There is an incredible range of variation in Brazil recipes, because of the country's great diversity of peoples, cultures, flora and fauna.
Even recipes for the national dish, Feijoada, vary in different regions of Brazil.
Feijoada is a stew of beans. The recipe for the dish came to Brazil from Portugal, but Brazilians in every region of the country have made it their own.
Generally, the Brazil recipes for Feijoada use black beans, pork, and beef. It's often served with rice, collard greens, and other Brazilian side dishes. http://www.brazzil.com/p24nov96.htm
North Americans could spice-up summer barbeques or holiday meals by substituting their typical baked beans with this amazing Brazilian dish.
This particular Brazilian dish is not well-suited to vegetarians, but you can substitute the meats with many fruits and vegetables. One creative alternative is this awesome Mango and Black Bean Stew recipe.
In northern Brazil, the influence of indigenous culture is more apparent. Although there are only about 200 fruits exported from the Amazon, the people of the rainforest use 2,000 or more. Immigrants to the region were able to substitute many typical ingredients in their homeland recipes with native plants.
Manioc root was cultivated by native Brazilians for thousands of years before colonial times, who knew how to process it to avoid sickness from the poison cyanide. It remains a staple food.
European settlers found it could be an excellent substitute for potatoes and wheat. Today, it is often used as a starch alternative by people around the world who have health concerns about gluten.
Tucupi sauce is made from manioc root and used in many dishes. Pato no Tucupi is roasted duck boiled in tucupi sauce. Tacaca is a popular shrimp soup dish with tucupi sauce broth and jambu, which has an interesting numbing effect in your mouth.
Caruru is another popular shrimp dish in northern Brazil, made with okra, onions, and manioc meal. Brazilian street vendors often stuff Caruru into their Acaraje, which are fried balls made from black eyed peas. You can see some Caracu recipes here.
In southern Brazil, where most of the bigger industrial cities are located, there is more European and Middle-Eastern influence on the cuisine.
Virado à paulista is a very common dish in Sao Paulo, often combining Brazilian rice, beans, steamed kale or sauteed collard greens, pork and other ingredients. Many recipes in the south include more local cheese than northern recipes.
Pizza may not be uniquely Brazilian, but southern Brazilians love it and they've come up with their own unique ways of making it. They tend not to use tomato sauce, instead they will sometimes add sliced tomatoes as a topping. Catupiry, a Brazilian cream cheese, is often used on pizza.
Brazilian meat used in many recipes often need to be sun-dried or salted, a tradition that comes from cowboys or gauchos in the southern regions. Churrasco was popularized by the gauchos as well, which is the Brazilian way of barbequing meat on skewers.
While there is usually quite a bit of red meat and pork in Brazil recipes, you can make substitutions and create delicious vegetarian meals. The abundance of beans, nuts and leafy greens in Brazil makes it easy to balance a vegetarian diet and get all the protein you need. Try this Brazilian vegetable curry recipe.
Many regions of Brazil, especially more rural area, rely on rice and beans for their main protein source, which is affordable and healthy. They also use locally grown vegetables and root vegetables like macaxeira or manioc root so it is easy to stay nourished on a budget.
You can get soy protein and sometimes tofu at the health food stores in Brazil, but this is much more expensive and perhaps less tasty!
Brazil is home to the Brazil nut, which is called castanha do Pará in most parts of the country, which literally means, nuts from Pará. They are also grown in some paces in the state of Acre, and so in these regions they are called castanhas do Acre.
Brazil nuts are delicious and are a great source of selenium, and when I was there they were difficult to find. There were no whole Brazil nuts available, I could only find pieces of Brazil nuts at the health food store. I was told that most Brazil uts are exported to other countries.
If you are a fan of raw foods, you may enjoy visiting Brazil. They a stunning array of vibrant vegetable and tropical fruits available such as mango, papaya, pineapple, açaí, bananas, orange, and cashew fruit. Yes, it is the fruit of the cashew nut tree! This makes possible all manner of healthy fruit salads, fruit smoothies, and healthy Brazilian dessert recipes.
Many brazilian foods are sold in outdoor markets, so be sure to wash your fruis and vegetables well before eating!
Even a traveler who is a vegetarian or a rew food enthusiast will find an abundance of delicious Brazilian foods to eat because of the great diversity of fruits and vegetables available there.
Cheese buns called pao de queijo are often eaten for breakfast or snacks in Brazil. Some recipes are made from manioc starch, which are gluten-free and delicious.
In Brazilian city centers, coxinha are sold on the street and they're easy to eat on the go. Coxinha are made with shredded chicken, enclosed in a manioc or flour batter shaped like a chicken thigh and deep fried. Catupiry or another kind of cheese is usually added to the chicken.
Middle-Eastern immigrants have popularized similar filled pastries, like quibe and esfiha, which are Brazilian adaptations of Syrian and Lebanese dishes, kibbeh and sfiha.
Cuscuz Branco is a sweet Brazilian dessert of tapioca, from manioc, and coconut. It is a tasty and healthy alternative to rice pudding.
Pine nuts called pinhoes are harvested from Araucaria trees in Brazil, with a yearly harvest in excess of 4,000 tons. They're used in many Brazil recipes and there is an annual festival in Santa Catarina devoted to them. Brazilians boil these nuts for a snack in their winter, which coincides with their festival for Saint John the Baptist and Europe's midsummer.
Bolo de rolo is a delicious rollcake made with Brazil's native guava, which resembles a swiss roll. This dessert can be quite difficult to make at home, because the layers of dough and melted guava must be very thin.
A much easier Brazilian dessert to try making is called brigadeiro or chocolate bonbons. They're full of chocolatey sweetness, but can be made with sweetened condensed milk and unsweetened cocoa instead of sugar.
Dinner in Brazil is usually a lighter meal than people from other countries are accustomed to, while lunch is the biggest meal of their day. This is a very healthy practice and helps maintain a good metabolic rate.
Brazil recipes can be modified for vegetarians easily, but it should be noted that exclusive vegetarianism is not very popular outside the big cities in Brazil. If you ask for food options that exclude meat, locals may assume you mean only red meat and offer dishes that include chicken or fish.
If you're cooking at home though, you can find delicious Brazil recipes that suit your taste and dietary needs perfectly.
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