Growing up in a Brazilian and Puerto Rican household, I’ve always had a love of rice and beans. But it wasn’t until I lived in Brazil when I was 7 years old that I really learned to appreciate feijoada. There are many variations of this hearty but delicious meat and black bean stew but it is universally served all over Brazil. What sets feijoada apart from other Latin and Caribbean black bean dishes is its use of chunks of pork and or cured beef, ham hocks, bacon, salchicha or chorizo. In Brazil, you will often see pig hooves or ears used to really season the beans, but I know that’s not for everyone and also more difficult to find (it’s not really my thing really to see a hoof sticking out of a pot).
How feijoada became Brazil’s national dish is the source of some debate. It was once believed to have been created by slaves and peasants, who would use any spare pig parts and meat scraps to flavor the black beans. But now it is more commonly believed the stew was really a Portuguese or European adaptation.
Typically this is an all-day Saturday cooking extravaganza in which families and friends get together around the table to share a good feijoada served with garlic sautéed kale and a caipirinha (Brazilian mojito-like drink). It is a relatively dense meal, hence it’s done on Saturday (because you may need a nap afterwards). My version is much lighter and easier to make since it’s done in a slow-cooker… you can set it and forget it until later in the day!