In order to cook Brazilian Food and to follow Brazilian Recipes, it is very helpful to learn the following Brazilian terms found in Brazil: A Cook’s Tour by Chrisopher Idone:
Abacate– Avocado. When picking an avocado, pick one that succumbs to light pressure, but does not feel overly soft. Brazilians also use avocado plant leaves in a tea as a diuretic.
Abacaxi – Pineapple. Pineapple is indigenous to Brazil… Pineapples are to Brazil what apples are to the United States of America.
Abobara – Pumpkin. The Abobara pumpkin is not as dense or fibrous as the American pumpkins used around Halloween.
Acaraje – A fritter consisting of fradinho (a bean that is like black-eyed peas) and dried shrimp. After you fry acaraje, you fill it with a hot spicy sauce. This dish is sometimes called abara if it is steamed (instead of fried) and wrapped in banana leaves.
Bacalhau – Dried and salted cod fish. This is often used in fried codfish balls or various stews made of tomatoes and peppers.
Banana – Brazil has many varieties of bananas (banana de agua, ladyfinger bananas, red bananas, apple bananas, and more). When a banana is still green, it can be cooked similar to a vegetable.
Banana Leaves – Banana leaves are used in Brazil to make food packets of meat, fish, vegetables etc… similar to how parchment paper is used. However, you do not get the same rich flavors and aromas from parchment paper as you do from banana leaves.
Batidas – Brazilian cocktails made of freshly squeezed fruit juices, ice and various liquors (cachaca, rum, vodka, etc.)
Beans (Feijao) – Brazilians love many varieties of beans including brown beans or feijao mulatinha (these lighter mulatto beans the choice of Sao Paulo and Southern States of Brazil), black beans or feijao negro (the choice of Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, and Pernambuco) and dark beans. Kidney beans are almost never found in Brazilian dishes, but black-eyed peas (cowpeas) and lentils aren’t strangers to Brazilian food. A few other Brazilian beans are turtle beans, navy beans and pinto beans (cranberry beans), which can be used in place of brown beans.
Cachaca – Distilled white alcohol made out of sugarcane. Cachaca is to Brazil what moonshine is to America. Other names for cachaca include aguardente de cana and pinga.
Caipirinha – Brazil’s national drink made of cachaca, lime, sugar and ice. If you don’t have cachaca, you can use vodka instead, but then the drink is called caipiroska.
Caju – Cashew apple. The kernel of the caju is called a cashew nut, which is poisonous until roasted. The cashew nut is used in many Brazilian dishes.
Camarao Seco – Dried shrimp. In America, you can sometimes find these dried shrimps in packages, but they are usually extremely hard. If your camarao seco are very hard, try soaking them in warm water for 30 minutes before cooking with it.
Canja – Chicken soup.
Carambola – Star Fruit. Wait until the star fruit is a yellow color with slightly brown ribs. Brazilians use star fruits in salads, drinks, jams and other dishes.
Caranguejo – Crab.
Carne Seca – Salted beef jerky. This is also called carne de sol (since it is dried in the sun). You can substitute corned beef or chipped beef often.
Caruru – Okra. Okra is also called quiabo. Caruru is also a Brazilian dish found in Bahia made of cilantro, okra and prawns.
Churrasco – Barbecue. Churrascarias, restaurants that serve churrasco, can be found in Sao Paulo, Rio and even in the United States now. Waiters will usually carry large pieces of barbecued meat on spits from table to table, and cut pieces at your table.
Ciriguela – a fruit that is about the same size and color as a kumquat.
Coco – Coconut. Coco verde or green coconut is served by drinking the liquid out of the center and then eating the white pulp inside the coconut. Coco seco, a more mature coconut, is the brown fuzzy coconut we most often think of when picturing a coconut. Coconut milk and shredded coconut come from coco seco.
Coentro – Cilantro, Coriander or Chinese Parsley. Coriander seeds is almost never used in Brazilian food, and cilantro is only really used in fish dishes as a final seasoning.
Conjiquinha – Dried Corn. These grains are usually ground very fine, like couscous.
