The most famous cheese in Minas Gerais is the queijo Minas, a soft, white cheese that is sometimes eaten for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. You can find this cheese throughout Brazil, yet it tastes better and is produced slightly different in Minas Gerais. First, the cheese is firmer in Minas and far less watery than in other states. Secondly, it is often made unpasteurized in Minas, which gives it a distinct, fresh flavor. Other cheeses to look out for are requeijão and Catupiry-brand cheese – both soft, spreadable kinds of cheese- and also queijo canastra which is a firmer cheese.
Farofa is a Brazilian staple and is fried cassava flour served alongside rice and beans. ‘Andu‘ is a kind of brown bean, sometimes known as a ‘pigeon pea’ in English and is full of protein. Farofa de andu is a well-seasoned mix of toasted cassava flour and andu beans and, despite its apparent simplicity, is surprisingly moreish.
A more complex version of farofa de andu is feijão tropeiro, which is a mix of toasted cassava flour and beans (usually brown or red beans) with additional extras such as sausage, chopped bacon, chopped eggs, and fried kale. It can seem like a meal in itself yet its served alongside rice and meat, usually beef or chicken.
The ultimate comfort food is this dish. It can be found throughout Brazil, yet visitors will appreciate the boundless levels of generosity that mineiros (people from Minas Gerais) have when it comes to portion sizes. Carne-de-sol is salted beef that is left to cure for a couple of days in the sun and is typically served with roasted cassava (mandioca) covered in butter. Its high fat and carb content may not be considered the healthiest of meals, yet its feel-good effect is undeniable.
The state’s capital city is full of cozy restaurants and intriguing markets that showcase the best of Minas Gerais food. Try the picanha (a cut of beef) served with a fried egg, chips, and fried banana at Cantina do Lucas, or enjoy a light snack of pork scratchings and pineapple sauce with a local caipirinha (Minas Gerais also happens to have some of the best cachaça in Brazil) at Bar Patorocco. If you are looking for true comfort food though, head to Xapuri which presents options such as slow-cooked beef with a thick, flavorsome gravy or soft dried meat served inside a roasted pumpkin.
This small town is jam-packed with casual restaurants serving quality food. Head to Leitão do Luiz Ney for traditional Minas Gerais meals and desserts made to order, or to Viradas do Largo for the most delicious home-cooked food. There are wonderful local restaurants to be found on every corner, so pack your appetite and dip into the ones that catch your eye – you’re bound to have a good meal.
Minas Gerais has dozens of cachaça distilleries that make the national spirit from the huge sugar cane plantations in the area. Cachaça is a largely misunderstood spirit and sometimes gets the reputation as a ‘poor man’s’ drink, yet that fails to recognize just how rich and complex it can be. One of the best cachaças in Brazil is the widely considered Vale Verde, which is made in Betim, Minas Gerais. Not only is a shot of Vale Verde actually pleasant, it also mixes well with lime to make the best caipirinha.
The Romeo and Juliet dessert is one of the simplest yet tastiest desserts from the region, and can be found throughout Brazil – it’s guava paste (like a thick jelly-jam mix) served with a slice of Minas Gerais cheese. This combination can now be found in cheesecakes, cupcakes, and even sweet pizzas. Another famous dessert from the region is doce de leite (sweet milk) which is often handmade and tastes a bit like a soft fudge.