Typical Brazilian food

Geographic setting and environment

Brazil is the largest country in South America and the fourth largest in the world. It is located on the east coast of South America. Because Brazil is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed from North America: the winter months are May through August, and the hottest summer month is January. The mighty Amazon River, the second longest river in the world after the Nile in Egypt, flows through northern Brazil. The area around the Amazon River is known as one of the largest rainforests in the world. About a quarter of all known plants in the world are found in Brazil. By the end of the 20th century, logging and other commercial industries were damaging Brazil’s rainforest. Dozens of animal and plant species became extinct in Brazil during the 20th century. Nevertheless, destruction of the rainforest environment has slowed down somewhat. Brazil’s soil is not fertile enough for agriculture in most areas, but it produces large amounts of cocoa (it ranks third in cocoa production after Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, both in Africa). The river water that flows near cities is polluted by industrial waste.

History and food

Brazil is a great country that is made up of many different cultures. Each region has a different food specialty. The Portuguese arrived in Brazil in 1500 and brought their tastes and cooking styles with them. They brought sugar, citrus and many sweets that are still used for desserts and parties. The Brazilian “candy” developed through the influence of Europeans. Brazilians use a lot of eggs, fruit, spices (such as cinnamon and cloves), and sugar to make sweets, such as ragweed. They also use savory (not sweet) seasonings like parsley and garlic. Other nationalities that settled in Brazil were the Japanese, the Arabs and the Germans. More than a million Italians had immigrated to Brazil by 1880. Each group of immigrants brought with them their own style of cooking.

However, long before the Europeans arrived, the Tupi-Guarani and other groups of Indians lived in Brazil. They planted cassava (a tuber like potato) from which Brazilians learned to make tapioca and farofa, ground cassava, which is similar to breadcrumbs. It is roasted in oil and butter and sprinkled over rice, beans, meat and fish. In 2001, farofa was still used as the basic “flour” by Brazilians to make cookies, biscuits, and bread.

Ragweed 8portions


  • 4 cups of milk
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 9 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 whole cloves


  1. Put the milk in a large saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Remove from heat and add the sugar and egg yolks, one at a time, beating well with a wire whisk after each addition. Add the cloves and lemon juice.
  3. Cook over medium heat for an hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is golden brown and grainy.
  4. Chill and serve cold.

ambrosia typical brazil food

Brazilian food

Rice, black beans, and cassava (a tuber like a potato) are the main foods for many Brazilians. The national dish is feijoada, a thick stew of black beans and chunks of pork and other meats. It is usually served with orange salad, white rice, farofa (ground cassava), and couve (kale), a dark green leafy vegetable that is diced and cooked until slightly crisp.

Feijoada (meat stew) 10portions


  • 3 strips of raw bacon
  • 2 onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic (or 1 teaspoon of garlic powder)
  • 1 pound smoked sausage
  • 1 pound boneless beef (any cut of beef)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 4 cups canned black beans
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Cut the bacon strips into large pieces. Cook them in a large pot over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Lower heat to medium.
  3. Cut the onion in half. Peel the skin and outer layer. Cut both halves into small pieces.
  4. Peel the garlic cloves. Chop them into small pieces.
  5. Add the onions and garlic to the bacon in the pot. Stir until onions are soft, about 3 minutes.
  6. Cut sausage and meat into 1-inch pieces. Add them to the onions and garlic.
  7. Cook until meat is brown on all sides.
  8. Add the stewed tomatoes (with their juice), hot water, yellow mustard and a little salt and pepper. Lower the heat so that it simmers. Cover the pot.
  9. Cook for about 45 minutes, stirring often. If it looks too thick, add more water, ¼ cup at a time. Add black beans (with liquid).
  10. Cover the pot and cook for a further 10 minutes.


