What Is Feijoada? A Brazilian Explains

For me, one of the best things about living in Brazil is the food. As a Brazilian born and bred I know that I’m biased to say that, but I’m saying anyway: Brazilian food is the best! And if you ever tried a legit Brazilian Feijoada, you know what I’m talking about.

Feijoada is a black bean stew prepared with smoked meat cuts, mainly smoked pork ribs and sausages. The traditional recipe also takes less noble parts of the pork, such as ears, feet, and tails. It’s the most traditional dish of Brazilian cuisine and is usually served on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Feijoada is the most famous traditional dish in Brazil and has many secrets and components that have transformed a relatively simple recipe into a complete gastronomic experience. Let’s understand this story better.

What Is Feijoada?

The complete Feijoada popularized in the world is a Brazilian variation (or adaptation) for the versions of cooked beans with beans found in Europe. The Brazilian version added touches, spices, and local side dishes that made the national recipe unbeatable. The perfect combination of texture and flavors.

What-Is-Feijoada-Infographic

The Elements Of A Complete (And Legit) Feijoada

As said before, there are other dishes made of meat and beans stew, but a Brazilian Feijoada is a unique combination of technique, ingredients, and side dishes. Some say that even the drinks are very important for a complete experience. The seasoning is also essential: I’ve eaten a “Brazilian” Feijoada in Miami once and it was a little disappointing: the stew was well made using the right cuts of meat, but the seasoning was not there.

To help you to know if you’re eating a legit Brazilian Feijoada, those are all the components for a complete experience. Some drinks are hard to find when you’re not in Brazil, but it’ll bring the perfect combination of flavors to your table if you can include some of them. It’s also important to notice that there are versions of Feijoada without feet, ears, and tails (and honestly, I prefer the version without these cuts).

FeijoadaSeasoningSide DishesDrinks
Black BeansGarlicRiceOrange Juice
Smoked Pork RibsOnionBraised KaleGuaraná
SausageBay LeavesOrange SlicesBeer
Pork FeetSaltFarofaCaipirinha
Pork EarsBlack PepperTorresmoTannat Wine
BaconOlive OilVinagreteWater

There is no wrong or right when it comes to Feijoada or any other typical recipe, each person can eat and cook in whatever way they find most enjoyable. There’s nothing wrong with that. The list is just a guide to understanding what characterizes a legitimate Brazilian Feijoada.

A Long Process of Preparation

A good Brazilian feijoada is made during a process that lasts several hours and this may be one of the reasons why this recipe is known for bringing people together. In addition to being a lengthy process, Feijoada is usually made in large quantities (that is, for many people). The process starts with cleaning the cuts of meat that will be used. Since pork ribs, bacon, sausages and even pig feet and ears are usually very salty, it’s necessary to pass them through a process before including them in the stew.

The meats are soaked for at least 24 hours, during which time the water is changed at least 3 times. This is done to remove the excess salt and impurities from the meat. At the end of the process, in a separate pan, the Black Beans are also soaked for a period of 5 to 6 hours. This is done to “soften” the grain, which makes cooking faster. Finally, the last step of the cleaning and preparation process is to boil the cuts of meat for 10 or 15 minutes to remove excess fat. After that, the process of cooking the Feijoada itself is about 2 or 3 hours.

The Secrets Of A Legit Feijoada

Feijoada is an incredible recipe because of the ingredients used in the stew, but also because of the “Brazilian secrets” in the preparation method. This is one of the reasons why it is difficult to find a Feijoada with a legitimate flavor outside of here.

  • Bay Leaves Are Essential in Black Beans

The first secret of preparation is valid for the cooking of Black Beans in general, and not only in Feijoada. Each housewife and cook has their own bean recipes and even in some cases variations of the classic Feijoada, but a simple element is always found: bay leaves. I don’t know where this tradition came from, but Black Beans or Feijoada without bay leaves don’t taste the same.

  • Orange Used In The Cooking (As A Way To Reduce Fat)

Another little-known technique is the use of Orange in the cooking of Feijoada. It may sound strange, but that’s it. At the beginning of the recipe, 1 or 2 oranges are added, with peel and everything, cut in half. The goal is not to season, because you can’t even taste the flavor at the end of the recipe. Oranges are added to cut some of the fat from the meats used. At the end of the process, when the grains are already cooked, the oranges are removed.

  • The Correct Order To Add The Cuts Of Meat

There are different cuts of meat in the Feijoada and cooking them for the right amount of time is essential. No one likes overcooked or raw meat. In the traditional recipe, the correct order to add the meats is dried meat, pork feet, and pork ears at the very beginning. After half an hour, you can add the ribs, the sirloin, the sausages, and the bacon. In addition, it’s important to remove, with a skimmer, the excess fat that floats during cooking.

