Brazilian cuisine is considered one of the best in the world. With various influences ranging from indigenous peoples and slaves to European colonizers, with so much miscegenation sometimes is difficult to know what do Brazilians eat.
As a general rule, Brazilians eat bread for breakfast, with butter or stuffed with ham and cheese. The most popular option for lunch in Brazil is Rice with Beans, usually accompanied by steak, fries, and salad. At night Brazilians tend to eat at home, but some love to go out, especially at the weekends.
To understand in detail all the influences on Brazilian cuisine and what Brazilians eat at each meal of the day, read on.
What Food Do They Eat in Brazil?
It’s very difficult to define the Brazilian food style in just some sentences, mainly because Brazil is a gigantic country (the fifth-largest country on Earth). In this section, you’ll be able to understand in detail what type of food Brazilians eat at each meal of the day, considering regional differences and also the good old Brazilian snacks.
A Legit Brazilian Breakfast
While in some countries, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, Brazil is not. There are a lot of people (me included) that don’t even eat in the morning, skipping breakfast and settling with just a huge cup of coffee. But for those that like to eat in the early hours of the day, 4 foods are kind of mandatory in a typical Brazilian breakfast:
Brazil is a gigantic country and the habits change depending on the region that you are in, but those 4 ingredients are practically a consensus: they are always on the Brazilian table. Overall, a typical Brazilian breakfast consists of a huge cup of coffee (sometimes with milk, our famous “café com leite”) and a slice of bread with butter or stuffed bread with ham and cheese, known in Brazil as “Misto quente”.
This is the basis for Brazilian morning meals, but as stated earlier, these habits change according to the region of the country, adding elements of the local culture for breakfast. For example, in the Northeast region, people eat rolled tapioca, cuscuz (typical Brazilian food), or grilled cheese, especially with “Queijo Coalho”, a famous local type of cheese.
In the South, the region where I’m born and raised, breakfast options are a little different. In addition to the traditional bread with butter, cheese and ham are common to see people eating artisanal cheeses made in the region’s farms, salami, homemade jam, and cake. In my family, another traditional breakfast comfort food is “Farofa de Ovo”, a toasted cornflour mixture with scrambled eggs and butter. It tastes awesome! Even more with some pepper sauce and a cup of coffee.
Finally, there’s great news for tourists: you’ll probably be able to try all of these in your hotel! Usually, hotel breakfast in Brazil is amazing, a real gastronomical experience, a gigantic buffet with food from the entire country in all you can eat style. In hotels, the most loved foods by tourists are the “Pão de Queijo” (Brazilian cheese bread), the “Tapioca” (usually you have to order it, it’s not in the buffet), and the wide variety of bread, fruits, and juices.
There’s No Lunch Without “Arroz com Feijão”
Whether at home or in restaurants, there’s no Brazilian lunch without “Arroz com Feijão” (Rice with Beans). A national passion, this combination is the most frequent lunch option in the country, regardless of the region. There may even be some differences in the form of preparation, seasoning, and side dishes, but the beans with rice are stamped on Brazilian tables at lunchtime.
A very popular lunch option in restaurants in Brazil is the “PF” (“Prato Feito”), which consists of an assembled plate that you receive ready at the table, instead of serving yourself at a buffet. The traditional Brazilian PF takes the good old rice with beans, steak, french fries, fried egg, and a salad aside. In some regions, side dishes may also include farofa, chicken, and fried cassava instead of potatoes.
Another common option to eat out for lunch is per kilo restaurants. The way these restaurants work is pretty simple: you receive a ticket on entry to the restaurant, get a plate and go to the buffet. You assemble your own plate selecting the food you like from the buffet and then the attendant weights the plate and update the ticket with the price of your food according to the establishment cost per kilo.
In restaurants by the kilo, buffets always have several options of salad, beans, rice, some types of pasta, like pasta with ground beef or lasagna, two or three types of meat, usually red meat, chicken, and fish. In addition, it is common to find fried foods in this type of restaurant, such as French fries, fried manioc, and others. My favorites are fried banana and “Torresmo”, cured pork belly, and salty fried in boiling oil.
These are the most common forms of lunch in Brazil, considering that 67% of Brazilians usually have lunch outside. But those who eat at home usually consume the same foods, Rice and Beans as a base and some more protein or salad. These side dishes vary by region.
Popular Side Dishes By Region
In the North and Northeast, it is more common to consume fish, both from the river and from the sea, typical fruits of the region (including consuming Açaí as salty food, together with fish and flour), and various forms of consumption of the region’s most common ingredient: the Cassava (known as Manioc) It can be consumed fried, in the form of flour, in tapioca or even the juice extracted from the ingredient, known as Tucupi.
