Brazilian cuisine is the set of cooking practices and traditions of Brazil, and is characterized by European, Amerindian, African, and most recently Asian (mostly Japanese) influences. It varies greatly by region, reflecting the country’s mix of native and immigrant populations, and its continental size as well. This has created a national cuisine marked by the preservation of regional differences.
Ingredients first used by native peoples in Brazil include cashews, cassava, guaraná, açaí, cumaru and tucupi. From there, the many waves of immigrants brought some of their typical dishes, replacing missing ingredients with local equivalents. For instance, the European immigrants (primarily from Portugal, Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland and Switzerland) were accustomed to a wheat-based diet, and introduced wine, leafy vegetables, and dairy products into Brazilian cuisine. When potatoes were not available they discovered how to use the native sweet manioc as a replacement. Enslaved Africans also had a role in developing Brazilian cuisine, especially in the coastal states. The foreign influence extended to later migratory waves—Japanese immigrants brought most of the food items that Brazilians would associate with Asian cuisine today, and introduced large-scale aviaries, well into the 20th century.
Root vegetables such as manioc (locally known as mandioca, aipim or macaxeira, among other names), yams, and fruit like açaí, cupuaçu, mango, papaya, guava, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, and hog plum are among the local ingredients used in cooking.
Some typical dishes are feijoada, considered the country’s national dish, and regional foods such as beiju [pt], feijão tropeiro [pt], vatapá, moqueca, polenta (from Italian cuisine) and acarajé (from African cuisine). There is also caruru, which consists of okra, onion, dried shrimp, and toasted nuts (peanuts or cashews), cooked with palm oil until a spread-like consistency is reached; moqueca capixaba, consisting of slow-cooked fish, tomato, onions and garlic, topped with cilantro; and linguiça, a mildly spicy sausage.
The national beverage is coffee, while cachaça is Brazil’s native liquor. Cachaça is distilled from fermented sugar cane must, and is the main ingredient in the national cocktail, caipirinha.
Cheese buns (pães-de-queijo), and salgadinhos such as pastéis, coxinhas, risólis and kibbeh (from Arabic cuisine) are common finger food items, while cuscuz branco (milled tapioca) is a popular dessert.
Brazilian National Dishes
Feijoada is a stew of beans with beef and pork. It is commonly prepared in Portugal, Macau, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Timor, Goa, India and Brazil, where it is also considered a national dish. However, the recipe differs slightly from one country to another.
The name comes from feijão, Portuguese for “beans”.
The basic ingredients of feijoada are beans with fresh pork or beef. In Brazil, it is usually made with black beans (feijoada à brasileira). The stew is best prepared over low heat in a thick clay pot.
It is usually served with rice and assorted sausages such as chouriço, morcela (blood sausage), farinheira, and others, which may or may not be cooked in the stew.
The practice of cooking a meat (pork) stew with vegetables that gave origin to the feijoada from the Minho Province in Northern Portugal is a millenary Mediterranean tradition that can be traced back to the period when the Romans colonized Iberia. Roman soldiers would bring this habit to every Latin settlement, i.e., all of the provinces of Romania, the Vulgar Latin speaking area of Europe (not to be confused with the modern country solely), and this heritage is the source of many national and regional dishes of today’s Europe, such as the French cassoulet, the Milanese cassoeula from Lombardy, Italy, the Romanian fasole cu cârnați, the fabada asturiana from Northwestern Spain, and the also Spanish cocido madrileño and olla podrida, not to mention non-Romanic regions with similar traditions that might be derived from this millennial Roman soldiers’ dish like the Polish golonka.
Fasolada, labeled the Greek national dish, is related to the ancient Greek dish of broad beans, vegetables, and grains, with no meat, unlike the Italian fagiolata and the Portuguese feijoada, which was used as food and sacrifice to Greek God Apollo during the Pyanopsia festival.