Decrypting the Brazilian Menu

Decrypting Brazilian Menu

Be prepared when you are faced with a Brazilian menu with these quick guidelines. Including an in-depth look at the country’s best cuisine. 

Brazilian food is diverse, but also potentially problematic in the sense that nothing is off limits. Once I found out after slurping up the last traces of my chicken dish that the sticky red sauce was a concoction of seasoned chicken blood.

Then there is the Brazilian Feijoada a bean stew eaten on Fridays and Saturdays. Originally a dish made by slaves, the black beans account for the bulk of the protein, with the addition of the left over scraps from the landowners’ dinner. 

Of course, this came down to the undesirable bits and pieces.

Don’t be surprised to see pig ears and tails or even the odd floating hoof in your stew. Nowadays, you can track down luxurious, contemporary versions like vegan feijoada.

But is it even a feijoada without a floating pig ear? 

Brazilian food is just as diverse as the country itself. This is a guide to orientate you from the moment you sit down to when you are wolfing down your dessert. 

Be prepared though, my fiancé once fed me ox tongue in a soup. He also made me sacrifice live crabs in a romantic gesture

Thankfully, I lived these experiences so you don’t have to!

Instead, I would like you to come away head over heels in love with the gastronomy of Brazil.

Take a deep breath, did someone say Brazilian BBQ?

Decrypting Brazilian Menu


Table Manners: Brazilian Condiments

Tin of olive oil – It’s probably imported from Portugal and it matters. Brazilians love to smother all elements of their food in olive oil. You can drizzle it on the main dish, in your salad or dip your bread a la Italia.

Bowl or bottle of spicy sauce – Though Brazilians season their meat fantastically, the actual food often won’t come with sauce like an Indian curry or a Mexican enchilada. Therefore, they have this little, underwhelming, but confounding bottle of spice.

Warning, dab just a little on your plate, unless your insides are made of steel.

Molho inglês (English Sauce) –  Brazilians cannot say Worcester sauce.  Though, here’s a secret guarded by the Brits – neither can we. So you can rest assured I’m on the petition for switching the (ridiculous) name to English Sauce too. 

Molho de Alho – An Arabic garlic white sauce that you should smother your meat in. Love garlic, love this sauce. 

Bread basket –  Usually tostados, which are toasted bread slices.

Torresmo e Mandioca Brazilian Menu
Fried cassava with torresmo, which are crispy pork fat pieces (Crackling)

Petiscos found on the Brazilian menu

Have you ever been in a British city on a Friday or Saturday night? Often, it can resemble one of those  apocalypse movie scenes, the ones directors use to establish fear. There are ambulances, drunk folk rolling on the ground, fights kicking off left, right and centre.

In Brazil though, you won’t be faced with such debauchery.

Now, they drink A LOT. But in general they’ll indulge in beer and always order petiscos.

The rough translation of petiscos would be “nibbles.” Dishes that come as sharing platters that the group will eat with cocktail sticks. I heartedly believe this is the reason Brazilians don’t end up rolling around unconscious on the street, like the Brits.

They fend off drunkenness by lining their stomachs.

Filé mignon com cebolada/ em molho de gorgonzola / em molho de madeira – Beef steak slices and fried with onion/ gorgonzola cheese/ madeira sauce. 

Iscas de Frango ou Peixe (also known as gourjon or gurjão)- Chicken or fish pieces fried in a breadcrumb batter. They come with a garlic-based dipping sauce.

Fried Mandioca – The Brazilian alternative to fries. Mandioca is another name for cassava, and is fried up and sprinkled with salt.

Dadinhos de Tapioca – These are little cubes of tapioca, a flour made from the cassava root. The tapioca is fried with a cheese similar to halloumi and is dipped in a usually slightly spicy fruit conservative.

Torresmo – Slice of pork meat and pork fat cooked until crispy (crackling in UK, pork rinds in USA).

Dadinhos de tapioca (cubes of fired tapioca with spicey jam)


Entradas: Brazilian Menu Starters  

Bolinhos de bacalhau (Cod fish balls) – Little fried balls of codfish mixed with potato.

Pasteis – Fried pies filled with either cheese, shrimp or ground beef. You eat them by hand, wrapped in a napkin. If you want you can drizzle the Spicy sauce or Garlic sauce inside.

