Brazil may have a well-deserved reputation for its sweets and desserts, but lovers of savory snacks (salgados, or salgadinhos when a bite-sized version) are also spoilt for choice in the country. Brazil loves its salgados, and a number of these savory treats are a staple of snack bars and street food stalls around the country. No party in Brazil is complete without a table of salgadinhos to accompany sweets like brigadeiro and quindim. The next time you’re in Brazil, these are some of the top savory snacks you need to try.
1. Pao de queijo
Pão de queijo (cheese bread) is one of Brazil’s most ubiquitous snacks. It’s served up at snack bars and comes in restaurant bread baskets, but it’s most commonly eaten at breakfast. Essentially, pão de queijo is a small soft bread roll. As the name indicates, cheese (usually parmesan) is one of the key ingredients, along with polvilho (cassava starch). Polvilho is what gives pão de queijo its distinctive light and chewy texture and also makes it gluten-free.
Pão de queijo is often served plain or with butter, but it also comes filled with ingredients like requeijão (a type of cream cheese) and doce de leite (caramelized condensed milk).
Coxinha is one of the country’s most popular salgadinho. It’s easily recognizable by its distinctive pointed shape, which gives the coxinha its name (coxinha means “little thigh” in reference to a chicken drumstick). It consists of a filling, usually shredded chicken, wrapped in a savory dough made with flour and chicken broth that’s breaded and deep fried. One common version has the shredded chicken mixed with requeijão. There are other fillings, including vegetarian options like palm heart and mushrooms, but those are harder to find.
Empadinhas are another beloved snack throughout the country. They are the small, snack-sized version of the empada, which is a breaded savory pie similar to the Spanish empanada (which, confusingly, is different from the hand-sized Latin American empanada). Empadinhas are made with shortcrust pastry and have a savory filling, usually palm heart, chicken, or prawns. Other ingredients like boiled eggs, cheese, tomatoes, and olives are often used to add flavor and texture.
Lovers of deep-fried foods will love pastel, a puffed-up, deep-fried savory pie with a thin crust and piping hot filling. The latter comes in a huge variety of options, with minced beef, cheese, palm heart, and prawn being among the most traditional. Pastel is found all over the country, but it is particularly beloved by Paulistas (people from São Paulo). The best pastel is found at the feira (market), accompanied by a chilled cup of garapa (sugar cane juice).
5. Frango a passarinho
If you love fried chicken, chicken wings, and garlic, then you’re in for a treat. Frango a passarinho is a popular bar snack that consists of crispy deep-fried chicken wings absolutely smothered in fried garlic and olive oil, sometimes with a bit of parsley. It’s exactly as unhealthy as it sounds and exactly as delicious.
6. Mandioca frita
Mandioca frita, meaning fried cassava, is a popular snack in many Latin American and Caribbean cultures. It’s similar in appearance and preparation to a thick-cut potato fry, but the texture is creamier and the flavor more distinct. Like many fried foods, it goes perfectly with a chilled beer. In some parts of the country, mandioca frita is served with shredded dried beef known as carne seca.
Acarajé is a regional specialty of the state of Bahia and is particularly prevalent in the capital of Salvador. Acarajé are made from mashed beans that are shaped into a small oblong ball and fried. Then the ball is split open and stuffed with a spicy filling, usually vatapa (a creamy mix of shrimp and coconut milk). Acarajé is also used as a ritual offering in the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé.
8. Bolinho de bacalhau
Bollinho de dacalhau simply means “little codfish cake,” which is exactly what it is. These fish fritters are made from mashed potato, dried salted codfish, egg, and parsley. They’re part of Brazil’s Portuguese culinary tradition and are equally popular in Portugal, where they are known as pastéis de bacalhau.
Esfiha may not technically be a Brazilian food (the original spelling is “sfiha”), but it’s almost more popular in Brazil than in its native Middle East. Lebanese and Syrian immigration to São Paulo popularized Levantine cuisine in Brazil, and esfiha became one of the country’s most beloved savory snacks. It’s usually filled with a spiced ground beef blend and comes in two versions: open or closed. The open looks like a mini-pizza, similar to a Turkish lahmacun, while the closed is more like a small dumpling and is better for eating on the go.
10. Beiju de tapioca
Tapioca is another name for polvilho, the cassava starch that’s the main ingredient in pão de queijo. When water is added, it dries into small clumps that can then be sifted onto a hot griddle pan to produce a chewy pancake. This is known as beiju de tapioca (or just tapioca) and can be topped with any sweet or savory food you can imagine — ham, cheese, eggs, and condensed milk are all popular. It’s a traditional breakfast food in northern Brazil, but it’s also commonly consumed as a quick snack.