As the 2nd largest city in Brazil, and a melting pot of various regional traditions, Rio de Janeiro has some unique and delicious foods. We tried a whole lot of different and unique foods in Rio and loved so much of the unique Brazilian cuisine.
This article is divided into two sections: Best foods and drinks you absolutely have to try in Rio, and then the best restaurants in Rio that we enjoyed and can absolutely recommend.
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Best Foods in Rio to Try
1. Rice and Beans
The mainstay of Brazilian food is rice and beans. Now, while white rice and black beans might seem boring, we actually thought that these foods were delicious! The rice was fluffy and the beans, while flavored with mainly salt and garlic, had a great depth of flavor to them. Plus, they were usually served with some kind of meat (generally either chicken or beef), and the meat, beans, and rice all mixed together was fantastic.
Feijoada is a traditional black bean soup that includes bits of beef or pork. Super traditional feijoada can include any random bit of the animal (even intestines or hooves!), but in a nicer restaurant, the feijoada will have bits of “regular” meat in it.
I loved the feijoada we had! (Which came with cheese on top, yummm). If you have the chance to sample feijoada, definitely try it!
Farofa is actually toasted cassava flour, and is served as an accompiament to dishes. Brazilians love to eat it with their rice and beans. While it does resemble the texture of sand, I thought it was a tasty enough addition to a rice+beans dish. It’s a very traditional food to offer at meals , so you definitely need to try it. This was one of the most unique foods in Rio that we ate!
4. Barbecued Meats
A churrascaria is a Brazilian BBQ steakhouse restaurant, and it is unique in that meat is grilled on huge skewers, carried around the restaurant dining room on the skewers by wait staff, and then sections are sliced off for you at your table.
There are Brazilian BBQ restaurants in the United States, but you definitely need to experience an authentic BBQ in Brazil. The meat that we ate at the churrascaria was, no joke, some of the best meat of my life. We had chicken thighs and pork sausages, both of which were very juicy and flavorful.
Then 3 types of beef were brought out and y’all, I wish I could tell you what cuts they were, but they didn’t speak English beyond “chicken” and “beef” and I didn’t speak Portuguese beyond “obrigada” and “bom dia.” But I can say that these were quite possibly the most juicy, flavorful, tender cuts of meat I’ve had in my life. It was definitely some of the best food we ate in Rio!
Pizza is fairly popular in Rio de Janeiro, and they have a variety of different toppings. The pizza crust was a little softer than what I’m used to in the US, and the flavor combinations were certainly different. Banana pizza anyone?
Street Foods to Eat in Rio
All of these foods can be found on carts around the city, or from little shops that have counters open to the street. They usually cost around R$5 ($1) per item, and make a cheap lunch or easy afternoon snack!
6. Hot Dogs
Brazilian hot dog toppings are very distinctive! Toppings include peas, corn, onions, a quail egg, parmesan cheese, ketchup, mustard, mayo, and potato chip straws.
I’m not a hot dog person, but Matthew loved his loaded Brazilian hot dog.
7. Pão de Queijo
Pão de Queijo (aka cheese bread) are small, bite-sized rolls made with tapioca flour and cheese. They are often sold from bakeries with the storefront facing the street, and are economical, at around R$1 (.20 USD) per ball.
This is a must-try and very popular food to eat in Rio – I LOVED these!
While certainly not unique to Brazil, churros were a common and delicious street food in Rio de Janeiro. The churros here were filled with either chocolate or dulce de leche, and were crispy and delicious!
9. Stuffed Tapioca “Tacos” (Tapioca Recheada)
This was such an interesting and different snack being made on a street cart. To start, tapioca flour was poured into circle forms on a griddle, and then as it cooked, either sweet or savory toppings were added on top of the tapioca flour . Then the whole circle was folded on itself, making a “taco”.
We got two different flavors: strawberry nutella and guava coconut. The tapioca was interesting because it didn’t have a ton of flavor, it mostly just added some texture to the “tacos”.
Honestly, these weren’t my favorite snacks ever, but I’m very happy to have tried them – they’re worth a try for sure.
Açaí (pronounced Ass-eye-ee) is a purple fruit, that is served as a sweet treat with a consistency between an ice cream and a thick smoothie. It’s a very popular food in Rio, and we were big fans.
We particularly liked the version we got with granola and sweetened condensed milk in it. You can find these on street carts around the city, or in casual dining restaurants.
You can find açaí in restaurants, but we usually got them from a food cart.
Empanadas are half circle shaped pastries that are filled with a savory (usually meat filling) and then baked or fried. It’s similar to a turnover – you can hold it in your hand as you eat it. Empanadas are a very typical food in Brazil, and can be found in little bakeries all around Rio.
