Brazilian Breakfast and Tapioca Crepes with Cheese

Since so many people have expressed curiosity about Brazilian breakfast customs, instead of answering their questions individually it seemed fitting to write a post about breakfast in Brazil. I am also sharing with you my favorite Brazilian breakfast dish: Tapioca Crepes with Cheese or Tapioca com Queijo.

I will start out by saying that breakfast is served only once per day, usually between 6 and 8 am. Practically speaking, in Brazil there is no such thing as brunch. Most of the time Brazilians eat breakfast at home, or sometimes have a light breakfast at the padaria (bakery) on the weekends. Since the majority of restaurants there serve only lunch and/or dinner, up until recently there was no such thing as going out for breakfast. But what if we are traveling within Brazil, what do we do about breakfast then?  No problem!  Hotels normally serve a plentiful breakfast, which is included within the hotel fee. I can guarantee that neither you nor I will go hungry down there. :)

Brazilian breakfasts also tend to be on the lighter side, since lunch is our main meal. So, if you are staying at someone’s house in Brazil, generally do not expect to see pancakes, waffles, cooked meats such as bacon and sausage, hash browns, or omelettes on your plate… oftentimes, not even a variety of cereals.

In general, traditional Brazilian breakfast includes a small loaf of french bread or toast, butter, eggs, fruit (usually papaya), a cup of coffee with or without milk, a glass of juice (orange juice being the most customary), and sometimes hot cocoa or fruit smoothies (avocado, banana, guava, or papaya)…. There may also be oatmeal (papa de aveia), yogurt, jams, and sliced or spreadable cheeses, including requeijão – a mildly salty, silky-textured, spreadable cheese sold in glass jars and eaten on bread. Further, you may encounter cold cuts (deli ham, smoked turkey, or salami) and coffee cakes such as orange, plain carrot cake without topping, or cornmeal cake (bolo de fubá).  Cereal is not quite as popular, but some Brazilians do like granola.

Brazilian Breakfast by From Brazil To You

In hotels, depending on how many stars they have, the options can be endless.  Many items typical of an American breakfast are available there, and/or several regional dishes. The wide selection of fruit available at the breakfast stations of high end hotels is designed to impress any tourist, and definitely has to be experienced.

In padarias (bakeries), the most popular items are café pingado (a cup of coffee with a touch of milk) and pão na chapa (half loaves of French bread toasted with butter on a hot griddle).  You may also find misto quente (grilled ham-and-cheese-sandwich).

But that is not all!  Since Brazil is such a large country and has many different regional cuisines, depending on the region or even the state, the breakfast menu may include some local delicacies such as corn couscous (cuscuz de milho), boiled cassava or inhame (true yam), Brazilian cheese rolls (pão de queijo), milk curd (coalhada), mate tea (chá mate), chipas (a cousin of pão de queijo), cookies, German coffee cakes (cuca de maçã and others), and tapioca crepes with butter or filled with cheese (tapioca nordestina).

I am from Pernambuco state in the Northeastern region, where tapioca is a must for breakfast and also for afternoon snack. But remember, please don’t conjure up an image of tapioca pudding. :) Our tapioca or tapioca nordestina is a tapioca crepe that is usually served at breakfast time either with butter or filled with cheese, or with a variety of savory or sweet fillings at afternoon snack time.  It is gluten-free and made from sour starch or polvilho azedo, a byproduct of cassava. Tapioca itself comes from our indigenous heritage.

Since tapioca de queijo (tapioca crepes filled with cheese) is my favorite breakfast item, I will leave you today with its recipe.  Tchau and bom apetite!

Tapioca Crepes with Cheese
(Tapioca com Queijo)

Yield: 2 (5-1/2 inches) tapiocas

Tapioca Crepes with Cheese

Ingredients:

1/3 cup sour manioc starch (polvilho azedo)**

2 tablespoons water

A pinch of salt (optional)

Butter to spread

Shredded Mozzarela Cheese

** Polvilho Azedo/ Sour Starch/ Almidón Agrio is available at local Latin Markets, Brazilian Stores, and online (Amazon.com). It is naturally gluten-free.

