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A peak into Brazilian food culture: 11 essential food to try

Brazilian food is definitely not my favorite in South America. However, I had to learn about them when I lived with local families in Brazil. Food experiences are always different when you know the locals!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while now, you know that the bulk of my travels is about food. I love to eat and I love to know a culture of a certain country through its food.

Unfortunately, Brazilian food is not my favorite but hold up – let me explain why. I travel to Brazil often and stay for longer periods. My minimum stay is always one month since it’s easier for me to travel around if I have longer days. I am not rushing.

Brazilian food is repetitive and it wasn’t something I’d eat every day while I am traveling. When I visit Brazil, I also always stay with local families so, of course, they will always serve me Brazilian dishes.

It’s like having the same dishes that have different names, which honestly, is what I sometimes feel about living in Mexico. I know you’d kill me if I say I don’t eat a lot of Mexican food because it’s the world’s favorite.

However, Brazilian food is super interesting to know about because this is also a way to learn about their culture. I love that Brazilians are always thinking about food and each household is never without food on the table at any type of the day.

If you are only traveling to Brazil for short periods of time (let’s say a week), I highly recommend you to eat Brazilian food in every meal because you will somehow love it.

What is Brazil’s famous food?

The most famous Brazilian food is the Brazilian bbq which is also called a rodizio (the process). Like their neighbors Argentina and Uruguay, Brazilians are voracious meat-eaters. All their dishes have meat in it and it’s honestly super hard to be a vegetarian in this country (not that I am one).

Check out all posts about Brazil for more content like this

You pay a fixed rate to get unlimited meat at a rodizio. They will also serve Argentine and Uruguayan meat along the way. It will be hard to say no to all the meat they are serving because they are all different. You’ll always be curious!

What is typical Brazilian food?

The typical Brazilian food that you will always encounter: rice, beans, meat, and salad. Brazilians also love to eat fries a lot. It’s always ordered on the side!

Overall, if you are a meat lover, Brazil is a great place to eat. The quality of meat they have is very high so don’t worry about getting sick from eating Brazilian food.

Is Brazilian food spicy?

Absolutely not! And for someone who eats spicy in every meal like me, that was a problem. Brazilians are very sensitive to spicy food (like the Argentines actually) and my Brazilian friend is actually worried about visiting me in Mexico!

I always ask for spicy sauce whenever we eat out in Brazil and unfortunately, their spicy sauces (which they call pimienta) is not that strong for me.

They do, however, love very salty food and they would often add more salt to their food.

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10 traditional Brazilian food to try

#1: Acai

I mean, come on, you’re in Brazil. You have to try an acai bowl. Just look for huge signs saying acai and treat yourself to a bowl of frozen berries with bananas and granola. It’s a refreshing break from all the meaty stuff you will be surely eating.

In Brazil, acai is sold everywhere but what I observed about it is that they like to put very sweet stuff. Some even out gummy bears and sprinkles!

brazilian food

It’s really a very different image than that of the Acai bowls you are used to in Bali. In Brazil, Acai is presented as a super sweet snack even if all the acai restaurants say that it’s healthy.

It’s not hard to find Acai as they are specialty restaurants in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. I think it’s best to try the street cart acai as independent vendors can give a very interesting twist.

#2: Cachaca/caipirinha

This is the base of the world-famous caipirinhas. It’s a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice and can be found everywhere in Brazil.

This is an important drink and a must-try because, without cachacas, there simply won’t be any caipirinhas. If it’s your first time, I recommend you try cachaca without the fruity flavors to get to know what it really tastes like. Mind you, it’s super strong!

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My favorite caipirinha flavor is with passion fruit. It’s the most common fruit that goes with the cachaca. Caipirinhas are also sold on the streets and beaches of Brazil. There are many caipirinha carts all over the country!

Caipirinha is equivalent to Mexico’s margarita in terms of a popular tourist drink. Not everyone likes it but even so, you will still see every tourist on the beaches drinking it!

#3: Canjica

Canjica is traditionally served during winter festivals. But this sweet and simple dish can be found any time of the year now. It’s made out of whole pieces of white corn and milk (coconut and/or condensed).

Cinnamon on top is also a popular choice. It’s honestly a bowl of comfort! Coconut milk is one of the main ingredients of Canjica. Some also add cloves to their recipe (northeast).

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Peanuts and condensed milk are also added for an extra spike. Brazilians really love sweets and you will notice that in every Brazilian food that you will eat while in the country.

You will also find different variations of canjica in other Latin American countries. It is similar to mazamorra in Colombia. Canjica is known to be rich in fiber and protein.

#4: Churrasco: the Brazilian bbq

Brazil is a meat-eating country and you can be sure as hell that they know how to grill their meat. Make your way to the nearest churrascaria wherever in Brazil you may be.