A pastel is very similar to an empanada, as it is dough stuffed with meat and then cooked. However, pastel dough is thinner and gets fried, making it nice and crispy! I preferred the pastels over the empanadas as a street food to eat in Rio.
A coxinha is filled with a savory filling (often meat + cream cheese), with the dough around it formed into a teardrop shape, and breaded and fried. There was a thin outside layer of crispy fried “skin” and then a softer dough layer, before the meat/cheese filling. This is another very typical street food to see in Rio.
14. Fresh Fruit (mangoes, pineapple, etc)
The fresh fruit in Rio de Janeiro was TO DIE FOR. We had several types of fruit in different settings, but standouts included the mangoes and pineapple, which were just so juicy and flavorful.
We ate fresh mangoes at breakfast at our hotel every day, but then bought ourselves a pineapple at the grocery store. The top just plucked right off and it was so soft, we were able to easily cut the outer rind off with a plastic knife, and then just bite into the pineapple like an apple to eat it. I highly recommend you pick up a pineapple to eat on the beach!
Candies to Try in Rio
Around the city you’ll see candy stands set up (sometimes it was just a folding table on a street corner), selling a variety of candies. Here are the most common types we saw:
These little peanut candies are very popular in Brazil. They reminded me, in texture and flavor, of the inside of a Reeses peanut butter cup.
Every stand had some of these Gomets candies – we enjoyed their fruity flavor and chewy texture.
17. Halls Cough Drops
This was the most amusing “foods” in Rio that we saw. Every single candy stand or table we saw had rows and rows of different flavored Halls cough drops. Brazilians eat them like candy! (Apparently this is a common thing in Latin America in general)
While these are common and well-known in the United States, we found it interesting that they also seemed very popular in Brazil.
Drinks to Try in Rio de Janeiro
I don’t drink alcohol, so all of the drinks recommended in this section are non-alcoholic. Brazil has some incredible drinks and juices – definitely don’t miss out on the drinks in this section!
This Brazilian soda is a favorite and is found all around the city. Guarana itself is a fruit that looks like a red eyeball (kind of creepy actually – Google it), and is the main flavor in the soda. It’s a sweet, slightly tart flavor, with some similarities to ginger ale.
This variety of Guarana, Guarana-Jesus, is typically only found in north Brazil. We had a friend tell us about it and wanted to try it, but were unable to find it anywhere in Rio. However! We did see it at the Northeast Brazil market (more on that in the restaurant section) and tried it there.
The soda itself is pink, and I would say has more of a bubblegum-type flavor. It’s definitely an interesting drink to try!
20. Limeade and Lemonade
I love me some Brazilian limeade! Sometimes the limeade/lemonade was served unsweetened, and you had to add packets of sugar to your drink at the table.
It’s worth noting here that while the cleanliness of tap water in Rio has come a long way, it is still not guaranteed safe to drink. You’re better off just drinking bottled water. Plus, tap water comes with a rather unpleasant odor, so you will likely find it more pleasant to drink bottled water, anyway.
Bottled water is easy to find around the city, as there are stands, or even just people with a cooler, set up all over the city.
Juices in Rio de Janeiro could almost be its whole own post. There were so many unique and delicious juices that were available to drink in Rio, that you could order in restaurants or buy in packaged bottles.
Here are a few that we tried, and what we thought of them:
- Umbu – A fruit found in northeastern Brazil that completely different from anything we’d had before. It was sweet, with a hint of tart (I understand the fruit is more sour when fresh) and the aroma and taste had a richness to them. It reminded Matthew of spices like nutmeg, not in the flavor, but in how they have such a distinct impact. We loved this drink.
- Siriguela – A very sweet and flavorful drink. Probably the closest analog is pineapple juice, but it was unique and excellent.
- Maracuja – Passion fruit juice. I liked this one, but it did have a bit of a sour/bitter taste to it in juice form.
- Caju – Caju actually means cashew, so this was cashew juice. Caju juice has tannins, which make your mouth feel astringent and bitter, but it does have a sweet taste and is relatively popular in Brazil. This wasn’t our favorite drink, but it’s worth a try, for sure, as it is very common to the region.
- Acerola – Acerola looks like a type of cherry, and has a sweet, tart taste. I liked this one quite a bit.
- Laranja – Orange juice. We saw stands all around the city selling fresh squeezed OJ. The oranges were more greenish than orange, and I have to say the orange flavor was not very strong.
Best Restaurants in Rio de Janeiro
These are the specific restaurants we tried and loved during our time in Rio de Janeiro. You can find a lot of the foods in Rio I mentioned above at these restaurants in Rio!
