Once in a lifetime- my vegan trip to Brazil

In my mind I can still see the terrified faces of my friends to whom I told that I’m going to travel to Brazil. ‘Don’t worry’ I told them, it’s not as dangerous, many people are going to travel there. Saying that, I could notice their expressions turn even more worried and pitiful saying: ‘right, but they eat meat, what are you going to eat in Brazil?’.

Rio de Janeiro.

Rio de Janeiro.

Well, honestly I never even considered it, what I know is that I always manage everywhere. As esoteric as it sounds, in my mind, choosing to eat vegan and organic every day is choosing to do good every day to people, animals, environment and farmers. The universe in return pays you off and takes care of you. And practically speaking, I always find nice food to eat wherever I go.

Looking at the worried faces of my friends, got me a little bit insecure about the food issue I must admit. ‘But Brazil is all about meat’ I kept on hearing from all the culinary anthropologists around me.

Well then I thought, actually, I don’t mind kinda starving a little bit for one month. Living on coconut water, caipirinhas and other secret pleasures that come after drinking many of them, is not too bad either. After all, food is my work and sometimes I also get tired of it too. It’s not an obstacle, I thought, but a good opportunity. But deep inside I did want to prove they were wrong. To show that vegans can have fun too.

It was not even three days into my trip that I realized I have to write a blog about the vegan food in Brazil, a vegan heaven.

What I always learned and knew about plant based diets turned to be true. All traditional diets are plant based. In traditional societies animal foods were eaten in very small amounts as the animal industry didn’t exist back then and animal products were a luxury. And if you go to countries where there is still poverty and societies where western civilization still didn’t have its magic touch, you are probably going to encounter societies where whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds will be the majority of the daily menu.

Surprisingly and not surprisingly enough that was exactly the case in Brazil.

City of god, they say about Rio, and I pray and give thanks to this super sexy Brazilian god who saved me from walking in the dark valley of the guilty un-pleasures of eating vegan cheese, vegan yogurt, vegan pastrami, vegan chicken nuggets, vegan spare ribs and vegan bull testicles. Obrigado nosso senhor Jesus Cristo.

Dear bean soakers, grain sprouters, and flaxseeds grinders, or in other words, vegans who cook natural and healthy from scratch, Brazil is just the place you were looking for. It is just your next vacation destination where all your wet whole food dreams are waiting for you all these years.

In Brazil, wherever the miraculous Americanism-capitalism didn’t reach too far, families and restaurants are cooking a big variety of traditional plant based foods from scratch next to only a few dishes of meat or fish.

Diego is one of my best friends with whom I studied dance in Amsterdam. Hid mother was a way too kind host  who was treating us with amazing food during the Christmas time.

Diego is one of my best friends with whom I studied dance in Amsterdam. This is his mother who was  way too kind, hosting and treating us with amazing food during Christmas time.

I was so happy to discover that it's completely normal to pressure cook beans daily in Brazil and that many house holds have  a pressure cooker.

I was so happy to discover that it’s completely normal to pressure cook beans daily in Brazil and that many house holds have a pressure cooker.

Really, I was so happy to find out that so many house holds have a pressure cooker. That families and restaurants are cooking every day, well cooked beans from scratch. There were always, with no exception, a big variety of plant based dishes for me to choose from. A wonderful variety of traditional dishes based on grains, beans and vegetables cooked from scratch using pure and simple recipes. That’s how real food should be like. I felt so strong and healthy every day and that’s when I realized again I have to share this experience with you!

Farofa with green bananas.

Farofa is a dish made from manioc toasted flour, here with green bananas. Was one of my favorites by Chef ‘Diego’s mother’.

Join the coming cooking workshop from Vegan Sundays in Amsterdam. Click here.

I won’t give you a long list of vegan restaurants throughout the whole country because, honestly, you can find great vegan options everywhere you go. And in my experience the cheaper the place was, the more options I had and the food was more tasty and of a better quality. It’s great, because you can enjoy a spontaneous and easy trip without worrying too much about where do you have to eat and dragging your trip companions in far reaching and preaching vegan restaurants.

Tapioca pancake is made from fine manioc flour. Here with caramelized fruits. Delicious breakfast and snack.

Tapioca pancake is made from fine manioc flour. Here with caramelized fruits. Delicious breakfast and snack.

 

Saying that, when I realized the interest and the potential of this vegan paradise for travelers I did want to try some vegan/vegetarian restaurants and I wrote here about the two of them that I found exceptionally good.

I’m really excited to share this with you. During my trip you were in my heart and I thought about you and were sure that you will be as happy as I was to find out about all these foods. But moreover, I thought, that I missed you, and missed writing to you, sharing recipes and knowledge and inspiring each other in our little but quickly growing community, whatever name or tag you will give it. And to see, that all the way across the globe, people are interested in what we are interested in and also putting effort and attention through their daily life, to fight their little fight, to make our world a better place to be in.

The typical dish: rice, beans, all kinds of veggies. Healthy, easy, cheap. I think we payed around 4 Euros for this

The typical dish: rice, beans, all kinds of veggies. Healthy, easy, cheap. I think we payed around 4 Euros for this.

 

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Acai is kind of a sorbet ice cream made from frozen acai berries, blended.

Polenta chips.

Polenta chips.

