Feijoada is a stew of beans with beef and pork and is considered by Brazil as their national dish. It’s a recipe that was originally brought to South America by the Portuguese, based on recipes from the Portuguese regions of Beira, Estremadura, and Trás-os-Montes.
The basic ingredients of Portuguese feijoada are beans and fresh pork or beef meat. In northwest Portugal (chiefly Minho and Douro Litoral), it is usually made with white beans; in the northeast (Trás-os-Montes), it is generally prepared with red (kidney) beans, and includes other vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, and cabbage. The stew is best prepared over low heat in a thick clay pot.
Portuguese feijoada is usually served with rice and assorted sausages, such as chouriço, morcela (a blood sausage), farinheira, and others, which may or may not be cooked in the stew.
The Brazilian feijoada is prepared with black turtle beans, with a variety of salted pork and beef products, such as salted pork trimmings (ears, tail, feet), bacon, smoked pork ribs, at least two types of smoked sausage and jerked beef (loin and tongue).
This stew is best prepared over slow fire in a thick clay pot. The final dish has the beans and meat pieces barely covered by a dark purplish-brown broth. The taste is strong, moderately salty but not spicy, dominated by the flavors of black bean and meat stew.
In Brazil, feijoada is traditionally served with rice, and accompanied by chopped fried collard greens (couve mineira), lightly roasted coarse cassava flour (farofa) and peeled and sliced orange. Other common side dishes are boiled or deep-fried cassava, deep-fried bananas, and pork rinds (torresmo). A pot of hot pepper sauce is often provided on the side. The meal is often washed down with cachaça, caipirinha, or beer.
Since it is a rather heavy dish that takes several hours to cook, feijoada is consumed in Brazil only occasionally, always at lunch time. Traditionally, restaurants will offer it as the “daily’s special” only once or twice a week, usually on Wednesdays, Saturdays, or sometimes on Sundays. (As a traditional holdover from old Catholic dietary restrictions, the Friday’s special dish is more likely to be fish.) However, some restaurants will serve feijoada all week long.
A popular myth states that the Brazilian feijoada was a “luxury” dish of African slaves on Brazilian colonial farms (engenhos), as it was prepared with relatively cheap ingredients (beans, rice, collard greens, farofa) and leftovers from salted pork and meat production. Over time, it first became a popular dish among lower classes, and finally the “national dish” of Brazil, offered even by the finest restaurants.
However, historians like Luís da Câmara Cascudo consider that feijoada is a Brazilian version of stews from Southern European countries like France (cassoulet), Spain, Italy and, of course, Portugal. Traditional Portuguese bean-and-pork dishes (cozidos) like those from the regions of Estremadura and Trás-os-Montes are the ancestors of Brazilian feijoada. The earliest printed references to the dish appeared in the mid-19th century, based on menus of upper-class, urban restaurants.
Other former territories of the Portuguese Empire still retain the feijoada as a major typical dish of their respective cuisines. Angolan and São Tomean feijoadas add palm oil for flavouring.
If you’re looking to try Feijoada for yourself, here are a few restaurants you could check out.
7438 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33141
2315 W Airport Fwy
Irving, TX 75062
13 W 46th St
New York, NY 10036
Rio Brasil Cafe
3300 Overland ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Taste of Brasil
906 S Oak Park Ave
Oak Park, IL 60304