Brazil’s Acarajé Dish & It’s Fascinating History

Planning to visit Brazil?

Who wouldn’t? Movies the Fast the Furious constantly feature it all the time and it sees over 6 million tourists coming in the country each year. This all mark it as a popular must-visit place.

If you’re interested in visiting the country, you need to get accustomed to their traditions and culture. You can start by getting familiar with their cuisine. Make it a point to try out one of their most popular dishes, the Acarajé.

It’s a dish with a fascinating history, and in this guide, you’ll learn some trivia that can help you appreciate it more.

What is Acaraje?

It’s a small Brazilian fritter made from black-eyed peas. The dish uses onions and ground dried shrimp to give it an extra punch in flavor. They’re shaped into balls and deep-fried in boiling azeite dende also known as Brazilian palm oil. The balls are then split in half and filled vatapa, a creamy paste made from finely ground peanuts, shrimp and coconut milk.

Vatapa Brazilian food in a bowl with spoon
Vatapa filling

To elaborate, you need to soak the peas overnight and strip their skins. This will include the black “eyes”, making it tedious but often optional. But if you opt to do this, you’re rewarded with a creamier texture for the final dish.

It’s fascinating since the dish seems more Indian than Latin American. It’s similar to South Indian snacks such as idli and dosa. The only difference is that they make these snacks using a batter of fermented pulses and rice.

This dish has a strong flavor, a pleasant sour tang that complements the beans’ sweet, earthy taste. The best part is that you can buy and eat it no matter where you are in the streets of Bahia or the rest of Brazil.

History of Acaraje

Acaraje originated from Western Africa, that’s why you can also find it on Nigeria and Ghana. But after getting to the Americas, it became more popular in Salvador, Brazil as street food. Women in Bahia made and sold the dish as well.

With that, the dish became part of the “heritage culture” of Bahia. Its ceremony of certification happened at the headquarters of the National Institute of Artistic and Historic Heritage in Salvador. The ceremony featured a lot of proud women, serving lots of trays to everyone.

The dish’s name is a funny mistake since its real name is “acara”. But women from the Yoruba ethnical group selling these shout “acara -je”, meaning, “I have acara”.

How To Make Acaraje

Frying acaraje fritters in palm with boiling palm oil
Frying acaraje in palm oil

If you can’t make it to Brazil and don’t have a local Brazilian restaurant in the area, don’t fret. Follow the Acaraje recipe below and you’ll be enjoying the incredible taste of Brazil right at home.

Ingredients

Brazilian Palm Oil pouring into bowl
Azeite Dende or Brazilian Palm Oil
  • 2 Cans Black Eye Peas
  • 1 Medium Onion, Chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 2 TBSP Flour
  • 1 Chili Pepper
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • Brazilian Palm Oil or Vegetable Oil for Frying

Directions

  1. Thoroughly drain the black-eyed peas and place them in the food processor. Add the onion and garlic to the peas.
  2. Remove the seeds and white parts from the inside of the chili pepper and add to the food processor.
  3. Purée until smooth, adding a tablespoon or two of water if needed.
  4. Transfer to a bowl. Add flour by the tablespoon, until the mixture is firm enough to hold a shape. Beat the batter for a few minutes with a wooden spoon, until it is light and fluffy. Divide into 15 pieces, and shape into ovals with the palms of your hand.
  5. Heat 2 inches palm oil or vegetable oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Fry several fritters at a time until browned on all sides. Drain fritters on a plate lined with paper towels. Slice the fritters open down the center and spoon with Vatapa, Brazilian Shrimp Stew. Serve with hot sauce.

Learn About Other Brazilian Dishes

Acaraje filled with catalpa paste
Acaraje popular Brazilian street food of Bahia

Acaraje is one of Brazil’s most popular dishes that you can enjoy when you visit. That’s why you need to get a taste of this dish as soon as you hit the streets on a tour. Don’t hesitate to ask your tour guide about it, if you’re in an itinerary.

The rich history of this dish is only part of so many things you need to see and taste throughout the streets of Brazil.

Do you want to learn more about Brazilian foods? If so, we encourage you to read this guide and learn about Brazilian dishes packed with protein.

Or to shop for authentic Brazilian foods and drinks, visit our Brazilian food specialty store today!

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