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Carne Seca (Brazilian Beef Jerky)

Shredded carne seca in a white bowl on tea towel

From the parma hams of Spain to the salted cod of Scandinavia, meat preservation has existed in cultures around the globe since ancient times. Prior to refrigeration, it was a crucial means of making food last longer by preventing spoilage from bacteria and other contaminants. In Brazil, a ration of dried beef was a staple for the gauchos, who required fast and shelf-stable ingredients while driving cattle across the country. Known simply as carne seca (“dried beef”), this Brazilian version of beef jerky remains popular both as a snack and an ingredient. Let’s take a closer look at the history of carne seca in Brazilian cuisine, how it is made, and how it differs from North American beef jerky. 

Carne Seca in Brazil

The first iterations of carne seca in South America were known as charqui, a Quechua term that referred to various types of meat, mostly llama, that were cut in thin strips and dried in the sun. “Charqui” is, in fact, where the word “jerky” comes from. 

There are variations of carne seca according to region. Beef has replaced llama as the most common type of carne seca, although other meats can be used. All Brazilian beef jerky recipes typically involve salt to draw out the moisture and speed the drying process. More or less salt is used depending on local tastes, and other seasonings may be added, such as pepper, and ground herbs. 

What Type of Beef is Used for Carne Seca?

You can use any kind of beef you like to make homemade carne seca. However, it is best to use a leaner cut, such as a top round, bottom round, or flank steak. Picanha will also work beautifully, since the majority of its fat exists in a thick cap on top of very lean muscle. 

North American vs Brazilian Beef Jerky

While carne seca is, indeed, a kind of beef jerky, it has some key differences with its American counterpart. In the US, we think of beef jerky as bite-sized, fairly thick pieces of salted, dried beef that you eat with your hands on the go. The meat often has a smoky or peppery flavor, and is rarely used in cooking.

In Brazil, by contrast, carne seca is utilized predominantly as an ingredient in main courses, such as feijoada and arroz carreteiro. It is usually air dried, as opposed to American jerky, which can be smoked. Prior to using in a recipe, carne seca is typically rinsed to remove excess salt then rehydrated.

The appearance of Brazilian beef jerky is also different. It is often shredded finely, especially when accompanying a side of Brazilian rice and beans. This gives it a more satisfying texture that is much less chewy than larger pieces would be. 

Can You Make Carne Seca at Home?

Absolutely! To make carne seca at home, you basically need three ingredients: beef, salt, and sun. It is also best done in a fairly dry climate, since humidity will attract more pests (even with all that salt). Otherwise, you can use a dehydrator or a Biltong box (see below). 

Homemade Carne Seca Basic Recipe

1. Prepare the Beef

Trim excess fat away from your cut of beef. Then, place it on a baking sheet in the freezer for around 15 minutes until it is partially frozen. This will make it easier to slice into strips.

2. Cut the Beef

Cut the beef in very thin strips (3-4 mm) against the grain. If you have a friend at your local butcher’s, you could ask them to do this for you with the deli slicer and save you a lot of time.

3. Salt the Beef

For every 8 oz of beef you have, add 1 tablespoon of salt. Mix with your hands to be sure all the strips are evenly coated.

4. Cure the Beef

Cover your salted beef strips and refrigerate them for four hours. 

5. Dry the Beef

Now, for the drying. You have a couple options for this. You can be a real gaucho and attempt to sun-dry your beef by hanging it up somehow. A clothesline can come in handy for this method. Simply drape the thin strips over the meat and let the sun do the work. This will take several days and can most certainly invite pests, like birds and insects. Unless you are able to maintain fairly constant vigilance, we recommend either a dehydrator or a Biltong box. 

If using a dehydrator, you can go high and fast or low and slow. We prefer the low and slow method, which sets the dehydrator at 105 degrees Fahrenheit and slowly dries the meat over 20 hours or so. 

The Biltong box is closer to the traditional method, since it involves air drying; but it is protected from pests inside a box. The Biltong box is actually named after a kind of preserved meat eaten in South Africa. Buying one online can set you back a pretty penny, but if you are handy, you can make your own using stuff you probably already have around the house. 

The length of time for drying carne seca in a Biltong box will vary from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on how thick you’ve cut it. With the thickness we recommended, however, it shouldn’t take longer than 72 hours. 

6. Shred the Beef

Brazilian beef jerky has a signature, shredded texture. This can be easily achieved by pulsing your carne seca in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until your jerky achieves a fluffy, shredded appearance (kind of like the hairs on a coconut husk). 

Where to Buy Carne Seca?

