Signs of the African Influence on Brazilian Cuisine

We are what we eat—no, really. We are.

Anthropologists study food just as much as any other element when figuring out the spread of cultures and histories around the world. A big sign of culture spread is found in Brazil, where the influence of Africans runs deep.

When you eat food at Carnival this year, pay attention to some of the influences of the cuisine in Brazil that you enjoy.

Brazilian cuisine and African culture are very much synonymous. Let’s see why.

The Inclusion of Okra

Sliced Brazilian Okra Slice and Whole with knife
Brazilian Okra

Okra is found in a lot of Brazilian foods, and is a clear sign of the African influence. It’s called gumbo in Africa, which happens to be the same name of the famous New Orleans dish, another culture heavily influenced by Africa.

When you eat Brazilian foods, you will see that a lot of them have okra. Some of them include quiabo, various stews, and sauteed okra.

Black Eyed Peas

Acaraje Dish in a platter served on a leaf
Acaraje – Traditional Brazilian fritters made with black-eyed pea

A lot of African-influenced cuisines all over the world has black eyed peas. In the southern states of America, soul food recipes include black eyed peas as a side.

In New Orleans culture, “hoppin’ john” is served every new year.

Brazil is no different.

Brazilians eat dishes like black eyed pea and shrimp fritters, Brazilian-style black eyed peas and rice, acaraje, and other dishes.

Leftover Parts of the Animal

Brazil was a country that participated heavily in the African slave trade, and the remnants of slavery are still found in some of the food dishes.

Not only does Brazil have the largest number of people of African descent outside of Africa, but Brazil was also one of the latest countries to abolish slavery, which they did in 1888.

During slavery, enslaved Africans often didn’t have the benefit of the prime cuts of the animal. Instead, they were given leftover scraps, such as the pig ears and snout.

There are Brazilian dishes that feature these leftover parts, since the enslaved people would make the most out of these parts and turn them into delicious meals that have stood the test of time.

Foods From African Religions

Food and religion have gone hand in hand for years. Though Africans were stolen from their land, many of them were able to keep their religion in some form or fashion.

They also brought over the foods eaten as part of their religious customs. Some of these foods influenced by African religions include moqueca, rice, and spicy egg stew.

Brazilian Cuisine Offers a Taste of the Motherland

Caruru Afro-Brazilian Dish in a pot
Caruru, Afro-Brazilian Dish

Culture reveals clues about how the world evolved. The African slave trade is one of the biggest atrocities the planet has ever seen, so it’s important to learn about how it happened and the way that cultures spread out as a result.

Brazil’s huge African influence remains alive today as a result. This is easily apparent when you consider Brazilian cuisine. Not only is it delicious, but it also gives you a taste of history and a huge appreciation of culture.

For more articles and authentic recipes of Brazilian cuisine go to the Brazilian homepage. And check out our must see list of the 19 Best Brazilian Foods You Have To Try Right Away.

If you’d like to bring home a taste of Brazil, shop for traditional Brazilian products and ingredients at Amigofoods.

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