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Carnival in Rio de Janeiro: The Samba School Parades

samba dancers in elaborate costumes
Samba dancers in elaborate, hand-made costumes.


Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the largest in the world. Each day, 2 million people or more pack the streets to watch the parades, which feature food, music, dancing, and massive street celebrations.

One of the biggest attractions of the Rio Carnival are the Samba parades. There are over 70 schools in the city dedicated to Samba, and all take part in the Carnival parades to compete for the title of Grand Champion. 

The Grupo Especial Competition

The parades occur on all nights of Carnival and in all areas of the city; but the official events  take place on Sunday and Monday at the Sambrodomo, a four-level venue constructed especially for the Samba parades. Here, over 80,000 spectators can cheer for the schools competing in the Grupo Especial, or Special Group. 

Costumes play an enormous role in the competition. Each school chooses its own theme and designs costumes and choreography to match. The need for movement and to stay cool in Rio’s sweltering heat have seen costumes generally evolve to be lighter and more skin-baring, with most schools selecting a bikini-style foundation for their attire. Individual details, like sequins, feathers, crystals, and jewelry are entirely up to the schools. 

The Rio Carnival Floats

parade float with harlequin sculpture
An example of a float designed for Rio’s Samba parades.


Schools are also expected to design a parade float, which is equally elaborate and supports the chosen theme.

Accordingly, there are two wings to the Samba parades. The Ground Wing features dancers and musicians that surround the float, and the audience is invited to participate at this level. In order to participate in the parade, you must choose a school to support and purchase a corresponding costume.

The Float Wing is the area on top of the float where the most talented dancers can be seen tossing flowers at the crowd, waving, and grinning-all while never missing a step of their incredible choreography. 

The dancers of the Float Wing are also adorned in the most intricate costumes. It is estimated that a single float costume can cost as much as $1,000 or more. Each is hand made, incorporating the finest embroidery, beading, and other details. 

Carnival as a Political Platform

The samba schools are intimately connected to the favelas, or slums, of Rio. The first schools began in these neighborhoods in the 1920s, and they continue to represent a majority of the competitors. 

Carnival is a unique opportunity to cross arbitrary social boundaries and highlight socio-economic issues. Rio’s most impoverished citizens are the stars of the show, and they use this spotlight to reiterate the ongoing plight of the city’s underserved populations. 

This sentiment can be seen in past themes, which have not been shy in underscoring systemic flaws. In 2018, for example, the Beija Flor school won with their theme that explored Brazil’s “monstrous” side, shedding light on social and political inequalities within the nation. 

In 2019, one of Rio’s oldest schools, the Estaceo Primera de Mangueira offered their theme of “History for Lulling Adults,” which sought to pay tribute to “negros, indos, pobres” and other historically underrepresented groups of Brazil.  

Rio Carnival 2022 Dates

Rio Carnival festivities for 2022 have been postponed to Wednesday, April 20, through Saturday, April 30. This is to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 omicron variant, which has seen spikes recently in South America. 

Recipe for Gourmet Brazilian Pasta Salad

Brazilian Macarronese With Bacon and Dijon Dressing

fusilli pasta salad in white bowl

If Brazil and the American Midwest had a baby, it might be this fusilli pasta salad. Loaded with delicious and comforting ingredients, macarronese is a staple side dish that Brazilians like to bring to churrascos (cookouts) or potlucks. 

The word “macarronese” is an amalgam of the Portuguese words for pasta (macarrao) and mayonnaise (maionese). There are plenty of both in this recipe, so it is a fair description. Traditional recipes also include diced ham, shredded carrots, peas, olives, corn, and onions. 

The wonderful thing about pasta salad is that you can customize it with virtually any ingredient. Our version incorporates many of the traditional favorites, but we have substituted the diced ham with crispy, crumbly bacon and replaced the diced onion with fresh chives. The addition of tart and sweet cherry tomatoes gives another depth of flavor. 

It wouldn’t be macarronese with mayo, but we have reduced the amount slightly and cut it with a dressing made from shallots, olive oil, lemon juice and dijon mustard. 

In America, we typically use macaroni for pasta salad, which you can certainly use in this recipe. We do find, however, that the twists and turns of fusilli allow for a more generous coating and absorption of the flavors. 

