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.
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.
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.
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.