Have a Brazilian Christmas with a Brazilian Christmas menu and an easy recipe for a delicious baked Brazilian Christmas ham. Christmas Eve in Brazil is traditionally the most important day of the festive season and is marked by celebrations with family and friends, exchanging gifts and the long-awaited Christmas dinner.
A typical Christmas dinner features food from diverse origins, but all are given a distinctive Brazilian touch. The turkey often reigns supreme, even though Christmas in Brazil is celebrated in the heat of summer. However, it may be substituted by the Chester. This is a type of super-chicken with more meat concentrated in the chest and back regions of the bird. There is also the tender, a piece of smoked ham with a round shape, usually decorated with Indian cloves. Here’s how to choose, glaze and carve a traditional ham or try the Brazilian Christmas Ham recipe at the end of this post.
Brazilian Christmas Feast Chef Bruno Da Motta
Image courtesy Alexander Mazzo/ Gazeta do Povoa
The chester, a type of super-chicken, on the table for a Brazilian Christmas.
Cook up a Brazilian Christmas Feast
What should be on your Brazilian Christmas table?
- The Brazilian equivalent of roast potatoes is a cold Brazilian Potato Salad mixed with chopped apples and raisins.
- Gravy is not on the menu! Instead, it is replaced by Farofa, a mix of fried cassava flour and chopped bits of crispy bacon.
- Cabbage is replaced by Sauteed Kale, heavily flavoured with garlic.
- There is also Salpicão de Frango, a salad with potatoes, carrots, chicken, chopped nuts and raisins served cold. Raisins are present in many of the Christmas dishes, most commonly in rice to accompany meats, and they are also used in the Christmas farofa recipe.
Farofa replaces gravy on the Brazilian Christmas table. Photo courtesy of Destemperados Food Experiences
Don’t forget the panettone for a real Brazilian Christmas feast
Panettone, a sweet bread loaf cooked with pieces of dried fruits, is also a must. The tradition was brought to Brazil in the 19th century by European immigrants. Panettone takes over supermarket shelves months before Christmas, and nearly every dinner table will have at least one or two. Traditionally they are made with fruit, but variations that include chocolate, nuts or typical Brazilian flavours are very popular.
A type of French toast of Portuguese origin, known as Rabanada, is made with leftovers of bread covered with sugar, the dessert became a typical Christmas. Dried fruits, nuts, almonds and hazelnuts are plentiful, and consumed alone or in desserts.P
Pannetone is a must for the Brazilian Christmas table. Photo courtesy Dane na Cozinha
Bruno’s Brazilian Christmas traditions
I asked chef Bruno Da Motta who was born in Porto Alegre, South Brazil about his family’s Christmas traditions. Bruno, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris, is the Founder and Co-Owner of CHAR&CO in Double Bay and BAHBQ Brazilian Grill at Crows Nest.
What do you miss from Brazil at this time of the year?
What I miss the most are my family and friends, like everyone, I guess. Christmas in Brazil is celebrated on the evening of December 24, a huge celebration. The whole family gets together, even the distant relatives you haven’t seen since last Christmas. It is the best vibe.
What happens at the Christmas party?
Our family Christmas Party is huge, and we usually have about 55 to 60 guests having a great time. The party usually goes from 6 pm till 1 or 2 am. Christmas presents are opened at 9 pm for the kids and at midnight (25th) for adults.
Secret Santa is huge among families in Brazil, and it’s usually a funny game to play. Christmas is a time to catch up on what’s happened throughout the year and make a few plans for the year ahead.
Some of my favourite childhood memories are from Christmas. Like here, everyone brings their famous dish. Some are family members are experts, and some dishes the kids avoid eating at all costs. The whole family comes back the next day for Christmas day lunch to eat all the leftovers.
Which dishes always have to be on the Christmas table and why?
Christmas dinners must have a turkey of course (grandma is in charge of that); glazed ham (my uncle is an expert at that one), Rabanada (a type of french toast: my mum makes the best one); poached stoned fruits to go with all the protein; and steamed rice with currants, carrots and nuts; plus special types of farofa toasted cassava flour with caramelised onions and herbs). We do a lot of salads with fruit, poached chicken, and slaws as Christmas, just like here, is very hot. Champagne, Brazilian beers and caipirinhas are must-have beverages at Christmas parties.
What’s the secret family Christmas recipe?
Oh yeah! Nearly 90 per cent of my family would say my uncle’s Brazilian Christmas Ham is a must-have, and it is usually the first thing to run out and never makes Christmas day lunch. Everyone has got the recipe, but he is the master at it. Nobody can get it nearly as good as when he makes it.
Are you game to share it so we can have a touch of Brazil at our Christmas table?
I am sure my uncle would be proud if I shared his Brazilian Christmas Ham recipe with the world.
What is your favourite dish on the Christmas table? When do you open your Christmas presents? Please share your family’s traditions below.
Disclaimer: Thanks to the Brazilian Tourism Board Embratur for sharing Christmas in Brazil. Visit Brazil has more information.
Baked Brazilian Christmas Ham
Chef Bruno Da Motta loves his uncle's Brazilian Glazed Ham. It is usually the first dish to run out on the Christmas Eve table and never makes Christmas day lunch. Although he has shared the recipe, nobody can get it nearly as good as his. Why don't you give it a try?
- leg of ham
- about 40 whole cloves
- 300 g brown sugar
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 teaspoons grainy mustard
- 50 ml red wine vinegar
- 100 ml honey
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Remove the skin from the ham, leaving the fat on.
- Score the fat with a knife in a criss-cross pattern, and then place the cloves all over the ham
- Mix all ingredients and then brush evenly over the ham.
- Bake in the oven for approximately 1 hour or until golden brown, basting about five times during cooking.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 48Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 62mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 0gSugar: 11gProtein: 1g
Eatdrinkandbekerry.net offers nutritional information for recipes contained on this site. This information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only.