Gourmet Brazilian Pasta Salad (Macarronese with Bacon and Dijon Dressing)


1 lb (16 oz) packaged fusilli noodles

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup peas, frozen or fresh

12 slices of thick cut bacon

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

3 tablespoons fresh chives, diced

1 shallot, minced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

¾ cup mayonnaise



  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add your pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain and put pasta in a large, heat-safe bowl.
  2. While the pasta is still warm, add your halved cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, and peas. The residual heat will soften the ingredients and cook them a little. 
  3. Cook the bacon until crisp. Crumble into bite-sized pieces and set aside on paper towels to drain. 
  4. In the same pan you used to cook the bacon, reserve 1 tsp or so of the drippings and discard the rest. Add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and cook your minced shallots until soft and translucent. 
  5. Add the oil and cooked shallots to a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice, one more tablespoon of olive oil, and the dijon mustard. 
  6. Pour your dressing over the fusili pasta and vegetables and mix to coat. 
  7. Let the noodles cool to room temperature, then add your bacon, mayonnaise, and fresh chives. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly.  

Serve at room temperature or chilled. 

What to Serve with Brazilian Pasta Salad?

This is a filling side dish that Brazilians like to serve at churrascos, or barbecues. Brazilian barbecues tend not to feature full plates of hamburgers and hot dogs in buns. Rather, thin cuts of meat are served as they are ready and sliced onto guests plates. 

One of Brazil’s favorite cuts of meat is picanha. It cooks beautifully over a charcoal or gas grill and, seasoned simply with rock salt, is a perfect accompaniment to your pasta salad. You can find picanha at most specialty butchers or order it online at Texas de Brazil’s Butcher Shop. 


Sausage Stuffed Brazilian Cheese Bread

Jump to Recipe

Brazilian cheese bread in a bowl with cup of black coffee

Cheese bread in Brazil is a national dish that can be found in almost any bakery. More of a puff than a roll, the pao de queijo is similar in flavor and texture to the French gougère. 

While pao de queijo is traditionally eaten at breakfast with a cup of coffee, it can be enjoyed any time of day. Street vendors and bakeries often sell variations on the traditional recipe, offering cheese breads stuffed with fruit, vegetables, and meat.

In its purest form, Brazilian cheese bread is a bite-sized, crispy, chewy, gooey piece of Heaven. It is all-too easy to eat six or seven without batting an eye. Luckily, pão de queijo is relatively simple to make at home, so you don’t have to worry about running out. 

Brazilian cheese bread requires only a few ingredients, the most unusual of which in America is the cassava flour. However, this is readily found in most grocery stores. Another version you may be more familiar with is “tapioca flour.” Both tapioca and cassava flour come from the cassava root. The main difference is that tapioca has a slightly higher starch content, which makes it a superior thickener. 

This version adds a savory stuffing made from Brazilian sausage, or linguiça. Linguiças are made from minced pork and calabrese peppers, giving them a unique, zesty flavor that perfectly compliments the sweet, mild taste of the cheese. The taste is something akin to sausage rolls, but more delicate.

Brazilian sausage is available raw or smoked. We are using the smoked version in this recipe, since it adds another depth of flavor and makes it that much easier, since we won’t need to cook and drain the sausage. 

Sausage Stuffed Brazilian Cheese Bread


16 oz tapioca or cassava flour
8 oz whole milk
2 oz vegetable oil
1 ½ cups grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1.5-2 tsp salt
½ pound smoked Brazilian sausage


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Chop your smoked sausage so it is roughly minced. 
  3. Put milk, oil, and salt into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  4. Once the milk mixture has come to a boil, put it in a stand mixer along with the tapioca flour. Mix on medium speed until everything is evenly incorporated. At this point, the batter will be sticky and have some lumps.
  5. Let the dough cool for five minutes, then add the eggs one at a time on medium speed. The dough will look a little smoother now.
  6. Once the eggs are mixed in, add your cheese and minced Brazilian sausage and mix just to combine.
  7. Shape the dough into 2” balls and put them a few inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. A 2” ice cream scoop makes measuring very easy. Also, if you find the dough is sticking to your hands, wet them with a little cold water or use some vegetable oil.
  8. Bake the stuffed cheese puffs in the oven until they are lightly golden, which takes about 30 minutes. Enjoy fresh from the oven. 

