Beware: By entering this blog post you are making yourself vulnerable to mouth-watering and stomach-growling experiences. Let me tell about a few of my favorite Brazilian treats.
Brazil has an amazing variety of cuisine and each state has its unique influences and recipes. I grew up in Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco. Therefore, it is not surprising that some of the treats that I mention here are from Pernambuco.
Pernambuco is a state with strong cultural characteristics and rich folklore, music, and dance. Brazilian musician Lenine, who is from Recife, has a song called Leão do Norte, and I say that the song lyrics could very well justify one entire semester of Northeastern Brazilian Culture 101.
To find recipes in Portuguese for the treats below, you can google: receita de …
Cartola: One of my favorite Brazilian 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.
On a vocabulary note, cartola also means a top hat.
On a cultural note, there is a famous Brazilian musician from the 30’s known as Cartola.
Pé de Moleque
Another exquisite sobremesa (dessert) pernambucana is Bolo Pé de Moleque. 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.
On a vocabulary note, pé means foot and moleque means a brat or a young boy.
Corn-based Pamonha and Canjica
There are also many corn-based recipes. Pamonha and Canjica are the most popular and are especially consumed during the São João festivities.
Pamonha is in the center of the picture above, wrapped like a tamale. Yes, pamonha is similar to tamale, but not the same. Canjica is the one in the round plastic containers.
In some parts of the country canjica is known as curau and in other places they call something else canjica. Yes, Brazil is a large country and the different regions have developed under different cultural influences. One way to make it clear what you mean is to say canjica nordestina (canjica from Brazil’s northeast).
Tapioca: A personal favorite
Another one of my personal favorites: tapioca. Brazilian tapioca is nothing like what I know as tapioca here in California. Brazilian tapioca is made with manioc or yucca flour. It is cooked in a skillet and folded in a half moon shape.
The original tapioca is filled with coalho cheese (it is a Brazilian cheese) and grated coconut. This is one of my favorite things! The recipe has received many variations and today you can find tapiocas with lots of different flavors and fillings.
I love having tapioca filled with eggs and coalho cheese for breakfast. I am always happy to have tapioca with chicken or tapioca with arugula, tomatoes, and cheese for lunch. And who doesn’t love tapioca filled with chocolate and fresh strawberries for dessert?
These pictures of tapiocas are torture to me!
Have you ever tried brigadeiro? Please, please do so! Condensed milk and cocoa mixed and cooked together for your delight (and mine for sure). You are certain to find brigadeiros in every Brazilian birthday party.
We have a treat for you: The Street Smart Brazil team got together to teach you how to cook brigadeiro and to tell you the history of this popular Brazilian treat. Check out our step by step recipe here.
(brb: I have to grab a piece of chocolate or something; this is torture)
But wait, there’s more
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.
A simple yet popular dessert is Romeu e Julieta: queijo coalho (coalho cheese) and goiabada (guava marmalade).
Now tell me you are not hungry!
All photos via Canva.
- Cartola by CarlaNichiata
- Bolo de rolo by jantroyka from Getty Images
- Pamonha and canjica by Brasil2 from Getty Images
- Tapioca (left) by Divaneth-Dia from Getty Images
- Tapioca (middle) by MarceloKrelling from Getty Images
- Tapioca (right) by CabecaDeMarmore from Getty Images
- Brigadeiro by Dihandra Pinheiro from Getty Images