NOTE: Just so you know, there is another kind of starch called Tapioca Starch or Polvilho Doce that is made from yuca/cassava as well, but has a very fine texture and is not fermented as the sour starch is.  Please, use the SOUR starch to make these tapioca crepes.

Directions:

1. Place the starch in a small bowl and sprinkle the water on top of it (and salt if desired! Since both the butter and the cheese already contain salt, I prefer not adding any additional  salt to mine).  Stir well using one of your hands so that the starch gets wet but does not become liquid.  Then using the tips of your fingers, gently rub the wet starch to obtain a loose, granulated texture.

Sour starch wetned with water

2. Heat a small (5-1/2 inches diameter) non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the wet starch in a small sieve.  Use one hand to hold the sieve over the skillet and the other to press/rub the starch through the sieve.  Strain starch in such a way that when it falls into the pan  from the sieve it forms a uniform circle.

Straining the wet starch

3. Let the heat bind and glue the grains so that the starch solidifies and forms a crepe/tortilla (pay close attention, because the crepe/tortilla will be ready in 10-30 seconds).  Tip: make sure that the edges have as much starch as the center, so that edges will not be prone to breakage.

Tapioca crepe is ready

4. Flip the tapioca over using a metal spatula (or with experience, a large spoon) and cook very briefly on the other side.

Fliping the tapioca crepe...

5. Place on a plate, spread butter on both sides of the tapioca crepe, fill with shredded cheese, roll the tapioca crepes up (like an enchilada), return to the skillet, and let the cheese melt.  Remove from heat and serve.

Tapioca will be spreaded with butter and filled with cheese

Note: Between making one tapioca and the next, please remove the skillet from heat and wipe both the bottom and sides of the skillet clean with paper towel (being careful to not burn yourself), so that the next tapioca won’t be browned by the singed leftover grains of starch.

Wiping the skillet...

Storage: Once cooled, the non-filled tapiocas may be stored in sealed containers to be used later as canapés (called beiju); however, they won’t be soft like when they were first made.  I personally am not fond of  beiju (hardened tapiocas) but you are welcome to form your own opinion.

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Receita em Português: 

Tapioca com Queijo
Rendimento: 2 tapioquinhas

Tapioca com Queijo

Ingredientes:

1/3 xícara de polvilho azedo

2 colheres de (sopa) de água

Ou goma de tapioca molhada

Uma pitada de sal (opcional)

Manteiga ou margarina para passar na tapioca

Queijo mussarela em tirinhas (ou qualquer outro que desejar)

Modo de Preparo:

1. Em uma tigela/bacia pequena, coloque o polvilho e despeje a água sobre ele (e também o sal, se desejar! Como a manteiga e o queijo já são salgados, eu prefiro não colocar sal na minha tapioca). Mexa bem com uma de suas mãos para que o polvilho fique molhado. Em seguida, usando as pontas dos dedos, esfregue suavemente o polvilhe molhado para obter uma textura solta e granulada. Ou simplesmente use a goma de mandioca que pode ser comprada molhada no supermercado.

2. Aqueça uma frigideira pequena anti-aderente sobre fogo médio-alto. Coloque o polvilho molhado numa peneira pequena. Use uma mão para segurar a peneira sobre a frigideira quente e outra para esfregar o polvilho contra a peneira. Peneire o polvilho de uma maneira que quando caia na frigideira forme um círculo uniforme. Deixe o calor do fogo colar os grãos de amido até que se solidifique formando um crepe ou tapioca (preste atenção porque a tapioca estará pronta dentro de 10 a 30 segundos). A dica aqui é ter certeza de que as bordas da tapioca não estejam mais finas do que o centro da tapioca ou as bordas ficarão quebradiças. Vire a tapioca usando uma espátula de metal e deixe cozinhar rapidinho do outro lado.