Orange Salad


  • 5 oranges
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Peel the oranges and remove the inner core.
  2. Cut the oranges into thin slices. Arrange the slices on a plate.
  3. Sprinkle them with sugar, salt and pepper.
  4. Serve, or cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to eat.

brazilian orange salad

Almost all fruits grow in Brazil, including apples, oranges, peaches, strawberries, bananas, papayas, mangoes, and avocados. Fruits, vegetables, meat and flowers are sold in the feiras (street markets). These external markets are installed in the streets, which are closed to vehicle traffic. The markets settle in a new place every day.

The churrasco, chunks of beef cooked on a metal skewer over hot coals, is another favorite. Sometimes the meat is soaked in a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice, and garlic before cooking. This “Brazilian barbecue” is served with rice, potato salad, polenta (fried corn porridge), or, occasionally, a fried plantain. The gaúchos who live in the Rio Grande do Sul region especially enjoy churrasco.

After the gaúchos eat their meal, they drink mate (an herbal tea drunk in many parts of South America). Tea leaves are placed inside a hollowed-out gourd, and then boiling water is poured over them. Gauchos slowly sip mate through a metal straw, called a bombilla, with a strainer at the bottom end of the straw. The gourd and straw are carried, hanging from the belt.

Another popular drink is guarana, made from a small red fruit that is high in caffeine and grows in the Amazon River area. It is a refreshing soft drink, unique in Brazil and with a flavor that some describe as similar to cream soda. People in the Amazon River area also chew guarana seeds, or make a drink by dissolving a powder made from the seeds in water. Powdered guarana is available in the United States at some health food stores, or in specialty food markets in South America.

Polenta (fried corn)


  • 3¼ cup of water
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup of cornmeal


  1. Stir ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat until they come to a slow boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Stir frequently.
  3. Spread the polenta in a loaf pan.
  4. Wait until completely cool, then cut into 2-inch-wide slices.
  5. Fry them in a skillet over medium heat in 2 tablespoons of butter, 10 minutes on each side until crisp.

brazil gastronomy polenta

Food for religious and festive celebrations

Although Brazil does not have a national religion, the Portuguese who arrived in Brazil in 1500 brought their Roman Catholic religion with them. About 75 percent of Brazilians consider themselves Roman Catholic. Those who do not follow the Roman Catholic religion still enjoy the world-renowned Brazilian carnival tradition. During Carnival, colorful parades take place in the streets, and children and adults dress up in costumes, dance and celebrate in the streets all day and night. People eat and drink continuously during Carnival, enjoying spiced dishes, such as pepper-scented rice and feijoada, and sweets. Carnival is a week-long party that ends on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40-day religious period of Lent before the Christian celebration of Easter.

pepper rice 4portions


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of long grain rice
  • 1 hot pepper
  • 2 cups of hot water
  • ½ teaspoon of salt


  1. Pour the vegetable oil into a large saucepan and heat it for a few seconds. Add the onion, garlic and rice.
  2. Gently fry, stirring for about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the pepper, hot water and salt. Stir well and let it boil.
  4. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the rice is soft and the water has been absorbed.
  5. Remove the pepper and serve.

pepper rice

The Junina Festivities are celebrated in honor of the Roman Catholic saints: San Antonio, San Pedro and San Juan. Brazilians believe that San Juan protects the corn and green bean crops, giving them plenty of food in the coming year. They celebrate Saint John’s Day with a harvest festival. Brazilians like to eat corn, such as corn on the cob and popcorn, and corn-based dishes such as corn puddings and corn cake, on all Festivas Juninas.

Corn cake 12portions


  • 1 can (11 ounces) corn, drained
  • 7 tablespoons soft butter
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them; slowly add milk, eggs, butter and corn; blend until smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture into a large greased loaf pan.
  4. Bake for about 50 minutes.
  5. To check if the cake is ready, place a toothpick in the center; the cake is ready when the toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Remove cake from pan by turning onto a wire rack to cool.
  7. Slice and serve.