Freezer tip: these snacks are very convenient to have on-hand for family get togethers or Game Day. Make the dough balls ahead of time and allow them to freeze on a cookie sheet. Then put the frozen cheese bread in a freezer safe bag. When you are ready to eat, cook them just the same as you would fresh. They will keep for up to three months. 

Try Brazilian Sausage and Pao de Queijo at Texas de Brazil

Let us do the cooking for you! Visit one of our 50+ locations to try delicious, authentic Brazilian cuisine. Our cheese bread is a customer favorite, and our own brand of Brazilian sausages have a light, sweet heat you won’t find anywhere else. Book your table today or go online to our Butcher Shop to have some of our best cuts of meat, including our smoked sausages, delivered right to your door. 

Most Popular Foods Eaten for Rio Carnival

Carnival is undeniably Brazil’s biggest celebration, and Rio’s version draws millions of visitors every year. For ten days straight, the city literally vibrates with samba music, food, dancing, and non-stop partying. 

Since much of the celebration occurs outside, street food is a popular choice during Carnival. Vendors selling delicious snacks and hand-held treats can be found on every corner. You’ll find virtually every kind of food, but there are a few especial favorites you won’t want to miss.

Pão de Queijo 

pao de queijo puffs in silver bowl
Brazilian cheese bread, called pao de queijo, is made with cassava flour and various cheeses like mozzarella and parmesan.


These crispy, gooey morsels are Brazil’s answer to French cheese puffs, or gougeres. While traditionally eaten for breakfast, they are just as popular as a street snack during Carnival. The puffs are made with tapioca flour and plenty of cheese, like mozzarella or parmesan. You can eat them as is or try a version stuffed with sweet jam. Fair warning: you won’t be able to eat just one, so save room. 

Paos de queijo  are also ridiculously easy to make at home. Try our Brazilian Cheese Bread Recipe here


coxinha chicken croquettes on white plate
Coxinha croquettes in the traditional tear drop shape.


Coxinhas are, essentially, chicken croquettes. These delicious nuggets originated in Sao Paulo, where they were made to resemble a chicken thigh. They are traditionally made by filling wheat dough with a mixture of shredded chicken, cheese, onions, and herbs. The dough is molded into a tear-drop shape, dipped in batter, coated with bread crumbs, then deep fried until golden and crispy. 


Brazilian churros filled with dulce de leche.


Brazilian churros are similar to those of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. Sweet yeast dough is piped in an oblong shape and fried in hot oil until crispy, then coated in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Brazilians take the sweetness to the next level by filling or coating their churros with doce de leite, also known as dulce de leche. 

Bolinhos de Bacalhau

round brazilian fish croquettes
Bolinhos de Bacalhau are made from salted cod, vegetables, and spices then deep fried.


Bolinhos de Bacalhau are another type of croquette enjoyed by Brazilians. This version is made with salted cod, potatoes, eggs, onions, and spices. The mixture is shaped into balls and deep fried. The delicious cod fritters can be eaten on their own as a snack or accompanied with rice and vegetables for a satisfying meal.


baiana frying acaraje in traditional wok
Acaraje is a specialty of Bahia, but it is appreciated in Rio as well.


While traditionally associated with the Baianas of Bahia, acarajés are also widely available in the markets of Rio. The acarajé shell is prepared by pounding blackeyed peas, onions, salt and pepper. The mixture is molded into a scone or disc and deep fried in dende, or palm oil. The crispy fried shell is split open and stuffed with various fillings, like shrimp and vegetables. It is topped with vatapa, a spicy nut paste, and served with a fresh salad. 


meats being grilled in traditional Brazilian churrasco style
Picanha and other delicious meats are spit-roasted over a flame grill.


Brazil’s favorite cut of meat isn’t only available in churrascarias. You can easily find vendors roasting and grilling all sorts of meats and sausages, including the beefy and tender picanha. The meat is simply seasoned with rock salt, skewered, and flame-grilled to medium rare perfection. Tender slices are carved directly from the skewered roasts for customers to enjoy on the go. 


Brazilian chocolate Brigadeiros rolled in sprinkles
Brigadeiros are made from just three ingredients and can be topped with sprinkles, nuts, or coconut flakes


These chocolate treats derive their name from Brigadier General Eduardo Gomes, a prominent political figure of the 1940s. They became a popular dessert during this time, since they were cheap to make and did not require rationed ingredients like eggs or milk. 

