9 Traditional Brazilian Foods in Your Backyard

If you’re trying to experience Brazil on a budget, you don’t have to look farther than your local Brazilian restaurant.

If you’re trying to experience Brazil on a budget, you don’t have to look farther than your local Brazilian restaurant. Although there are (probably) less pickpockets there, you still have to watch out for chefs that might trick your palette.

Before you stroll in with a fanny pack around your tongue, let us help you learn how to spot and order authentic Brazilian cuisine.

1. Moqueca


Photo: T.Tseng / Flickr

What it is: A seafood stew that requires no water, much to the chagrin of the fish and shellfish. When left simmering for a few hours with coconut milk, onions, tomatoes, and a wide variation of spices, the resulting liquid is quite thick.

What it tastes like: If someone threw coconut milk into a bouillabaisse.

Don’t eat it if: There’s less than three types of seafood in the stew.

2. Cachaça


Photo: Barbara Eckstein / Flickr

What it is: A Brazilian liquor made from fresh sugarcane.

What it tastes like: Brandy (the classic sipping alcohol, not the forgotten singer).

Don’t drink it if: It’s listed as Brazilian rum.

3. Feijoada


Photo: Andre Ribeiro / Flickr

What it is: The national dish of Brazil with deep Portuguese roots. It’s an “I’m not going to finish this in one sitting” stew made with black beans, salted beef and pork.

What it tastes like: The kind of chili that people say puts hair on your chest, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Don’t eat it if: It’s loaded with spices. Feijoada should be salty and savory.

4. Pão de queijo


Photo: Rodrigo Gianese / Flickr

What it is: Gluten free bread with cheese bake into it.

What it tastes like: Heaven.

Don’t eat it if: You can’t eat lactose. Sorry.

5. Vatapa


Photo: Kevin Marsh / Flickr

What it is: A creamy dish, popular in North Brazil, made from shrimp, bread, and a peanut-coconut milk base.

What it tastes like: A mild to moderately spicy shrimp curry.

Don’t eat it if: You can’t taste the peanuts.

6. Churrasco


Photo: Dani Vasquez / Flickr

What it is: Barbecue. Whatever meat your heart can dream of, the Brazilians will skewer it and grill it to perfection.

What it tastes like: If your dad used more spices when he mans the grill.

Don’t eat it if: You’re not prepared to eat your weight in churrasco. Churrasqueiras around the world are known for being all-you-can-eat restaurants.

7. Empadão


Photo: Elis Florentina /Flickr

What it is & what it tastes like: If you took the cream out of a chicken pot pie and were still proud to call it a casserole.

Don’t eat it if: There’s cream beneath the flaky crust. What’s the point of eating another chicken pot pie?

8. Brigadeiro


Photo: Van Sweet / Flickr

What it is: A chocolate truffle made with condensed milk and covered in chocolate sprinkles.

What it tastes like: A sugar overdose disguised as chocolate.

Don’t eat more than 12 if: You don’t actually use your gym membership.

9. Coxinhas


Photo: Romerito Pontes /Flickr

What it is: Shredded chicken, usually accompanied by potatoes/cheese, that’s been breaded and fried. It’s typically molded to look like a chicken drumstick.

What it tastes like: Fried chicken meets croquette.

Eat carefully if: There’s a bone beneath the batter. This method of preparation has gone out of style, but you could run into some old-school sticklers.