com Pequi originates in central-western Brazil in the state of Goiás and Mato Grosso. It is a rice dish that is flavored with Pequi fruit, which has a distinctive, strong aroma and flavor.
Pequi is a fruit that grows on trees in the cerrado, a type of savanna that covers much of central Brazil. It has been a staple ingredient in the cuisine of the region for centuries and is highly valued for its unique flavor and nutritional benefits.
To make Arroz com Pequi, the Pequi fruit is first cooked in water with salt and garlic until it is soft. The cooked fruit is then mashed and added to the rice, along with onions, peppers, and other seasonings. The mixture is then simmered until the rice is cooked and the flavors are blended together.
Arroz com Pequi is a flavorful and aromatic dish that is often served with meat or poultry. Its history is closely tied to the culinary traditions of central Brazil, where Pequi has been an important ingredient in the local cuisine for centuries.
16. Cocada (Coconut Candy)
Brazilian Cocoada is made from exactly what it sounds like, coconuts. This delicious sweet treat is made from grated coconut, sugar, and water. It is a popular street food throughout Brazil and is a popular snack and dessert.
When the Portuguese brought sugar cane to the country and began producing sugar everything changed. Coconut was already a staple in indigenous and African cuisine and was often used to sweeten dishes. The combination of sugar and coconut led to the creation of Cocada.
To make Cocada, grated coconut is combined with sugar and water in a large pot and then cooked over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and becomes caramelized. The mixture is then poured onto a greased surface or lined with parchment paper, and allowed to cool and harden into small, bite-sized pieces.
Cocada comes in a variety of flavors and most typical dishes include coconut, chocolate, and fruit flavors.
17. Mandioca Frita (Fried Manioc)
Mandioca Frita is a popular snack or side dish in Brazil and can be found in many restaurants and street food stalls. It is made from the starchy root vegetable known as cassava or yuca, which is a staple food in many parts of the world.
The history of cassava cultivation and consumption can be traced back thousands of years to pre-Columbian times when indigenous peoples in South America began domesticating the plant. Cassava was a valuable crop because it was able to grow in poor soil conditions and was resistant to drought and pests.
Over time, cassava became an important food source throughout South America and other parts of the world. It was introduced to Africa during the colonial era and is now a major staple food in many African countries. In Brazil, cassava is used to make a variety of dishes, including Mandioca Frita.
To make Mandioca Frita, the cassava root is first peeled and cut into long, thin pieces. It is then fried in hot oil until crispy and golden brown. The fried cassava is usually served with a dipping sauce, such as garlic aioli or chimichurri.
18. Bolo de Fubá (Corn Flour Cake)
Bolo de fubá is a traditional Brazilian cake made with fubá, which is a type of cornmeal. It is a popular dessert or snack that is often served with coffee or tea and can be found in many bakeries and cafes throughout the country.
When the Portuguese settled in Brazil, corn quickly became an important crop in the country, and was used to make a variety of dishes, including cakes and breads.
To make bolo de fubá, the cornmeal is combined with flour, sugar, eggs, milk, and butter, along with other flavorings such as cinnamon or grated cheese. The batter is mixed together and poured into a cake pan, then baked in the oven until golden brown and fluffy.
Bolo de fubá is a simple yet delicious cake that is enjoyed by people of all ages in Brazil and you can easily make it at home. Jaime Oliver has a good recipe to try here.
19. Churrascarias in Brazil
What can one expect at a Churrascaria? A belly so full you’ll be in a food coma for hours afterward. This traditional dish in Brazil begins with a huge buffet of vegetables, salads, sushi, and pasta. Don’t fill up too much here as the main meal hasn’t even been served yet. Want to try making Brazilian Cuisine at home? Get your copy of 65 Classic Recipes – The Food and Cooking of Brazil.
Within minutes men dressed in crisp white shirts bring endless cuts of meats to your table slicing off pieces with precision perfection. When you make Brazilian food, include any type of meat you want from sausages to steaks, put them on metal skewers and they are ready to go. Check out our suggestions for where to stay in Rio.
Move over Mojito, the Caipirinha is set to take over cocktail lounges around the world. The Caipirinha is a refreshing lime juice-based cocktail blended with Brazil’s national spirit the cachaça.
Cachaça is a lot like rum but made from distilled sugar cane. If you can’t get your hands on cachaça, you can use rum, but your local liquor store should have some in stock. The popular choice is Pitu Cachaça. Grab some limes, sugar, and ice and that’s all you need! Read more Fun and Interesting Facts about Brazil
It’s easy to make and I could write all about it, but watch our video on how to make a Caipirinha for a complete lesson on how to make your own Caipirinhas. Watch our video of how to make a Caipirinha here.
21. Moqueca (Fish Stew)
Moqueca is a fish stew prepared in a clay pot. The fish is slow-cooked with coconut milk, diced tomatoes, garlic, and coriander traditionally in a clay pot.
The fish can be any saltwater fish or whitefish or make something everyone will like with Shrimp! Make your own Brazilian fish stew recipe with this guide to making Moqueca
Traveling to Brazil? Pick up your copy of the Lonely Planet Brazil to help you with Brazilian food and travel tips
When it comes to trying street foods when we travel, we love them. Just make sure you only eat food that’s been cooked thoroughly and keep an eye out for crowds of locals. If it’s busy, the food will be fresh!
Acarajé is a delicious treat made of crushed black-eyed peas that are deep-fried in palm oil and stuffed with pureed shrimp. Be sure to have a side of chili sauce to accompany it and when ordering street food, make sure it is served piping hot! Make them at home.
23. Hearts of Palm
Dave and I have had Hearts of Palm in the past, but we really fell in love with it in Brazil. Their hearts of palm salads were refreshing and delicious. Hearts of palm were served everywhere in Brazil and we took advantage of eating them.
So dust off that old can of Hearts of Palm you’ve had in your cupboards for years and create a Hearts of Palm salad. Mix iceberg lettuce with fresh vegetables, hearts of palm, olive oil, vinegar dressing, and a little salt and pepper.
24. Brazilian Hot Dog
And now we leave you with a surprising staple of the Brazilian diet, the Brazilian hot dog. What makes the hot dog in Brazil so unique you ask, Well, Brazilians love smothering their food with sauces. It’s not uncommon to find a hot dog covered with the likes of traditional toppings like onions and tomatoes, you can also find corn and peas, tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, and crispy potato sticks.
25. Carne de Sol
If you haven’t had your fill of meat yet, another one of Brazil’s typical dishes made of meat is Carne de Sol, meaning sun-dried meat. It is traditionally prepared by salting meat and drying it in the sun for a couple of days. Chances are you won’t be making this at home, but when you visit the likes of São Paulo or Rio, you may see this on the menu, so now you know!
So there you have some of the best Brazilian cuisines to try in Brazil or at home. After seeing all the different staple foods from Brazil, it’s easy to see how they became so varied throughout the regions. From its combination of indigenous ingredients and influences by it European settlers, this delicious food destination has combined the best of its native and immigrant populations to create a dining extravaganza.
There are so many regions in Brazil that it is difficult to pinpoint a national cuisine but these staples tend to be enjoyed throughout the country. What is your favorite food when traveling?
We loved our time in Brazil and eating out was a major part of the fun! Whether you are going on an adventure, hitting the nightlife, or exploring the jungle, make sure you try a traditional Brazilian dish you won’t regret it.