5 Essential Brazilian Dishes You Need to Try
While Brazil might be best known for Carnaval, soccer and incredibly beautiful people, Brazilian food certainly deserves your attention as well. European, African and Caribbean influences all converge in Brazilian cuisine, coming together much like this melting pot of a country itself. Though Brazil’s culinary landscape varies greatly from coast to coast and north to south, there are a few essential Brazilian dishes you’ve got to try on your next trip.
① Bolinhos de Bacalhau
Similar to a croquette or arancini, bolinhos are a very popular appetizer and snack found throughout Brazil, regardless of whether you’re at a restaurant, a boteco—a pub—or in someone’s home. The most popular type is the bolinho de bacalhau, which brings together mashed potato, codfish, herbs and eggs to create the perfect companion to an ice-cold beer. If you really want to enjoy them to the fullest, add a drizzle of lemon and some pimenta chili.
Enjoy bolinhos at Lupulo in New York City.
No matter which corner of Brazil you’re in, you’re never far from someone frying up a batch of pastéis, Brazil’s take on the empanada. These small pastries are deep-fried until lightly crisp and filled with everything from ground beef with egg and olive to Nutella with apricots and walnuts. Each part of the country makes pastéis with different fillings, and they’re the number one to-go snack for Brazilians.
Enjoy pastéis at Little Brazil in Miami.
③ Açaí Na Tigela
The Amazonian super berry açai, which has gained popularity across the United States in recent years, originally hails from Brazil. In its home country, the incredibly healthy and versatile açai is served in a number of different ways, including blended with guarana, which adds both sweetness and a caffeine boost. If you want to go old school instead, eat açai as they do in the Amazon—as an unsweetened puree topped with puffy pieces of tapioca.
Enjoy açai at Acai Nation in Los Angeles.
Like many classic dishes born from hardship, feijoada, the Portuguese-style black bean, pork and beef stew, is now a favorite among all Brazilians, regardless of class or income. Brazil's national dish, feijoada is served with rice, couve à mineira (Brazilian-style collard greens), orange slices and farofa (toasted cassava flour). Feijoada used to be reserved exclusively for the weekends; luckily, though, it’s become so popular that most Brazilian restaurants (both in and out of the country) now serve the nourishing stew all week long.
Enjoy feijoada at Boteco in Austin.
The caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail, is a beautiful and absolutely lethal concoction. A simple mix of sugar, lime and cachaça, Brazil's potent answer to rum, caipirinhas are best enjoyed at the beach, where servers will keep them coming until you simply cannot handle another (if such a thing is even possible). Fair warning though: Once you taste that first caipirinha on Brazilian soil, or sand, you’ll never want to leave.
Enjoy a caipirinha at Berimbau in New York City.
Max Bonem is a writer, eater and traveler. If you need him, he’s probably off eating noodles somewhere. You can follow him on Instagram at @bonematlarge.
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