Brazil is a vibrant, colorful melting pot of cultural influences, so what better backdrop for the celebration of international pride that is the 2016 Summer Olympics? Their South American cuisine incorporates world-wide treasures from European countries like Portugal, Italy, Spain, and Germany to African and Middle-Eastern techniques and flavor profiles. Today, we take a look at some of the delicious foods Brazil is known for—and give you some tasty ideas for your own Rio-ready Olympics viewing party!
Smoky, char-grilled meats
The Brazilians are experts in the art of barbecuing meats—particularly Picanha, a cut of sirloin steak that features a generous layer of succulent fat. Inspired by the cowboy culture of the southern Gauchos, Brazilians minimally season the Picanha with coarse salt and cook the meat over hot coals till the beef is perfectly tender. (Is your mouth watering yet? Good!)
Pão de queijo is a dream-come-true for cheese-lovers and bread-lovers alike. And even better news for the grain-wary: it’s completely gluten-free! Often enjoyed as a breakfast staple as well as an anytime snack, this simple recipe utilizes tapioca flour, eggs, and cow’s-milk cheese (you can use Parmesan if you’re short on traditional grated quiejo Minas, a Brazilian cheese). These rolls are crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and stand out on their own or stuffed with cream cheese or savory meat fillings. Try this recipe to make your own here!
Flavor-rich pork and black-bean stew
Even though Brazil is enormous and incredibly diverse, there’s one dish you will find anywhere in the country, and it’s feijoada. This hearty pork-and-black-bean stew is a celebration of “everything but the squeal” cooking, utilizing humble cuts in addition to nobler ones in the slow-cooked mixture. Locals enjoy it at bars and restaurants on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Serve yours with rice, kale, and a garnish of fresh orange slices.
Simple, sweet coconut custard
Made with only eggs, sugar, and coconut (and butter and milk if you’re feeling extra indulgent), quindim is a silky, dense custard toasted to a golden finish on the bottom. This elegantly simple dessert is a perfect example of Brazilian multiculturalism, combining the taste for egg-yolk based pastries in Portuguese desserts with a name derived from the African language Kikongo: “kintiti” means “delicacy” in this language spoken in Congo and Angola. Try your hand at this crowd-pleasing treat with this recipe.
Dark, delightful chocolate truffles
A favorite of children and sweet-toothed adults alike, Brigadieros da Escocia are no-fuss chocolates that rose to fame during and just after World War II. They take their name from 1940s political figure Brigadier Eduardo Gomes, and originally were made using only shelf-stable ingredients—cocoa powder and condensed milk—that made easy treats in a time of economic instability and scarce luxuries. Today, the bite-sized chocolates are a must-have for Brazilian children’s birthday parties and a must-try for chocoholic tourists.
Toast your team with Caipirinhas
The national cocktail of Brazil is the Caipirinha, and it features a kick of clear liquor made from sugarcane—cachaça—along with simple sugar and lime. Similar to a Margarita, the Caipirinha is bright, citrusy-sweet, and refreshing—a perfect sipper to complement fresh-grilled food while you watch the summer games.
Enjoy exploring the culinary genius of Brazil this weekend as you celebrate the Olympics. Go Team USA, and Happy Foodie Friday!
Bonus: See Andrew Zimmern take an insider’s look at authentic Brazilian cooking on his recent show here.
And, of course, for something a little weird…
Many of you have probably wondered just how much the elite athletes at the Rio games are required to eat to keep their strength and energy up for their physically demanding competitions. Check out this food diary article chronicling the diet of two hardworking U.S. Olympians: a rower and long-distance runner!
(Sources: BBCGoodFood, Independent, Rio.com, Zagat)