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Brazilian Food

Colorful and Varied: A Brazilian Food Primer

Photo: Susannah Chen

For a country as large as Brazil, it's no surprise that each region has its own traditional recipes and dishes. Regional cuisines have been influenced over time by immigrants and what natural crops are available to them. In the North, you will find caruru, a dish featuring okra, onions, shrimp, peanuts, and palm oil, and in the South, you'll be able to sit down to a plate of lasagna. The Northeast enjoys a stew that has been made for 300 years, while the Southeast is more accustomed to meals featuring rice and beans. Regardless of all of the differences, all of the different cuisines sound fresh and flavorful. Find out some basic Brazilian dishes and ingredients when you keep reading.


  • Açaí: small fruit from the açaí palm that has been a staple part of the traditional Brazilian diet. It's loaded with antioxidants, and it is often ground into a pulp and consumed.
  • Cassava: a woody shrub that has a starchy, tuberous root. This root is a major source of carbohydrates for many South American cultures.
  • Cachaça: liquor made from fermented sugarcane juice. It is the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage in all of Brazil.
  • Dendê oil: also known as azeite de dendê, an orange-red opaque oil derived from the dendê palm tree that's used to flavor fritters, sauces, and stews.
  • Chouriço: a spicy sausage very similar to chorizo.
  • Guarana: a climbing plant that produces fruit used for its stimulating properties. This fruit contains about twice as much caffeine as a coffee bean.
  • Hog plum: a fruit that is native to the Americas. This juicy fruit resembles a plum in appearance and flavor.
  • Polvilho doce: powdery, flour-like ingredient comes from the cassava. This sweet manioc starch is made from fresh juice.
  • Polvilho azedo: a sour manioc starch that is the byproduct of fermented manioc juice.

Photo: Sabrina Eldredge


  • Bauru: roast beef sandwich served with the inner crust removed, and topped off with roast beef slices, tomato, melted mozzarella, and pickled cucumber.
  • Brigadeiros: chewy chocolate truffles made from sweetened condensed milk, butter, and cocoa powder.
  • Caruru: a condiment made from okra, onion, shrimp, peanuts (or pine nuts), and palm oil.
  • Caipirinha: Brazil's national cocktail, a concoction of cachaça muddled with sugar and lime.
  • Farofa: manioc flour which is toasted and served at nearly every traditional meal, often alongside feijoada.
  • Feijoada: the National dish of Brazil. This dish is a meaty stew made from pork and black beans.
  • Moqueca: a traditional Brazilian seafood stew that has been made for at least 300 years. Fish, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and cilantro are the main ingredients, but it can also be made with chicken.
  • Pão de queijo: a cheese bun that is a popular snack in Brazil. It is most often made with polvilho doce and polvilho azedo, milk, cheese, eggs, and butter or oil.
  • Cuscuz branco: milled tapioca pudding that is served as dessert.

What are your Brazilian favorites?

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