 

Visiting in Brasilia I almost gave up on this depressing-apocalyptic city but definitely not after I discovered Girassol. There was the best food I ate in Brazil and one of the best whole food vegan restaurants I ever ate in. It’s not trying to be too original or anything which it’s not. It is simple and pure, the variety of dishes is big and rich but each dish keeps an elegant simplicity. The rice and beans are perfectly cooked which is very hard to achieve. Really worth a visit.

Another plate in Girassol.

Another plate in Girassol.

 

Another great surprise occurred to me in Salvador, the capital of Bahia which is famous for it’s music scene and amazing Afro-Brazilian culture. In the very touristic center of Pelourinho, the restaurant Ramma was smiling just to me. Again, the best of Brazilian quality cooking was there. Very simple dishes, basic, pure, nutritious and very well prepared. I enjoyed every bite.

The very kind owner of Ramma showing the nice variety on their buffet.

The very kind owner of Ramma showing the nice variety of their buffet.

 

These gorgoues ladies  from Lencois definitely knew what they were doing when cooking beans.

These gorgeous ladies from Lencois definitely knew what they were doing when cooking beans. #Bahia

 

One didn’t really experience a secret pleasure if one didn’t experience the secret pleasure of climbing to the top of the Corcovado in the middle of a 40 degrees hot summer day in Rio, and that’s after being discouraged by his friends of how difficult it’s going to be. Standing on the peek looking at their amazed faces is one of the best secret pleasures if not the best one. Well, not that I ever did it there, I’m not crazy and too lazy, but I can imagine how it feels like and just as an example. The one thing, which belongs to the same category of pleasures, I did  is writing this blog that will soon find its way through the interconnected web and into the pixels of the computers of my friends, who didn’t forget to ask me “So how was your trip to Brazil, did you find anything to eat?”. ‘Wait until I publish my blog’, I said, ‘and how was your winter in Amsterdam?’.

This blog is almost done, so unfortunately and fortunately I can’t tell you more about many other secret Brazilian pleasures, but one thing is for sure, writing this blog is a secret-guilty pleasure which is only happening once in a lifetime. Me perdoe, nosso senhor Jesus Cristo.

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The hard life of sitting on a hard rock.

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16 responses to “Once in a lifetime- my vegan trip to Brazil

  1. thanks so much for the brazil story!! i am looking forward to my trip so much more now. i had a suspicion it might be a good place to find vegan food but was not sure 🙂

  2. Hi, We are having a once in a life time trip to Brazil, we are staying a month. My whole family (two adults and four children) are Vegan and I was dreading it, as I have also been told that there will be nothing for us to eat. After reading this I can not wait. Thank you for a brilliant article.

  3. I am Brazilian and I have to say you brought a smile to my face while I was reading it 🙂
    Looking forward to a cooking workshop with you!

  4. It’s so much easier to be vegan in my home country Brazil! I tell that to europeans all the time and they just don’t get it! I am living in Copenhagen nowadays and it’s extremely hard to find homemade fresh vegan food! I might even open a per kilo buffet! Hahaha 😂 Cheers from a brazilian! I am glad you enjoyed your stay! Um abraco!

  5. How FUN Alex! Loved this post! And great to know since I would surely like to visit Brazil sometime soon with my vegan swiss family. Love, Mara

  6. That was a very nice post – yet I hope no pork was put in those beans to “season” them.. I’m a Brazilian currently living in the Netherlands and I’m very glad you had a good trip there…
    Being vegetarian, let alone vegan, is very complicated in Brasil in terms of social acceptance and options in non-kilo restaurants.
    If you are cooking at home, it’s paradise! We even have supermarkets specifically for fruits and veggies – they are called horti-fruti. And the fruits, I miss the fruits!! There is even a natural substitute for chicken: the young jackfruit (“jaca verde” or “carne de jaca” in Portuguese)… worth the try 🙂

  7. [Text in brazilian portuguese]
    Olá! Eu descobri o seu blog em uma pesquisa. Eu irei visitar Amsterdã pela primeira vez em março de 2017. Eu estou entusiasmado e depois de ler esse texto, tentarei conhecer o seu restaurante. Muito legal o seu olhar sobre o Brasil. Embora o país mate 1 boi, 1 porco e 190 frangos por segundo, há muita coisa boa também.

    Saudações abolicionistas de um brasileiro do Rio de Janeiro.

  8. We are vegan, and living in Brasilia for four months. We have found the buffets to be extremely friendly, and the produce here is so plentiful, cheap and delicious, we have really been enjoying eating here. We do cook beans every 2 or 3 days in our apartment (which is tricky given that the “low” setting on our stove equals a medium/medium high setting at home. Finding tofu has been the most challenging…

  9. That’s so tru tho. Went there in 2014 and it was so easy to find a variety of vegan food in every restaurant. Mostly beans, cooked veggies fried in garlic and such. Very cheap as well. And cachaças are vegan too! :3

  10. I loved your blog! I am from England and have travelled to Brazil with my Brazilian girlfriend and was very worried about what food I was going to eat! I arrived yesterday and the first meal I had made me realise I was going to be just fine! I have only been vegan for 4 months and was in America at the time so struggled at times with cooking so any tips, recipes and information on where is best to buy these ingredients would be grately appreciated! Thank you very much! You have definitely helped ease my worries!
    Ant

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