World Cup Cuisine: 10 Must-Try Brazilian Dishes

By Jenny Miller  |  June 9, 2014
Credit: Cafe Brazil

With the world's most popular sports event about to kick off in Brazil, we figured it was a good time to dig into the country's diverse, tropical cuisine. Like the country itself, Brazilian food is a mix of European, American and native Amazonian elements. To explore Brazil's most famous dishes, we checked in with chef Shanna Pacifico, who grew up in Belo Horizonte, capital of the state of Minas Gerais. Pacifico recently left Back Forty West in Manhattan and is planning her own restaurant in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, called Boteco. Let us know if we missed any of your favorites in the comments below. 

  • Credit: Flickr/rafael_eg5

    Pacifico tell us that Brazilians have many kinds of salgadinhos—basically, hearty snacks or appetizers. One of the most popular is coxinha, which is "sort of similar to Spanish-style croquettes," she says. "They're made with a chicken-based sauce, and stuffed with chicken and cheese." 

  • Credit: Flickr/elgolpe

    The grilled meat meal known as churrasco is huge in Brazil—as well as most of the South American continent. (Think of it as the region's take on barbecue.) A specific cut of meat that's super popular is picaña, Pacifico says. "It's crazy how much they eat it. It's the tricep, a little thin cut of meat that's the most expensive in Brazil," she says.

  • Credit: Cafe Brazil

    "It's like cassoulet," says Pacifico of Brazil's most popular stew. "Every family or every mom has certain things they like to put in. They have completa, which comes with everything—the pig feet, the extra parts. Then regular is some pork, sausage and black beans with rice."

  • Credit: Flickr/faccig

    Flavored with the Amazonian fruit guarana, Guaraná Antartica is the country's "national soda," says Pacifico. "It's not like any other soda you've ever had. Imagine ginger ale without the ginger, and it's sort of fruity."

  • Credit: Flickr/perfectsonnet

    Pão de Queijo
    "These are basically gooey yucca cheese puffs. They're delicious and they're completely gluten-free," says Pacifico. "They're made with fermented, soured cassava flour, cheese, eggs and milk."

  • Credit: Flickr/randal schwartz

    The country's national cocktail belongs on this list "for sure," Pacifico says. The cocktail's base is cachaça, a spirit distilled from sugarcane, and it also contains plenty of muddled limes and a bit of sugar. It might sound simple, but as anyone who's drunk a few knows, caipirinhas pack a World Cup-worthy kick.

  • Credit: Flickr/adalbertogonzaga

    This Portuguese-style smoked pork sausage is another food that's widely eaten in Brazil. "Eating a pork sausage is typical," says Pacifico. "It's made with garlic, a little bit of paprika, pork. They eat it in the feijoada." You also might simply find it served on the plate with rice, beans, and other porky foods.

  • Credit: Flickr/eliasroviello

    Another salgadinho, "pasteis are like the empanadas of Brazil: fried, super-thin crispy shells, filled with a lot of hot air and little a bit of meat," says Pacifico. "The pastry itself is so delicious."

  • Credit: Flickr/arsheffield

    Rice and Beans
    "Rice and beans, in my household, were always on the stove," the chef recalls. "My mom could make spaghetti for dinner and there'd be a pot of rice and beans. [Brazilian food is] very starch-heavy; it's not uncommon to find three or four different starches on a plate of food."

  • Credit: Flickr/tstadler

    Pacifico describes this traditional dessert as a  "chocolate and condensed milk pudding." Usually served as a small one-bite bonbon, the morsels are often topped with chocolate sprinkles. Definitely something chocolate lovers should make note of.