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Brazil Cuisine

Cuisine in Brazil, like Brazil itself, varies greatly by region. This diversity reflects the country's mix of native Amerindians, Portuguese, Africans, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Syrians, Lebanese and Japanese among others. This has created a national cooking style marked by the preservation of regional differences.

Northern Region

Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins – The region is known as Amazônia for it includes a large part of the rain forest, and tributaries flowing into the Amazon River. Culturally, the Amazon basin is heavily populated by native Indians or people of mixed Indian and Portuguese ancestry who live on a diet of fish, root vegetables such as manioc, yams, and peanuts, plus palm or tropical fruit. The cuisine of this region is heavily influenced by indigenous cuisine. Popular dishes include Picadinho de Jacaré (a meal made from alligator meat), Tacacá and Açaí.

Northeastern Region

Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe – This 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 and tropical fruit are menu staples. Commonly eaten tropical fruits in the Northeastern region include mango, papaya, guava, orange, passionfruit, pineapple, sweetsop, hog-plum 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.

Central-Western Region

Federal District of Brasilia plus Goiás, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul – A region comprising dry open savannas or prairies with wooded terrain in the north. The famous Pantanal, one of the finest hunting and fishing regions on Earth, is also located in the Central-Western region of Brazil. A fruit called pequi is very popular in Goiás cuisine.

Fish, beef and pork from the vast ranches of the region dominate the menu, along with harvested crops of soybean, rice, maize and manioc.

Southeastern Region

Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo – This 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, and local soft ripened cheeses. In Rio, feijoada (a simmered bean and meat dish of Carioca origin), is popular especially as a Wednesday or Saturday luncheon. 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 Portugal, along with many from Italy, Japan, the Middle East, Spain and other nations. Hence, there it is possible to find a wide array of cuisines. In São Paulo city, pizza is a popular dish, and sushi has entered the mainstream and can be found in regular, non-Japanese restaurants.

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