Best known for glistening beaches, Carnival, the Amazon Rainforest, and producing legendary athletes, Brazil is a must-visit travel destination for anyone who wants to experience a culture awash in color, music, and fun.
That same attitude extends to their cuisine. With an abundance of natural resources and agricultural biodiversity, meals center around fresh, local ingredients and recipes steeped in tradition.
Typically, popular Brazilian breakfast food is quick and filling. More leisurely meals are saved for later in the day when there’s time to socialize before heading back to business.
Fresh fruit, cornmeal, and cassava are the most often seen ingredients, as these plant-based products thrive in the tropical climate.
I’ve gathered up 10 of the most popular Brazilian breakfast food options that are easy to recreate in your own kitchen.
Pao de Queijo
It’s hard to have a bad day if your morning starts with soft, pillowy puffs filled with melty cheese.
Pao de queijo, or cheese bread, isn’t your everyday breakfast roll.
The recipe is not dissimilar to the French pate a choux pastry dough, but it swaps out the wheat flour for cassava tapioca flour for a unique chewiness and delicate airiness that is naturally gluten-free.
The most common filling is queijo de minas curado, a salty cured cheese made from cow’s milk. Thanks to the granular texture, it melts beautifully at the center of the roll without feeling rubbery.
Because Brazilian cheese is hard to find in US supermarkets, I swap out the queijo de minas curado for Monterey jack or parmesan. The texture isn’t quite the same, but the salt content is just right.
Cake for breakfast might seem like a sweet-toothed toddler’s dream come true, but in Brazil, the entire familia can confidently indulge without fear of judgment.
The most popular recipe is a sweet cornmeal and buttermilk bundt cake called bolo de fuba. Adding coconut milk or cheese transforms it into bolo de fuba cremosa, a creamy, rich alternative to the basic recipe.
Once baked, the cake gets an instant upgrade with powdered sugar or my personal favorite, dulce de leite.
I prefer to drizzle the individual slices so that the caramel sinks into the soft inner crumb and leaves the texture of the crisp outer crust intact.
As if you weren’t already tempted to give bolo de fuba a try, the whole recipe comes together in a blender for quick and easy cleanup.
Brazil is an agricultural superstar, and a variety of colorful, exotic fruit varieties thrive in the tropical climate.
With such a bounty available right in their own backyards, it’s unsurprising that fresh, vitamin-rich produce is a typical guest at Brazilian breakfast tables.
You can expect to find standard fares, like apples and bananas, but local favorites include papaya, acai berry, and the deliciously tart passionfruit.
One unique option is cupuaçu, the national fruit of Brazil.
Despite looking like a potato or a cacao fruit, inside it is a treasure trove of chocolate-scented white pulp. It tastes like a cross between pears and pineapples with the texture of a banana.
As the leader in worldwide coffee production by a wide margin, it would be an injustice not to mention coffee as a Brazilian breakfast staple.
From the time they wake in the morning until long into the evening hours, you’ll find locals with an espresso-sized cup of joe, called cafezinho, in hand.
Velvety and complex on the palette, the low-altitude growing conditions produce a bitter bean that demands balance.
Traditional cafezinho achieves that balance by boiling together water and rapadura, unrefined sugar, before adding the coffee grounds.
The last step is pouring the mixture through a filter, creating a smooth but bold flavor.
Most Brazilians prefer their coffee black, but I need a little creaminess to mitigate the intensity.
The couscous most Americans are familiar with is a hearty grain or pasta alternative made from semolina flour.
Portuguese settlers brought the namesake dish to Brazil, where wheat doesn’t grow well.
To replicate the texture with locally grown resources, the base ingredient shifted to coarsely-ground cornmeal, known as cuscuz, which is then cooked in a steamer with water and salt.
I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so I prefer cuscuz de milho or sweet cornmeal couscous.
It requires condensed milk, coconut milk, and shredded coconut, creating a dreamily honey bread-like treat that reminds me of polenta cake.
Toasts with Jam
Toast is a ubiquitous breakfast food the world over, including in Brazil, where the natural diversity of fruit trees lends itself well to a decadent selection of jams.
Goiabada is by far the most beloved choice for slathering on your morning toast. It contains guava, a fruit rich in natural pectin.
When it’s cooked down with sugar and left to set, the jam resembles a gelatinous cake.
Another prominent jam fruit is pitanga, also known as the Brazilian cherry. They look more like miniature pumpkins than they do the cherries most of us are familiar with but offer a tart sweetness that borders on bitter.
Manioc, or cassava, is a starchy root that has long been a staple food in Brazil because it’s filling, nutritious, and incredibly versatile.
Whether fried to flour, it makes its appearance in many Brazilian meals.
One of the most valuable applications is tapioca flour, which serves as the foundation for various breakfast batters like pancakes or crepes.
Crepes boast sweet fillings, like condensed milk and fruit, or savory, with melted cheese.
Cheese and Meat
One of the most surprising offerings at a Brazilian breakfast is a selection of sliced deli-style cheeses and meat, including ham and turkey.
They’re eaten alone, as toppings on toast, and, most deliciously, stuffed between flattened slices of pao de queijo before spending some time grilling in a hot pan.
The combination of meat, cheese, and cheese bread is called misto quente and is an excellent grab-and-go option for long mornings.
Fruit Juices & Smoothies
Fruit makes its appearance again in the form of fruit juices and smoothies.
It’s such a stand-by for Brazilian breakfast foods that you’ll find pre-frozen packages of fruit pulp ready to make morning smoothie preparation a breeze.
Acai na tigela is far and away the most creative version of a smoothie that Brazil has to offer, and you can imagine my delight when what we know as an “acai bowl” suddenly blew up here in the States.
While specific toppings differ from household to household, all acai na tigela start with a base of frozen acai berries blended until they are smooth and creamy.
Sometimes other fruits like bananas or pineapple make their way into the puree but are more often sliced on top, along with shredded coconut, granola, and a drizzle of guarana fruit syrup.
Cornmeal is a headliner in popular Brazilian breakfast food like bolo de fuba and cuscuz.
It also makes an incredibly warm and comforting porridge to take the edge off of chilly mornings.
Canjica is an irresistible blend of spices, dried white corn, desiccated coconut, condensed milk, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. When cooked, the dried white corn softens into toothsome puffs.
The aromatic porridge has a similar taste and texture to rice pudding, making it the frontrunner in my heart for Brazilian cornmeal recipes.