Brazilian Side Dishes

Brazilian cuisine is known for its bold, vibrant flavors. Meals like feijoada (the national dish of Brazil made with beans and different cuts of pork) and churrasco (Brazilian BBQ) often take center stage. However, the side dishes served alongside the main courses are just as important. They add delicious flavors and textures that perfectly complement traditional Brazilian entrees.

In this article, I’ll share my 10 favorite Brazilian side dishes that are must-tries. From baked empanadas to refreshing salads, these sides will take your next Brazilian feast to the next level!

1. Moqueca: Brazilian Fish Stew

1. Moqueca: Brazilian Fish Stew

Moqueca is a popular fish stew that originates from the coastal regions of Brazil. It’s now enjoyed across the country and is one of the best known Brazilian dishes. This stew features fresh fish cooked in a flavorful sauce made with coconut milk, palm oil, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro and chili peppers.

The most common types of fish used are mahi mahi, sea bass or snapper. The fish fillets are seasoned and layered in a clay pot with the coconut milk mixture and simmered until the flesh is perfectly tender. Slices of plantain are also added to soak up the rich sauce.

Moqueca can be served as an entree, but it also makes a stellar side when served in smaller portions alongside grilled meats or poultry. The sweet and creamy coconut milk sauce enhances the flavors of any meal.

2. Salpicão de Frango: Shredded Chicken Salad

2. Salpicão de Frango: Shredded Chicken Salad

Salpicão de frango is a classic Brazilian chicken salad that’s ideal for picnics, BBQs and family gatherings. It features shredded chicken mixed with a sweet, tangy dressing. Carrots, raisins, green onions and other vegetables add pops of color and crunch.

To make it, first poach or grill chicken breasts until fully cooked. Allow to cool before shredding the meat into bite-sized pieces. In a separate bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, olive oil, salt and a dash of hot pepper sauce to create the dressing.

Toss the shredded chicken with the dressing and stir in grated carrots, raisins, sweetcorn kernels, sliced green onions, chopped parsley or any other desired ingredients. Chill before serving alongside grilled meats or in sandwiches and wraps. The sweet, savory flavors make it an addicting salad.

3. Farofa (Toasted Manioc Flour)

3. Farofa (Toasted Manioc Flour)

Farofa is a popular toasted manioc flour dish in Brazil. It makes a crunchy, savory accompaniment to grilled meats and stews.

To make basic farofa, manioc flour is toasted in a skillet with butter, salt and bacon fat until golden brown. The flour develops a wonderfully nutty, toasted aroma. Farofa can then be sprinkled over feijoada, steaks, roasted chicken or fish.

In different regions of Brazil, farofa is also made with onions, parsley, nuts, olives, bananas and other ingredients. It adds a satisfying crunch and soak up juices well. Be sure to try this staple side on your next visit to Brazil.

4. Banana Empanadas

4. Banana Empanadas

These sweet, fried banana empanadas make an irresistible side dish in Brazilian cuisine. Ripe bananas are coated in a crunchy dough then deep fried until golden.

The empanada dough is made by mixing flour, egg, oil and milk. Sliced bananas are tucked inside before carefully sealing the empanadas shut. They’re then fried in hot oil until both sides are evenly browned.

The finished empanadas have a crisp, flaky exterior surrounding the warm, sweet banana filling. Drizzle with condensed milk or dulce de leche for added decadence. Banana empanadas pair wonderfully with BBQ dishes or milanesas.

5. Salsa Criolla (Vinegar and Onion Sauce)

5. Salsa Criolla (Vinegar and Onion Sauce)

Salsa criolla, also called salsa vinaigrette, is a quick pickled onion sauce that complements Brazilian cuisine perfectly. It adds a tangy crunch and bright flavor to everything from grilled meats to sandwiches.

To make it, thinly slice red onions and soak in a bath of white vinegar, salt, sugar and water for at least 30 minutes. Drain the onions then toss with diced tomatoes, bell peppers, cilantro and lime juice right before serving.

