International Cooking: Food from Brazil

I already knew before this challenge that food from Brazil would be great, so this was a week I had been looking forward to!


Brazil is the largest country in South America, covering roughly half the continent. It is also the world’s fifth-largest country by area. Out of 17 megadiverse countries, Brazil is number one, with vast areas of tropical forest, diverse wildlife, a variety of ecological systems, and extensive natural resources across many protected habitats.

The region that is now Brazil was once inhabited by numerous tribal nations, until 1500 when the Portuguese found the land and claimed it. Brazil became a Portuguese colony, and in 1808 the Portuguese Empire changed its capital from Lisbon (in Portugal) to Rio de Janeiro (in Brazil). That’s an interesting story in itself, but it was essentially because Portugal was invaded by Napoleon and the royal family had to retreat. This was temporary; the royal family returned to Portugal in 1821 and the capital was changed back to Lisbon.

Brazil was upgraded to the rank of kingdom in 1815, and achieved independence in 1822. Portuguese remains an official language; Brazil is unique in the Americas in that respect.

Brazil is considered a developing country with a high Human Development Index and a large GDP. It’s also been the largest producer of coffee in the world for the last 150 years. However, the country currently has issues with corruption, crime, and social inequality.

What Do People Eat in Brazil?

Since Brazil is such a large country, cuisine can differ widely depending on what region you’re in, but there are a few things that are common just about everywhere.

Regardless of where you go, you can find ingredients that were first used by the indigenous people, such as cassava (known as manioc), cashews, yams, and a range of fruits including açaí. Cassava was used as a replacement for potatoes by European immigrants since it was readily available.

In the northern states, there are many freshwater rivers so fish is popular, as well as fruit and cassava. A popular dish from this area consists of duck cooked in a yellow broth extracted from cassava, which is actually poisonous and has to be cooked for several days in order to be safe for consumption.

As you get to the center of the country, you’ll find a lot of food containing pequi, which is a kind of fruit that is said to taste kind of citrusy and cheesy. Fish are also common here, as are chestnuts.

The southern part of the country shows more European influences, as well as similarities to the cuisine of neighboring countries, Argentina and Uruguay. Red meat and sausage are common, as is seafood in the coastal areas. Churrasco is the term for barbecue in Brazil and this is where it originated, though it’s now popular in other parts of the country too.

What I Made

Scroll down to read about other popular Brazilian dishes I didn’t make!

Moqueca (Fish Stew)

Moqueca

Moqueca is a Brazilian fish stew, which can be made with either fish or shrimp. There are a few different varieties, but the version I made, moqueca baiana, includes palm oil, coconut milk, tomato, onion, bell peppers, and cilantro. I used the recipe from Recipe Tin Eats, one of my favorite cooking websites. I knew this way I would get a recipe that worked and was easy to follow, and it seemed similar enough to the authentic recipes I found.

I made this with cod, and while I thought it was good, it wasn’t amazing. It was also way thicker than I was expecting. I served it with rice, as suggested.

Feijao Tropeiro (Beans, Manioc Flour, Eggs, and Sausage)

Feijao Tropeiro

Feijao tropeiro is a mix of beans, toasted manioc (cassava) flour, eggs, Brazilian calabresa sausage, onion, garlic, collard greens, and bacon. I used the recipe from Olivia’s Cuisine, and I used pinto beans instead of the carioca beans since they were more readily available. I was able to order the calabresa sausage online from Wild Fork Foods, which was great since I also needed it for the feijoada later in the week.

This had a lot of good things in it, but the cassava flour was a little too prominent for me. I toasted it myself rather than buying some pre-toasted. I think maybe if I added less I would have liked this more. The sausage was really good at least!

Coxinhas (Chicken Croquettes)

Coxinhas

These coxinhas are filled with a chicken, onion, garlic, herb, and cream cheese mixture, and the dough is made of flour, potato, and chicken broth. Once the filling is enclosed, you coat in bread crumbs and deep fry. I followed the recipe from Olivia’s Cuisine. I think that my dough was a little too wet, because it was a bit too sticky to shape the coxinhas easily. But I managed to get some that looked kind of nice. I ended up with extra filling, which was great on a tortilla the next day.

These were really delicious, but the filling was especially good. I don’t have poultry seasoning so I just used a mix of rosemary, marjoram, thyme, and sage, which I think worked out pretty well.

