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Pão de Queijo | © Samory Santos/ WikimediaCC
Pão de Queijo | © Samory Santos/ WikimediaCC
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10 Local Street Food Dishes to Try in São Paulo

Picture of Lise Alves
Updated: 8 February 2017
São Paulo is known for having the top restaurants in the country and for serving the very best in gourmet foods from all over the world. But São Paulo residents are also known to rely on street food in their day-to-day lifestyle. Here is a list of the most popular street food items in the city to try on your next trip to Brazil.

Pastel

The deep-fried puff pastry is a must-try for anyone visiting one of the innumerable fruit and vegetable markets scattered throughout the city. The pastel stand is usually at one of the ends of the market so that customers stop by before starting their shopping or after they have ended it. The pastry’s fillings may vary from cheese, pepperoni, ham and pizza toppings, but what most find interesting is the amount of air that is actually inside the large pastry.

Pastel © Michael Swan/Flickr
Pastel | © Michael Swan/Flickr

Acarajé

A traditional pastry from the state of Bahia, the acarajé has become a city favourite due to the high number of migrants from that Northeastern state. Made with black-eyed peas and fried in palm oil the acarajé is then opened and stuffed with seafood or chicken. Making them at home is almost always a failure, for they say that to make a good acarajé you must be a Bahia native.

Acaraje © Claudia Baiana/ Wikimedia Commons CC
Acaraje | © Claudia Baiana/ Wikimedia Commons CC

Pão de Queijo

Although they come from the state of Minas Gerais, the pão de queijo, or baked cheese puffs are a Brazilian institution. You’d be hard pressed not to find these small balls in any bakery, café, delicatessen or bar you enter in São Paulo.

Pão de Queijo © Samory Santos Wikimedia CC
Pão de Queijo | © Samory Santos/ WikimediaCC

Hot Dog

The hot dogs served in São Paulo are no ordinary dogs – they are a meal in itself. With mayo, cheese, and other assorted condiments – and topped off with, yes, mashed potatoes – it is common to see an outsider surprised as they receive one of these here in the city.

Hot Dog © Romerito Santos /Flickr
Hot Dog | © Romerito Santos /Flickr

Mortadella Sandwich

Warm or cold, with cheese or with vinaigrette, or even by itself the Mortadella (Bologna) sandwich is a must for anyone visiting one of the stands in the São Paulo Municipal Market. The sandwich is an institution in the city, and you’d be hard to find someone who does not eat it on a regular basis.

Mortadela sandwich © Claudio Vieira/ Flickr
Mortadella sandwich | © Claudio Vieira/ Flickr

Açai

The tiny, deep purple fruit from the Northern region of Brazil first became popular with sports aficionados, who ate the fruit blended with banana and guarana syrup, due to its high protein and vitamin properties. In reality, the açai ‘paste’ in the North accompanies the main meal, along with beans and rice. Here in São Paulo – as in most of the Southeast – açai has become a dessert, served sometimes in the form of ice cream or with a fruit topping.

Açai with banana and granola © Ben Tavener/Flickr
Açai with banana and granola | © Ben Tavener/Flickr

Tapioca

Tapioca is one of the most versatile street foods found in São Paulo today. A tiny disk made of manioc flour pressed together can be stuffed with either savoury fillings such as ham, eggs and cheese, or sweet fillings to create a dessert with the likes of shredded coconut, bananas and chocolate or condensed milk syrup on top.

Tapioca pastry | © Anisio Silva/Flickr
Tapioca pastry | © Anisio Silva/Flickr

Esfiha

With the esfiha, city residents will have an eternal debt to pay to the Middle Eastern colony who settled in São Paulo. In addition to being delicious, the esfiha, a breaded pastry, is a relatively simple food to make, cheap and stuffed with a variety of fillings. Unlike the traditional Middle Eastern pastry, which is filled only with meat, Brazilian-style esfihas may be stuffed with cheese, chicken, or vegetables.

Esfiha © Carioca Wikimedia CC
Esfiha | © Carioca Wikimedia CC

Coxinha

Next to the pão de queijo, coxinhas are the absolute favourite street food for São Paulo residents. The fried breaded pastry – served in the shape of a tear-drop – is filled with chicken and cheese, or just chicken.

coxinhas © Thomas Hobbs Flickr
Coxinhas | © Thomas Hobbs Flickr

Churros

Originally created in Spain, Churros today are a favourite sweet pastry in most of Latin America, and São Paulo is no exception. Throughout the city you’ll see small churros stands on corners, parks, subway entrances and next to schools. São Paulo churros, however, are in their majority either filled with crème or condensed milk syrup and sprinkled with sugar.

Churros © Mark Mitchell /Flickr
Churros | © Mark Mitchell /Flickr