Sunday, July 1, 2012

Rice and Beans.. or.. the Brazilian Staple


      Arroz e Feijao, pronounced (ah-hose) ee (fay-jown), is THE staple of Brazilian food. Assuming this is due to the extreme poverty found in many areas of Brazil, rice and beans are a complete protein that for ages has fed those who cannot afford much more than that. Pay is monthly in Brazil, and the average person who works a full time job only makes about 600 Reais a month. That's equal to 300 US dollars a month... give or take depending on the value of the dollar. The government provides something called a cesta for those who either work government jobs or need assistance, and it generally consists of a bag with dry beans and rice, and things needed to cook it, such as oil and salt. There are other things they provide, but this post is about rice and beans so I'm going to stick to that.
      Though rice and beans seems like something that wouldn't have much of an emphasis in an everyday meal to you, to the average Brazilian, it is one of the most important things to think of when planning a meal. Rice and beans can generally be found on any traditional lunch or dinner plate. It is important that rice and beans be prepared the correct way, and seasoned to perfection, as Brazilians take this meal item seriously.I learned this the hard way, and it took me a few years to perfect it... but I finally have. There are many different variations of seasonings and add-ins but the basic method never changes.
      Generally, there are 2 popular beans eaten in a typical rice and beans plate; black beans and small red beans, otherwise known as Carioca beans (Carioca is the word for something or someone that is from Rio de Janeiro, so I guess it would be Rio de Janeiro style beans.) I always buy my beans dry in the bag, like most here, and cook them in the pressure cooker with water until they are soft, but you do have the option of buying them either in a can or frozen as well. If you are buying beans in a can, please make sure they have not already been seasoned, and don't have much salt added to them. While Brazilians love the use of salt in large amounts, it is not wise to add lots of salt to beans that have been soaking in salt in a can for who knows how long.

For the Rice you will need:

1. A medium size pot with lid.
2. 1 1/4 cup of dry rice.. recommended long grain white rice for this recipe
3. 1 tsp. salt
4. 1 tsp black pepper
5. 1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
6. 2 garlic cloves (minced)
7. double amount of water as rice, so in this case, 2 1/2 cups of water
8. optional - 1 tbsp or so of chopped green onion or chives

1. Put minced garlic, salt, pepper, and oil into pot. Mix around.

 2. Add rice.

3. Turn oven on.... medium to high flame and begin to stir the rice into everything.
4. Leave the rice on the oven for about a minute then continue stirring some more until you start to hear the rice sizzling in the pan. The trick is to fry the dry rice just a tiny bit before adding water, because this will prevent the rice from getting sticky after you add the water.
5. Once the dry rice is sizzling and cooking in the pan, and all of the rice is well coated with oil, add double the amount of water than the measurement of rice... so in this case since we put in 1 1/4 cups of rice, we will add 2 1/2 cups of water to the rice.

6. Do not mess with it much after this! You may now stir the rice just one whirl or two around the pot, but after that, leave it along and don't touch it! This is a very important part of making Brazilian rice. If you mess with it while it's boiling, it will get sticky. Leave it alone and don't even think about sticking anything into it.
7. Once the rice is near done, holes will begin to form in the rice and it is at this point that you should put a lid on it. Don't put a lid on until you can barely see any water in the pan.

You can take a spoon and gently move a little rice out of the way to check the bottom to see if there is any water left. There should be just a tiny bit of moisture left at the bottom of the pot.
 It is at this point you can sprinkle your chopped green onion over the top before putting the lid on.

8. Leave the stove on with the lid on top the pot for a minute or two... then turn the stove off without removing the lid. Leave the rice to sit with the lid on until you are ready to serve it.

9. When it is time to serve it, you may just leave it in the pot or pour the contents out into a serving dish. Gently run the tip of a fork over the rice to loosen it up and fluff it. Pronto!

And now for the second part of the dish, the beans!