Corn cake

Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee, and Brazilians use coffee in many unique ways in the kitchen. For example, on Christmas day, Brazilians prepare a turkey drizzled with rich black coffee with cream and sugar. The traditional filling contains farofa (ground cassava), pork sausage, onions, celery, and seasonings. The accompaniments of this meal are mashed white sweet potatoes, fried plantain and green beans. Dessert is an assortment of dozens of fruits (sweetened fruits, preserved by slow cooking), star fruit, and mango strips.

fried banana 6portions


  • 6 small bananas, peeled
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup of fine breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • Salt to taste


  1. In a mixing bowl, gently toss the bananas with egg to moisten them, then lightly roll the bananas in the breadcrumbs.
    In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
    When the foam disappears, add the bananas and fry them on all sides until golden brown.
    Season with salt and serve hot.

Mealtime customs

Because Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee, a typical small almoço (breakfast) consists of a cup of café come leite (a mixture of hot milk and coffee) and a piece of French bread. Many Brazilian children also drink a mixture of coffee and milk for breakfast.

Lunch, usually the largest meal of the day, consists of rice, beans, salad, meat or other dishes, depending on where the family lives and what they can afford. Between lunch and dinner, some Brazilians have mid-morning and mid-afternoon coffee, which includes coffee, hot milk, and cookies. Pasteles y empadas, small pastries filled with any combination of fried or baked shrimp, meats, and cheeses, are a favorite snack. These can be bought from street vendors (Brazilian fast food) or made at home.

At the end of the night, many Brazilians eat a light dinner. Children enjoy desserts such as pudding or churros, fried dough rolled in sugar and filled with caramel, chocolate, or sweetened condensed milk.

pudim 12portions


  • 1 pound of sugar
  • ½ tablespoon butter or margarine
  • ½ cup of water
  • 6 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 cup grated coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease the cups of a 10 to 12 muffin tin and sprinkle with a little sugar.
  3. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring until the mixture forms a fine syrup.
  4. Add the butter and remove from heat and let cool.
  5. When the syrup is cold, add the egg yolks and coconut and mix well.
  6. Pour the mixture into sections of the muffin tin.
  7. Place pan in larger saucepan filled with 1 inch of hot water.
  8. Bake for 30 or 40 minutes.
  9. To check if they are done, stick a toothpick in the center, it should come out clean.
  10. When the custard cools, invert the pan onto a large tray.
  11. Serve in bowls.

brazilian pudim

The Portuguese brought oranges and other citrus fruits to Brazil in 1500, and they are used in various dishes and juices. Students can enjoy a fruity drink, such as pineapple and orange, as a snack after school.

Pineapple and orange drink 1-2portions


  • 2 tablespoons of crushed ice
  • 2 tablespoons sparkling water or seltzer
  • ½ cup of orange juice
  • ½ cup pineapple juice


  1. Pour the crushed ice and water into a large glass.
  2. Add the orange juice and pineapple juice. Stir and drink.
  3. This drink can also be made quickly in a blender.

Children can bring quejadinhas (coconut and cheese sandwiches) to school as part of their lunch. These treats do not need to be heated and, if stored correctly, will stay fresh for several days.

Quejadinhas (coconut and cheese bites)


  • 1 cup of well packaged fresh grated coconut.
  • 1 can (8 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large egg yolks


  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well.
  3. Place paper cups in the cups of a muffin tin. Drop the mixture by the tablespoon into the paper cups.
  4. Place the muffin tin in a larger saucepan that has been filled with about 1 inch of water and cook for about 35 minutes.
  5. These will keep well if stored in a tightly closed cookie pan.


Politics, economics and nutrition

About 10 percent of Brazil’s population is classified as undernourished by the World Bank. This means that they are not getting adequate nutrition in their diet. Of children under five, about 6% are underweight and more than 10% are stunted (short for their age).

According to the Brazilian government, child poverty is one of the country’s most serious concerns. Around a third of children in Brazil live in poverty. Thousands of children spend their days on the streets of the cities of Brazil; many abuse drugs and turn to crime and prostitution to earn money to live. Many shopkeepers regard these street children as a nuisance and ask the police to keep them away from their shops. International observers consider child poverty in Brazil to be a human rights issue, but many Brazilians see children as a security threat in cities.

Share the typical food of Brazilian cuisine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button