15 Brazilian Foods and Drinks You Have to Try in Rio de Janeiro

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Sure, when you first think of Rio de Janeiro, maybe the Cristo Redentor (a.k.a. Christ the Redeemer) statue comes to mind. Maybe you visualize yourself taking in the views from Sugarloaf Mountain. Or perhaps your mind goes straight to soaking in the sunshine at Rio’s world-famous beaches. But an underrated, and extremely important part of experiencing Rio’s culture is appreciating all that its cuisine has to offer. With African, Indigenous, and Portuguese influencers, Brazilian food is so much more than just barbecue.

If you’re planning on visiting Rio de Janeiro (for more tips, check out this Ultimate Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide), add these 15 Brazilian foods and drinks to your list to try. A great way to explore all that Rio’s food scene has to offer is through a tour — Viator has a few great options to check out like this one here, as does Free Walker Tours, or you could explore on your own. All of the included foods and drinks are common and fairly easy to find.

Foods to try in Rio

1. Pão de Queijo

First on this list will always have a special place in my heart: pão de queijo, a.k.a Brazilian cheese bread. It’s light, delectable, and completely addicting. Plus, it’s cheap and you can find it pretty much everywhere, so no excuses not to try it!

2. Coxinha

Coxinha is a fried tear-drop-shaped street food filled with shredded chicken. Its filling often includes a creamy Brazilian cheese such as catupiry cheese or requeijão. It’s super satisfying and the perfect bar snack.

3. Tapioca

Next on this list of Brazilian foods you must try in Rio de Janeiro is tapioca. Brazilians love their cassava, and tapioca’s typically made from either cassava flour or tapioca flour. The end result is something similar to a crepe but with a spongier texture. Like crepes, these can be served either sweet or savory. Give both a try!

4. Picanha

Since we are talking about Brazil after all, if you eat meat, you should be prepared for the abundance of steak and barbecue options! Whether or not you choose to go to a churrascaria, picanha is an option you’ll find at many restaurants. This juicy and tender cut of meat is most likely served with classic Brazilian sides of white rice, black beans, farofa, and maybe a vinaigrette (similar to a salsa or pico de gallo) or side salad. 

5. Açai na Tigela

Although açai is popular in the United States, a trip to Rio wouldn’t be complete without sampling the city’s many açai options. While it’s common in the U.S. to fill your bowl with as many toppings as possible, you’ll find that some locals eat it plain or just with powdered milk. In its most authentic form, açai may not even be as sweet as you’d expect! In the North of Brazil, where açai actually originated, açai can even be served in savory or salty meals. Although, many places now sweeten it up by blending it with guaraná syrup, while in some spots, adding the syrup is an option you can select.

This is another super easy-to-find item. Different chains are sprawled throughout Rio, from shopping mall kiosks, to near the beach. Check out Maria Açai for affordable and fully customizable açai.

6. Moqueca

This rich stew consisting of fish or shrimp (or both), coconut milk, palm oil, tomato, onion, and lots of seasonings originally comes from Brazil’s Northeast region, but it’s since become popular in Rio. And it’s also one of my favorites! It’s hearty without feeling too heavy, and so flavorful. (If you’re planning on stopping in the Northeast as well, check out this Brazil itinerary!)

Moqueca

7. Pastel

You can find this delicious fried Brazilian street food filled with a variety of fillings. It’s common for locals to grab a pastel de feira, or a pastel from a street market, along with caldo de cana, or sugarcane juice. While it usually involves cheese and a type of meat, it can even have sweet fillings, such as the next item on this list:

8. Romeu e Julieta

This combination of sweet guava paste and salty, soft cheese is surprisingly delicious and found in a variety of forms— in pastries, in pastels, and even in sushi. It’s simple but perfect as either a dessert or snack.

9. Feijoada

the Brazilian food feijoada with rice and greens
Feijoada with collard greens, rice, farofa, and orange slices.

One of the most famous items on this list is feijoada, a dish made of black beans (feijões in Portuguese, hence the name) and different cuts of pork and sometimes beef. Served with a side of fried kale mixed with bacon bits, white rice, farofa (cassava flour toasted with seasonings that sometimes has additions of things like bacon or egg), and a slice of orange, save this one for a day when you have a big appetite!

Check out Bar Simplesmente in Santa Teresa for generous portions and affordable pricing. Or check out two of Rio’s most famous spots for feijoada: Bar do Mineiro and Aprazivel. All three restaurants are located in Largo dos Guimarães, a square in the Santa Teresa neighborhood.

10. Acarajé

Our tenth and final item on this list of Brazilian foods is one of my favorites. A specialty originating in the Northeast, Acaraje is a typical Afro-Brazilian street food consisting of lack-eyed peas fried into fritters. It’s typically topped with vatapá, a shrimp, coconut milk, peanuts, and palm oil mixture. 

Grab one from a stall at the Feira Nordestina São Cristóvão, a fair dedicated entirely to Northeastern Brazilian culture.

Drinks to try in Rio

11. Coconut water

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never been a fan of coconut water in the States. But it’s a totally different experience drinking it straight from a coconut. These are super convenient to grab anywhere along the beach, there are always plenty of places selling these for an affordable price. They’ll be called “coco gelado,” or ice cold, coconut water.

12. Limonada Suiça

Brazilian lemonade, first of all, is made with limes instead of lemon, and the entire limes are blended, peel and all. Add sweetened condensed milk along with sugar, ice and water, and you’ll have this popular version, known as Swiss lemonade or limonada suiça. It’s sweet, tangy, creamy and refreshing, all in one.

13. Caiprinha

If you drink alcohol, you can’t leave Rio without trying the famous caiprinha. Made with cachaça, sugar, and lime, this drink is refreshing, sweet and fruity. I love getting it either regular or with extra flavors like passionfruit (maracuja).

14. Batida

This cocktail can be made a number of different ways, but it utilizes cachaça, coconut milk, and sweetened condensed milk, making for a creamy and refreshing drink that’s extra delicious with mango or passionfruit. Batida means “shaken” in Portuguese, so think of a thick, almost milkshake-like texture.

15. Caldo de cana or sugarcane juice

I’ve been told this one’s more of an acquired taste, but personally, I found it delicious. You can find it sold by many street vendors, and it’s common to enjoy one with a pastel, or a fried, savory pastry, that I mentioned earlier.

Any foods I’ve missed or that you can’t wait to try? Leave a comment and let me know!

Tess

Don’t forget to check out my other Rio de Janeiro posts before you go!

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