What you will need for the beans:

1. Small pot
2. 1 - 1 1/2 cups Small red or brown beans, or black if preferred. If you are in Brazil, buy Carioca beans. Have these cooked in a pressure cooker or whatever method you have decided on, and set them aside.
3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
4. 1 tsp salt
5. 1 tsp black pepper
6. 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
7. 1/2 cup water or juice separated from beans
8. optional 1 tbsp or more of chopped green onions


This is done much like the white rice. Make sure you separate any water or juice from the beans. Set aside the juice because you will be returning it to the beans when needed.
1. Put garlic, salt, pepper, and oil into the pot.

2. Turn on medium to high heat.
3. Mix everything together, add beans.

4. Allow the beans to sort of fry with the oil. Keep an eye on them and stir them every couple minutes.

 Once you can hear and see the beans frying on the bottom of the pan, stir it good.
6. Add the water or juice that had been set aside, and stir again.

7. Let the beans cook for about 5 minutes, or until you see a thickness forming inside the pot. You want this thickness, but if it seems like the beans might be burning, it's ok to add a little more water. You want the beans to form a thick sauce within themselves, but not too  much water because you also don't want them to be watery.

8. Once the beans have gotten a good thick consistency, stir it once more. If you are going to add green onion, sprinkle those over the top of the beans now, then put the lid on.

 I always leave the fire on with the lid on for about a minute just to get a little steam built up inside before turning off the stove. Make sure the top stays on until ready to serve.

9. Before serving, stir the beans a couple times.
10. Traditionally, beans are poured over the rice.

Now you know how to make the most important meal item in Brazil!

Rice and beans are generally served at lunch and dinner, being a side item to really any meat you choose, homemade french fries, fried plantain, noodles with oil and salt, and some veggies like lettuce, beets, tomato, and cucumber.

Good luck!
This is a picture of a finished plate of rice covered with beans, covered with farofa, alongside pressure cooker pork.


  1. Yay Kryssy, I'm so proud of the way you cook. You know where you learned the art! You may have gotten the style from someone else. But you left home with the art already installed! I'm proud to call you my baby!!!

  2. Love it! Love the pronunciation in there too.

  3. Nice blog - well done! With regards to the rice, the only variation I have seen is that once it's cooked, and off the heat, I have seen it sitting with a tea-towel draped over it, with the lid on. This absorbs some of the excess moisture from the steam, that would otherwise continue to cook the rice, and make it extra sticky.

    Look forward to reading more recipes in due course!

  4. This was so helpful, thank you. I was an exchange student in Brazil many years ago and I've always longed to re-make the rice and beans I had there.

    I just made this recipe tonight and for the first time in my life, my rice turned out perfectly! It's just like I remember. Thanks for all the pictures and text.

  5. This is an interesting way to cook the beans, never saw it like that... I always use the pressure pan and then season the beans in a normal pan. Oh, by the way, the Carioca beans are not really common here in Rio. At home we usually eat those like only once a month. So the black beans should be the real "Carioca style". The Carioca beans (as well as the red ones) are much more common in the rest of the country, specially states like Mato Grosso, Goias, São Paulo and Minas Gerais. It's weird, right? haha

    Um beijo!

  6. looks great! one question, the rice you use, is it already cooked or not?

  7. I am a Brazilian living in the US. I grew up eating this almost every day. This recipe is the closest one I'e found to the way we cook! One difference is that all Brazilians I know will always rinse the rice before frying it. This removes excess starch. After putting the lid on the rice I would leave the stove on low for 10-15 min.The beans that taste the closest to Brazil beans are Cranberry beans. Yum!!

    1. Qual é seu facebook Michelle? Estou indo morar nos EUA.

  8. This is a fantastic recipe, thank you for sharing it! I made it yesterday and just had it for breakfast this morning :).

  9. The origin of this food combination may have something to do with poverty, but nowadays almost no brazilian would put aside this combination . Everyone from riche to poor love it.

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  11. My daughter's boyfriend is from São Paulo and I would like to recreate this rice & bean dish for him. He has mentioned a curry sauce that is poured on top. Apparently it is not very spicy/hot. Do you know what this is?

  12. Arroz e Feijão é o prato mais conhecido que todo brasileiro adora!