If you want to save yourself the trouble and simply buy carne seca, it is easily done in the US. It is quite popular in northern Mexican cuisine; as such, many mercado’s will carry pre-packaged shredded beef jerky. You can also buy it online, if you are so inclined. 

If you are looking for a non-shredded version of carne seca that seamlessly blends American and Brazilian tastes, try Texas de Brazil’s all new line of beef jerky. Choose from smoky original or spicy, and indulge your taste buds in a truly delicious and dangerously snackable jerky. Visit our online market to order yours today. 

Chicken Milanesa (Crispy Breaded Chicken Cutlets)

Chicken milanesa with a lemon wedge and fried potatoes

When something is prepared “a milanesa” in Brazil, it generally means some kind of meat has been pounded thin, breaded, and fried crisp. Americans have similar recipes that use this technique, such as chicken fried steak and the borrowed German dish, schnitzel. Brazilians tend to favor poultry and beef over pork, so today we will be making chicken milanesa. Served simply with a squeeze of lemon or on top of a toasted brioche bun, chicken milanesa is an easy comfort food dish that is perfect for a busy weeknight meal. 

Why is it Called Chicken Milanesa?

In English, Chicken a Milanesa is known as “Milanese Chicken” or “Milan Chicken.” This is because the particular dredging and frying style has origins in Milan, Italy. Traditionally, veal was the meat of choice, but beef, pork, and chicken are also popular options. 

The Milanese method of preparing fried meat is a series of steps: 

  1. The meat is pounded thin to tenderize and allow it to cook quickly and evenly.
  2. The pounded cutlet is dredged in flour.
  3. The meat is dipped in a beaten egg mixture.
  4. The meat is dipped into seasoned breadcrumbs.
  5. The meat is pan-fried in oil until crisp and golden.

Vegetarian Milanese Chicken

Again, Milanese-style refers more to the dredging method and less to the actual protein used. This means you can easily substitute vegetarian options and fry them the same way you would chicken, beef, etc. 

Eggplant works well as a substitute, since it has a firm texture. You could also use firm tofu or tempeh; however, when using vegetables, soybean products, or other vegetarian options, skip the step where you pound it flat. You’ll just wind up with a crumbly or slimy mess that does not lend itself to dredging and frying. 

Sauce for Chicken Milanesa

Chicken Milanese is traditionally served with a lemon wedge. It is a refreshing way to cut through what might otherwise be a somewhat greasy dish. You can elevate that twist of citrus by incorporating lemon juice and a little zest in a creamy, tangy butter sauce:

Chicken Milanesa Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

3 oz unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pats
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz dry white wine
8 oz chicken stock
8 oz heavy cream
Juice of two lemons
1 tsp lemon zest
½ tsp salt (more to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper

Simply melt one pat of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the garlic until fragrant, then add in the wine, stock, heavy cream, salt, and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower to a high simmer. When the mixture has thickened, add in the remaining butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir until the butter is melted. 

Milanese Chicken Sandwich

If you want to use your breaded chicken a milanesa for a sandwich, do so by all means! Lightly toast a brioche or potato bun and spread a little mayo or aioli on it. Top the chicken with some fresh lettuce and a thick slice of tomato, and you’ve got a chicken sandwich to rival your favorite fast food place. 

Panko vs Italian Breadcrumbs for Milanese Chicken

As an Italian recipe, traditional chicken milanesa calls for Italian-style breadcrumbs. However, we like to incorporate a little panko as well for added crunch. Panko breadcrumbs are much larger than their finer, Italian counterparts; adding them thickens the crust a bit and makes it all the crispier.

Recipe for Chicken Milanesa


Serves 4

4 chicken breast cutlets (around 6 oz each)
½  cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
½ cup panko
½ cup all purpose flour
1 oz freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
2 large eggs
1 tsp lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil


  1. Pound the chicken cutlets to a thickness of about ¼”. An easy way to do this is to place one on a cutting board, cover it with cling film, and pound with a meat tenderizer. Season each cutlet with salt and pepper.
  2. Set up your chicken milanesa dredging station: put the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and parmesan cheese in one shallow bowl and mix to combine; put the eggs in another bowl and whisk thoroughly; finally, put the flour into another shallow dish and season lightly with salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
  3. Put around one cup of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet and heat over medium high heat. To see if it is ready, toss a few breadcrumbs in. If they sizzle right away, the oil is hot enough. The oil should be shimmering, not smoking. If this is the case, remove it from the heat and let it cool down a little.
  4. Take one of your chicken cutlets and coat it with the flour mixture. Shake it to remove any excess, then dip it into the egg mixture. Let any extra egg drip off before finally coating the chicken in the breadcrumb and cheese mixture. Repeat this process with each of your cutlets.
  5. Fry the cutlets in the oil until they are crisp and golden brown (about 3 minutes per side). Transfer them to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil. 
  6. Serve your beautiful chicken milanesa with a fresh lemon wedge or with your lemon garlic cream sauce (see above). Enjoy!