Also more famous as the rodizio, Brazilian bbq is a big hit for birthdays or any types of celebrations. You pay a fixed price (in Rio de Janeiro, it’s around $25 USD) and the waiters go around giving you different kinds of meat.

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Each chair has a sign that you can flip whether you’d like to have more meat or not. The waiters are dependent on these signs and they won’t stop until you flip it to “no.”

These Brazilian bbqs also include a buffet of vegetables, sushi, potatoes, rice, and the most typical carbs that Brazilians usually consume.

#5: Farofa

Farofa was weird for me at the beginning. They were serving it in every Brazilian food I order (no matter what the dish was) and I never knew what it is.

When I tried it… I am sorry, I didn’t like it and I never understood why Brazilians love it so much! When I spent Christmas with a local family in Rio de Janeiro, they even taught me how to do this but I wasn’t really into it.

brazilian food

Farofa is basically fried tapioca flour. It doesn’t sound much but this Brazilian staple has an uncanny ability to absorb all flavors in a dish and is the accompaniment to any Brazilian meal.

I surely wouldn’t ask for this separately but many of my Brazilian friends always ask for it when we are eating in restaurants! It’s like they can’t eat without it!

#6: Feijoada

Considered to be Brazil’s national dish, Feijoada is a hearty stew traditionally made out of beans and meat simmered with a variety of herbs and spices.

Like farofa, feijoada is also present in every meal, in every household, in every buffet and in every Brasilian dish no matter what it is. They simply love their beans!

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I’ve seen many local homes cook it differently. My friends in Sao Paulo love it with meat while in Rio, they don’t put any protein. It’s fun to see how all families have their own feijoada recipe!

It is definitely a Brazilian food staple and you will encounter it even if you are not looking for it. It’s a very crucial part of the Brazilian food culture and they always claim it’s not your ordinary Latin American beans.

#7: Moqueca

Originating in Bahia is a seafood stew cooked with diced tomatoes, onions, and coriander. Others add in a dash of coconut milk, a varied array of vegetables, and peppers.

Moqueca is always served hot. Eat with some rice or farofa (or both) and you will get up from the dining table feeling so satisfied. Actually, this is the first Brazilian food recommendation that I heard from people during my first visit to Brazil.

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I’ve seen other Brazilian families make moqueca with shrimp and I didn’t really try it because I don’t eat shrimp (yes, I know). It is also sometimes served with plantains and white rice.

Using a clay pan is the traditional way cooking of moqueca. When I stayed in Rio de Janeiro, I didn’t find this in many food menus but it is very common in Bahia de Salvador (about 9h away from Rio).

#8: Pao de Queijo

The moment you land at any airport in Brazil, you will already see the famous “Casa de Pao de Quiejo” which has many branches all over the country. It’s not the best pao de quiejo I’ve tried and I don’t really recommend it for first-timers unless you are really hungry at the airport.

Local bakeries in Sao Paulo do pao de quiejo well. Pao de quiejo translates to cheese bread in English. It is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

brazilian food

Pao de Queijo is easy to find and can be enjoyed any time of the day. Different areas offer different types of cheese fillings and some areas even include meat into the mix.

PDQ is always served in cups in Brazil in small pieces of 12. It is definitely the Brazilian on-the-go snack as it is easy to eat and you can bring it anywhere! Many Brazilians also make their own PDQ at home.

#9: Pastel

It’s a crispy, golden brown, fried pie. Pastels are commonly filled with savory cheese and meat but your sweet tooth can also find ones that are filled with chocolate and jam. There’s a wide selection. Just take a pick.

brazilian food

Pastel can be eaten at any time of the day but is famously served in butecos (the equivalent of cantinas in Mexico). Every corner of Brazil has bakeries so it’s easy to find pastel. Brazilians love their bread!

Many people asked me if pastel is the same as empanada but I wouldn’t say so. The dough of the pastel is more crispy-friend than that of the traditional empanada.

#10: Quindim

Made of eggs, sugar, and coconuts, quindim is a melt-in-your-mouth custard dessert that is well-loved all throughout the country. It’s basically Brazil’s version of flan and is a must-try.

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Quindim can be described as egg custards and it’s commonly topped with coconut shreds. The word quindim is originally from The Republic of Congo. Brazil has a very long story with its neighbor Africa so they have shared cultures and customs through the years.

Best Brazilian food on Pinterest: save it for later!

brazilian food

John Ravi

Tuesday 11th of January 2022

Hi Trisha,

It was such a great read! I haven’t been traveling much, but Brazil is on my bucket list for a very long time. I always try to look for new things that I can try out or do, and all of these foods look amazing. I will definitely be trying these dishes when I visit, or if I am too tempted, I might try to find them here and try them. Thanks a lot for such a great share, it was an amazing read. Looking forward to reading more of your articles.