Regional Specialities

Find out about some of the traditional meals and food products you can expect in Brazil...

The European immigrants from Italy and Germany brought the traditions of pasta and bread to the South and Southeast regions, while the spicier foods of Africa were mixed with the Portuguese customs further north. As local culinary traditions infused with strong international influences, the Brazilian culinary experience is varied.

Because of Europe's enormous demand for sugar in the 17th century, Portugal and Holland planted large crops in the newly founded Brazil. The mistresses of the isolated plantations had an abundance of time, slave labor and sugar, and their creations are said to have established the Brazilian love of sweets and desserts. The northeast still remains a creative powerhouse for new sweet delicacies.

The slave communities which served the plantations also inadvertently provided Brazil with its most enduring and richest dish – feijoada; a spicy bean stew made from a variety of pork cuts ranging from the finest of tenderloins to ears and trotters – nearly every part of the pig may be used. This dish is traditionally served as a filling lunch on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The more fertile southern regions of Brazil helped give rise to a dairy and fruit farming tradition which provides the country with its delicate white cheeses, preserves and the variety of German and Italian breads that often accompany them.

The large Italian immigrant community in São Paulo brought with it their most famous dish from the old country – pizza. Over the years, this simple recipe has become a staple of the São Paulo diet and Paulistanas will argue that theirs is better than any found in Italy or New York.

With around 8,000 Km of coastline, fish and seafood has always been a mainstay of Brazilian cooking. Perhaps its best-known exponent is the traditional moqueca, commonly served in the northeastern state of Bahia. Using ‘dende’ oil and coconut milk as a base, different fish, ranging from snapper to sting-ray, and fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, onions and sweet peppers are combined with coriander to make a stew. This is served with rice and pirão, a heavy sauce made from fish and manioc.

However, it is the simple dish of rice and beans which dominates the tables of Brazil from north to south, and around which virtually every other food is based. The only variations are in the ingredients and spices used to flavor the rice and in the type of beans used. São Paulo tends to favor the brown bean, while Rio prefers the black variety.

Washing it all down is traditionally the native soft drink Guaraná, made from a fruit native to the Amazon, or an ice cold ‘chopp’ or draft beer. The sugar industry also influenced the country’s distilled-drinks traditions, with thousands of versions of sugar-cane liquor (cachaça or pinga) found throughout the states. This forms the basis of Brazil’s most famous drink export – caipirinha; a mix of cachaça, lemon and sugar.