Brazil is truly a melting pot thanks to its many cultural influences throughout history. Because of this, traditional Brazilian food is incredibly diverse. Brazil’s cuisine has been influenced by the indigenous population, African cultures, the Portuguese colonizers, and myriad immigrant groups from Asia, Europe, and elsewhere. Brazilian food varies a great deal from regions like Espirito Santo to the major city of São Paulo.
From rice and beans to popular street foods, Northern fish stews, and churrasco from cattle ranches in the South, Brazilian cuisine is worth getting to know.
Originally, feijoada was a dish eaten by African slaves in Brazil in the 16th century. It’s since become a staple for all Brazilians, and feijoada is now the national dish of Brazil.
Feijoada literally translates to “big stew,” and is made of slow-cooked black beans and meat. Traditionally, it’s made with pig’s ear, feet, and snout, but feijoada can contain sausages, bacon, or ribs as well.
“Feijoada completa” or “complete feijoada” means the stew will be served with orange slices, rice, onion, tomatoes, chopped greens like collard greens, and “farinha” or toasted manioc.
Farofa is a common side dish. It’s made up of toasted cassava flour that can be sprinkled on top of the stew to soak up extra flavor.
Tacacá is a traditional soup from the north of Brazil. It’s known for numbing your mouth, really!, because it contains jambú, a leaf with anesthetic properties. Other ingredients include dried shrimp, tucupi (cassava), alfavaca (basil from the Amazon), manioc, and hot peppers.
Thought to have medicinal properties, the soup is usually served in a gourd known as a cuia and sipped straight from the bowl.
3. Pato no Tucupi
Found mostly in the city of Belém, pato no tucupi consists of duck cooked in a juice extracted from cassava called tucupi. The tucupi has to be boiled slowly over several hours, as it is otherwise poisonous.
Even though this recipe comes from Brazil’s indigenous population, the dish is traditionally served once a year during Círio de Nazaré, a Catholic festival honoring the Virgin Mary.
4. Frango com Quiabo
Frango com Quiabo or chicken with okra is a traditional Brazilian dish from the Southeast, especially in Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais.
The recipe was first introduced by Africans in the 15th century, and consists of chicken cooked in a stew with okra, tomatoes, and other vegetables. The dish was famously enjoyed by Anthony Bourdain in Parts Unknown.
5. Baião de Dois
Typically eaten in the northeastern Brazilian states of Rondônia, Acre, Amazonas, and Pará, Baião de Dois is a dish of rice and beans (either green or string beans). In the recipe, the rice is cooked in bean broth, so nothing is wasted.
Depending on the region, the dish is made with bacon, Brazilian cheese, cilantro, and chives.
Açaí is a thick, iced smoothie made of guarana berries, often topped with fruits or granola. Brazilians eat it on a whole range of occasions, as it has purported health benefits.
The dish can be enjoyed for breakfast, on the beach, or as a dessert. Açaí is often considered a superfood because it is packed full of vitamins, iron, calcium, and antioxidants.
Fun fact: Hearts of palm and Açaí berries come from the same tree.
7. Moqueca de Peixe
Moqueca de peixe is a seafood stew from the state of Bahia in northeast Brazil, and like many from that region, the recipe hails from Afro-Brazilian culture. Traditionally made in clay pots, moqueca is both creamy and spicy.
To make it: garlic, onion, tomatoes, and sweet bell peppers are sautéed in olive oil, and coconut milk is poured over the top. Seafood, such as prawns, crab, or lobster, is then stewed in the broth.
The dish is served over rice or pirão, a creamy porridge made from manioc flour.
8. Tainha na Taquara
Tainha, or mullet, is a fish found across Brazil. However, Taihna na Taquera is a preparation you can only find in the south of Brazil, especially Porto Alegre in Rio Grande do Sul.
To create Tainha na Taquara, the mullet is roasted on firewood and placed between firewood skewers. It’s then seasoned with garlic, oil, butter, chili pepper, and lemon and accompanied by white rice.
The dish consists of beef slow-cooked in a clay pot for 12 hours or more. It’s served over rice and topped with plantain. Barreado literally translates to “covered in mud” and refers to the way the clay pot was traditionally sealed with manioc dough and ash as it was cooking.
Barreado is now commonly enjoyed during the pre-Lent carnival season.
10. Arroz com Pequi
Pequi or “souari nut” is a fruit native to the Cerrado region in Brazil. The fruit is known for having a peculiar taste. Arroz com pequi simply means “rice with souari nut.”
To make it, the rice is cooked with the fruit, giving it a yellow color and a bittersweet taste.
11. Bonus: Caipirinha
The national drink of Brazil is called the caipirinha. Granted, this is easier to find outside the country as its popularity has spread.
This drink is made from three ingredients: sugar, lime, and cachaça, a liquor distilled from sugarcane and produced exclusively in Brazil. They’re muddled together to create a potent and refreshing drink.
From arroz com pequi to moqueca, from acarajé to pão de queijo, Brazilian cuisine offers a lot to enjoy.
And if you’re looking for more dishes to try, check out Brazilian desserts like Beijinho, coconut fudge truffles; Brigadeiro, a confection covered in chocolate sprinkles; or Bolo de rolo, a rolled caked with guava or passion fruit.
If you prefer savory flavors, learn more about snacks like pastel, tapioca, coxinha, and cheese bread.
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