Condensed milk, butter, and cocoa powder are all that is required to make Brigadeiros, but today, they are often embellished with sprinkles, pistachios, almonds, or coconut flakes. 

Visit Texas de Brazil to Try More Traditional Favorites

Texas de Brazil has over 50 locations in the US and overseas. Visit one of our restaurants to try more delicious Brazilian favorites and experience unparalleled customer service in a lively atmosphere. 

Or, try your hand at cooking gaucho-style at home. Visit our online Butcher Shop to choose from an incredible selection of prime cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and our famous Brazilian sausages. 

Brazil’s Favorite Soft Drink

Guarana Soda

The ripe guarana berries with their black seeds resemble human eyeballs. 

Guaraná is a flowering plant that produces berries similar to the coffee plant. It is native to the Amazon rainforest and has been used for centuries by Brazilian Indians as a source of energy. The seeds of the ripe guarana fruit are used to make a sweet syrup. This syrup is the primary ingredient in guaraná soda, a national favorite in Brazil. 

Origins of Guarana Consumption

The indigenous peoples of the Amazon, in particular the Satere Mawe Indians, were aware of the energizing and medicinal properties of guaraná long before it became a soft drink. 

In 1669, Father João Felippe Bettenford observed how members of the tribe would consume the fruit prior to hunting. A drink made from powdered seeds mixed with water gave the hunters enough energy to feel satisfied and hunt all day. Father Bettenford also reported that the plant was often used in the reduction of fevers and headache. 

History of Guarana Soda

Like Coca-Cola, guarana soda was first developed by a physician from Rio de Janeiro who sought to market its medicinal properties. A soft drink factory by the name of Guarana Cyrilla launched in 1906 to produce the soda on a bigger scale. Unfortunately, the naturally bitter taste proved to be unappealing to the masses, and this first endeavor was unsuccessful.

A second manufacturer, Guarana Antarctica, patented a formula that removed the astringent taste from the soda in 1921. The result was a sweet, floral and fruity soda that remains extremely popular today. This particular brand is produced in only four countries worldwide: Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, and Japan

What Else is Guarana Used For?

Guarana has many properties that have made it a popular ingredient not just in the soft drink, but in other products as well. The seeds are naturally high in caffeine, containing up four times more of the stimulant than coffee beans. This is why you will often find “guarana” on the list of ingredients for popular energy drinks, including Red Bull and Monster.

Guarana is also said to contain medicinal properties. While definitive studies are still lacking to support specific health claims, guarana has demonstrated antimicrobial effects and high levels of antioxidants. This may lend credibility to reports of improved complexion, heart health, and possible anti-cancer effects. 

What Does Guarana Soda Taste Like?

Most describe the taste of Guarana Antarctica as tart and crisp, like an apple, and with a sweeter, berry-like after taste. It is less sweet than typical soft drinks, with 36 grams of sugar per 12 oz can (compared to 39 grams in a 12 oz can of Coca Cola). 

There are 140 kcals in one can, which is comparable to a can of regular Coke. Despite guarana’s natural caffeine levels, Guarana Antarctica actually has less caffeine than Coca Cola or Dr. Pepper. 

Nutrition in Guarana Soda vs Coca Cola

Serving Size: 12 oz can Guarana Antarctica Coca-Cola
kCal 140 140
Sugar 36 g 39 g
Caffeine  30 mg 34 mg

A case of Guarana Antarctica available on amazon.com

Where Can You Buy Guarana Soda?

Guarana Antarctica is widely available in the United States at chain grocery stores, including Walmart, Safeway, and Sprouts. It can also be easily ordered online. It is delicious over ice or as a mixer in a Guaraninha, a bubbly version of the Caipirinha. In true Brazilian fashion, enjoy your drink with plenty of delicious food while watching a football match.  

Come to Texas de Brazil for an Authentic Brazilian Experience

For more Brazilian customs, history, and recipes, check out our blog page. For a true taste of Brazil, visit one of our 50+ locations and enjoy unparalleled cuisine and hospitality. Or, bring the tastes of Brazil right to your door with one of our hand-curated butcher box grill packages

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