Cruzeiro do Sul Churrascaria
This is the delicious Brazilian BBQ restaurant I mentioned above! Servers carry barbecue meat around on giant skewers and then cut off sections of it for you at your table – it’s a really fun experience! The meat was incredibly tender and juicy, the staff was really friendly and helpful, and the buffet had a lot of options. I’d highly recommend.
We spent R$261 ($52) here for two people, which included drinks.
This is essentially fast food pizza. It’s a cheap and fast meal and it was interesting to try Brazilian-style pizza. There are several locations around the city and our whole meal together was very inexpensive. To be honest, I wouldn’t say that this was THE BEST pizza I’ve ever had, but it was certainly interesting, and was a quick and easy way to grab a bite to eat later in the evening.
This cafe is a cute lunch + dessert place in the heart of Centro. There are actually two locations in Centro, and both have a really pretty mirrored dining room. There is also another location on Copacabana, but that one isn’t nearly as pretty – I would go to either Centro location instead.
As you walk in, you can admire the many desserts on display in the pastry cases, and there are more options available in the menu. You can get a full meal, or just sample the desserts (like we did!)
Angu do Gomes
This restaurant is in a little square in Centro. Most of the dining room is open air, on the patio, there are several other restaurants in the square and the whole area has a really fun, lively feel, especially on weekends.
The food we got at Angu do Gomes was fantastic. Angu is a food similar to polenta, and the pork angu we got had small chunks of pork in a sauce, served over the angu. The filet mignon with rice and beans, and feijoada (black bean soup) were two other standouts at Angu do Gomes.
This cafe serving breakfast and savory lunches is an Instagrammer’s dream. It’s set in the courtyard of an old mansion in Parque Lage. You dine under umbrellas next to a pool in the courtyard, and for a few reais you can explore the upper level of the mansion, with views over the grounds and the mansion interior. Be prepared for a bit of a wait to be seated, however (we had a 45 minute wait, but were able to walk the grounds in the meantime)
This is definitely an upscale cafe and everything was both plated gorgeously and delicious. I got the roasted chicken with rice, and Matthew got a pork pineapple sandwich and waffle with tropical fruits.
Pousaga Vista Turquesa
This restaurant is about 2.5 hours outside of Rio, in Arraial do Cabo. We went out to Arraial as a daytrip, to experience the Caribbean-like beaches. This restaurant isn’t even in the main city of Arraial do Cabo, it’s on an unpaved dirt road that leads out to Praia Brava (a fantastic place to watch the sunset).
We stopped off at this resort/restaurant on the way back into town and I can definitely vouch for the food here – it was all extremely high quality.
Matthew got the standard steak + rice + beans, which also came with some perfectly crispy French fries, and I got the chicken in a bleu cheese sauce with rice and fries.
Feira Nordestina São Cristóvão
The Feira Nordestina São Cristóvão is the Northeast Brazilian market and is found in the northern part of Rio, not far from the Maracanã stadium. This market had a lot of wares and stands selling foodstuffs from North Brazil, as well as restaurants servings regional specialties. A lot of the juices in the above section came from this market!
This market is an interesting and off the beaten path spot to visit in Rio, with some great foods and drinks to try!
Paying for Foods in Rio de Janeiro
Most places around the city take card, but I would still plan to have cash on hand for street food and water.
When you are using your card to pay (at restaurants, grocery stores, or bakeries that have storefronts), always have cashiers run your credit card in the local currency, not dollars (or whatever your home currency may be). Sometimes you are given the option to choose between the two currencies on the screen if you are inserting the card yourself. You will get a better exchange rate by having your bank convert it, not the store.
Tipping is not expected or customary when traveling in Rio de Janeiro. A tip is already included in the bill.
Some Travel Essentials for Rio de Janeiro
What to Know Before Traveling to Rio
Check out this post for 13 important travel tips for Rio de Janeiro – including where to stay, safety tips, how to get around, tips about money, and more!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Securing some travel insurance is an important part of prepping for any international trip – you never know when something might happen, and your regular insurance generally won’t cover you overseas. Costs for a medical emergency on vacation can add up extremely fast, so it’s just better to be safe than sorry.
I like booking insurance at Insure My Trip, as they offer a variety of plans with different coverages to choose from, so you can find the right option for you. Plus, they have great customer support if you need help before, during, or after your trip.
Final Thoughts on Foods to Try in Rio
There are so many interesting and delicious foods to eat in Rio de Janeiro! Visit some restaurants, but definitely don’t forget to hit up street food and try a lot of juices! Happy eating in Rio!
Read more articles about Rio de Janeiro:
- Rio de Janeiro Favela Tour: A Review
- A Rio de Janeiro Travel Budget
- 13 Travel Tips for Rio: What to Know Before You Go