Couve – Kale. Brazilian Couve is more tender and sweet than Portuguese Kale. Kale is very good for you because it is packed with vitamins like vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, potassium and fiber. In recipes, you can substitute kale for collard greens, chard or spinach. Couve is often served alongside meat, roasts, grilled dishes, feijoada, and tutu a Mineira.
Cozido – a rich meat stew, similar to pot-au-feu in France or bollito misto in Italy.
Crab – Brazilian cuisine uses both siri crab (hard shell, saltwater crab) and caranguejo (land crab). In America, you can try replacing these with blue crab or pasteurized crabmeat.
Cuscuz – A Moorish-Portuguese couscous made of farinha de mandioca (manioc flour), shrimp or chicken, vegetables, and hearts of palm.
Dende Oil – An oil that is rich in high saturated fat and comes from the dende palm tree. To achieve the same rich red-ish color, you can steep annatto seeds in oil for at least twelve hours, but the flavor will not be quite the same as true dende oil.
Doce – Dessert or sweets.
Empada or Pastel – These small crusty pockets or pastries are filled with vegetables like hearts of palm or olives, chicken, cheese, shrimp or ground meat. Pastels are fried, whereas empadas are a baked hors d’oeuvres.
Farofa – A meal that is made of ground manioc root (cassava), which is not as finely ground as cornmeal but is similar to crude flour. The ground manioc root is cooked in a skillet with butter, dende oil or olive oil. Sometimes eggs or vegetables are added to the farofa mixture. This is used in many dishes as a layer of flavor sprinkled over chicken, meat, rice, beans or other Brazilian dishes.
Feijao – Dry Beans.
Feijoada – A large pot of boiled black beans with lots of meat, pork, and smoked sausages. Feijoada is often served with farofa.
Fruta de Conde – A fruit (literally translates as the “count’s fruit”) that is related to a cherimoya and a sugar apple (sweetsop). Fruta de conde has a rich, creamy, white center (similar to a cherimoya) and huge black seeds (similar to those of a watermelon).
Fruta de Pao – Breadfruit. After peeling a fruta de pao, you can bake, boil or fry the actual fruit. Fruta de pao is a common breakfast dish in Brazil. For breakfast, you boil the peeled fruta de pao for 20-30 minutes, mash it up and mix in a pat of butter and a pinch of salt and sugar.
Guarana – This fruit juice is often found in cans with little red berries on them (they look somewhat similar to cranberries, but taste different). The name Guarana comes from the Tupi Indians in the Amazon. The taste is a bit like apple juice or cream soda, but it is really unlike any other drink. Guarana can be served carbonated or just as a juice, and is known for its medicinal abilities and energy boosting power.
Goiaba – Guava. In Brazil, guava is made into ice cream, jelly, mousse, paste or Brazilians eat guava just as a regular fruit.
Jabuticaba – If you have been to a Brazilian or Portuguese market and seen bottles of “Brazilian Grape Jelly,” it is made out of jabuticaba. Jabuticaba is a berry that is similar to a huckleberry or a concord grape.
Jackfruit – A sweet, extremely intense fruit with a juicy white flesh and a large seed that is roasted in a similar fashion to chestnuts.
Limao – Limes. Lime juice is the most popular addition to just about any Brazilian dish. Lime juice is to Brazil what salt is to many other countries. Brazil does not have lemons, so Brazilians use limes for everything from sauces to desserts to marinades. Lime skin in Brazil can stain your skin a dirty yellow-ish color if you are in the sun and do not wash your hands well after handling limes.
Linguica – Portuguese pork sausage. There are many types of Linguica pork sausage including hot chilies and calabreze (smoked). You can substitute linguica in Brazilian recipes with chorizo, or hot or sweet Italian sausages.
Mandioca – Manioc, Cassava or Yuca. Yuca is called aipim in Rio and Northern Brazil, macaxeira in Amazonian states in the northeast, and mandioca in Sao Paulo and Southern Brazil. The pulp is used to make tapioca. The grain that comes from mandioca is used instead of flour for breads, stews and couscous. The most common use for mandioca is to make farofa (lookup farofa above).
Manga – Mango. Mango is often placed on a stick and eaten lollipop style. Manga is also used for salads, chutneys, desserts, or to grill. Mango works wonders to improve digestion.
