Haven’t Tried Brazilian Food? Here’s Where to Start
Brazil is known for many things: soothing music, lively dances and raucous carnivals.
But Brazilian food also deserves attention. There's juicy and tender churrasco, countless deep-fried fritters stuffed with meats and cheese, more cassava dishes than anyone could count and bean stews that bring families and communities together on Sundays.
Is your mouth already watering? These are the 30 most delicious Brazilian dishes.
30. Cuscuz Paulista
Often served during social gatherings, this dish is somewhat unusual, putting together ingredients that you'd normally not find in a pan-molded rice dish.
The main ingredients typically include couscous, canned sardines, peas, hard-boiled eggs, peppers, onions, palm hearts, olives and shrimp. Everything is cooked together then molded in a cake pan for aesthetic purposes. Salsa is normally served on the side.
29. Sanduiche de Mortadella
We get it, sometimes, all you want is a good sandwich, but you also don't want to be the person going to Subway in Brazil.
Worry not, sanduiche de mortadella is here to save you from this pickle. The meal is straightforward: a grilled mortadela sandwich with a slice of melted cheese. But you really don't need much else, as the meat is always freshly sliced and hot, and the bread roll is served both soft and crunchy.
This will satisfy any sandwich craving you may have.
If the sanduiche de mortadella doesn't cut it for you, go on the hunt for an x-tudo.
This Brazilian burger is anything but simple. In fact, it's so massive that most people have a hard time even attempting to eat it. Variations exist, but the ingredients are those of a typical burger, except it's more like three burgers in one. Expect a beef burger patty, bacon, sausages, cheese, ham, corn and tomatoes all in one.
The result is delicious, but a word of advice: Never order this on a date.
27. Arroz Carreteiro
Literally translated to "wagoner's rice," this dish was made by gauchos (cowboys) who needed a cheap and easy meal with lots of calories as they traveled with their cattle.
Eventually, the dish became popular all over Brazil and is often made on the day after a barbecue as a way to use the leftover meat. Making it is as simple as mixing rice, beef, pepper, sausages and onions together in a pot.
26. Escondidinho de Frango
Brazilians love this traditional dish, which originated in the northern regions.
And it's pretty simple: a base layer of chicken topped with cassava puree. The layers mix together with each spoonful, making for a perfect culinary experience.
25. Filé Oswaldo Aranha
What we love about this dish is its unusual story. Rather than come about through slow historical processes, the dish was inspired by the eating habits of a politician, Oswaldo Aranha.
Whenever he went to a restaurant in Rio de Janeiro called Cosmopolita, he'd ask for his beef to be topped with fried garlic, accompanied by rice, potato chips and farofa (a flour mix made with cassava) on the side.
The restaurant staff eventually began offering the meal as Aranha liked it. So many people ended up seeing the wisdom of his ways, that it's now a popular Brazilian dish you can find all over the country.
If you're ever lucky enough to attend Carnival in Brazil, then barreado is probably the dish that will get you through after a night of nonstop dancing.
The cheap stew is made to be fatty and uses beef, bacon, tomatoes, onion and bay leaves, placed in a clay pot and stewed for an entire day. The lengthy cooking process ensures the meat is so tender that it actually starts falling apart, infusing the rest of the stew with flavor and calories.
Pasteis (as the dish is called in plural) are small fried dough pockets filled with minced meat and cheese. Other fillings exist, including sweet ones for a crunchy dessert.
The street food is very popular and is a flatter version of the empanadas you'll find in countries like Chile, Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia. However, it shouldn't be confused with Brazilian empadas, which you will see later on this list.
Brigadeiro is one of the most popular national desserts in Brazil and maybe the one people outside the country know best.
These small, crunchy balls are made with cocoa and topped with chocolate sprinkles. They're simple to make and impossible to not enjoy. Just be careful how many you get; their size makes it easy to eat a dozen at a time.
A versatile chicken salad, salpicão is made by mixing shredded chicken, vegetables and mayonnaise, topped with finely cut potatoes.
Salpicão is usually a side dish, but in big enough proportions (and if you're feeling too lazy to cook anything else), it's filling enough to be the main dish.
20. Baião de Dois
Any food named after a partnered dance is guaranteed to be good. The rice and black-eyed peas that serve as the base for this dish go together so well that the musically-inclined Brazilians said it was almost as if they were dancing together.
One small bite of this dish will certainly have you feeling like the rice and peas are dancing in your mouth, accompanied by the beats of pork, curd cheese, onions, garlic and bacon.
19. Torta Capixaba
With a very extensive coastline, Brazil has countless delicious seafood dishes. One of the best ones is without a doubt torta capixaba.
This seafood pie contains a mix of fish, mussels, shrimp, crab, vegetables, coconut milk, olive oil and spices like cinnamon. Eggs are added at the end to make a sort of crust over the filling.
Not to be confused with empanadas, empadas are round Brazilian hand pies usually stuffed with meats and cheese. The meat used can include anything from beef to chicken to seafood, so you'll be able to find one to your liking.
If you don't eat meat, you may be able to find ones stuffed just with cheese or, for the vegans of the world, with palm filling.
17. Carne de Sol
Another very good Brazilian meat dish is carne de sol, which means "sun meat." In this case, the name is actually quite literal, as the meat is left out to dry in the sun.
While the method was once used as a necessity to preserve meats, it continues to be popular because of the unique texture and strong flavor it gives the steak. Carne de sol is usually served with cooked onions and rice.
16. Dadinho de Tapioca
Dadinho de tapioca is made with queijo de coalho, a type of firm cheese that's very popular for roasting.