More Great Brazilian Recipes to Try:


Capoeira: The Dynamic Martial Art of Brazil

man practicing Capoeira in traditional white pants

Celebrate Capoeiristas in August

August 3 is Capoeirista Day in Brazil. It is a day specifically dedicated to celebrating practitioners of capoeira, the national martial art of Brazil. A unique blend of dance, acrobatics, and self-defense, this captivating art form has become a symbol of national identity. In honor of Capoeirista Day, let’s take a closer look at capoeira’s rich history and traditions. 

Origins of Capoeira

Capoeira originated in Brazil during the 16th century when African slaves were brought to the country by Portuguese colonizers. The slaves brought with them their cultural traditions, including food, music, language, and even combat techniques. As combat practice was forbidden among the slaves, it was often cleverly disguised as a form of dance. 

Capoeira is believed to be specifically descended from a ritual combat technique known as “Engolo” or “Ngolo.” This is a fighting style practiced by many tribes in southern Angola. Like capoeira, it relies heavily on inverted positions (one or more hand touching the ground) and is designed to be especially useful when one is outnumbered. 

The exploitation of capoeiristas by warlords and other criminals in the late 19th century led to it being officially banned in 1890. Anyone caught practicing capoeira would be punished severely. 

The Re-Emergence of Brazil’s Martial Art

By the 1920s, masters of Capoeira attempted to bypass the ban by incorporating elements from gymnastics and other martial arts, such as judo. It was presented as a form of self defense, rather than combat technique. In 1920, Anibal “Zuma” Burlamaqui penned the first official manual about the instruction and technique of Capoeira.

Unfortunately, the attempts to hide Capoeira from the authorities resulted in it being significantly pared down from its original roots. Manuel dos Reis Machado recognized the issue, and founded the first official school of Capoeira in 1932. Although the school taught traditional Capoeira techniques, that name was not mentioned in the school’s title. Instead, it was called “Regional fighting of Bahia,” to avoid policy scrutiny. 

Machado founded an additional school in 1937 and, in large part due to his efforts, capoeira was legalized once again in 1940. Machado was affectionately known as “Mestra Bimba” by his students, and remains a capoeira legend to this day. 

Techniques Used in Capoeira

Capoeira is a dynamic art form that combines elements of martial arts, acrobatics, dance, and music. It is characterized by fluid movements, spins, kicks, and sweeps. Often performed in a roda, a circle formed by participants, capoeira involves two players engaging in a rhythmic dialogue of attacks and defensive maneuvers. The roda is surrounded by musicians playing traditional instruments, such as the berimbau, pandeiro, and atabaque, creating an electrifying atmosphere.

The ginga is a signature move in capoeira. It is a rocking movement designed to both keep the capoerista in constant motion, and to allow them to trick their sparring partner with a combination of feints and fakes. Most strikes in capoeira involve the legs. For example, tesouras are hits to the knee, and resteiras are full leg sweeps. 

Blocking is not common in capoeira, as it is considered a last resort. Rather, capoeiristas favor dodging movements collectively known as esquivas. These can be quite acrobatic. The au, for example, is a cartwheel-like maneuver that can be used to regain balance or avoid a takedown.

Traditions of the Capoeirista

Capoeira has its own traditions and codes of conduct. The mestre, the highest rank in capoeira, leads the group and guides students in their training. Respect for elders, known as “Axé,” is a fundamental principle of capoeira, as it acknowledges the experience and wisdom passed down through generations. Additionally, capoeira fosters a strong sense of community, promoting inclusivity and friendship among practitioners.

Uniform and Attire

The traditional uniform worn by capoeiristas is known as the “abada.” This term refers to a pair of loose-fitting white pants. Modern abadas typically incorporate the school’s emblem. Today, many schools do not require a specific uniform, and any athletic clothing may be acceptable. 

In addition to the abada, capoeiristas may wear accessories such as a corda (cord) around their waist, indicating their level of proficiency. There are 8 colors, with transitional cords in between:  yellow, orange, red, blue, green, purple, brown, and black. The corda serves as a visual representation of the practitioner’s dedication and progress within the art.

Are their Female Capoeiristas?

Of course! Women have been involve in capoeira since its inception, albeit in smaller numbers and not without significant prejudice. While it is not uncommon today to see women in the roda, it has taken a good deal of work to equalize the sport. You can read more about the fascinating history of women in capoeira here.

