What is Feijoada?

Celeste Heiter

Feijoada is a traditional bean and meat stew that is widely popular in Portugal and Brazil. The dish gets its name from feijão, the Portuguese word for “beans.” Feijoada is made with either beef or pork, which may be fresh or salt-cured. The beans used may be white beans, red kidney beans or black turtle beans.

In Brazil, feijoada is made with bacon or other salted pork.
In Brazil, feijoada is made with bacon or other salted pork.

Pronounced “fay’-zho-ah’-dah,” the dish originated in Portugal, especially in the Estremadura, Beira and Trás-os-Montes regions. Due to Portuguese colonial influences in the New World, feijoada was later introduced to Brazil. There, it became so popular that it is now considered the national dish of that country.

First cultivated in South America, turtle -- or black -- beans are strongly associated with Latin American cuisine.
First cultivated in South America, turtle -- or black -- beans are strongly associated with Latin American cuisine.

Feijoada is similar to European bean-based stews such as French cassoulet, Italian ribollita and Spanish fabada. With its humble ingredients and rustic presentation, feijoada was originally regarded as peasant food. It was a favorite among African slaves in Brazil and other Portuguese colonies. Since the 19th century, however, feijoada has been served in fine restaurants, often as a lunch special.

Cabbage may be an ingredient used in making feijoada.
Cabbage may be an ingredient used in making feijoada.

Traditional feijoada is cooked in a heavy clay pot. To tenderize the meat and fully integrate the beans with the other components, the ingredients must be slow-cooked over the course of several hours. The result is a thick, hearty stew with a rich, savory flavor.

The ingredients used to prepare feijoada vary according to the country and region of origin. In Portugal, the stew is made with fresh pork or beef and, in some recipes, with sausages. In the Portuguese coastal regions, it is made with white beans; in the inland regions, it is made with red kidney beans. Other ingredients may include vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots and cabbage, along with aromatic flavoring agents such as onions, garlic and bay leaves.

In Brazil, feijoada is prepared with salted pork or beef such as bacon, ham, smoked sausages or beef jerky. It may even be made with variety meats such as feet, ears and tails. Black turtle beans are most commonly used in Brazilian feijoada.

Side dishes for feijoada also vary according to country or region of origin. In Portugal, it is typically served with rice and assorted sausages. As a condiment, a hot sauce such as piri-piri may be served on the side. In Brazil, it is served with both rice and farofa, a dish made with toasted cassava flour. Collard greens, sliced oranges and fried bananas may also be served as accompaniments for Brazilian feijoada.

Feijoada will often feature red kidney beans.
Feijoada will often feature red kidney beans.

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Discussion Comments


A lot of inaccuracies here. Although I personally enjoy American-style bacon with feijoada, it's not usually part of it. Much more traditional are crunchy pork rinds, along with salt beef, and various types of sausage. Kale or collard greens should be served as a side dish, not cabbage. White rice and farofa (cassava meal sauteed in butter) are essential. Orange slices are recommended, as is hot pepper sauce. Although not Brazilian, the sambal oelek from the same company that makes the Rooster sriracha works great.


My mother used to make amazing feijoada when our relatives would come over. I remember her being up really early to watch her stew, because it took hours to simmer.

I don't know how my mother did it, but she was always adding a little bit here and there and her stew always came out amazingly well.

My mom used to serve her feijoada with rice and a variety of sausages, which I guess is the traditional way to serve them. While it may not suit everyone's tastes, blood sausage is a classic with feijoada. Morcela was my mother's favorite sausage followed by Chouriço.


The best thing about feijoada is that it can really become a great comfort food for winter if you give it a chance. While it seems strange to use a dish from a hot climate to keep your warm on a cold day, I find that the rich flavor warms me up nicely when the temperatures start to drop.

I have always been a fan of stews, and feijoada has to be one of the most delicious. If you make it yourself make sure you use high quality meats and that you soak the beans overnight before you even get started cooking. Another trick is to use fresh herbs in your feijoada, as this really makes the flavor richer.


I tried to make fiejoada once and it was a total disaster.

I'm not sure what went wrong. I found a recipe that sounded great from a cookbook that was all about Brazilian food. I got all the ingredients and I didn't cut corners and buy the cheap stuff. I prepared it exactly like the recipe said and let it cook slowly for about 4 hours. All this time and work and yet it tasted absolutely terrible.

I am not just being hard on myself either. My husband agreed that something was very bad about that stew. It tasted like spicy mud. I really wish it had been edible but it just wasn't. I would like to try again sometime with a different recipe but I just haven't found the motivation yet.


@nextcorrea - Oh my God I know exactly how you feel. We are kind of in the same boat. I also live close to a great Brazilian restaurant and I love their feijoada. I am kind of notorious for ordering one bowl of this stew to eat in the restaurant and another to go order to take home with me. I get cravings and I just don't want to deny them. My wife teases me endlessly about this but oh well. If its delicious, eat it.


There is a Brazilian restaurant close to my house that makes incredible feijoada. Before I went to this restaurant I had never in my life tried this delicious stew and now I get intense cravings for it pretty regularly.

It is just so delicious and savory. On a cold winter day it is the perfect things to eat. Even though all of the ingredients are simple the flavor is so exotic, you really get the feeling that you are eating the food of a foreign land. That Brazilian restaurant has lots of great dishes but I have gotten to the point that feijoada is almost the only thing I ever order.

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