Five Famous Brazilian Foods You Must Try!

March 2021

Brazilian food is a melting pot from three main cultural influences from colonial times. For almost three centuries, Portuguese explorers, African slaves, and native peoples assimilated, adapted, and interchanged their cultural knowledge through various rich connections that helped shape the foundations of Brazilian cuisine. Furthermore, the immigration waves at the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century also contributed to Brazilian vibrant cultural amalgamation, however, in a less intertwined way. Newcomers from places like Japan, Italy, Germany and the Middle East kept their own traditions and customs in communities around different country regions and some specific areas in the big cities.

One example that best illustrates the variety of Brazilian is sweets. Many of the traditional Brazilian desserts originated from the crossing between European, African and Brazilian Indians cuisines. The arrival of the royal court to Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of the 19th century also boosted the exchange of an abundance of recipes and cooking techniques. Once in tropical lands, traditional European preparations were inevitably adopted and adapted. Using local ingredients like coconut and peanut, Brazilians created new interpretations of puddings and other classic recipes from the Old World.

Here are five of the most famous Brazilian foods you must try on your next visit to Brazil.

PAÇOCA

Paçoca comes from the Tupi word paçoc, which means to crumble, shred, and flour. In his book História da Alimentação do Brasil (Global Ed.), Luís da Câmara Cascudo explains that paçoca was a type of food prepared with dried meat and manioc flour, crushed together in a wooden mortar. According to Câmara Cascudo, one of the most important researchers of Brazilian folklore, paçoca constituted a kind of preserve suitable for travels in the outbacks of Brazil. An indigenous heritage for Brazilian cuisine, paçoca was popularized in the 18th and 19th centuries by the tropeiros, traffickers who roamed the country buying and selling everything, from slaves to clothes.

The sweet version of paçoca originated in the Southeast region, in the Vale do Paraíba (Paraiba Valley), an area encompassing parts of São Paulo e Rio de Janeiro states. It is made the same way as the salty paçoca using traditionally roasted peanut, sugar, salt, and manioc flour. Paçoca as we know today with its cork-shaped and remarkable taste of peanut butter cups. The sweet has a special place at Festa Junina, a traditional festival observed each year in June in all of Brazil.

BRIGADEIRO
Legend tells housewives created this beloved national sweet in Rio de Janeiro. They started selling it during the fund-raising campaigns for Brigadier Eduardo Gomes in 1945. He didn't win the presidential elections, but his brigadeiros (bree-gah-day-ros) found a special place at the table. No children's birthday parties are complete without these lovely round treats. The recipe is simple and uses only three ingredients: sweetened condensed milk, butter and chocolate powder, slowly cooked until a smooth texture. Then they are hand-rolled into balls and covered with chocolate sprinkles.

QUINDIN
Quindim originates from a Portuguese conventual sweet known as brisa-do-lis, made with sugar, eggs and almonds, and named with the Bantu word for sweetheart. Instead of almonds, ground coconut is used to mix with sugar and eggs. Coconut and sugar were abundant and still are in Northeast Brazil, where quindim first appeared in the 17th century. Like a custard but with a shiny vivid yellow top that makes it irresistible to the eyes, quindim is another example of the cultural marriage of the Brazilian kitchen.

PUDIM DE LEITE
The Brazilian version of custard pudding is enriched with condensed milk. All the ingredients are slowly cooked, and the pudding is topped with a shiny caramel sauce. A favourite dessert loved by both kids and adults.

COCADA
An authentic example of the African contribution to Brazilian confectionery, this simple and delicious sweet arrived in the country with the African slaves forced to work in the sugarcane fields in the northeast. The combination of sugar and coconut can display different colors and textures, ranging from hard to soft.