Let’s lift the cloud on what Brazilian souvenirs to pack in your homebound luggage.
Here’s how to take the essense of Brazil back home with you. Hint, it’s not football jerseys and carnaval masks. Those are only a glimpse of this country.
From sustainable dendê oil to Brazilian designers and cachaça infused with Amazonian herbs, this will inspire you with gifts you’ve never even heard of. Pack a window into Brazil, that will whisk you back even when you’ve landed home.
P.s. some of these products you can buy online, while we all ride out this COVID storm.
11 Brazilian Souvenirs You Won’t Regret Buying
Sustainable Dendê Oil
Sustainable dendê oil is made from the fruit of the palm tree. Native to Africa, the oil extracted from the fruit features prominently in Brazilian cuisine. It arrived in the America’s at the beginning of the slave trade and is incorporated in the cuisine of the Brazilian coast and state of Bahia. Moqueca is a stew made of fish and sea food and it’s deep orangey-yellow colour derives from the few drops of dendê oil added. Dendê has a similar effect to adding saffron threads, but with a hint of sweetness.
Brazilian Recipe Books
Pair the dendê oil with one or two of Brazil’s chefs’ recipe books. The region has some ingenious recipes that draw ingredients from the tropics, as well as remnants of European migration patterns. Not only are books ideal for building your Portuguese, but they’ll also bring a fresh Brazilian flare into your kitchen.
Bela Gil is a vegan chef; buy her books if you’re looking for alternative dishes to share with vegetarians and for inspiration on unusual Brazilian ingredients. José Almiro is a YouTube sensation who specializes in Brazilian BBQ. Learn how to imitate those perfectly seasoned cuts of meat at home. Also, Rita Lobo became known by her blog, Panelinha, now her YouTube channel and several books published for her loyal following.
One unique artesenal Brazilian craft is handmade ceramics. World-renown sculptor Francisco Brennand creates stunning ceramics and brought this artform into the forefront of Brazilian art. You can buy real or knockoff ceramics by Brennand around the country. For some reason he’s known for his egg sculptures. Grupo Cerâmica Artesanal Serra da Capivara, based out of the World UNESCO site Serra de Capivara, has an affordable collection of ceramic kitchen pieces. They fashion cave painting replicas found in the cave system of the national park onto a wide range of ceramics. These are sold at most Pão de Açucar supermarkets.
Goiabada (Guava Jam)
Goiabada is a preservative made from guava fruit and sugar. It’s solid and sliced with a knife. It pairs marvelously with soft white cheese. In Brazil, you’ll eat it with Minas Gerais Cheese, but this fresh variety is not exported, so try any fresh Mexican cheese as a substitute. The saltiness pairs deliciously with the sweet fruit slices. Buy goiabada from any supermarket. Though opt for goiabada caseira, for a homemade version!
Cangas (Brazilian Sarongs)
Cangas are Brazil’s alternative to beach towels. Something like a sarong that you can wear, but which is long enough to use to dry yourself off or lay down on. There are infinite designs that adorn these Brazilian sarongs. Pick them up on the beach from vendors.
Alternative Cachaça Mixes
The home of cachaça, Brazil is the only place you can bag yourself a decent bottle. I enjoy the varieties that incorporate something a little different like cachaça de milho (a sweet corn cachaça) or cachaça com mel (honey cachaça). For an Amazonian twist buy cachaça de jambu (infused with an amazonian herb that makes your mouth tingle). Get silver cachaça for making caipirinhas and golden for taking shots. Read our full guide on cachaça here.
Havaianas Flip Flops
Havaiainas meaning ‘Hawaii’ in Portuguese, are a national religion. Find me a Brazilian without Havaianas! In Brazil these flipflops cost 20% less than abroad. Head to the official Havaiana store to get yours engraved, or add jewels and emblems. For the sake of healthy competition, the less known brand Ipanema is a cherished alternative.
Portuguese Puzzle Books
If you are aspiring to learn Portuguese, I suggest picking up cheap puzzle books whilst in Brazil. You can find these in the banca de jornal in the streets, which are something similar to a corner shop.
Northeastern paintings feature the diversity of Brazil. Characteristic of the Sertão region, the black and white paintings feature folklore and traditional sertanejo figures. This art is also commonly imprinted onto ceramic tiles. Buy these from artesenal markets, such as Feira de São Cristovão in Rio. This is a maze of shops and restaurants set in a stadium and with a square that hosts live music and forró dancing on Sundays.
Other Northeastern paintings from Bahia for instance, feature scenes from plantations and past colonial life. The shapes are frequently geometric. Perhaps the most famous Brazilian painter is Tarsila do Amaral, her work is shown in New York’s MAM. At any artesenal fairs and markets you can buy local art that features this Brazilian style.
Learn more in A Short History of the Sertão.
Brazilian Designer Clothes as Brazilian Souvenirs
I can’t resist Brazilian designer exotic patterns. They are fun, tropical and unlike any other country. For women head to FARM or Cantão for the most flattering and unique fashion on offer. Osklen is a surfers’ brand with pieces for both men and women. Also Richards, a Rio-based designer brand has comfortable and flattering summer styles for men and women.
Peteca (Brazilian Shuttlecock)
Take home a uniquely Brazilian sport that can fit in your pocket. Peteca, means “hit with the flat of your hand” in indigenous Brazilian Portuguese, and crowds play peteca on volleyball courts around the country. The peteca is simply a shuttlecock. Teams play like badminton, but the rackets are your hands. Peteca is one of the best pocket-sized Brazilian souvenirs you can find.
Finally, Brazilian biodiversity means that Brazilian honey takes on unique flavours only found here in South America. You can purchase honey from bees that specifically feed on certain plants like orange tree (laranjeira) or cashew tree (cajueiro). Or try the Mel de cipó-uva to help with intestine and kidney pains. Mel de borá a southeastern honey that pairs with cheeses, or Mel de uruçu from a stingless bee whose honey has healing properties. Check the feiras (open-air markets) for these honey products. You should also try pinga com mel (honey-infused cachaça), which is also usually available only at these nomadic markets.