Diverse Food and Culture of Brazil

Main Brazilian cuisines have European, African and Amerindian influences. It varies greatly by regions, reflecting the country’s mix of Native American and immigrant populations, and its continental size as well. This has created a national cuisine marked by the preservation of regional differences.

Ingredients first used by native peoples in Brazil include cassava, guaraná, açaí, cumaru, cashew and tucupi. From there, the many waves of immigrants brought some of their typical dishes, replacing missing ingredients with local equivalents. For instance, the European immigrants (primarily from Portugal, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Poland and Switzerland) were accustomed to a wheat-based diet, and introduced wine, leaf vegetables, and dairy products into Brazilian cuisine. When potatoes were not available they discovered how to use the native sweet manioc as a replacement. The African slaves also had a role in developing Brazilian cuisine, especially in the North-Eastern states. The foreign influence extended to later migratory waves – mainly Lebanese, Syrian and Japanese immigrants brought most of the food items that Brazilians would associate with Arabic and Asian cuisine, and introduced large-scale aviaries, well into the 21st century.

Root vegetables such as cassava (locally known as mandioca, aipim or macaxeira, among other names), yams, and fruit like açaí, cupuaçu, mango, papaya, guava, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, and hog plum are among the local ingredients used in cooking.

Some typical dishes are feijoada, considered the country’s national dish; and regional foods such as vatapá, moqueca, polenta and acarajé. There is also caruru, which consists of okra, onion, dried shrimp, and toasted nuts (peanuts or cashews), cooked with palm oil until a spread-like consistency is reached; moqueca capixaba, consisting of slow-cooked fish, tomato, onion and garlic, topped with cilantro; and linguiça, a mildly spicy sausage.

The national beverage is coffee, while cachaça is Brazil’s native liquor. Cachaça is distilled from sugar cane and is the main ingredient in the national cocktail, caipirinha.

Cheese buns (pães-de-queijo), and salgadinhos such as pastéis, coxinhas, risólis (from pierogy of Polish cuisine) and kibbeh (from Arabic cuisine) are common finger food items, while cuscuz branco (milled tapioca) is a popular dessert. Click here to read more about Brazilian regional cuisine.

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