Desserts from Recife, Pernambuco – Brazil

I was writing a forum entry in response to Street Smart Brazil members Species and Jim when I realized this would be a delicious blog post. The question I am trying to answer is: “What desserts are native to Pernambuco?” Beware: By entering this post you are making yourself vulnerable to mouth-watering and stomach-growling experiences.

Brazil has an amazing variety of cuisine and each state has their unique influences and recipes. Pernambuco is a state with strong cultural characteristics and is rich in folklore, music, and dance. A short while ago I posted a video and the lyrics of a song on our Forums and I said that the lyrics could very well justify one entire semester of Northeastern Brazil Culture 101. The same is true for our gastronomy. Here I will give you a starting point for your researches and explorations of Pernambuco desserts.

One of my favorite desserts is Cartola: sliced fried banana with queijo manteiga or coalho (two types of very delicious  Brazilian cheese), topped with cinnamon and chocolate. Oh it is so good! It is one of those things that you have to try; the list of ingredients may not sound that exciting, but the dish is fantastic. In fact, the state of Pernambuco has been discussing the idea of officially recognizing Cartola as cultural heritage.

Cartola Sobremesa Recife Pernambuco < Cartola – from the blog Cozinha Cani.

Another exquisite sobremesa (dessert) pernambucana is Bolo Pé de Moleque, which Street Smart Brazil member Species mentioned in his forum post.  Pé de Moleque is a very unique cake. The recipe includes a certain special dough, rapadura honey, cashews, erva-doce (fennel), and clove (cravo). Pé de Moleque is very popular in Recife, especially during the São João festivities.

Here is an article about foods from pernambuco cooked in other states as a way to deal with saudade de Pernambuco. The article mentions the intent to promote Cartola to cultural heritage and has a picture of bolo Pé de Moleque.

There are also many corn based recipes. Pamonha and Canjica are the most popular and are especially consumed during the São João festivities. Just keep in mind that in some parts of the country this delicacies can have a different name. In the picture, canjica is the one in the round place and pamonha is the one wrapped sort of like a tamale.

pamonha canjica milho brazil cuisine < Canjica

Another one of my personal favorites: tapioca com coco (coconut) e queijo coalho (Brazilian cheese). Tapioca in Brazil does not have any resemblance with the tapioca we know here in the US. It is made with manioc or yucca flour and cooked in a skillet in a half moon shape. The original tapioca is filled with coalho cheese and grated coconut. The recipe received many variations and today you can find tapiocas with lots of different flavors and fillings. Here is the recipe (in Portuguese) for tapioca with Brazil nuts (castanha do Pará) and coconut.

tapioca queijo e coco recife pernambuco < Tapioca com coco

Have you ever tried brigadeiro? Please, please do so! Condensed milk and cocoa mixed and cooked together for your (and mine) delight. You are certain to find brigadeiros in every Brazilan birthday party. We recently offered home made brigadeiros to our students during our end of the year get-together :) Now we have a treat for you: The Street Smart Brazil team got together to teach you how to cook brigadeiro. Check out our recipe + video here.

brigadeiro docinho recife pernambuco < Brigadeiro

(brb: I have to grab a piece of chocolate or something; this is torture!)

We also have many different cakes, like bolo Souza Leão, bolo de macaxeira, and bolo de milho.

A special cake is Bolo de Rolo, made with doce de goiaba (guava marmalade). Trust me: You have to try bolo de rolo in Brazil. It is a great gift to bring back home and has become a popular export Brazilian product.  Here is a recipe in English.

 bolo de rolo recife pernambuco  < Bolo de rolo

A simple yet popular dessert is Romeu e Julieta: queijo coalho and goiabada (guava marmalade). The link will take you to the recipe in English!


