The cuisine of Brazil, like Brazil itself, varies greatly by region. This diversity reflects the country's mix of native Amerindians, Portuguese, Africans, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Poles, Syrians, Lebanese and Japanese among others. This has created a national cooking style marked by the preservation of regional differences.
Brazil's main cuisine regions
Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, and Tocantins
The cuisine of this region is heavily influenced by indigenous cuisine. One of the popular dishes is Picadinho de Jacaré (a meal made from alligator meat). Popular ingredients include turtle meat, Tacacá and Açaí. Rice
Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, and Sergipe
Geographically the region comprises a narrow, fertile coastal plain with abundant rainfall where much of the population is found, an equally narrow transition zone called the Agreste, and a large semi-arid region called the Sertão, which is dominated by large cattle ranches. All kinds of tropical produce are grown on the coastal plain, with sugarcane and cacao being particularly abundant.
Within the state of Bahia the predominant cuisine is Afro-Bahian, which evolved from plantation cooks improvising on African, Indian, and traditional Portuguese dishes using locally available ingredients.
Typical dishes include vatapá, moqueca (both having seafood and palm oil), and acarajé (a salted muffin made with white beans, onion and fried in palm oil (dendê) which is filled with dried shrimp, red pepper and caruru (mashed okra with ground cashew nut, smoked shrimp, onion, pepper and garlic). The main staple is a plate of white rice and black beans but other common foods include farofa, paçoca, canjica, pamonha and quibebe.
In the remainder of the coastal plains there is less African influence on the food, but seafood, shellfish, Coconut and tropical fruit are menu staples. Commonly eaten tropical fruits in the North-eastern region include mango, papaya, guava, orange, passionfruit, pineapple, sweetsop, "hog-plum", Soursop, and cashew (both the fruit and the nut).
Inland, in the arid, drought stricken cattle-growing and farm lands, foods typically include ingredients like (sun) dried meat, rice, beans, goat, manioc and corn meal. A popular dish is called Caruru do Par. They use every part of the bull.
Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo
The Southeastern region is the industrial heart of Brazil, and is home to several distinctive cooking styles for which Brazil is probably best-known.
In Minas Gerais the regional dishes include maize, pork, beans, chicken (including the very typical dish frango com quiabo, or "chicken with okra") and local soft ripened traditional cheeses. In Rio, feijoada (a black bean and meat stew rooted in the ingenuity of African slaves working in the plantations of colonial Brazil), is popular especially as a Wednesday or Saturday lunch. Also consumed frequently is feijão com arroz, or rice and beans. Traditionally, black beans are prepared in Rio, rajadinho or carioquinha (brown) beans in São Paulo, and either in Minas Gerais. Another typical food in São Paulo is the Virado à Paulista, that consists of rice, tutu de feijão (a paste of beans and manioc flour), sautéed collard greens (couve) and pork chops, typically bisteca, the pork equivalent of the T-bone steak. It is usually accompanied by pork rinds, bits of sausage, a fried egg and a fried banana.
The cuisine of São Paulo shows the influence of European and Middle Eastern immigrants. The majority of immigrants in São Paulo arrived from Italy, along with many from Portugal, Japan, the Middle East, Spain, and other nations. Hence, it is possible to find a wide array of cuisines. In the city of São Paulo, pizza is a popular dish, and sushi has entered the mainstream and can be found in regular, non-Japanese restaurants.
In Espírito Santo, there is significant Italian and German influence in local dishes both savory and sweet. The state dish, though, is of Amerindian origin, and is called Moqueca Capixaba (a tomato and fish stew prepared in a clay pot). The cuisine of Minas Gerais is also strongly influential there, with many restaurants serving that fare. Farofa (a dish of toasted manioc flour with small amounts of flavoring ingredients such as pork, onions, hard boiled eggs or different vegetables), polenta, couve (collard greens), chouriço (a type of sausage that is less spicy than its cousin chorizo), tutu à mineira (a paste of beans and manioc flour) and fried bananas are examples of popular dishes from Minas Gerais.
Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul
The gaucho (cowboy of the pampa) contributed to the national cuisine with dishes made with sun- or salt-dried meats and churrasco (a Brazilian counterpart of the barbecue), a meal of grilled meats in over-sized skewers.
The traditional food from the state of Paraná is the barreado, boiled meat, made in ceramic pans, often put under the soil to boil with the sunheat. And is called comida
The European immigrants (primarily from Germany, Italy, Poland and Portugal) were accustomed to a wheat-based diet, and introduced wine, leaf vegetables, and dairy products into Brazilian cuisine. When potatoes were not available they discovered how to use the native sweet manioc as a replacement.
- Rice and beans is an extremely popular dish, considered basic at table; a tradition Brazil shares with several Caribbean nations.
- Salgadinhos are small savory snacks, mostly sold in corner shops and a staple at working class and lower middle-class familiar celebrations. There are many types of filled and fried pastries:
- Pão de Queijo (literally "cheese bread"), a typical Brazilian snack, is a small, soft roll made of manioc flour and cheese.
- Coxinha is a chicken croquette shaped like a chicken thigh.
- Kibe (or quibe): extremely popular, it corresponds to the Syrian dish kibbeh and was brought to mainstream Brazilian culture by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants.
