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17 Delicious Brazilian Dishes To Eat

Get a taste of Brazil with this traditional Brazilian cuisine.

Brazilian food is a melting pot of cultures. There are Iberian influences from the Portuguese colonizers, there are West African influences from the Transatlantic slave trade, and there are a few Latin influences from all of Brazil’s neighboring countries.

Shrimp Stew Usually Served With Rice Mush

You can find almost any flavor or dish that you want in Brazilian cuisine. But we still feel that Brazilian food hardly ever gets the love and recognition it deserves. 

For some reason, especially in the United States, Brazilian restaurants and cuisine are not as popular as some other international options. We think that’s crazy, considering all the incredible flavors that Brazil has to offer!

If all of this sounds exciting to you, then Brazilian food is definitely for you.

Popular Brazilian Food

So, now you may be wondering where to start if you’re unfamiliar with Brazilian dishes. That’s why we’ve compiled this ultimate list of the 17 most delicious Brazilian dishes to eat!

Pão de queijo

Pão de queijo, literally translated into English as cheese bread, is a Brazilian recipe from the southeast region of Minas Gerais.

It originated sometime in the 18th century among the colonized peoples of Brazil.

To make pão de queijo, you would use tapioca flour, which is derived from cassava, instead of wheat as in other bread recipes. The other ingredients are cheese, milk, eggs, salt, and oil.

Well-made pães de queijo are crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. The consistency is a bit different from a bread roll you might be used to because of the tapioca flour.

The cheesy, savory flavor makes this a perfect snack or meal for any time of day, but Brazilians will usually eat it for breakfast or as a quick and easy snack.


Acarajé

If you were to say acarajé in English, you would say something like ‘shrimp bean ball’. This delicious ball is found in the Bahia region of Brazil.

This dish is very similar to the akara you can find in West Africa. This is because akara was brought to Brazil during the Atlantic slave trade, and was given a uniquely Brazilian twist to become acarajé.

Acarajé is made with a base of black-eyed peas, onion, and salt, but various stuffings can be added to this base, usually a stew. 


Brigadeiro

The sweet brigadeiro gets its name from the campaign of Brigadier Eduardo Gomes, a candidate in the 1946 Brazilian presidential race.

Brigadeiro is the national truffle of Brazil, one of the most popular treats, and is available almost anywhere in the country. It is commonly enjoyed around festival seasons.

To make brigadeiro, you use sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter. The ingredients are mixed to form a small ball, and the ball is topped with chocolate sprinkles.

You can usually find brigadeiros in bakeries and snack shops across the country, though in the south of Brazil, you may see them referred to as negrinhos instead.


Farofa

Farofa is a quintessentially Brazilian dish, loved by many Brazilians all over the country.

It is a side dish that consists of a manioc flour base and can be customized differently depending on the region of the country you are in. 

To make farofa, the raw cassava flour is toasted in butter or oil, and it is usually cooked alongside things like different sausages, onions, garlic, bacon, eggs, etc. at the same time.

The final result is a decadent side dish that has been infused with many different flavors and aromas.

Farofa is often eaten for lunch or dinner as a side to the main meat dish in Brazil. It does not usually get served on its own but rather it is served to accentuate another component of a meal.


Moqueca

The Brazilian fish stew, moqueca, has an interesting and complex history with many different variations and preparations.

The origins are difficult to trace, and it is claimed by different regions, but there’s one thing we know for sure, and that is that it’s delicious!

Most importantly, though, this stew uses fresh fish or shrimp and coconut milk to make the base. It is then supplemented with tomatoes, and other vegetables like bell peppers, onions, garlic, lime, and cilantro as garnishes.

You’ll find people who proudly claim moqueca in Espírito Santo or Bahia. And better yet, every version you try will be incredible.


Feijoada

Feijoada derives its name from the Portuguese word for bean which is feijão. That’s because this dish is a bean stew with beef or pork usually added in.

It is also very common for Brazilians to eat their feijoada with farofa as well. So, if you ever try some of these delicious Brazilian dishes, try to combine those two for an unforgettable experience.

Traditionally, to make feijoada, you would want to use the often overlooked, less eaten parts of meat. This dish is said to have been created by slaves who would use leftover, unwanted pieces of food from the plantation owners.

But, if you’d prefer to use something you’re more familiar with, you can make feijoada with black beans, garlic, onions, bacon, pork, oil, and bay leaves.


Vatapa

In Yoruba, the name for this dish is vata’pa. It is likely that this, too, was brought from West Africa to Brazil during the slave trade, and this is where it derives its name from. Vata’pa means ‘for her’.

Vatapa is a creamy paste that can often be found accompanying acarajé, especially in northeastern Brazil. It is typically made with bread, shrimp, coconut milk, ground peanuts, and palm oil.

If you’re making vatapa for yourself, be sure to serve it with some fresh white rice and maybe a batch of acarajé as well!


Tapioca

If you’ve ever had a French crêpe, you can imagine what Brazilian tapioca is like. Also called biju, this tapioca dish is aptly named because it has very few other ingredients.

By adding some water to tapioca flour, you can make a thick, sticky batter that is then added to a hot pan or griddle and cooked just as crêpes or pancakes are.

Conveniently, this dish is naturally gluten-free and vegan, so it’s suitable for anyone!

Once you have your tapioca made, fill it with either sweet or savory ingredients like Nutella, chocolate, and fruit, or cheese, tomatoes, and other vegetables.