3. Depois disso, ponha num prato, espalhe manteiga sobre ambos os lados da tapioca, recheie com o queijo em tirinhas, enrole a tapioca como se estivesse fazendo uma panqueca, ponha de volta na frigideira e deixe o queijo derreter. Retire do fogo e sirva. Bom apetite!!

OBS: Entre uma tapioca e outra, remova a frigideira do fogo e limpe o fundo interno e as laterais da frigideira com toalha de papel (com cuidado para não se queimar) para que a tapioca próxima não fique sapecada com as sobras da goma da tapioca anterior.

Armazenamento: As tapiocas não recheiadas podem ser armazenadas em frascos de vidro bem tampados para serem usadas mais tarde como canapés (beiju).


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41 Responses to Brazilian Breakfast and Tapioca Crepes with Cheese

  1. The Café Sucre Farine May 2, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Oh Denise, this is all so interesting! I love to hear about the customs of other countries. We tend to thing everyone lives like us but that is definitely not true. These tapioca crepes sound wonderful and you photos are so pretty!

    • Denise Browning May 2, 2013 at 11:18 am #

      Thanks a lot, Chris! You are always so nice…Yes, customs are something that vary from country to country definitely.

  2. SallyBR May 2, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    ai, Denise! Que maravilha de post! Sabe que eu e meu maridao fomos ao Nordeste uma unica vez – Recife. O cafe’ da manha do hotel tinha essa exata tapioca com queijo e eu nunca tinha comido, paulistana que sou…

    acho que vou tentar fazer, eu tenho polvilho azedo que comprei numa das idas ao patropi

    tenho um pouco de medo de nao acertar a mao na fritura e acabar com uma messy story in my hands… mas estou tentada a faze-lo para uma surpresa um domingo qualquer em casa…

    adorei esse post!

    beijao!

    • Denise Browning May 2, 2013 at 11:22 am #

      Oi, Sally! Fiquei super feliz com a sua visita!!! Não tenha medo não. É fácil de fazer sim. Leia toda a receita antes de fazer e siga passo-passo que dará certo. Você verá que é tão fácil e simples de fazer que vez por outra ficará tentada a comer essa delícia do meu nordeste. Meu marido americano e filha mais nova adoram tapioca. Vez por outra tenho que fazer aqui em casa e matar as saudades. Se tiver qualquer dúvida é só perguntar! Um abraço.

  3. Lail | With A Spin May 2, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Denise – I love learning about different cultures and the Brazilian breakfast rituals sound a lot like Bangladesh. Thank you for sharing, my friend.

    You know crepe is my all time favorite, right? I can have them for breakfast, lunch and then for dinner again.

    • Denise Browning May 2, 2013 at 11:24 am #

      Thanks, Lail! How interesting…I had no idea that Bangladeshi breakfast habits were similar to ours. Love it!

  4. Roseli May 2, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    WOW! What a delicious breakfast! I love it!!!

    • Denise Browning May 2, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      Thanks, Roseli! I am so glad that you are visiting me here.

  5. Elizabeth May 2, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Que legal! Eu adoro beiju!!!

    • Denise Browning May 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

      Oi, Elizabeth! Pois então, essa é a oportunidade de fazer beiju ou tapioca… :)

  6. Mi Vida en un Dulce May 2, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    Ohhhh…I want to wake up at your home to have this fantastic breakfast…!!!

  7. Coffee and Crumpets May 2, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    I think it’s only in America that we find pancakes, waffles, doughnuts…all things sweet! Indian breakfasts are mainly savoury too with a bit of sweet to balance. English breakfasts are always savoury too with just jam being a bit sweet. I always crave savoury stuff for breakfast myself, mainly croissants or French bread.
    I am fascinated by your tapioca creeps, bu I have to ask, do they taste sour? Or is it like a sourdough taste? I am trying to imagine it, especially tapioca in sour form!

