One of the best features of Brazilian cuisine is the abundance of inexpensive, easy, and tasty snacks. These can be found at just about every eating establishment: cafes, small casual restaurants called botecos, roadside rest stops, cafeterias, and outdoor street markets. While some of these Brazilian snacks may be considered street food, their place in Brazilian cuisine is important thanks to their popularity and ubiquity. So whether you want something salty with your afternoon espresso or need a quick brunch snack, these Brazilian snacks (salgados) will satisfy your hunger and give you a good introduction to popular Brazilian cuisine.
Bolinho de Bacalhau
Bolinho de bacalhau (pronounced boh-LEE-nyu dzee BAH-kah-lyow like cow), which means "little ball of cod," is a popular snack derived from the popular Portuguese inspired dish of salted cod with potatoes, tomatoes, olives, and onions. A bolinha de bacalahu contains a mix of shredded codfish, mashed potatoes, and herbs, rolled together, deep-fried, and served with lime. Filling and tasty, it's one of the best snacks found in botecos and casual restaurants in Brazil.
Empada, or the smaller empadinha (pronounced ehm-PAH-dah and ehm-pah-DZEE-nyah), is a mini pot pie served warm. There are usually two types: frango--chicken with peas--or palmito--heart of palm with green olives. Another tasty variety that you may come across is frango com requeijão e milho: chicken with cream cheese and corn. With a flaky crust and savory filling, an empadinha is a favorite quick snack to accompany coffee or juice in Brazil.
Coxinha is another popular snack in Brazil. It's eaten at any time of the day, often with a cup of caldo de cana (sugar cane juice) or suco de laranja (freshly-squeezed orange juice). Coxinha is shaped like a chicken thigh. Inside is a mix of shredded chicken and a little bit of mild spice; the filling is surrounded by dough and then covered in breadcrumbs or manioc flour and then deep fried. It's often served with a bottle of red spicy sauce that you can dab on top of the chicken once the coxinha is open.
Pão de Queijo
Pão de queijo (pronounced pauoh dzee KAY-zhu), or warm cheese bread, is one of the most popular Brazilian snacks. They vary in quality, but if you can find them freshly baked, buy a small bag full and enjoy. This snack is made from tapioca flour and cheese; the balls of dough are baked so that the outside is a little crispy and the inside is soft with melted cheese. Because this is made with tapioca flour, it's one of the few gluten-free options you'll find in Brazil.
Pastel (pronounced pah-STEU) is one of the most popular street snacks, especially in the southern state of São Paulo, where pastel stands are ubiquitous at outdoor markets in Brazil. A pastel is a deep-fried pocket with a variety of fillings for you to choose. Common fillings are "pizza" (tomato, oregano, and mozzarella cheese), carne (ground beef, sometimes with hard-boiled eggs), bacalhau (codfish with herbs and onion), or palmito (heart of palm). Ask locals where to find the best pastelaria (pastel shop). The plural of pastel is pasteis (pronounced pah-STAYS).
Thanks to the enormous variety of fruits, juice is a staple in the Brazilian diet. Suco de laranja (freshly squeezed orange juice, pronounced SOO-koo dzee lah-RAHN-zha) is perhaps the most common type of juice in Brazil, but dozens of types are available, many containing fruits from the Amazon, such as cupuaçu and açaí. Juice combinations are also popular--look for suco de laranja com mamão (orange juice with papaya), suco de laranja com acerola (shown above--orange juice with acerola, a fruit from the Amazon which contains vitamin C), and suco de abacaxi com hortelã (pineapple juice with mint).