Questions about the food in Brazil
Most frequent questions and answers
Brazilian food is any food that originated in Brazil or was adapted in Brazil, using some or all native ingredients. However, typically Brazilian food is influenced by Indigenous, African and European culture. There are five regions in Brazil, and each is culturally distinct. The North is influenced by indigenous cuisine and ingredients from the Amazon. The North East is influenced by West African cuisine. The further you head South the more European it becomes, particularly in the Southern region. To learn more, see our article titled ‘What is Brazilian food?’.
A typical Brazilian dinner is feijão e arroz (beans and rice) with a selection of local sides like farofa (toasted mandioca flour), salad, eggs and cooked vegetables like mandioca, corn or potato. Perhaps a serving of meat on the side like chicken, beef or pork. This is not what everyone eats every day. Like everywhere else, the people of Brazil enjoy a variety. Dishes like feijoada are popular on Sundays—churrasco (Brazilain BBQ) on special occasions and Italian food is also very popular. However, a serving of beans and rice is generally what most people will eat at the end of the day.
Brazilian food is not spicy, and chilli peppers are generally not considered a typical ingredient in Brazilian cuisine. In fact, many Brazilians have a very low tolerance for spicy foods. It is a misconception that South Americans, in general, consume a lot of spicy food. However, there are exceptions. Certain dishes in parts of the North and North East contain local varieties of peppers – particularly the small yellow Cumari do Para pepper. Tucupi and Tacaca from the North are flavoured with Cumari do Para peppers. Acarajé from the North East is sometimes served with a spicy paste. Like many people worldwide, some Brazilians enjoy spicy food and will add hot sauce to their meals. Hot sauce is called Molho de Pimenta in Brazil, and people can request it at restaurants and botecos to put on their food if they desire.
To discover more about Brazilian food, refer to the article What is Brazilian food?
The national dish of Brazil is Feijoada. Feijoada is a slow-cooked stew made of black beans, pork, onions and garlic. There are different varieties; however, this is generally what you will find from North to South. Feijoada is served on a plate or in a bowl with rice serving and a selection of sides. Traditionally, the sides are slices of orange, couve (collard greens), farofa ( seasoned and toasted mandioca flour) and a salsa known as vinaigrette.
In Brazil, you can also find vegetarian feijoada and feijoada without pork.
To learn about the history of Feijoada and how to cook it, see our article Brazilian soul food: How to cook Feijoada.
Feijoada is the most famous dish in Brazil and is the country’s national dish. A slow-cooked stew made from black beans, pork, onions and garlic. Its cultural influences are Indigenous, African and European, all mixed in a stew pot, making it the perfect allegory of the Brazilian nation. See the article Brazilian Soul food: How to cook feijoada to learn more about feijoada.
Yes, you can drink the treated tap water across the majority of Brazil. You will not have a problem in most cities and towns. According to the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water approximately 99% of the urban population and 87% of the rural population have access to ‘at least basic drinking-water sources’.
So, if you are planning to adventure into the wilderness or remote rural areas you are wise to drink filtered or bottled water.
Regardless of the claims above, the vast majority of Brazilians drink water from a terracotta vessel known as a São João or Cerâmica Stéfani. It is a very effective gravity water filter. Most households have one in their kitchen. Otherwise, they purchase bottled water.
Brazilians eat rice and beans (arroz e feijão) primarily for economic and historical reasons. When Europeans settled in Brazil in the 16th century, they could not grow European wheat and grains due to the climate. However, black turtle beans were native to the region and had been eaten as a staple by Indigenous people for thousands of years. European colonists adopted the native way of consuming the beans, and they become an essential staple. Beans became more essential when hundreds of thousands of Africans were brought to Brazil as slaves to work on sugar plantations. The beans were cheap to grow, easy to store and therefore plentiful. They became the major component of the slave diet. Rice was also cheap and easy to grow or purchase from North America. It, too, became a staple. Rice and beans had become the largest component of the diet for the vast majority of people in Brazil over the centuries, part of the collective national culture. Today Brazil is ranked third in global production of dry beans and eleventh in rice. Rice and beans remain the cheapest and most plentiful source of nutrition in Brazil. This is why Brazilians eat rice and beans.
A typical breakfast (café da manhã) in Brazil consists of bread rolls (pão francês), butter, fruit jelly/jam, cheese (queijo), ham (presunto), local fruits like papaya, mango and pineapple and of course, black coffee. You might also find cake, pão de queijo, scrambled eggs, tapioca pancakes, and fruit juice in a hotel or buffet restaurant. Some also eat acai as a breakfast bowl with fruits, granola and milk powder.
Breakfast cereals are also able to be purchased in the supermarket.