As a melting pot of races and influences, Brazil has a rich diversity of regional culinary styles. Climate and geography influence ingredients, from the exotic tropical fruits and spices in Northern Brazil to Bahian seafood and the heavy meat dishes of the southern states. Cultural heritage plays a part as well. In the Amazon, the diet is based on fruits and fish native to the forest and the rivers, with many dishes adapted from indigenous recipes. Farther south, settlement by Portuguese and, later, Italian and German immigrants put a distinctly European stamp on what’s cooking in the kitchen.
Although the term “haute cuisine” does not strictly apply to Brazilian fare, the art of eating well, or “arte do comer bem,” is known to all Brazilians. A light breakfast, a hearty lunch that can last from noon to 3pm, and a late afternoon snack are followed by an even later dinner that may go on beyond midnight.
15 Must Try Tastes in Brazil
Brazil’s best-known cocktail is the caipirinha, made with lime, sugar, ice and cachaca (sugar-cane liquor). Locals joke that you should never drink more than two at a time as they pack a serious punch. A perfect sipper for tan fans on the beach.
Brazil’s national dish, Feijoada, is a delicious stew of pork and black beans that is traditionally served over rice with collared greens, farofa and fresh slice of orange.
This traditional Brazilian seafood stew comes from the state of Bahia in northern Brazil. The tropical seafood dish is fragrant with garlic and peppers, and enriched with creamy coconut milk.
4) Oysters and Sparkling Wine
The vast majority of oysters consumed in Brazil are harvested on picturesque farms on the isle of Floripa. The southern state’s also play home to wine country as temperatures are cooler, allowing for hearty harvests. The most acclaimed Brazilian wines are sparklers, a perfect pairing for freshly shucked oysters on the half shell.
Brazil’s most popular soft drink, Guarana was first produced in Brazil in 1921. The sweet fizzy drink is prepared with guarana berry juice harvested in the Amazon jungle and is instantly reminded me of American Cream Soda.
While not a traditional Brazilian dish, Peru’s love for ceviche has captured the heart of Brazil’s beach communities and is now considered a trendy dish on many a restaurant menu. The dish is typically prepared with fresh raw fish, cured in citrus juices (lemon or lime), and spiced with chili peppers, fresh herbs and ginger.
7) Catch of the Day
If you’re in Brazil for the beach you’ll likely find yourself devouring steaming plates full of fresh seafood. Your best bet is to order the daily catch which is always presented with whimsy and flare. On one lazy afternoon I enjoyed a pretty platter featuring butter fried hake fillet, skewered peeled BBQ shrimp, sautéed mushrooms, crispy noisette potato balls and fragrant prawn paella.
8) Pao de Queijo
If the French have their croissant’s Brazil has its ubiquitous cheese bread. These small, baked, cheese rolls are a popular snack and breakfast food which originated from African slaves who would soak cassava root and make bread rolls from it. Flecked with cheese the crispy exterior pulls away to reveal a chewy and soft pillowy interior.
9) Brazil Nuts
One can’t claim they’ve snacked their way through Brazil unless they’ve enjoyed the country’s namesake nut. The Brazil nut grows on tree’s reaching up to 50 metres in height, making it one the largest trees in the Amazon rainforest. Purists can enjoy snacking on wee bags of the salted roasted variety, or try visiting a local bakery to enjoy sweet confections such as thick slice of banana cake covered in dulce de leche and candied Brazil nuts.
10) Craft Beer
While watered down Brahma is Brazil’s most internationally recognized brew I was wildly impressed by the craft beer culture thriving across the country. Most grocery stores offer a wide selection of local offerings from hoppy IPA’s to citrus-forward Weiss.
Churrascaria’s offer a carnivores delight as a wild selection of meats are cooked “churrasco style,” which translates roughly from Portuguese to barbecue. Distinctly a South American style rotisserie, it owes its origins to the fireside roasts of gauchos of southern Brazil traditionally from the Pampa region, centuries ago. In modern restaurants, rodizio service is typically offered. Passadores (handsome meat waiters) come to the table with knives and a skewer, on which are spread various kinds of meat from beef, pork, lamb, chicken, sausage and ham with pineapple.
The most famous of Brazil’s top end chains is Fogo de Chao, which currently operates over 30 locations in the US and 10 in Brazil. Once seated guests are greeted with a basket of pipping hot cheese bread and platter of crispy deep fried polenta fries. Gravy boats filled with mint sauce and chimichurri sit at the centre of the table so guests can easily slather their favourite meats. Grab a plate at the buffet and you’ll find a decadent selection of side dishes to compliment your steak featuring fresh salads (quinoa tabouleh, kale and orange, caprese…), imported cheeses, antipasto and roasted vegetables.
Brazil’s most famous street food is the pastel, reminiscent of an empanada, the deep fried pastry is a perfect grab on the go snack. Pastel’s are filled with savoury stuffings such as shrimp & tomato, catupiry cream cheese, hearts of palm and ground meat.
Fun Fact: Brazil is home to the largest community of Japanese living outside of Japan. Due to this large population of Japanese-Brazilians, descendants of immigrants from Japan in the early 20th century, even smaller cities in Brazil are likely to have a Japanese restaurant or snack-bar selling sushi. If visiting cosmopolitan hubs like Rio or Sao Paulo you can book reservations at a slew of award winning sushi restaurants which offer on point omakase that you’ll pay a pretty penny for.
The acai berry is an inch-long, reddish-purple fruit that grows on the acai palm tree native to Latin America. Studies show that acai fruit pulp is even richer in antioxidants than cranberries, raspberries and blueberries so it’s no wonder that the indigenous berry to Brazil has taken off locally via the health food craze. The most common way to indulge in the healthy snack is in a fresh fruit smoothy or acai bowl topped with fresh banana and crunchy granola.
Brazilians like to make rabanadas (a delicious version of French Toast) at Christmas, but are available all year round typically on a restaurant’s dessert menu. Slices of bread are soaked in milk, dipped in egg and deep fried. The crispy treats are then tossed in cinnamon sugar, topped with chocolate sauce and served with ice cream.