Friday, August 12, 2011

What Do Brazilians Eat Most?

Recently, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (Portuguese acronym - IBGE) published the results of a survey on the daily eating habits of Brazilians. Completely unsurprisingly, the survey revealed that the three most commonly consumed foodstuffs of Brazil are rice, beans and coffee. Anyone who has any knowledge of Brazilian eating habits would be likely to name the same three foods if asked to guess what Brazilians eat most.

Nonetheless, there were some interesting statistics in the publication many of which indicate wide variations in daily diet from region to region within the country. Because of huge distances, different climates and environments and varying agricultural practices, what a northern Brazilian from the Amazon eats is not the same as what a southerner from Santa Catarina or Rio Grande do Sul finds on their plate. The "big three", however - rice, beans and coffee - are consumed everywhere.

The average daily consumption of rice in Brazil is 182 grams (about .40 pounds). The consumption of beans is slightly less at 160 grams (about .35 pounds). These are washed down with nearly 220 ml (just under a cup) of coffee. Considering that Brazilian coffee is normally drunk in very small cups called cafezinhos, this works out to nearly seven cups of coffee per person per day. Brazil truly does run on caffeine.

Next in line in terms of favorite foods in Brazil are bread and beef.The most common type of bread in Brazil is a small French-style roll, and 63% of the population eats bread on any given day. The percentage who eat beef is just under half of the population (48%). The beef number seems astonishingly high, but Brazil is only 6th in the world in per capita beef consumption and Brazilians eat less than half as much beef as their neighbors the Argentinians and Uruguayans.

Some regional patterns that emerged from the survey show that inhabitants of Brazil's Central West region consume the most rice, beef and whole milk, while those who live in the populous Southeast (which includes the two largest cities in Brazil, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, eat more beans, more yogurt, and more potatoes than anywhere else in the country). It's not a surprise that those who live in the north, home of the gigantic Amazon River system, eat more fresh water fish than their compatriots elsewhere in Brazil as well as more açaí, one of the region's native fruits.

A native starch, manioc, in its many forms is much more consumed in the north and north-east than elsewhere. In those regions 40% of the population consumes manioc in some form daily, while in the south the equivalent number is less than 5%.

The overall picture drawn by the IBGE's survey shows a country that is united by its eating habits, but one that is also regionally divided by those same habits. Just as the foods of New England and California display varying regional preferences yet share some typical American eating habits, the pattern in Brazil shows the same unity and diversity. And the foods that link all Brazilians as they sit down to a meal are the bid three - rice, beans and coffee.


  1. Hello,
    I found your blog while looking for a corn recipe...forgot the name of it now but it is soooo delicious. I spent some time in Unai over 20 years ago and wanted to make the recipe when I got back home. Eventually I made it and it was horrible! i was never able to taste that lovely dish again.

    After reading this post am longing for a good Brazilian meal again.

  2. Nice article...thanks for posting! I never knew how good beans and rice could be until my husband made them in the USA fro me when we were dating. It sealed the deal for marriage. :-)

  3. Very nice. :) It seems like this study focused on national staples rather than dishes. I heard a report on the radio that talked about the most popular dishes in Brazil today, and lasagna topped the list. Not sure if it was from the same study. In any case, thanks for the interesting info, as always!

  4. It definitely wouldn't surprise me if the most commonly served prepared dish in Brazil was lasagne. But you're correct about the study, it was discussing foods not dishes, so they probably didn't even measure lasanha, estroganofe, etc.

  5. Jennifer - Thanks for the charming story! Just goes to show you what can result from a good plate of rice and beans, no?

  6. I spent 18 months in the northeast of Brazil, and all I can say to this is AMEN.

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