I fell in love with feijoada at first bite. Feijoada (pronounced “faysh-ju-ada”) is known as Brazil’s national dish. Literally it means “big bean” stew. I’m not sure how it was officially declared the honor, but from all the Brazilians I’ve met, they’ve never disagreed.
My introduction to this black bean dish came at Emporio de Brasil, a very small but cherished Brazilian market/restaurant in north Denver. On Saturdays, they serve up a limited number of items – the best of which is Denver’s finest feijoada.
Feijoada is said to have originated during slave times, concocted from unwanted cuts of meat from the master’s table – including the non-choice parts of the pig including ears, snout and tail. Most of the feijoada recipes today still include plenty of pork – generally pork belly, chorizo, ribs, and other kinds of meat like carne seca (a Brazilian dried beef)
As you know, I’m not a huge meat eater and consider myself more of a flexitarian. But, I smack my lips when it comes to feijoada. All that slowly simmered pork makes for a tasty pot of creamy black beans and, to my surmise, is the reason feijoada continues to be a Brazilian favorite.
A feijoada completa or “complete feijoada” is served with rice, chopped greens (usually collards or kale), fresh orange slices, farofa or farinha, and a side dish of peppery sauce. The stew is generally served year-round in restaurants on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and on the weekends when made at home. It is also a requisite dish for a Brazilian feast and other holidays.
Since my first bowl-full, I vowed to make some at home. In keeping with tradition, I made this Brazilian staple on a weekend and made a huge pot to share using three kinds of pork – pork ribs, pork stew and chorizo. Oink! By the way, the ribs were the prized piece of meat.
Now, you have a recipe to host at your next Brazilian party. If you’re a person who appreciates beans and you can also get down on some pork, then you must try this dish!
Tidbits on Beans:
- Brazil was the largest black bean producing country. In 2006, the Food Guide for the Brazilian Population recommended that beans be consumed at least once every day.
- 1 pound of dried black beans = about 6 cups of cooked beans.
- Black beans are a strong source of phytonutrient, which is generally derived from fruits and vegetables.
Sources: The World’s Healthiest Foods, Beans: A History, “Brazil” in the Encyclopedia Food and Culture.
Feijoada – Brazilian Black Beans
If you opt to use carne seca/beef jerky, salted pork ribs or Portuguese chorizo, presoak the meat in a separate bowl in water for at least 8 hours, changing the water several times to remove excess salt.
I had a hard time finding the smoked/salted versions and opted to get smokiness from the smoked paprika. Next time I make this dish, I’m going to substitute some apple wood smoked bacon.
4 1/2 cups (2 lbs.) dried black beans, sorted and rinsed
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
8 cloves fresh garlic, minced
12 – 14 cups water
3 large bay leaves
1 ½ pounds pork ribs*
1 pound pork stew meat, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
¾ pound chorizo in casing, cut into 1 ½ to 2 inch pieces**
1 to 2 fresh chiles – serrano or habanero, optional
2 teaspoons sweet smoked Spanish paprika (use less if using smoked meat)
2 to 4 teaspoons salt (use less if using salted/cured meat)
*I bought some short pork ribs at the Mexican market that were the perfect size. Look for them under the name costillas de puerco picadita.
**Many traditional Brazilian recipes call for Portuguese chorizo but I couldn’t locate it as easily so I substituted with a Mexican chorizo, which are more readily available.
- Sort and clean beans; prep remaining ingredients.
- In a large, heavy pot (big enough for 6 quarts) saute onion in oil over medium-high heat until onion becomes soft and translucent (about 5 to 8 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes more, until the aroma is released, but garlic does not brown. Add the black beans, meats, 12 cups water, and bay leaves to the pot. Bring slowly to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer covered for 2 hours until beans are near done.
- Add the smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning and add more water if beans are low on liquid. Simmer for about 1 hour or longer (if time allows) until beans and meat are very tender. Remove about two heaping cups of beans with some liquid and no meat to a separate bowl. Puree using a hand emulsifier or a blender (careful to puree in small batches with a blender). Return beans puree to the pot, stir to incorporate, and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning.
- Serve hot with steamed white rice, greens such as collards or kale, slices of orange and farofa/farinha.