You might also like these articles:


Photo Credits:

Cartola: Carol Cani, Cozinha Cani

Pamonha e Cajica: Giselli Carvalho on Flickr Creative Commons

Tapioca: Noranei Trindade

Brigadeiro: Ricardo Martins on Flickr Creative Commons

Bolo de Rolo: Ramgarlic


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  1. Luciana Lage says

    Jim, we are about to make your life a little harder… Today the whole Street Smart Brazil team got together to make a video on how to cook brigadeiro! We will edit the video and put it up soon, hopefully this weekend. If you gained pounds for reading this blog post, we are now even, because today we all ate a ton of brigadeiro :)

  2. Vintage Barber says

    Thank you Luciana for putting this article on your blog.  I learned a lot and enjoyed reading it very much.  The only problem I have is that I gained 10 lbs. just looking at all those delicious desserts!

    I will look forward to more articles about Recife and Pernambuco.  I have been watching some of the carnaval festivities there and it is spectacular.  Muito obrigado Luciana.


  3. Vanessa Agra says

    ok, Luciana…

    I should say this is the WORST posting you ever did, and that I HATE it!!!  

    but i can’t! yumminess is the meaning of this posting!

    My favorite of all desserts you mentioned: CARTOLA ! (hummm sweet + the salty cheese = heaven…) At my home… we don’t top with chocolate…but just sugar and cinnamon… but the variation is a very good idea!

    Another one of my ‘loved ones’ : PAMONHA e CANJICA … hummmm I watched them being prepared in a very crafty way a zillion of times in my grandpa’s house! I would actually help in the corn grating process… yeap… the corn would come directly from my grandpa’s farm, and we would do EVERYTHING… from peelling them off, to the last step… it was so much fun!!!

    And my secret: I always liked to have Canjica while it was still hot! Most people wait for it to cool off to eat it… not me!

    My grandpa also made cheese for us to watch many times… He would do it in the farm… with milk from his own cattle. First the QUEIJO DE COALHO would be ready…then 2 o3 steps later, we would get QUEIJO DE MANTEIGA. hummm home made cheese is the best! I have never tried anything better in my life…

    So …as you can see… desserts from Pernambuco provoke on me not only an extremely mouth watering reaction, but most importantly, make me travel back to my childhood and adolescence, and its amazing memories with  Brazil’s culinary!!!!!!!!

    Manda mais!!!

    (can’t wait for the Brigadeiro video!)





  4. Species says

    This is great!

    I wanna try the Cartola but I don’t know of any Brazilian shops around here….. the closest we have is a Portuguese cornerstore… What kind of american cheese would be closest? Or would it be a waste?

    I can’t remember if I have asked this before… but what’s with the Pacman things eating the tag cloud??



  5. Vanessa Agra says

    Hello! Cheesy mood!

    Answering the question about which American cheese would be the most similar to "queijo de Manteiga" (‘butter cheese"), and which one would work to make Cartola with:

    Que tal aquele queijo mexicano?  (how about that Mexican cheese?)
    The tastier one in my opinion is the one from the brand: EL MEXICANO – Queso Fresco-  check it out:

    For me, this is the closest one to queijo de coalho. There is a similar one by the brand: Cacique which is also tasty, but not as tasty as the EL MEXICANO one (for me!) 

    Now… important detail. Just like it happens with Queijo de Coalho, there are the salty and the unsalted versions of it. This one I mention as my favorite is the QUESO FRESCO (fresh cheese) – unsalted one. It’s a white round block …

    The saltier one is the QUESO SECO (dry cheese), also from EL MEXICANO, and it comes as a rectangular white block. Maybe this one is better for Cartola. 

    check it out:

    Finally: queijo de manteiga! ("butter cheese") That is a hard one. I don’t think you can find it even in regions in Brazil that are far away from Northeast. (maybe  I am wrong about that! :)

    I have never seen anything like it here in the US. If I had to pick what is the closest thing…I’d say the Spanish MANCHEGO cheese… but it does not taste the same…. just similar (but it might work for a "World version of Cartola" ! 

    chec it out:

    okay… hope it has helped!

    Ai… que saudade de Cartola!!!!


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