What to do with Jatobá – stinking toe!

While browsing in Hortifruti recently, I came across something interesting in the Weird Fruit section (the unofficial name for my favourite part of the store). These heavy, brown pods were labelled Jatobá and I was intrigued.


Jatobá – heavy, brown pods, but what’s inside?


When I got them home I did some research. The pods come from a tree known to Brazilians as a Jatobazeiro, but in other parts of its range (it is found from Brazil in the south, to the Caribbean in the north) it is called West Indian locust or Stinking Toe!


I think the ‘toe’ part of the name is clear – I discovered the ‘stinking’ part when I took the jatobás out of their packaging!


The Jatobazeiro (Hymenaea courbaril for the tree boffins out there) turns out to be a very useful tree.


The jatobazeiro can reach 40m (130 feet).


The wood is heavy, very hard and durable and so is prized for use in furniture and floorings. If you cut the tree, it releases a resinous sap that is used in varnishes, ointments and incense. If the resin is left for long enough it will eventually change into amber, usually full of insects. Even the thick shell surrounding the pod can be used to make a tea which is said to be invigorating and treats everything from bronchitis to bladder infections.

So what’s inside those pods? I had to get a hammer to find out!


Yellow, powdery pulp, surrounding 3 or 4 large seeds.


According to the internet, kids in Caribbean like to eat this powdery pulp straight from the pod, but one helpful site warned: “do your best to avoid smelling the disgusting odour, otherwise you probably won’t want to eat the fruit. Once it is in your mouth however, the taste is quite pleasant. You will find it hard to persuade anyone to kiss you after you’ve eaten the fruit”. I started to wonder what I

Now that I had opened the pods, the smell was floating around the house and although I wouldn’t say it was as bad as “disgusting”, it’s true that it wasn’t very nice (Mrs Eat Rio asked in no uncertain terms when the stinky fruit would be gone). In the interests of research I pushed ahead and popped some of this dry, yellow pulp into my mouth. It was not good at all. My main issue was that this stuff is so dry that I felt like Jim Carrey with cottonmouth.

I decided it was time to find a proper recipe. The following is a hybrid of several different recipes found on-line.


Recipe: Broinha de Jatobá

A Broa or Broinha is a small baked item that sits somewhere between cake, bread and biscuit and is made with a mix of maize flour (polenta) and wheat flour. With my recipe I added jatoba flour to the mix, but if you don’t have it you can just stick with maize and wheat flour.


  • 220g flour
  • 160g fubá (polenta/maize flour)
  • 100g jatobá flour (if you don’t have it, just add 100g extra polenta)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 dessert spoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 heaped teaspoon erva doce (fennel seeds)
  • 240g sugar
  • 100g melted butter
  • 1 egg (to mix)
  • 100ml milk
  • 1 egg (to brush)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F).

To make the jatobá flour, push the pulp through a sieve. You should end up with a fine golden powder.


Rub the weird pulp against a sieve to get the ‘flour’.


Mix all the flours together in a large bowl along with the sugar, salt, fennel seeds and the bicarbonate of soda.


Front right is jatobá flour, to the left is polenta and the wheat flour is at the back.


Add the melted butter and the egg and mix well. Now add the milk and mix again. Depending on which flours you are using, you may need to add a little more milk to get the correct consistency. It should be thick enough that you need to use your hands to squeeze and shape the dough.


How the dough should look after you’ve mixed in the milk.


Take small lumps of the dough and roll them between your hands to make balls a little smaller than golf balls. Place the balls on a baking tray that has been sprinkled with polenta. Leave a bit of space between the balls because they will expand in the oven.


Broinhas ready to bake!


Finally, lightly brush the broinhas with beaten egg and bake them in the oven for 20 minutes.


Nearly ready. That slightly cracked surface is what they’re supposed to look like.


After 20 minutes the broinhas should be very slightly browned on top. Take them out of the oven and cool them on a rack. The finished article is sweet, fragrant and goes very well with a cup of tea or coffee.


The finished article looks quite a lot like those little Italian almond biscuits (amaretti).



I’ve seen other broinhas that are hollow inside, but mine turned out with a light, biscuity texture.

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

    So now you understand that when opening said pods and then having those around repeatedly exclaim “shoe-lay!” does not mean they are trying to sucker the gringo into purchasing a new brand of sneakers (or trainers as they say in some parts).
    Btw I was mentioned in a TEd Talk: the-importance-of-grit.html

    Merry Christmas dude.

  2. sabeth
    sabeth says:

    thank you for the recepy – i will try that today , as we have many Jatoba fruits at the moment and i could not find any use, beside making smoothies. do you know if the seeds are edible, maybe if roasted and ground up? – many greetings from colombia

    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hi Sabeth – my pleasure – I hope you enjoy the recipe! Another very popular use of Jatoba here in Brazil is to make meringue (suspiro). Here is the recipe (from the great chef Rodrigo Oliveira of Mocotó in São Paulo). Bom apetite! :)


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  1. […] Broinha de Jatobá: These Brazillian baked goodies are tough on the outside but soft on the inside. And they’re best served with jam or meats like sausage and bacon. […]

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