    Nazneen

    • Denise Browning May 3, 2013 at 7:24 am #

      Nazneen: Although its starch is called sour starch is not really sour. The taste is quite mild. They call sour starch for 2 reasons: First, it is because this starch has undergone to a fermentation process; Second, it is to distinguish from another tapioca starch that have not undergone to the fermentation process. Don’t worry! These tapioca crepes are pretty mild and gets the taste from the butter and melted cheese.

  8. Nami | Just One Cookbook May 3, 2013 at 12:32 am #

    I don’t know why but I think and believe that I had these tapioca crepes before. I try to think where and which occasion I had a chance to eat this (as I don’t know how to make) but when you show step by step, I feel like I’ve seen it before… sometime quite a long time ago… I remember it was delicious. I just don’t know when and where I actually had that! Nice to have a recipe now. Such a perfect breakfast display. I want to wake up in the morning to that spread… :)

    • Denise Browning May 3, 2013 at 7:28 am #

      Thanks, Nami! It may exist more than one culture that makes these crepes but so far I just know about the Brazilian one. It is a very typical dish from Northeastern Brazil.

  9. Abbe@This is How I Cook May 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    Denise, with fruit like that I’d be veru happy. And what an interesting crepe. I once did a Middle Eastern cheesecake that used honey and cheese as the filling. It was very good so I imagine this is alsoy

  10. Deb May 3, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    I enjoyed learning about Brazilian breakfast customs! And the Tapioca Crepes are just delightful!

  11. Julia | JuliasAlbum.com May 3, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    Beautiful breakfast! Love that serving papaya fruit is traditional for Brazilian breakfast – I love papaya! Thank you for the crepe recipe – I make quite a lot of crepes myself, but regular ones, not with tapioca. Tapioca crepes texture looks very interesting!

  12. Pooja May 4, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    Hi Its nice to see your blog. Brazilian breakfast looks amazing, papaya in breakfast im new to braz tradition
    and I want to say one thing your food photography looks amazing

    • Denise Browning May 4, 2013 at 8:10 am #

      Thanks a lot Pooja! I am glad that you like my blog and food photography. I hope you can visit it again. Wishing you a great weekend!

  13. Kate@Diethood May 4, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    I could definitely go for this deliciousness!! Brazil, here I come! :-D

  14. Liz May 4, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Oh, my. I could eat a Brazilian breakfast 3 times a day! And these crepes would definitely be on my menu…love that gooey cheese!!!

  15. Raymund May 5, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

    Looks like the Brazillian way of breakfast is similar in the Philippines, we also do take it at home with some tropical fruits and coffee without milk. This tapioca breakfast of yours looks amazingly delicious, just look at that melting cheese.

  16. Patricia Azevedo Gallagher May 16, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    oi denise… depois de alguns anos morando aqui nos usa, sentia muita saudade da nossa tapioca,sou nordestina!! Encontrei nos supermercados daui na marca Bob Red Mill, tapioca flour. Eh uma delicia!!!

    • Denise Browning May 17, 2013 at 7:42 am #

      Olá, Patricia! Que bom receber a sua visita. Fico contente que você haja encontrado facilmente uma marca que você gosta.
      Nas minhas tapiocas, eu sempre uso polvilho azedo ao invés de polvilho doce (tapioca flour) pois o gosto é mais similar ao da verdadeira tapioca. A marca que uso, Yoki, pode ser facilmente encontrada online em Amazon.com e também em supermercados latinos. Tenha um bom fim de semana e volta sempre. Um abraço!!!

  17. Fernanda Price August 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    Ola tudo bem ? Moro nos Estados Unidos e aqui em cape Cod e bem dificil encontrar as coisas boas no brazuilian market, vc acha que da pra fazer a tapioca com a Red Mill tapioca Flour ?
    Obrigada e adorei seu site/blog ! beijos

    • Denise Browning August 2, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

      Fernanda:
      Obrigada! Fico contente que você haja gostado do meu blog. Seja bem-vinda! Espero que você nos visite mais vezes.
      Eu nunca usei a tapioca flour do Bob Red Mill assim que não saberia dizer se funciona ou não. A farinha de tapioca que uso é o polvilho azedo ou sour starch, o qual poderá ser encontrado online em Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005CBRPIW .
      Tanto o gosto quanto a textura é diferente da do polvilho doce ou tapioca starch. Se você chegar a fazer a tapioca nordestina usando a farinha do Bob Red Mill e der certo, por favor me avisa. Um abraço!