The pungent onions mellow out and absorb the bright vinegar flavors. Their crunchy texture pairs perfectly with tender grilled beef, chicken or fish. Drizzle salsa criolla over the top or use as a dip.

6. Mandioca Frita (Cassava Fries)

6. Mandioca Frita (Cassava Fries)

Mandioca frita, also known as yucca fries, are a must-try side dish in Brazilian cuisine. The starchy cassava root vegetable is very similar to potatoes in taste and texture when cooked.

To make mandioca frita, the tuberous root is peeled, chopped into sticks or wedges, then deep fried until golden brown and crispy on the outside. They can be sprinkled with salt or drizzled with garlic butter.

This simple preparation transforms the bland tubers into crunchy, addicting fries. Mandioca frita pair excellently with grilled beef, chicken or fish. They’re ideal for soaking up meat juices or dipping sauces. Be sure to add cassava fries to your plate to get an authentic taste of Brazil.

7. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

7. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

This Portuguese-influenced codfish salad is popular in Brazil as well as across the Caribbean and South America. It makes a light, refreshing and nutritious side dish.

Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá features salted cod, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, cilantro, chilies, lemon juice and olive oil. The cod is boiled until tender, then flaked into chunks. Next, the cod is combined with thinly sliced onions, diced tomato, minced green pepper, cilantro, serrano chilies and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Extra virgin olive oil is drizzled over the top along with hard boiled eggs, olives or avocado for a heartier salad. The tangy citrus juice and bright herbs cut through the salty fish perfectly. Serve chilled alongside any grilled or roasted entree.

8. Maionese de Batata (Potato Salad)

8. Maionese de Batata (Potato Salad)

Maionese de batata is a staple Brazilian potato salad flavored with carrots, peas, mayonnaise and fresh herbs. It’s a classic side for BBQs, birthday gatherings and holiday meals.

The basic version combines diced boiled potatoes with grated carrots, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Chopped green onions, sweetcorn, raisins, olives, parsley or cilantro are also commonly added.

There are many variations across regions. Some add tuna, eggs or tomatoes for a heartier salad. Others include tropical fruits like pineapple or mango. The potatoes soak up the creamy dressing and spices beautifully. It’s an easy, crowd-pleasing recipe.

9. Pão de Queijo (Cheese Bread)

9. Pão de Queijo (Cheese Bread)

These irresistible cheese bread buns are a quintessential Brazilian snack or side dish. The petite, cheese-stuffed rolls have a soft, chewy interior and delightfully crispy outer crust.

Pão de queijo are made from tapioca flour, milk, eggs, oil and cheese. The dough comes together easily in a food processor. After shaping dough into rolls, they’re baked until puffed and golden brown.

Both salty and slightly sweet, pão de queijo are delicious on their own, but also pair well with soups and stews. Try making a batch using grated parmesan, cheddar or queso fresco for a punch of rich, cheesy flavor.

10. Vinagrete (Vinaigrette Coleslaw)

10. Vinagrete (Vinaigrette Coleslaw)

Vinagrete is a tangy Brazilian coleslaw dressed in a vinaigrette of oil, vinegar and spices. Crisp shredded cabbage and carrots soak up the bold dressing for a refreshing, crunchy slaw.

To make it, whisk together olive oil, white vinegar, salt, sugar and desired seasonings like garlic powder, parsley or oregano. Toss the dressing with shredded green and red cabbage along with grated carrots and onion. Chill before serving.

Vinagrete pairs perfectly with grilled sausage, pork dishes and sandwiches. The tart vinegar cuts through rich foods while the crunchy texture adds contrast. It’s a quick and tasty side dish for backyard BBQs.

Final Thoughts

Expanding your side dish horizons is one of the best ways to experience new cultures through food. Brazilian sides like moqueca, pão de queijo and cassava fries add new textures, colors and flavors to everyday meals.

The next time you make feijoada, churrasco or any Brazilian entree, be sure to complete the meal with a few of these authentic side dishes. Your guests will love exploring new flavors and you’ll bring a taste of Brazil straight to your dinner table. Bom apetite!

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