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Pernambuco Cuisine

It is, like many other cuisines in Brazil, a magical blending of Africans, indigenous and Europeans.


Pernambuco Cuisine

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 29/07/2015

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

It is, like many other cuisines in Brazil, a magical blending of Africans, indigenous and Europeans.

The typical cuisine of Pernambuco was created in the Indian villages, in the manor houses and slave quarters of sugarcane plantations, in the kitchens of monasteries, in the yards of Xangô and on the shoreline.

The typical Pernambuco breakfast includes local fruit juices like ‘pitanga’ (a local cherry), cashew, pineapple, acerola, graviola, as well as ‘mungunzá’ (corn cooked in sweet coconut milk), tapioca with coconut or curd cheese, corn couscous, rice pudding, porridge, cooked ‘pacovan’banana, cassava, yams or sweet potatoes, accompanied by jerky fried in roasted sun-dried beef.

For lunch, the most known traditional dishes are chicken giblets, sarapatel (pigoffal cooked in blood), ‘chambaril’ (a local stew), ‘cozido’(meat and vegetable stew), ‘mocotó’ (cow’s feet), ‘buchada’ (a kind of haggis), fish stew, ‘guaiamum com pirão’(crab with manioc flour mush) and as desserts,butter or curd cheese baked with molasses and regional liqueurs.

There are also a plethora of pastries that are part of traditional Pernambuco cuisine: sweets made from sweet potato, jackfruit, guava, sliced bananas, star fruit, green papaya, white and black coconut bars, cashew raisins, bowl cake, manioc cake, ‘Souza Leão’cake, bolo de rolo’ (rollcake) and ‘cartola’, registered as Immaterial Patrimonies of Pernambuco.

The ‘cartola’ (literally ‘top hat’), made with fried banana, butter or curdroasted cheese topped with cinnamon and sugar, is one of the most traditional desserts of Pernambuco.

The recipes have been adapted, modified and transmitted from mother to daughter since colonial times, but some recipes are still considered family secrets.

In the cuisine of the Pernambuco coast and along the entire Northeast Brazil, there are a large number of recipes with seafood and food from the mangrove regions, such as fish, shrimp, lobster, shellfish, octopus, oyster, crab and guaiamum (a local species of crab). Freshwater fish like catfish are also very popular and abundant in locations near the São Francisco River.

Throughout the year, but especially during June festivities, the delicious corn-based foods like ‘pamonha’ (tamale), ‘canjica’ (green corn pudding made with sugar, coconut milk and cinnamon) and corn cake are prepared, as well as ‘pé-de-moleque’(literally ‘scamp’s foot’ –a dark cake made with manioc flour, peanuts, cashew nuts, coffee, brown sugar and cloves) are widely appreciated.

And during the days of Carnivalin Pernambuco– brought by the Portuguese and incorporated into the culinary traditions of Pernambuco – it is common to cook ‘filhós’, a sweet dumpling fried in hot oil and served with sugar syrup.


‘Galinha de cabidela’ (Chicken giblets) *

2.5 kg chicken (preferably free range chickens), 3 sliced ​​onions, cumin to taste, chopped coriander and spring onions to taste, 2 tbsp (tablespoons) lard, salt to taste; 100g bacon, black pepper to taste; 5 cloves of garlic, 50g fat, a bay leaf, vinegar, tomatoes and tomato paste to taste.

Cut the chicken joints. Season with salt, garlic, cumin and black pepper and put aside. In a saucepan, heat the fat and add the remaining garlic. When browned, add the onion and chicken. Sauté until all the water evaporates. When it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, add tomatoes, bay leaf, tomato paste and water. Cook until soft. Meanwhile, mix the blood in a blender with the vinegar and add to the chicken, stirring with a plastic spoon, bring to a boil and add the chopped coriander and spring onions. Serve with rice and seasoned manioc flour. Serves 10 portions.

(Bolo Souza Leão) Souza Leão Cake*

1 kg sugar, 4 coconuts, 2kg dampcassava flour; 400g butter, 4 cups water, 12 egg yolks, salt to taste.

Wash the cassava well and put in a cloth bag to completely lose the gum, and then sift it.Place the resulting dough in a large bowl, along with the egg yolks. Prepare the coconut milk by mixing 3 cups of hot water and the grated coconut, pass the liquid through a sieve it and add to the dough. Prepare syrup with sugar, butter and 2 cups water, adding it while still hot to the dough, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Season with a pinch of salt, and bake in a greased pan in hot oven. Makes 20 portions.




* Recipes from the book: Culinária nordestina: encontro de mar e sertão (Northeast Cooking: a meeting of the sea and the wilderness). Rio de Janeiro: Ed Senac Nacional, 2001.

Recife, 22 july2003.
(Updated on 19 january 2011).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2012.

sources consulted

COZINHA pernambucana. Disponível em:<>.. Acesso em: 3 jan. 2011.

CULINÁRIA nordestina: encontro de mar e sertão. Rio de Janeiro: Ed. SENAC Nacional, 2001.

LIMA, Claudia. História do folclore. Recife: Prefeitura da cidade do Recife, Secretaria de Turismo, 1997. p. 13. Edição especial.

LODY, Raul. Cozinha brasileira: uma aventura de 500 anos. In: FORMAÇÃO da culinária brasileira. Rio de Janeiro: Senac CNC-Sesc, [19--?]


how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Pernambuco cuisine. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009