The cheese is grated and mixed with tapioca to create a starchy mix, which is cooled, then cut into cubes before being baked until crunchy and crispy. Once served, it's dipped into jams that can be sweet or spicy.
15. Pão de Queijo
Pão de queijo is one of Brazil's most internationally recognized foods, and we certainly can understand why. It is usually described as Brazilian cheese bread, but this doesn't really capture its essence, as it is more pastry-like than bread-y (though yes, technically, it is a bread).
With a somewhat hard exterior that has a slight amount of crunch leading to the soft cheesiness of the interior, the dishes texture is what makes it so good.
When Brazilians don't have time for an elaborate meal but still want to eat well they go for galinhada. Deriving from a similar Portuguese dish called galinha, this is a one-pot meal that puts together chicken, rice, onions, bell pepper, garlic and peas.
Herbs and spices are added for extra flavor.
The influence of West African food on Brazilian gastronomy can be seen in caruru. Okra, dried shrimps, onion and nuts are cooked in palm oil to make a paste-like dish.
Caruru is still very important to Afro-Brazilians and is a preferred dish in some religious ceremonies connected to African religions brought over by victims of slavery.
12. Bobó de Camarão
Cassava puree once again shines in bobó de camarão. This chowder-y shrimp meal is food for the soul, as it soothes you from the inside. Coconut milk is added for creaminess and flavor, and the dish is made fragrant with ginger and several herbs.
It's usually served with white rice on the side.
This perfect appetizer brings together four main foods to make a dish rich in contrasting flavors: sun-dried beef, beans, vegetable vinaigrette and farofa.
The different textures and tastes of each food harmoniously mix to bring saltiness, sweetness, sourness and bitterness to your palate. Everything can be served together in a single dish or separately in several dishes to be eaten by groups.
If you ever need proof that street food is the best food, try a coxinha. A virtually perfect snack, it's a deep-fried croquette stuffed with chicken and cheese. If the stand is good, the coxinhas will be fresh and crunchy, and the cheese, warm and melted.
To try it the right way, accompany it with a cold beer. You'll instantly fall in love with Brazil.
9. Vaca Atolada
Translating to "cow stuck in the mud," this filling dish is made with beef ribs, which are cooked in sauce made with peppers, tomatoes, parsley, onions and, of course, cassava. The dish's entertaining name comes from the meat being almost completely covered in the sauce.
Vaca atolada is usually served with white rice on the side.
8. Pato no Tucupi
This duck dish originates from the city of Belem and is usually served for the Círio de Nazaré, a UNESCO-listed festival that starts in August and ends in October.
Pato no tucupi is made by stewing duck with onions, tomatoes and alfavaca, an Amazonian basil. Once done, the duck is cooked again, being roasted with a cassava juice called tucupi and jambu, a mouth-numbing plant.
7. Casquinhas de Siri
A dish as pretty as it is delicious, casquinhas de siri are essentially crab cakes served on open shells.
The cakes are made with crab meat, mixed with coconut milk, bread, tomatoes, flour, peppers, onions and parsley. What makes it so delectable is that the cakes are baked straight on the shell, which infuses them with the taste of the sea. Paired with lemon, they are like the very superior cousins of oysters.
After a night out in the northern states of Brazil, you'll see many locals sitting down to order a moqueca. This creamy fish stew uses coconut milk and palm oil as well as garlic, onion and coriander for a simple yet filling meal.
Moqueca's soothing taste makes it one of the best hangover foods in the world — and Brazilians definitely take advantage of that.
5. Acarajé With Vatapá
This dish is a response to all your street-food dreams.
Acarajé is a sort of Brazilian falafel, consisting of a ball of deep-fried, black-eyed peas dough. On its own, it's amazing, but it reaches new heights when it's stuffed with vatapá, a paste made with coconut milk, shrimp, bread and ground peanuts.
4. Bolinho de Bacalhau
If you haven't noticed yet, Brazilians really love deep-fried balls. Bolinho de bacalhau are small cod balls that are dipped in batter and deep-fried to make one of the most amazing appetizers you'll try, in or outside Brazil.
Cod is ubiquitous in Portuguese cuisine and something that Brazil kept after it gained independence.
3. Mousse de Maracujá
Brigadeiros may enjoy more international fame, but mousse de maracujá is the closest thing the country has to a national dish.
The dessert is extremely easy to make, taking about 10 minutes to prepare (though you'll have to wait for it to cool down in the fridge before eating it). All you have to do is blend together gelatin, egg whites, condensed milk and milk creme, pour it into a dish and top it with fresh concentrated passion fruit juice. Then, put it in the fridge, and voila, it's done.
Fans of barbecue absolutely have to try churrasco, or Brazilian BBQ. To do so, find a churrascaria, a restaurant specialized in serving juicy, tender meats that are cooked on skewers over a wood fire.
Going to a churrascaria isn't only about the meat — though that's definitely the main event. Rather than cook the meat when someone orders, skewers are perpetually grilling over the fire. Once ready, waiters take them and walk around displaying them from table to table. If a meat catches a diner's eyes, the waiter then slices it off the skewer with a large meat knife.
Churrasco is very popular outside of Brazil as well. In fact, Texas de Brazil is one of the most profitable chain restaurants in the U.S.
Brazil's national dish is also arguably its most delicious. Feijoada is made up of pork, black beans, cassava, collard greens, garlic and rice, served in a single pot and mixed to heavenly perfection.
You'll find this filling dish pretty much anywhere you go, and trying it is basically a legal requirement for travelers. We joke, but it's such an important part of the culture that we would argue that anyone who neglects to have it at least once should get their Brazilian passport stamp removed.