Feijoada (Black Bean and Meat Stew)

Feijoada

Feijoada is probably one of the most well-known Brazilian dishes, and it is considered their national dish, but I don’t think many people know much about it other than that it’s a black bean stew. It can include a variety of meat, but the version I made, from Olivia’s Cuisine, contained bacon, beef, and sausages. The beef was supposed to be carne seca, a type of salted beef, but I used chuck instead. For the sausages, I used all calabresa instead of including the paio sausage, which I could not get as easily. The beef, sausage, and beans are cooked for a while with bay leaves, and orange, then the bacon, garlic, and onion are sauteed and added towards the end. This didn’t taste orangey at all; the orange is supposed to reduce excess fat.

There are many sides that are traditionally served with feijoada, and I included plain white rice, orange slices, Brazilian vinaigrette salsa, sauteed collard greens, and farofa. So there are actually quite a few dishes here!

The vinaigrette salsa is a simple mix of onion, tomato, bell pepper, parsley, white wine vinegar, and olive oil. If I were to make feijoada again, this is something I definitely wouldn’t skip. The feijoada is kind of a heavy stew and this salsa helps brighten it up. The recipe I used is from Olivia’s Cuisine.

The sauteed collard greens don’t need much explanation. They are just collard greens, cooked with garlic and olive oil. I probably wouldn’t skip these either, since they were easy to prepare and pretty good. This recipe was also from Olivia’s Cuisine.

Finally, the farofa is simply toasted cassava flour, and it can include bacon, sausage, or vegetables. The version I made, from Brazilian Kitchen Abroad, had bacon, onion, and garlic. It was alright, but as I’ve said before, I don’t really love the flavor of cassava. If I were to skip something next time I make feijoada, it would be this, though I know it’s very popular in Brazil.

The feijoada itself was delicious, if a bit heavy for summer. I really can’t wait until we hit cool weather again because so many countries have important dishes which are soups or stews.

The feijoada recipe was supposed to serve eight people, and I halved it, so I should have had four servings. I easily had six. I felt like I could’ve gone lighter on the black beans, which is something I’ll consider for next time.

Brigadeiros (Chocolate Truffles)

Brigadeiros

Brigadeiros are something I’ve wanted to try for a long time, and I finally had a good excuse! They are incredibly simple to make. You just heat some sweetened condensed milk, cocoa, and butter until the mixture thickens. Let it cool, then roll into balls and coat in sprinkles, and that’s it. I refrigerated them, and I do think they taste best right out of the fridge. They were really good, and they tasted much more chocolatey than I was expecting. I usually find that if I only use cocoa powder and not real chocolate in a recipe, it is not as chocolatey as I want. But these were different. Maybe it’s the condensed milk.

I got this recipe from Olivia’s Cuisine. Hers look nicer though, maybe because she puts them in candy cups.

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

Pao De Queijo

Of course, I didn’t feel I could say I’d done Brazil week properly without making pão de queijo. These are little cheese rolls, very similar to the cuñapes I made for Bolivia. The technique was different though. Instead of just mixing the cassava flour and milk, this recipe required heating milk, water, oil, and salt, and using a stand mixer to mix it with the cassava flour. Then the egg gets added, and then the cheese, which was a mix of grated parmesan and mozzarella.

I think I liked these better than the cuñapes, but it may mostly be because the cassava flavor was not quite so prominent. Maybe the parmesan cheese helped, since it’s got kind of a strong flavor. My pão de quiejo didn’t really puff up like those in the recipe picture, which may be down to the cassava flour I used, since I still don’t 100% know that it’s the right kind. I used the recipe from Olivia’s Cuisine. Yes, I’ve used a lot of Olivia’s recipes this week, but she is actually from Brazil and her blog is really good!

  • Acarajé – made from peeled black-eyed peas, formed into a ball and deep-fried in palm oil. They are served split in half and stuffed with vatapá, a paste made from shrimp, bread, coconut milk, peanuts, and palm oil.
  • Cachorro quente – Brazil’s take on a hotdog. Common toppings include corn, shoestring potatoes, and various condiments.
  • Barreado – a beef stew from the south of Brazil, typically including bacon, onion, and spices such as cumin and bay leaves. It is often served over manioc/cassava flour, with rice and banana slices on the side.
  • Galinhada mineira – a chicken and rice dish, popular as a hangover cure. The ingredients can differ but will usually include onion and garlic as seasonings, with turmeric or saffron for color. Other vegetables or sausage may also be included.
  • Quindim – baked custard made from sugar, egg yolks, and coconut. The heavy use of egg yolks makes this similar to many Portuguese sweets and pastries.

Final Thoughts

This was another great week; I thoroughly enjoyed all the food from Brazil! The brigadeiros were my favorite, followed closely by the coxinhas. Honestly, I almost want to just make coxinha filling and use it as a chicken salad for sandwiches. It was just so good!

Next week, I will be cooking food from Brunei.

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