Capoeira Around the World

Capoeira is more than just a martial art; it is a cultural expression deeply intertwined with the history and identity of Brazil. Its unique beauty, complexity, and efficacy has a universal appeal. Today, capoeiristas can be found all over the world. 

Capoeirista Day celebrates the vibrancy, diversity, and unity of capoeiristas worldwide. If you know a practitioner, be sure to honor them on August 3 by attending a workshop, demonstration, or other event dedicated to this unique art form. And by all means, try an intro class! (Consult your healthcare provider beforehand, of course.)

More About Brazilian Culture and History:

Smoked Mac n Cheese (Maccaronada com Requeijao)

smoked Brazilian mac n cheese with penne noodles

Smoked Pasta with Brazilian Cream Cheese

When it comes to comfort food, few dishes rival good, old-fashioned mac n cheese. Creamy, gooey, and flavorful, it is a perfect meal on its own, and a glorious accompaniment to churrasco. If you thought you couldn’t elevate  this staple dish, any further, prepare to be amazed:mac n cheese can be smoked right along with your favorite proteins. The smoke adds a whole new element to an already flavor-packed and decadent pasta dish. What’s more, it’s easy! Read on for a fabulous recipe for smoked mac n cheese. We have a feeling you won’t be going back to baked any time soon. 

Mac n Cheese in Brazil

Brazilians love cheese, so it’s no surprise that mac n cheese is nearly as popular there as it is here in the US. Of course, there are a few distinctly Brazilian ingredients that set the dish apart from its American cousin. The cheeses are a couple of national favorites you’ll find in nearly every dish that calls for dairy: mozzarella and requeijao. These milder cheeses are ideal when making a smoked mac n cheese, since the flavors won’t overpower that smoky element. 

Brazilian mac n cheese is also typically made with penne, not elbow macaroni. The grooves in penne allow the creamy sauce to fully coat each noodle, and the bigger size keeps the noodles a little more separated than in traditional mac n cheese. This is definitely more of a pasta than a casserole, although Brazilians don’t shy away from baked dishes either. 

Finally, our smoked Brazilian mac n cheese incorporates a little tomato goodness. Topped with parmesan cheese, the final product has an italian flare not dissimilar to baked ziti, but far creamier. 

Can You Freeze Smoked Mac n Cheese

Sure. Frozen smoked mac n cheese will keep for up to six weeks in your freezer. For best results, defrost or fully thaw the mixture before re-heating. This allows the sauce to melt evenly. You may need to add a little fresh cream to smooth out lumps that may have formed while freezing. 

Cheese Substitutes for Mac n Cheese

Requeijao is not commonly found in stores in the US. Luckily, you can easily make homemade Brazilian cream cheese. If this is a little more effort than you’d like, you can substitute American cream cheese. 

We are sticking with mozzarella cheese for our smoked mac n cheese. However, there are a few different cheeses that would be very well suited to a little smoke flavor: gouda, provolone, havarti, or, of course, cheddar. 

What Wood Chips for Smoked Mac n Cheese?

Mild wood chips are best for a good, but not overwhelming, smoke flavor. Try cherry, pecan, or applewood chips. 

Recipe for Smoked Mac n Cheese (Maccaroneda com Requeijao)


1 lb dried penne (16 oz)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream or whole milk
1 cup requeijão (Brazilian cream cheese)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 oz shredded or grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)


  1. Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add in the penne and cook until al-dente. Strain and toss with a little olive oil. Reserve ¼ cup or so of the pasta water. 
  3. While the pasta cooks, heat a large, heat-safe skillet over medium heat (cast iron works well).
  4. Add in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Saute the onion until translucent. Then add in the garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds, just until fragrant. 
  5. Add in tomato sauce and a splash of the reserved pasta water. Add a few twists of freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt (we used 1.5 tsp). Bring the mixture to a high simmer, then reduce to medium, cover and cook until it has thickened (around 5 minutes).
  6. Now, stir in the heavy cream. Heat the mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat.
  7. Add in your mozzarella cheese and cream cheese, stirring constantly off the heat until all the cheese is melted. 
  8. When the sauce has come together, pour in the penne noodles and stir until evenly coated. 
  9. Top the smoked mac n cheese with the shredded parmesan cheese.
  10. Transfer the pan to the smoker and “bake” for 45 minutes to one hour. Keep an eye on the mixture so it doesn’t dry out. 
  11. Top finished smoked mac n cheese with fresh parsley. Enjoy!

More Great Brazilian Recipes to Try:


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