    • Maria` September 10, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      oi Fernanda, a tapioca Flour é semelhante a algum polvilho ou a farinha de tapioca nordestina?

      obrigada

      • Denise Browning September 10, 2013 at 10:48 am #

        Não sei se essa pergunta é pra mim ou não mas vou responder. A tapioca flour é o nosso polvilho doce usado pra fazer bolos. Já o sour starch é a farinha de tapioca ou goma para tapioca nordestina, a qual apresenta uma textura mais grossa.

  18. Aninha August 6, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    Denaaaaaa!!!! Que maravilha de post!!! Amei! Digna de ser matéria para aula de cultura brasileira para estrangeiros.
    Deus te deu dons maravilhosos: cozinhar e falar sobre comida! Deu fomeeeee!!! kkkkk

    • Denise Browning August 6, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Oh, Ninha…Obg, amiga!!!! Fico feliz que você gostou do texto e que as fotos te deram fome. :) Saudades. Bjs.

  19. Lee Trotman September 28, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    At this moment I am ready to do my breakfast, after having my
    breakfast coming again to read further news.

  20. Mosel November 10, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    My tapiocas keep getting hard when I make them, am I just over cooking them?

    • Denise Browning November 10, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Hi, Mosel!
      Tapioca crepe , just like risotto, is one of those dishes that you have to eat immediately. If you make tapiocas and store in a sealed jar, they will become hard and transform to what we call beiju (similar to a hard taco). I am one of those people that dislike beiju.

      If you follow the process (and measurements) they will be right and soft but please eat them immediately or they will become hard.
      As soon as the tapioca is formed and you can flip it to cook the other side for a few seconds (3-5 seconds), remove them from the skillet, spread butter while it still hot, and serve. Or follow the process described with cheese. As you see, you cannot cook them for a long time.

  21. Aditya January 11, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

    Hii !! first thing first, thank you very much Denise for this recipe, cassava flour is also common here in Indonesia so think i’ll give it a try

    i have a question btw, actually, i already tried this recipe but with Mocaf (modified cassava flour)but it failed, the flour didn’t want to stick and instead it become brown because of the heat. i know it’s not sour manioc starch (because i’m certain i cannot find the flour here in INA) but i was told that mocaf is also gluten-free and fermented (just like sour manioc starch). my question, is mocaf the right flour for this tapioca crepe ? thanks

    • Denise Browning January 12, 2014 at 8:18 am #

      Aditya: Thanks for trying this recipe. Unfortunately, I have never tried to make this recipe with mocaf. The fact that it is also fermented and gluten-free does not make mocaf suitable for this recipe. The sour manioc flour/starch has an elasticity given by the cassava and is high in starches. These might be elements that mocaf lacks. If tapioca flour is available in your country, you can use it to make this recipe. The only thing is you will have to soak the tapioca flour in water and leave at room temperature to evaporate the water, resulting in slightly wet flour. Then, you can make the tapioca crepes according to the directions of the recipe.

  22. Monica June 21, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    Oi Denise,

    Essa farinha pode ser encontrada em mercado latino????ou so posso usar esse encontrado no Amazon???

    • Denise Browning June 21, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

      Olá, Monica! Bem-vinda!
      O sour starch (ou polvilho azedo) pode ser encontrado em Brazilian markets ou na Amazon.com. Há outras lojas de produtos brasileiros online que também vende. Alguns Latin markets também vende mas não todos. Lembra que o polvilho azedo é diferente do polvilho doce (ou tapioca starch). Quando você for comprar, compra o sour starch pois é muito mais fácil de fazer a tapioca e o gosto é muito similar. Se você tiver alguma dúvida, é só perguntar. Um abraço!

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