The foods you have to try in Rio.

If someone asked me what I thought were the essential foods to try when coming to Rio, I would probably bore them to death with my list of personal favourites. Of course it’s a subjective, erm, subject. I know some of my favourite Brazilian dishes won’t be to everyone’s tastes. A good example would be Tacacá. I don’t think anyone would argue against it being delicious, but the mucus-like goma de mandioca will seriously challenge some people’s appetite. 

Remember this piece of awesomeness from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Well Tacacá is nothing like this. But at the bottom of the bowl you will find a substance may cause you to reminisce about the last time you had a cold…

But although the exotic dishes are pretty cool (well, I think so anyway), they aren’t the ones I’d describe as essential. The foods you have to try aren’t particularly fancy, but they are a part of everyday life and if I were a visitor, these are exactly the things that I would want to taste first. I’ve covered a few of them already: Pão de queijo, farofa, coxinha, pastel

Today I thought I’d tell you about one more.

Bolinhos de Bacalhau! Literally this would be translated as Salt-cod balls, but I don’t think that really does them justice. These delicious fishy mouthfuls are one of the top bar snacks available. The crisp, golden outer crust surrounds an amazing creamy centre – a mix of mashed potato and salt cod.

Bolinhos de bacalhau – a drizzle of olive oil (or even better, pimenta verdade) and a squeeze of lime and you have one hell of a tasty morsel.


One of the quintessential Carioca experiences is to spend a night chatting, drinking beer and scoffing bolinhos de bacalhau at a crappy table outside a bar of questionable hygiene. I know I wouldn’t get a job at the Rio Tourism Board with that description, but it’s true. 

As with many classic dishes, bolinhos de bacalhau come in many different shapes and sizes and there is plenty of ‘discussion’ on exactly what is the best recipe and which bar makes the best. Luckily for you all, I happen to know the answer to that last question! The best bolinhos de bacalhau are served here:

Pavão Azul (Blue Peacock) in Copacabana – officially (according to me) the best bolinhos de bacalhau in Rio.

So there is one more on the list of foods you have to try when you come to Rio. I’ve added the label “essential food” to all the articles introducing these foods, so if you want to check the others out then just click that text in the label list on the right. And this is by no means a complete list. For starters I haven’t mentioned Feijoada yet! But I’ll save that for another time. 

5 replies
  1. The Gritty Poet
    The Gritty Poet says:

    I just love Bolinho de Bacalhau. They are by far the best everyday snack served in Brazil bringing competitors like overbearing Kibe and evil Coxinha to shame. Funny that both Bac Balls (copyright) and Kibe were devised by women who sport moustaches, yet it was those of Portuguese whiskers that beat out their Lebanese counterparts and got their hors d'oeuvre right.

    BTW, The Blue Peacock… really? Sounds like a Police Academy inspired prank. Well, given my love for everything Codfish, next time I visit Rio I will definitely give the Peacock a go while keeping an escape route in mind just in case the warning song is played.

  2. Tom Le Mesurier
    Tom Le Mesurier says:

    Yeah, I know what you mean about The Blue Peacock thing – some phrases and names just don't work when they're translated do they?

  3. The Gritty Poet
    The Gritty Poet says:

    "some phrases and names just don't work when they're translated do they?"

    Yet some translate suprisingly well.

    I have noticed though that any eating establishment whose name in Portuguese depicts an animal and his color will not sound good in English, A Codorna de Ouro ( The Golden Quail ) comes to mind as an example. For some reason The Golden Quail conjures an image of a Chinese pimp, or crime figue, instead of a place to have lunch. I see myself having noodles as The Golden Quail enters the premises to collect his protection money from poor Hung Low, the hard working owner. Looking at this from the opposite direction using animals to officially designate teams , be it soccer or any other sport, just sounds silly in Portuguese. Imagine a Brazilian version of The Los Angeles Galaxy ( A Galáxia de Belo Horizonte), wierd at best. In Portuguese animals and colors in this context are only good as nicknames and should always used separately from the official name of the club: "O Flamengo" or "O Urubu", never the two side by side.
    Yet animals and colors sound ok in both languages when used as names for military outfits. This proves once and for all that war is actually good and unites humanity 🙂

  4. Eva
    Eva says:

    I'm going to have to try that place, I was so excited when I saw these were popular here but the ones I tried were pretty meh. I was really hoping for something similar to Spanish croquettas de bacalao, or maybe I just need to realize that they are two completely different things?

  5. Tom Le Mesurier
    Tom Le Mesurier says:

    Hey Eva, I'd definately give these a try before writing them off as meh 😉 There's quite a bit of variation and the bad ones can be awful but I think the good ones are up there with the Spanish equivalents – let me know how it goes.


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