- Sfiha: Despite being a more recent addition to Brazilian cuisine they are nowadays easily found everywhere, specially in southern and southeastern regions.
- Pastéis are small half-moon shaped pastries with a wide variety of fillings (sometimes also shaped big and in a squared form). Similar to Spanish fried empanadillas, but of Japanese origin (and brought to Brazil by the Japanese diaspora).
- Empada are snacks that resenble pot pies in a small scale. Filled with a mix of palm hearts,peas, flour and chicken or shrimp.
- Cuscuz branco is milled tapioca cooked with coconut milk and sugar. The technique is identical to how couscous is cooked in hot water, but this is a dessert.
- Açaí, Cupuaçu, and many other tropical fruits are shipped from the Amazon all over the country and consumed in smoothies.
- Cheeses: the dairy-producing state of Minas Gerais is known for such cheeses as queijo Minas, a soft, mild-flavored fresh white cheese usually sold packaged in water; requeijão, a mildly salty, silky-textured, spreadable cheese sold in glass jars and eaten on bread, and Catupiry, a soft processed cheese sold in a distinctive round wooden box.
- Pinhão is the pine nut of the Araucaria angustifolia, a common tree of the highlands of southern Brazil. The nuts are boiled and eaten as a snack in the winter months. It is typically eaten during the festas juninas.
Also noteworthy are:
- Cachaça is the Brazil's native liquor, distilled from sugar cane, and it is the main ingredient in the national drink, the Caipirinha.
- Special ethnic foods and restaurants that are frequently found in Brazil include Lebanese, Syrian, and Japanese cuisine (Sushi).
- Pizza is also extremely popular. It is usually made in a wood-fire oven with a thin, flexible crust, very little sauce, and a number of interesting toppings. In addition to the "traditional" Italian pizza toppings, items like guava jam and cheese, banana and cinnamon, catupiry and chicken, and chocolate are available. Many Brazilians from the northern states enjoy putting ketchup on pizza, and even mayonnaise and mustard may be added. Although, in the state of São Paulo and the southern states where Italian influence is strong, this practice is considered "almost insulting" or "culturally demeaning." Some regions also drizzle olive oil onto pizzas.
- Broa, corn bread with fennel.
Typical and popular desserts
Typical Cakes (Bolos)
- Pão de mel (honey cake, usually covered with melted chocolate)
- Bolo de cenoura (carrot cake with chocolate cover made with butter and cocoa);
- Bolo prestígio (chocolate cake with a coconut and milk cream filling, covered with brigadeiro);
- Bolo de fubá (corn flour cake);
- Bolo de milho (Brazilian-style corn cake);
- Bolo de maracujá (passion fruit cake);
- Bolo de mandioca (cassava cake);
- Bolo de queijo (literally "cheese cake");
- Bolo de laranja (orange cake);
- Bolo de banana (banana cake is spread with cinnamon);
Other popular and/or traditional desserts
- Fig, papaya, orange, citron, pear, peach, pumpkin, sweet potato (among others) sweets and preserves, often eaten with solid fresh cheese and/or doce de leite.
- Beijinho (coconut "truffles" with clove);
- Cajuzinho (peanut and cashew "truffles");
- Cocada (coconut sweet);
- Pudim de pão (literally "bread pudding", a pie made with bread "from yesterday" immersed in milk instead of flour (plus the other typical pie ingredients like eggs, sugar etc.) with dried orange slices and clove);
- Manjar (coconut pudding with caramel cover and dried plums);
- Doce de leite;
- Rice pudding;
- Canjica (similar to rice pudding, made with white corn);
- Romeu e Julieta: Goiabada (Guava sweet) with solid fresh cheese;
- Lemon pie (shortcrust pastry with creamy lemon-flavored filling);
- Pé-de-moleque (made with peanuts and sugar caramel);
- Paçoca (similar to Spanish polvorones, but made with peanuts instead of almonds and without addition of fats);
- Pudim de leite, similar to a flan, but done with condensed milk;
- Brigadeirão, a pudim de leite with chocolate or a chocolate cake.
- Rapadura (and rapadura cake);
- Doce de banana, different types of banana sweets, solid or creamy;
Common international or European-style desserts
A simple and usually inexpensive option, which is also advisable for vegetarians
, is comida a quilo or comida por quilo restaurants (literally "food by the kilo") where food is paid for by weight. Another common style is the all-you-can-eat restaurant where customers pay a prix fixe
. In both types (known collectively as "self-services") customers usually assemble the dishes of their choice from a large buffet
Rodizio is a common style of service, in which a prix fixe is paid, and servers circulate with food. This is common in churrascarias, resulting in an all-you-can-eat meat barbecue.
Although many traditional dishes are prepared with meat or fish, it is not difficult to live on vegetarian food
as well. The country has a rich supply of all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Even on the streets, one can bargain cheese buns or Pão de Queijo
Yet, vegetarianism is not common in Brazil. Most Brazilians are not used to vegetarians. Not every restaurant will provide vegetarian dishes and some seemingly vegetarian meals may turn out to include unwanted ingredients. Comida por quilo and all-you-can eat restaurants continuously prepare a wide range of fresh dishes and one can more easily find food there that satisfies dietary restrictions.