Since so many people have expressed curiosity about Brazilian breakfast customs, instead of answering their questions individually it seemed fitting to write a post about breakfast in Brazil. I am also sharing with you my favorite Brazilian breakfast dish: Tapioca Crepes with Cheese or Tapioca com Queijo.
I will start out by saying that breakfast is served only once per day, usually between 6 and 8 am. Practically speaking, in Brazil there is no such thing as brunch. Most of the time Brazilians eat breakfast at home, or sometimes have a light breakfast at the padaria (bakery) on the weekends. Since the majority of restaurants there serve only lunch and/or dinner, up until recently there was no such thing as going out for breakfast. But what if we are traveling within Brazil, what do we do about breakfast then? No problem! Hotels normally serve a plentiful breakfast, which is included within the hotel fee. I can guarantee that neither you nor I will go hungry down there. 🙂
Brazilian breakfasts also tend to be on the lighter side, since lunch is our main meal. So, if you are staying at someone’s house in Brazil, generally do not expect to see pancakes, waffles, cooked meats such as bacon and sausage, hash browns, or omelettes on your plate… oftentimes, not even a variety of cereals.
In general, traditional Brazilian breakfast includes a small loaf of french bread or toast, butter, eggs, fruit (usually papaya), a cup of coffee with or without milk, a glass of juice (orange juice being the most customary), and sometimes hot cocoa or fruit smoothies (avocado, banana, guava, or papaya)…. There may also be oatmeal (papa de aveia), yogurt, jams, and sliced or spreadable cheeses, including requeijão — a mildly salty, silky-textured, spreadable cheese sold in glass jars and eaten on bread. Further, you may encounter cold cuts (deli ham, smoked turkey, or salami) and coffee cakes such as orange, plain carrot cake without topping, or cornmeal cake (bolo de fubá). Cereal is not quite as popular, but some Brazilians do like granola.
In hotels, depending on how many stars they have, the options can be endless. Many items typical of an American breakfast are available there, and/or several regional dishes. The wide selection of fruit available at the breakfast stations of high end hotels is designed to impress any tourist, and definitely has to be experienced.
In padarias (bakeries), the most popular items are café pingado (a cup of coffee with a touch of milk) and pão na chapa (half loaves of French bread toasted with butter on a hot griddle). You may also find misto quente (grilled ham-and-cheese-sandwich).
But that is not all! Since Brazil is such a large country and has many different regional cuisines, depending on the region or even the state, the breakfast menu may include some local delicacies such as corn couscous (cuscuz de milho), boiled cassava or inhame (true yam), Brazilian cheese rolls (pão de queijo), milk curd (coalhada), mate tea (chá mate), chipas (a cousin of pão de queijo), cookies, German coffee cakes (cuca de maçã and others), and tapioca crepes with butter or filled with cheese (tapioca nordestina).
I am from Pernambuco state in the Northeastern region, where tapioca is a must for breakfast and also for afternoon snack. But remember, please don’t conjure up an image of tapioca pudding. 🙂 Our tapioca or tapioca nordestina is a tapioca crepe that is usually served at breakfast time either with butter or filled with cheese, or with a variety of savory or sweet fillings at afternoon snack time. It is gluten-free and made from sour starch or polvilho azedo, a byproduct of cassava. Tapioca itself comes from our indigenous heritage.
Since tapioca de queijo (tapioca crepes filled with cheese) is my favorite breakfast item, I will leave you today with its recipe. Tchau and bom apetite!