Arroz carreteiro

Arroz carreteiro is a rice dish that is named for the carreteiros or carters that would ride in carts pulled by oxen in southern Brazil in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Because they were traveling so far and long, they could not bring perishable or refrigerated items, so they would prepare this rice dish with dried meats.

The rice dish can vary depending on personal preferences, but it is usually rice cooked with small pieces of dried meats, garlic, onions, and other vegetables to taste.


Baião-de-dois

A rice and beans dish popular in the northeast region of Brazil, baião de dois gets its name from the famous Brazilian music called Baião.  

The traditional preparation of this dish, straight from Ceará where this dish originated, is with black-eyed peas, some meat like bacon or jerk beef, onions, garlic, butter, and tomatoes.

Of course, you can find other meats, other vegetables, and other aromatics added in different variations.

Don’t forget to add the cream and cheese to top this dish off! 


Carne de sol

Translated to sun-dried meat, carne de sol is exactly that. It’s a savory meat dish that goes through days of preparation to end up on your plate.

After salting the meat thoroughly to cure it, it is left out to be exposed to the sun for an extended period of days.

Once it’s been left out, it is then fried, baked, or grilled, and it is used in a variety of ways for any dish you can think of.

You can find carne de sol hamburgers in the northeastern regions of Brazil, and they’re something special.


Coxinha

In Portuguese, coxinha means drumstick. It is a street food that is formed into a drumstick-like shape to resemble a chicken drumstick.

But on the inside, it is a ball of pulled chicken and cheese covered in a dough breading.

There is a legend that coxinha was created for a very young prince who only liked to eat chicken drumsticks.

When there came a day when the cooks did not have anymore, they made this replication instead. The prince, and the rest of his family too, loved the dish.

This popular street food dish is so well-loved in Brazil today that there is even a National Coxinha Day in Brazil on May 18th! 


Pamonha 

If you’ve ever seen or tried a Mexican tamale, you won’t be surprised by Brazilian pamonhas. They are a thick paste wrapped in a corn husk and steamed or boiled.

Pamonha paste is made with sweet corn, coconut milk, sugar, butter, and salt. It’s almost similar to a corn pudding that you might find in some parts of the United States. 

You can often find families making and eating pamonhas during June Festivities or Festas Juninas in Brazil.

It is a common tradition for the whole family to get together, listen to music, dance, and cook this delicious sweet corn dish.


Sagu

Sagu, or sagu de vinho, is an incredible dessert made of tapioca pearls.

Confusingly, the dish is named after the sago palm, but it is instead made from cassava. These two plants are very similar, and this may be the reason for the name.

Sagu de vinho is made by mixing the chewy tapioca pearls with sugar and red wine, sometimes with crème anglaise served on top of it.

It is not overly sweet or particularly bursting with flavor, but it is a fun and simple dessert with a fabulous texture.

The Portuguese colonizers who came to Brazil brought the tradition of making tapioca pearls, and the Brazilian people, particularly in the Rio Grande do Sul region, in turn, created this dessert.


Picanha

Picanha is a cut of steak that is often overlooked and unknown among people in the United States, but it is adored and prized in Brazil.

The picanha cut is made up of the cow’s biceps femoris muscle and the fat cap on top. This thick block of fat is used during the cooking process to add flavor.

As a result, the picanha is usually served only seasoned with salt because it is said to already be rich in flavor.

This cut in particular is most popular for grilling and barbecuing, maybe being skewered as well.


Pastel

Pastel means pastry in Portuguese, and this Brazilian dish is usually a savory pastry.

Many believe the origin is with Chinese immigrants to Brazil who had to adapt their normal dishes like spring rolls to the availability of ingredients and the palates of Brazil.

You can find these pastries being sold by street vendors all over Brazil. Inside the crispy pie filling, usually, you can find either chicken, cheese, ground beef, shrimp, fish, cream cheese, or some combination of these.

While some sweet pastéis do exist, they’re less common. You could find some with chocolate and fruit filling if you tried, though!


Beijinho

Beijinho, or tiny kiss in Portuguese, is very similar to the brigadeiro dessert.

Just like their brigadeiro cousins, they are made of butter and sweetened condensed milk, but they are flavored with coconut shreds instead of cocoa powder.

Beijinhos are sweet and light, and they’re so small that it’s easy to accidentally eat more than you planned to.

Sometimes they are topped with a single piece of clove, and it gives the whole bite a burst of flavor.


Popular Brazilian Food

  1. Pão de queijo
  2. Acarajé
  3. Brigadeiro
  4. Farofa
  5. Moqueca
  6. Feijoada
  7. Vatapa
  8. Tapioca
  9. Arroz carreteiro
  10. Baião-de-dois
  11. Carne de sol
  12. Coxinha
  13. Pamonha 
  14. Sagu
  15. Picanha
  16. Pastel
  17. Beijinho

Final Thoughts

Brazilian food is not necessarily as well known on the world stage as perhaps Mexican or Italian or other international cuisines. But it’s clear now that it really should be!

Brazil is bursting with culture, and this means that there’s no shortage of delectable food to try. If one Brazilian dish is not your favorite, then that just means that there’s another waiting to be dug into.

We hope this list of the most popular Brazilian foods helps you open up to Brazilian cuisine and flavors. Are there any that we missed? Do you have a favorite food from Brazil that’s not here?

Learn about food from other cultures, like the most popular Colombian dishes or traditional Hawaiian foods!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.