Making Feijoada: Brazil’s National Dish

By Bryan Gregory Sanders, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Most travelers who have been to Brazil, or are thinking about it, have heard of the soulful Brazilian staple feijoada, the flavorful stew of black beans and pork that is a must-try as Brazil’s national dish. Most traditional restaurants in Brazil serve it, but for the kitchen-competent, this home-style mouth-watering experience tastes best at home.

Traditional home-style feijoada, Brazil News

Traditional home-style feijoada warms the soul, photo by Bryan Gregory Sanders.

Feijoada is typically served Saturdays throughout the country, and sometimes on Wednesdays (a holdout from old Catholic dietary restrictions). Especially during the winter months it is common for restaurants to lay out a spread with a variety of different types.

Of course for those feeling adventurous, and staying somewhere with a kitchen, its possible to put on a feijoada party any day of the week.

Step one is getting to learn one’s way around a supermarket, which can be a bit tricky as accents and vocabulary can be a bit intimidating. Lucky for the Rio traveler, Cariocas are extremely friendly and willing to help, especially in this situation.

Feijoada capitalizes on one of the world’s favorite combinations – pork and beans. It is an economic dish that traditionally uses all the pig parts many would normally throw away; ears, tails, trotters, snouts, tongues, back fat, and armpits (okay maybe not armpits) as well as jerked beef, and sausage.

But there is an easier and healthier (less fatty) method to cooking a feijoada feast called – feijoada lite – with carne seco (jerked beef) and paio linguiça (smoked sausage) sans the swine anatomy lesson.

Feijoada lite, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil news

Feijoada lite with (clockwise from bottom) farofa, kale, vinaigrette, and fried banana.Photo by Bryan Gregory Sanders.

To gather the feijoada lite ingredients, one should head to the butcher and ask for roughly 230 grams of carne seca and two pieces of paio, then pick up 450 grams of black beans, two cloves of alho (garlic), a cebola ( will need 1/4 onion), and some louro (bay leaves) which are usually packaged with the other dried spices.

Most travelers staying in temporary apartments have kitchens supplied with a good knife, cutting board, large pot (a pressure cooker is preferred), a tea pot to boil water, and some bowls or trays to soak the beans and jerked beef.

Start the process one night before by cutting the jerked beef into spoon sized cubes and then soak the jerked beef in water. This will soften the meat.

Then the next day, two hours before cooking – soak the black beans. When time to cook, start by prepping all of the ingredients. Cook the paio (sausage) in boiling water, then remove the skin and chop it up.

Separately, fry the onion and garlic in pressure cooker or large pot, then once ready, add jerked beef (without water) and paio. Then add the black beans with 1/3 of the water they were soaked in.

Then add boiled water from the teapot – now the water level should cover everything by about an inch, Finally add three bay leaves, twist the pressure cooker shut, and time out about 45 minutes on full heat or six hours in a normal covered pot.

Compliment the dish with farofa, sliced oranges or fried bananas, couve (shredded kale), vinaigrette, Brazilian rice, and of course a caipirinha or cachaça. Like a lot of soul food, the beauty of feijoada is it keeps well, and often taste better the second or third day.