What is Feijoada?Jump to Recipe
In Brazil, there is one dish to rule them all. One dish, passionately cooked and eaten with great pleasure, all across Brazil. That dish is Feijoada, the national dish of Brazil. Feijoada is so popular with Brazilians that even the vegans and vegetarians will confess that they truly miss this only meat dish. That is because Feijoada is more than just a meal; it is an experience you share with your friends, family, and community. Someone has even described it as Brazilian soul food.
Feijoada is a stew made from beans and pork. Yep, it is that simple. Sure there is some seasoning like garlic, salt and onion. But fundamentally, it is a straightforward recipe. The most popular style of feijoada in Brazil is made using black beans (feijao preto). These black beans give the feijoada its distinct purple colour. Traditionally, feijoada would be made using pork offal, such as ears, snouts, tails, trotters, and some organ meat along with pork belly, some salted pork products, and sausages. This style is still commonly found all across Brazil. However, in the tourist areas and bigger cities, you are more likely to come across feijoada made in the recipe style below – pork belly, hocks, bacon and sausages (linguica).
A quick history lesson
The origins of feijoada are not straight forward or linear. In fact, it is rather similar to that of Brazil – diverse, vibrant, yet complicated. There is some dispute over this subject, and due to the cultural significance of the dish, the dispute seems to be slightly political. So to avoid jumping down a rabbits hole, we will summaries it like this. Feijoada is derived from a mix of African, Indigenous and European influences. The black bean is indigenous to Central and South America, and we know that indigenous peoples ate bean and meat stews in the pre-Columbian age.
The Portuguese were also fond of a meat and legume stew, this one with Roman origins (old world legumes were very popular with the Romans). Stews like this have been eaten in Portugal for centuries. The enslaved Africans were provided black beans and rice (cheap and plentiful) to survive on; thus, black bean stews and rice were the staple diet, and on rare special occasions, meats were provided as well, which would have been mixed into the bean stew. From a non-Brazilian perspective, it seems clear that all three cultures had a part in creating this dish, which makes it special and loved by all Brazilians.
The Feijoada experience
The meal itself is eaten over the day with friends and family. However, the feijoada is more an excuse to facilitate what takes place around the bubbling pot. Just as important is the laughing, chatting, singing, dancing, cheering and bonding! This particular recipe has been cooked by me countless times, for groups of a dozen or more Brazilian friends who all miss the little things from back home. You will see one of these parties at the end of the video above, watch it, and you will understand what I mean by “an experience you share”. So, stay tuned to the end.
How to cook Feijoada: Brazilian soul foodCourse: Cuisine, Favourites, Featured, RecipesCuisine: BrazilianDifficulty: Easy
Everyone’s Feijoada recipes are slightly different, and that is what makes it special. So, don’t be surprised if your Brazilian friend, partner or mother-in-law recommends less garlic, more salt, add an orange, or use pork feet, etc. With experience, you will develop your own unique way of cooking it. I say this so you don’t feel that you must follow this recipe rigidly – it is soul food, after all.
500g Dry black beans
1kg Pork belly (or any boneless cut with skin attached i.e. shoulder)
1 x Pork hock or pork knuckle (smoked works well)
3 x Linguiça or chorizo sausages (approx. 350g)
2 x large onions (any color is fine)
6 – 8 x cloves of garlic
5 x bay leaves
- Rehydrating the Beans
- You will need a container large enough to hold all the dry beans and a strainer. Place the dehydrated beans into a container and fill with water until covered by 3 cm. Using a spoon or your fingers, stir the beans around so any impurities may float to the top. Pour out beans and water through the strainer. Then rinse the beans in the strainer using cold water from the tap. Repeat until all impurities are gone.
- Obtain a container that is at least three times large than the space required to hold the beans (while dehydrated). Pour the washed beans into this container and then fill with water until the water level is about twice the beans’ height. The beans need extra water because they will double in size once they absorb water.
- Leave to soak for a minimum of 24 hours. However, here is a small tip. It is no secret that beans can make people very gassy (especially us gringos that have not grown up with beans being a major part of our diet). But you can prevent this by letting the beans ferment slightly and changing the water several times in the process. Hence, let the beans soak for up to 72 hours, changing the water every 24 hours. For the first 24-48 hours, do not put them in the fridge, let them soak at room temperature (avoid direct sunlight and warm locations), then refrigerate until you are ready to cook them (will keep in the fridge for up to a week).
- Once rehydrated, pour through a strainer and rinse with fresh flowing water until the water is no longer coming out purple.
- Cooking the Beans
- Pour all the beans into a large soup saucepan and fill with water until the water is about 2 inches above the beans. Place over a stove and bring it to a boil.
- Dice up the garlic and add it with the beans.
- Once boiling, put the pork hock/knuckle in.
- Turn down to medium heat and let simmer with the lid on for an hour and a half.
- Preparing the Meat
- Dice the bacon and onions. Chop the sausages into bite-size pieces and the pork belly into bite-sized cubes. Put the pork belly aside because that is added later on.
- Place a frying pan over the stove and fry a hand full of bacon to render the fat.
- Add the onions to be sautéed. Then add the rest of the bacon, followed by the sausages. Keep stirring to prevent burning. Remove from the heat when the sausages are slightly browned.
- Stewing the meat and beans
- Add the onion and meats to the beans and stir in evenly. Then add the bay leaves. Put the lid on and leave to simmer for an hour.
- After the meat has been simmering for 30 minutes, use a clean spoon to taste the stew. This is to determine how much salt is required. Remember you can’t un-salt a meal so start by stirring in a teaspoon and tasting it again after 15 minutes to find out if you want to add a bit more.
- You will start to notice the liquid content getting very low and the bean stew becoming very thick. Just add some boiling or hot water. Pour in the water bit by bit, and stir it in as you go. Get it to the consistency of a slightly thicker gravy. Don’t be alarmed if you add too much, as it will evaporate away (you will get an understanding of how thick it should be from the video below).
- 1 Hour before serving
- Sear the pork belly in a hot frying pan until the meat has been sealed. Then put it straight into the pot and mix it all into the feijoada.
- The idea is that you want the cubes to cook until soft, but you do not want the fat to melt away and for the cubes to break and melt into the stew. Don’t let cook for any less than 1 hour or more than 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and prepare to serve.
- Layout the feijoada alongside a large bowl of rice, farofa, kale/chove, vinaigrette, and orange slices.
- Serve a scoop of rice and a scoop of feijoada on a plate and accompany some kale, farofa, vinaigrette and orange. The mix of savoury, vinegar and sweet is perfection on a plate.
- If you are a bit confused by any of these steps, watch the video above. I provide a detailed lesson on how to cook feijoada and show you how to serve it to your guests like they do in Brazil.
- Watch the video from 5:30 to see a recipe for Farofa.
Also, you can find the uniquely Brazilian ingredients for feijoada at Brazilian Style Foods.