Learn how to make a classic Brazilian acai bowl, made with just a few natural ingredients. We’ll give you the full lowdown on how to get the perfect thick, spoonable texture and the best toppings to use so you can master this antioxidant-filled bowl of goodness.
Country Number 24: Brazil
We’ve cooked our way through Argentina and Bolivia. Now we are on to our third South American country in our around-the-world cooking challenge… Brazil! This is yet another country on our list of top places to go. Food is said to be at the heart of Brazilian culture. In Brazil, meals are not just meals. They are events. They are important moments to gather together over drinks and food that have been prepared with time and love.
We come from a Western culture where more often than not, food is solely about convenience. We personally resonate far more with the Brazilian culture around eating. Food being at the centre of life… Now this is the kind of mindset we can get around!
History of Brazilian Cuisine
Given the size of Brazil as a country, it is no surprise that the cuisine greatly varies between regions. The country has an interesting mix of native and immigrant populations, which has also played a key role in shaping Brazilian cuisine. The main culinary influences include European, Amerindian, African and most recently, Asian (particularly Japanese).
There are a few distinct native ingredients that are used in Brazilian cuisine, including açaí, guarana, cashews, cassava. Like most South American countries, rice, beans, cornflour and root vegetables such as cassava and manioc tend to form the staples of the Brazilian diet. European immigrants introduced wine, leafy vegetables and dairy products into the cuisine.
Brazilian cuisine tends to be on the heavy side, with carb and oil-laden dishes being very common. Unsurprisingly, meat is heavily consumed in Brazil. Similar to Argentina, barbeque meat is one of the country’s greatest specialities. Fish also plays a big role in many dishes. Thankfully, the country is also abundant in fresh produce to balance things out. Tropical fruit, including mango, papaya, guava, passionfruit and pineapple are particularly prevalent. Whilst the selection of savoury Brazilian dishes suitable vegetarians is a little limited, the list of sweet food is endless.
Popular Brazilian Vegetarian Dishes
- Pão de queijo- Two of life’s greatest staples, cheese and bread, are paired together in this popular Brazilian snack. These small, cheesy rolls are made with tapioca flour, eggs and grated cow’s cheese. They are crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.
- Acarajé- A very popular street snack, these are essentially fritters made of black-eyed peas that are mashed with chopped onions and deep-fried in palm oil.
- Pastel– A deep-fried, stuffed pastry which is another common street snack/ fast food in Brazil. Pastels are similar to empanadas and come stuffed with variety of ingredients, including vegetarian options such as cheese or potato.
- Brigadeiros- The Brazilian version of a chocolate truffle. They are a simple and delicious treat made of condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter rolled in sprinkles.
- Quindim– A traditional coconut custard cake made with sugar, egg yolks, and ground coconut. It is very similar to flan, with the addition of coconut.
- Acai bowls- Frozen acai palm fruit which is pureed and typically served in a bowl with granola, fruit and guarana syrup.
Vegetarian rating of Brazilian Cuisine:
Making Classic Brazilian Acai Bowls
It is fun to get to a country that has a dish we have been wanting to make for a while. It’s always the hard-to-find/ expensive ingredients hold us back from making something. Açaí bowls have been on our list, but we hadn’t come across any frozen açaí puree. Until now. This challenge is giving us the extra motivation we needed to hunt down obscure ingredients to use in our recipes. So far, we’ve trekked across Auckland to find pearl sugar to make Belgian Liége waffles, vine leaves to make dolma, and now, frozen açaí puree to make açaí bowls.
Given it’s the superfood of the decade, you are probably already familiar with açaí. In the past few years, açaí bowls have risen in popularity across the globe. They have particularly taken the Instagram world by storm. It’s almost uncommon for someone to order an açaí bowl and NOT post it on their gram with the hashtag #brunchgoals. Believe it or not, açaí bowls were not a trend started by some hip café in Bali. By now you can probably guess that they originated in Brazil, where açaí is found.
So, what actually is açaí?
Açaí is a berry grown on the açaí palm tree in rainforests throughout South America. They are known for their nutritional value due to the high levels of antioxidants, hence the superfood status. Unlike other berries, they are lower in sugar and higher in fat.
Health benefits aside, açaí has got to be one of the most commonly and hilariously mispronounced words. The correct pronunciation is ah-sigh-EE. No matter how many times I’ve told my mum, she still will pronunce it as AH-kah. It’s rather amusing anytime we are at a café and she tries to order one.
An açaí bowl is made of frozen acai palm fruit that is pureed and served as a smoothie bowl. The açaí can be blended with different fruits and liquids and is typically topped with fresh fruit and granola. In Brazil, apparently they have salty variations that are topped with dried fish. We will take a strong pass on that kind of açaí bowl please and thank you and will stick to the sweet kind.
As big smoothie bowl advocates in our household, we are stoked to now have açaí bowls in our smoothie repertoire. They are seriously SO easy to make. Now that we’ve found the açaí puree, these are definitely something we will be making on repeat!
How to make an acai bowl
This may just be the most straight-forward recipe we’ve ever posted. In fact, it feels a little strange to post a recipe with so few steps.
- Chop and freeze banana the night before (the açaí should already come frozen).
- Blend açaí puree, bananas and liquid of choice.
- Top with desired toppings and enjoy!
How to achieve a thick texture for your acai bowl
Whilst you can make an açaí bowl into a simple smoothie which you drink through a straw, this isn’t our preference. In our opinion, açaí bowls are best enjoyed when they are thick in texture, sprinkled with exciting toppings and spooned from a bowl.
In order to make your açaí bowl as thick as possible, you want to use the minimum amount of liquid for it to blend. For a 2 person serving made in a nutribullet, we found we needed about 1/4 cup of liquid. Our biggest tip is not to overblend, or else the consistency will go runny. Stop blending as soon as there are no visible lumps in the mixture.
Ingredient notes for acai bowl
- Açaí- The best açaí to use is the stuff that comes pureed and frozen in packs. You can use powder, but you won’t get quite the same results. Depending on where you live, it may be a little tricky to track down. We found the açaí puree at a health food store.
- Bananas– Frozen bananas are a must for this recipe. If you use fresh bananas, you won’t get the nice thick texture that açaí bowls should have.
- Liquid– You will most likely need some sort of liquid to help blend the frozen fruit together. You can use anything you like for the liquid, including any kind of water or milk. If you want to go for an açaí bowl on the more refreshing side, we’d recommend coconut water. If you want your bowl a little creamier, coconut milk works a treat (this is what we used).
Serving suggestions for acai bowls
The most enjoyable part of making açaí bowls is getting creative with your toppings. We topped ours with freshly sliced banana, strawberries, almond butter, homemade granola, desiccated coconut, freeze-dried raspberries and fresh mint. Feel free to top yours with whatever your heart desires.
Other healthy breakfast dishes to try
- Spiced Coconut Porridge (Cocada Amerla)
- Walnut-Stuffed Poached Apples (Tufahije)
- Orange Caramelised Banana Porridge
Classic Brazilian Acai Bowl
- 2 packs frozen acai
- 2 small frozen bananas
- 1/4 cup coconut water or milk
- Sliced fruit
- Desiccated coconut
- Almond Butter
- Freeze-dried raspberries
- The night before, slice up bananas and freeze them in a container
- Blend all ingredients together in a high-powered blended. If you’re having difficulty getting the fruit to blend, add more liquid.
- Top with desired toppings and enjoy!
Did you make this recipe? We’d love to know! Tell us how it went in the comments below or tag us (@gourmetvegetarians) in your photos on Instagram.
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