Maracuja – Passion Fruit. Brazilians often eat passion feat straight out of the shell (with a spoon). You can use maracuja in desserts and drinks though… and if you can’t find fresh passion fruit, it is often sold frozen as well.
Mariscada – Bouillabaisse with fish, vegetables, shellfish and various vegetables. Mariscada differs from moquecas because there is not dende oil.
Molho – Molho is a Brazilian sauce that is similar to a salsa containing tomatoes, onions, olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, sweet or hot peppers, and various other ingredients.
Moqueca – fish stew made of various seafood and fish, like shrimp and crab. The fish is cooked like a ragout in coconut milk, onions, sweet peppers, lime juice, dende oil, parsley, marjoram and tomatoes.
Pacoca – Pacoca has different meaning depending on the region of Brazil. In Sao Paulo, Pacoca is a dish made with beef jerky. In Bahia, pacoca is a sweet dessert or treat similar to nut brittle (but softer) and made of either cashews or peanuts usually.
Palmito – Heart of Palm. Heart of Palm is grown in Brazil, but you can get very good canned Brazilian heart of palm like the brands Ivai and Roland.
Pato No Tucupi – Pato is roasted duck, and this dish is cooked in a broth of tucupi (the juice that comes from the cassava or manioc root) and pimenta-de-cheiro. Unfortunately, it does not seem possible to get tucupi in the United States of America!
Paw Paw – Papaya. Papaya is a sweet fruit that can be eaten raw, but is also used in Brazil for desserts, drinks and preserves.
Pimenta-de-Cheiro – A small pepper, about the size of a cherry, that is red and yellow in color. A Brazilian condiment is made out of it, similar to a pimenta malagueta but less spicy and a bit more fruity. If you can’t find pimenta-de-cheiro, you can try habanero peppers or other spicy chili peppers.
Pimenta Malagueta – Pimenta malagueta is extremely spicy, especially the red peppers, though the green ones are still very hot. A condiment is made of pimenta malagueta (similar to the Brazilian condiment pimenta-de-cheiro), but pimenta malagueta is more spicy and less fruity.
Pirao – A side dish served with moqueca, fish or meat entrees. Pirao is a Brazilian paste that is creamy and made of manioc flour, broth, fish, hot chili pepper oil and dende oil.
Pupunha – Pupunha is a fruit that grows in clusters, similar to how dates grow. When you buy Pupunha is Brazil, they are usually already boiled. Brazilians serve pupnha as a vegetable or in soups or shrimp salads.
Quiabo – Okra. In Bahia, caruru means okra, but in most of Brazil, okra is called quiabo.
Rabada – A Brazilian stew made of oxtail, vegetables and red wine.
Siri – Crab.
Suco Misto – Suco misto are fresh (or bottled) fruit juice that are served over ice (and sometimes sweetened).
Tacaca – Tacaca is a Brazilian soup that is served in a gourd and made of shrimp, jambu leaves and manioc root (cassava) juice.
Tamarind – Tamarind is usually soaked in water overnight to make it easier to remove the pulp. Tamarind is used in meat and fish dishes, but also in Brazilian desserts and drinks.
Tutu a Mineira – Tutu a mineira is a Brazilian bean dish made of creamed beans that are pureed and thickened with manioc flour and then mixed with onions, tomato, sweet peppers, garlic, chili pepper, scallions and parsley. Tutu a mineira is served with pork (grilled pork, pork chops, pork sausage, etc.) Feijao tropeiro is similar to tutu a meneira, but is served with whole beans rather than pureed beans.
Vatapa – Vatapa is a Brazilian side dish that is served with xinxim, fish or prawns. Vatapa is a cream made of fish, bread, dende oil and ground shrimp… then made spicy with crushed chili peppers, and ground cashews and/or peanuts are added.
Xinxim – Xinxim is a sauteed Brazilian dish that can include pork, fish or chicken, but is most commonly made of chicken, shrimp, coconut milk, cilantro, garlic, tomatoes, onions and green pepper.
Xuxu – Chayote, Christophine or Merliton. Xuxu is a squash with a white flesh that can be diced in a salad (similar to cucumber or jicama) or it can be boiled as a Brazilian side dish.