Bolinha de bacalhau (potato and cod fish balls)
Bolinha de bacalhau (potato and cod fish balls)
Pastel de Camarão
Pastel (fried pastry filled with cheese, meat or shrimp)

Pratos Principais: Brazilian Menu Main Dishes

The only thing to note in this section of the menu is the option to share dishes. Many, restaurants will have a selection of dishes that are portions for two people (Para duas pessoas).

This could be a large meat joint or even moqueca, which is a Brazilian fish stew. It really is worth teaming up for the two person dishes, as they are usually the restaurant’s speciality. 

Moqueca Bahiana 

As in the picture above the Moqueca is made by adding an array of fish or seafood in a stew of coconut milk, dendê oil (pal oil), spices and herbs. This is a specialty from the state of Bahia, though there is also a version from the state of Espírito Santo that omits the coconut milk, called moqueca capixaba.


Meats are cut in unique ways in each country. Brazil’s most prized cut of meat is called picanha, nad it’s deliciousness is attributed to the thin layers of fat that stream through. One of the best ways to eat picanha is in a churrasqueiria (Brazilian BBQ house).

Tambaqui or Piraruca

These are the names of two large fresh water fish that are native to the Amazon river and its tributaries. Tambaqui is also known as Pacu Vermelho. Piraruca can reach 3 metres in length and weigh 200kg, so is sold in slices. Both can be grilled or cooked on the BBQ (often found in Brasília).


As mentioned in the introduction, feijoada is a typical bean stew from Rio de Janeiro. Traditionally the stew was flavoured with many different parts of the pig, but nowadays most likely will carry sausage and bacon. Served with couve (collard greens) and slices of orange to aid digestion.

Bacalhoada (salted codfish)

Deriving from Portugal, salt codfish was imported from the cold waters of Northern Europe. Balcalhoada is a dish that mixed the preserved cod fish with potatoes, bell peppers, tomato, garlic, olives and boiled eggs.

Moqueca Baiana: a Brazilian fish or seafood stew, made with dendê oil, coconut milk and optional spice.


Brazilian menu side dishes:

A quick run through of what is available to bulk up your meal. Usually the main dish is accompanied by a side that you can choose. If you are opting for the meal for two, you can select 2 sides.

Arroz com Brócolis (Rice with broccoli, which dyes the whole rice a startling green)

Batatas fritas (Fries) 

Batatas Portuguesas – Homemade crisps in the UK and potato chips in the USA. Significantly superior than those that come in a bag from the supermarket.

Feijão (stew of black or red beans, seasoned with garlic) 

Fried Gilo (a bitter vegetable, sliced thinly and coated in flour called the Scarlett eggplant in English)

Fried Gilo
Fried Gilo
Batatas Portuguesas
Homemade batatas portuguesas

Sobremesas: Desserts

Brigadeiro de Colher – a candy made in Brazil of cocao powder and condensed milk known as brigadeiro. Traditionally the sweet is rolled into a ball and placed in cases. In restaurants however, you can also get this dessert in a recipient that you eat using a spoon (de colher). It’s more sophisticated, apparently.

Cocada – shaved coconut mixed with sugar and condensed milk. This is a creamy dessert originating from the Northeast of Brazil.

Doce de Goiaba com Queijo Minas – Also written as the Romeo e Juliet. The Goiaba preserve is made of guava with sugar. The Queijo Minas is a white, wet cheese specific to Brazil that for some reason couples like a treat with guava.

Petit Gateau – A warm cake with a gooey chocolate centre.

Pudim de Tapioca – A rather wobbly dessert made with tapioca, coconut milk and eggs. Imagine a dessert you can slurp off your spoon without chewing at all 

Quindim – desiccated coconut base, topped with a cooked egg yolk, sugar mixture.

Cheese ice-cream with Goiabada – made of sweetened guava fruit

Brazilian Beverages (Bebidas)

Sucos: Juices made with natural fruit. To start with try abacaxi com hortelã (pineapple and mint), melancia (watermelon) or maracuja (passionfruit),

Caipirinhas: you can choose between cachaça or vodka mixed with a fresh fruit. Tangerina (tangerine), maracuja (passionfruit), caju (cashew) and morango (strawberry) are delicious. The traditional flavor is limão (lime).

Chope: draft beer that comes in as about half a pint.

Cerveja: large bottle of beer.  

Refrigerante: soda, add zero to the end for a diet version. Guarana is Brazilian soda with a unique flavor based on the amazonian fruit of the same name. Find out more on Brazilian fruit in this quiz!

Cachaça de limão by Footloose Lemon Juice

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