In Rio de Janeiro, life happens outdoors! And that includes eating. There are street carts and food stands all over the city that offer cheap eats. It’s a great way to get a quick and tasty bite to eat, and it won’t hurt your wallet. Try these street eats in Rio when you’re visiting, and don’t forget to go with an empty stomach.
A note if you’re vegetarian or vegan: always give a careful look before assuming something is meat and/or dairy free! Popular dishes and snacks in Brazil, like salty popcorn or beans, tend to include meat products.
Learn a few quick phrases to inquire about ingredients and help ensure you’re staying safe. Practice the following vocabulary:
- Vegetariano – Vegetarian.
- Vegano – Vegan.
- Carne – Meat.
- Laticínio – Dairy.
- Tem carne? – Does it contain meat?
- Tem laticínios? – Does it contain dairy?
Pipoca means popcorn! You’ll find carts selling this stuff all over the city.
Pipoca carts typically sell two flavor genres of popcorn – salty and sweet. The salty variety often has bits of bacon, while sweet pipoca is covered in caramel, which renders it a nice golden-brown and gives it a bit of crunch. You can order one flavor or a combination of the two.
These stands are all over the city, and especially in front of movie theaters. They’re a cheap and easy snack to eat on the go.
What the hell is a x-tudo you ask? It’s a burger!
The Portuguese letter X is pronounced as sheece, which in English sounds kind of like the word cheese. X-tudo translates to a cheeseburger with tudo (everything). The works!
And that’s what you’ll get when you order one. A x-tudo is a burger topped with cheese, bacon, an egg, tomato and lettuce, onions, and then loads of additional toppings like potato chips, olives, corn, peas and parmesan cheese. It’s a party in your mouth.
If you’re adventurous, order the x-tudo as is. If you want to give your stomach and your taste buds a break, pick and choose what’s on it.
X-tudos are great late nights snacks, and go down great with a cerveja bem gelada (a very cold beer!).
The Brazilian version of a hot dog, known as a cachorro quente, is a bit different than what you’re probably used to at home. There’s the classic ketchup and mustard, but also so much more.
Similar to the x-tudo, you can load it with everything, including potato chips, quail eggs, farofa (toasted manioc flour), peas, corn, cheese and more. They’re a popular late night snack, and the perfect salty and filling drunk food. You’ll often find cachorro quente carts outside of night clubs and bars. Go wild!
Whenever we visit street markets and fairs, we head straight for the pastel and caldo de cana.
Pastels are deep-fried dough pockets stuffed with your choice of filling. Popular flavors include ground beef, cheese and shredded chicken. They’re typically sold at outdoor markets, made fresh and served alongside fresh, cold caldo de cana (sugarcane juice).
The pastel stands are also known to offer bolinhas de aipim, little logs of manioc (also known as yuca) that’s been stuffed with something, usually ground beef or chicken. The manioc is fried on the outside, making it crispy, and soft on the inside, with a texture similar to mashed potatoes. They’re delicious!
When you think of churros, you might think of vendors in places like Spain or Mexico, who are, without a doubt, experts at making these delicious fried treats. But for me, Rio is up there too!
Churros are fried dough stuffed with either doce de leite (dulce de leche) or chocolate (you can ask for plain too). If you can, ask to have your churro dipped in a topping, like coconut shavings or sprinkles. They’re warm, gooey and delicious.
Scope out your cart to ensure that you get churros that were freshly made. The fresher, the better.
Queijo Coalho is a firm cheese that’s served hot on a stick. It comes from the northeastern part of Brazil, but it’s popular in Rio too.
Queijo Coalho is a popular beach snack, and it’s easy to spot vendors, who all carry small charcoal grills to cook cheese made to order. The cheese, on a stick just like a kebab, stays firm and doesn’t melt. They’re often topped off with a sprinkling of oregano or garlic-flavored sauce. They’re a delicious, savory snack, even on a hot day.
Click here for more info about what to do and eat in Rio de Janeiro.
Here are other posts we have on life in Rio de Janeiro:
- 12 Foods You Must Try in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- The Ultimate Guide to Moving to Rio de Janeiro
- 14 Things I’ve Noticed as an American Living in Rio de Janeiro
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