  • Add The Seasoning In The End

After the initial cooking, including the previous processes with the use of oranges, bay leaves, and meats, it’s time to start the finalization of the dish. The first thing to do is to remove the oranges from the mix. That done, in a separate pan, the tip is to saute onion and garlic, finely chopped, and golden in the oil. When you’re ready, it’s time to add to the stew and mix well. Believe me, this “simple” seasoning makes all the difference in flavor.

  • Add A Beans “Paste” To The Mix

This is a secret to thicken Feijoada that is only known by Brazilians. When the beans are well-cooked, with the soft grains, the ideal is to remove two shells full of grains and smash with the fork until obtaining a paste. Then, this paste is added to the Feijoada and mixed in the broth, which continues on low heat for a few minutes. This is a special touch for the broth to be thicker and also tastier, adding the concentrated flavor of the beans to the broth.

Why It’s So Popular?

There are many reasons why Feijoada is such a popular dish. The first and most obvious of all is that it is a delicious dish, the complexity and variety of flavors and aromas is really incredible. Another reason is the fact that the ingredients for making a good Feijoada are relatively inexpensive in Brazil.

We Brazilians love to eat a lot, small meals don’t really fit us. And that’s why we love Feijoada so much: it’s a very hearty meal. Usually, when I eat it for lunch on Saturday it’s my only meal of the day, as it is really very satisfying. Last but not least, another good reason to eat Feijoada is the fact that the meal is always made in large quantity (perfect to receive friends and family) and goes really well with a cold beer or a good Caipirinha.

What Is Feijoada Served With?

What Is Feijoada Served With?

The Brazilian Feijoada stew itself is already a delight, but the experience is not complete without the side dishes that lift the dish. This is one of the main reasons why the recipe became so popular here in Brazil, due to the excellent side dishes that as a whole make the dish a very tasty experience.

As a general rule, the best side dishes to serve with Feijoada are Rice, Farofa, Braised Kale, Torresmo (cured and fried pork belly), Vinaigrette, and Orange slices (to cut the fat). In addition, Feijoada combines a lot with Cerveja Gelada, Caipirinha and Guaraná (Brazilian soft drink).

Farofa is a very common accompaniment in Brazilian cuisine, goes well with Churrasco (Brazilian barbecue), Feijoada, and many other dishes. Farofa is usually made with roasted manioc or cornflour, with various spices such as onion, garlic, pepperoni, bacon, and corn, for example.

Fried Kale is also a great accompaniment that brings a lot of balance to the recipe, as well as the Orange slices used to balance the fat. Rice is already recognized as the main accompaniment for Feijão in general. Torresmo is probably one of my favorite foods here in Brazil and goes well as an accompaniment or as an aperitif, served with lemon and beer is a delight! It is made with pork belly, cured, and deep-fried.

What Does Feijoada Taste Like?

For those who have never eaten a Feijoada it is very difficult to describe in words a combination of flavors and textures so complex and varied. Still, I believe I managed to explain well what Feijoada tastes like in the next paragraph.

Feijoada has the taste of well-seasoned bean broth with the aromas and flavors of smoked pork. In addition, Feijoada is accompanied by Rice, Farofa, and Torresmo, which brings a juicy and crunchy combination. Braised kale and orange slices complete the dish, bringing balance and cutting the fat.

The part of the Feijoada itself is very juicy, salty and very tasty. This is because the broth remains for hours and hours on the fire, integrating the fat and aromas of the cuts of meat into the stew. It’s very good. Still, the experience of eating a good Feijoada is not complete without the side dishes.

Farofa is a super Brazilian accompaniment. It is made with wheat or cassava flour, seasoned, and roasted in a pan until it has a texture similar to a crunchy crumble. It is common to add Bacon, Linguiça, Corn, Banada in the Farofa, in short, it depends on the creativity of the cook. Farofa goes very well with Feijoada because it adds crunchiness and texture.

What Is Feijoada Day In Brazil?

There is not always an exact explanation for the habits of a nation, but in the case of the days of the week reserved for eating Feijoada in Brazil the reason seems to be simpler than imagined and goes back to the very origin of the recipe, in Portugal.

As a general rule, the most traditional days to eat Feijoada in Brazil are Wednesday and Saturday. This is a custom inherited from the Portuguese, who used to mark meals according to the day of the week. Because it is a very heavy meal, it is usually eaten at lunchtime.

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