In the Center-West of the country, it is quite common to find dishes of indigenous influence and fish broths. One of the most traditional dishes in the region is the Piranha broth (the most feared fish), usually served with rice and banana flour. The Southeast is where the greatest gastronomic variety is found, as it is the most populous and important region in the country. Especially in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, in addition to the traditional foods of the country, you can literally find cuisine options from all over the world.
As a country of continental size, the South of Brazil has a very different climate from other regions. The temperature is lower, similar to the European, and this makes possible a peculiar cuisine. Here (it is the region where I live) it’s possible to find typical Brazilian foods and there is also a lot of influence from the Italian culture. But the great highlight of the region is Churrasco, a national passion that was invented in the South of the country.
Brazilians Eat At Home At Night
In Brazil, the cuisine of the dinner is very varied. In large cities, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, people often enjoy eating out. The menu is varied, usually including Japanese food, Pizza, or hamburger. Some prefer fancy restaurants, with a tasting menu and fine cuisine. But in the country as a whole, 77% of people prefer to eat at home at night.
In smaller cities, it is quite common to find families who are not in the habit of having a specific meal for dinner. In such cases, a coffee table is usually served in the late afternoon, with foods such as bread, toast, eggs, butter, and jam. It is also common to serve homemade recipes at this time, such as cookies, cakes, and others.
For those who like to eat at night, the options usually are similar to lunch, but avoiding unhealthy options like fried foods. Delivery is also quite common on Brazilian nights. Many people cook for lunch and prefer the comfort of ordering food at night, when they are most comfortable and looking to rest. The most common options are fast food and pizza, but you can find everything, especially in big cities.
Don’t think that we only eat at the time of the 3 main meals of the day, snacks are also a mandatory part of our lives here. And modesty aside: we really know how to make good food! The most common snacks during Brazilians’ day are:
A national passion, Coxinha can be found literally anywhere in Brazil. No matter how small the city is, you can find it in bakeries, snack bars, and restaurants. This soft dough filled with shredded chicken well-seasoned in the drop shape is mouth-watering. Every single one of my friends from the US fell in love with Coxinha on the first bite 🙂 It’s a MUST try in Brazil.
My personal favorite, this snack is overwhelming. Pastel is a crispy crust snack shaped as a rectangle or a half-circle which holds various fillings inside before being deep-fried in vegetable oil. Despite being fried in a lot of oil, this recipe is dry and crunchy on the outside, in contrast to the soft filling. No other place in the world has our traditional “Pastel”, which has the most diverse fillings, from the traditional ground beef to the sweet versions filled with fruits and chocolate.
- Bolinho de Carne
Another common snack in Brazil is the “Bolinho de Carne”. This recipe is literally a ball of ground beef, highly seasoned, breaded, and fried in boiling oil. With a crunchy crust and a soft and juicy interior, this snack goes well at any time of the day, but it combines especially with a cold beer and a good pepper sauce. It’s one of my favorites!
Açaí has long stopped being just a fruit consumed in northern Brazil with dried fish or shrimp and flour and gained the globe. Today, this fruit is known worldwide, usually served in bowls with fruit, granola and honey. Açaí bowls are a very common healthy snack in Brazil, especially in hot places and beach towns.
Common street food in Bahia, the Acarajé is extremely flavorful and consists of a small Brazilian fritter made from black-eyed peas. The dish uses onions and ground-dried shrimp to give it an extra punch in flavor. They’re shaped into balls and deep-fried in “Azeite de Dendê”, a Brazilian palm oil. After fried the balls are split in half and filled with “Vatapá”, a paste made from ground peanuts, dried shrimp, and coconut milk. This snack is very spicy! Be careful.
Brazilian Traditional Food
Brazilian cuisine is the result of a mixture of European ingredients and indigenous and African peoples. Many of the preparation techniques and ingredients are of indigenous origin, having undergone adaptations on the part of Portuguese slaves and colonizers.
The Origins of Brazilian Cuisine
Today, we can say that Brazilian cuisine is the result of a great mixture and that varies a lot according to the region of the country. In the South there is a lot of European influence, mainly due to the cold climate of the region. Southeast has several international references, as it is a more cosmopolitan region.
In the Northeast there is a lot of African influence, with preparation techniques, ingredients and recipes inherited from the slaves who lived in the region. Finally, in the North of the country, it is where the indigenous influence in Brazilian gastronomy can be more clearly perceived, both in the way of preparation and in the ingredients used.
If you want to know a little more about traditional recipes and foods in Brazil, check out the full article: What is Brazil’s Traditional Food? In this post, I list 10 of the most traditional Brazilian foods.
Is Brazilian Food Spicy? https://whataboutbrazil.com/is-brazilian-food-spicy/
What’s Brazilian Barbecue? https://whataboutbrazil.com/what-is-brazilian-barbecue/