Direct from the source: Brazilian Rice and Beans

by Terry B on January 17, 2007

Brazilian Rice and Beans, a daily staple on dinner tables throughout the country, is cooked up by Brazilian guest blogger Patricia. Recipe below.

As comedian Steven Wright says, “It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.” And the Internet keeps making it smaller every day. It’s shrunk my world in many ways—and made it a more interesting place at the same time. For example, I’m in touch more now than I have been in ages with a high school friend, Helmut, even though he moved back to Germany several years ago. I know a blues-playing barrister in Bakewell, England. Through Marion’s work for a Francophile website, we’ve made numerous friends [including our Brooklyn buddy Ronnie and San Francisco-based mystery writer Cara Black] and have stayed in the fabulous Paris apartment of the site’s founder.

And now I’ve met Brazilian food blogger Patricia Scarpin. Well, met her online anyway—the Internet has also redefined meeting and knowing people. Patricia produces two versions of her blog Technicolor Kitchen—one in English and one in Portuguese.

She responded to my last week’s post on chili and mentioned a popular basic Brazilian rice and beans dish. After a couple of email exchanges, it sounded like a great dish to post here—and a chance to take Blue Kitchen global. Patricia not only supplied the recipe, she sent me photos too! So I’ll turn the kitchen over to Patricia now, then come back at the end and tell you what little modifications I made when I tried it in the test kitchen—well, in the kitchen.

Brazilian Rice and Beans
Serves 2 [can be doubled]

This is my rice and beans recipe—it’s kind of basic, and most people here make it this way. There might be slight changes from one cook to another, like seasoning, but that’s a matter of personal taste, and you can make your adjustments too. We use long-grain rice.

1 cup dried Pinto beans
1 cup uncooked rice
1 medium onion [or two small], chopped and divided
1 large clove garlic, chopped
chopped bacon, about 1/2 cup
1 small red chile pepper, seeded and chopped [optional]
olive oil
1 bay leaf [optional]
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
cumin powder, a pinch
salt and freshly ground black pepper

I start by soaking the dried beans in water. To speed up the process, I boil some water and place the beans in a bowl and cover them with the hot water. I leave them there for 15-20 minutes. In the meantime, I boil some water in the pressure cooker. When the water is boiling, I drain the beans and place them in the pressure cooker, close it and cook the beans for 35-40 minutes, depending on the amount—yesterday I cooked about 1 cup of beans. They have to be soft but not too much, or they’ll be destroyed on the next step.

In the meantime, start making the rice: wash the grains in advance and leave them in a sieve for a while, so all the excess of water goes away. The drier they get, the better: The grains will be more separated from each other after they’re cooked.

While the beans cook, I prepare the part that’s gonna boost the flavor: chopped onions, chopped garlic and chopped bacon. I didn’t have any bacon yesterday, so I used a sort of sausage we have here, called calabresa. This is a pre-cooked type of sausage, made of pork. You can use a little red chile pepper too, but my husband is afraid of heat.

Cook half the chopped onion, garlic and bacon [and chile pepper, if you’re using it] in a little olive oil. The delicious smell will take over your kitchen, that’s for sure!

Add the cooked beans and some of the water that turned into broth to the onion mixture. Season it with salt, cracked black pepper, bay leaf [I don’t use it, but it’s very popular here to season beans]. I add 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste to make it a little redder, but you can even use ketchup. A pinch of cumin powder goes well too.

Cover the pan and cook over low heat, stirring every now and then. Let it simmer, because then you’ll have a very thick and dense broth.

While the beans mixture simmers, cook the rice. Start a kettle of water to boil. Heat a little olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the remaining chopped onion until it starts getting golden. Add the rice and cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the grains from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Season it with salt—any other seasoning would cause the rice to turn another color, and we like our rice very white here.

Add boiling water until it covers the rice by 1/4-inch or so. Leave it to cook down. When the water starts to disappear into the rice, cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Check it from time to time to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn. When I started making rice—I was 11—I tasted some grains from the top to check if they were already cooked. You can do that if you wish.

When you notice all the water is gone—you’ll notice there’s no longer the “noise” of water boiling on the bottom of the pan—the rice is done [about 15 minutes—see the Kitchen Notes below]. I know it sounds a little subjective, but after you’ve made it once you’ll get the hang of it.

Check the beans: After 15 minutes or so [about when the rice is ready], the broth will be creamy and the flavors will be more evident.

This is an almost daily meal for Brazilians: Rice and beans, some sort of meat and salad or vegetables. I made a steak and some onions, because my husband wasn’t in the mood for salad. The steak was striploin. I just sprinkled it with mashed garlic and salt and grilled it with butter. When it was almost done, I added some onion, thinly sliced. I removed the steak and let the onion get a little more golden. Then I placed the steak on the plate and placed the onion on top.

Kitchen Notes

Thanks, Patricia! First, let me start by saying: This. Dish. Is. Wonderful. Robust and hearty and flavorful, to be sure, but with some nice complexity too. I will definitely make this again. It’s fascinating how so many cultures have taken these two humble ingredients and produced similarly satisfying but infinitely and subtly varied dishes. While the Brazilian version has its own distinct taste, it kept reminding me of some of the better red beans and rice I’ve had in New Orleans.

Regarding my tweaks to her fabulous recipe, I really hate it when people make gratuitous arbitrary changes to a recipe. You see it all the time in reviews of recipes on “I totally loved this recipe! I don’t eat red meat, so I substituted a can of tuna for the strip steak, and instead of garlic, I added a little minced ginger…” My changes were much less drastic.

Some of my changes were practical. I don’t have a pressure cooker, so I cooked the beans in a covered pot, adjusting the cooking time accordingly. I soaked the beans in cold water overnight instead of using Patricia’s quick method with hot water because I had the time to do so.

Other changes were by choice, but within the realm of the variations Patricia herself outlined:

I did use a bay leaf, and I added it to the beans at the outset of cooking for more flavor—I like bay leaf. An added bonus is that it made the kitchen wonderfully fragrant from the outset.

I upped the cumin from a pinch to 1/8 teaspoon, for a little more spiciness and flavor. I didn’t go nuts, though—I still wanted to be close to the original in flavor and didn’t want this to turn into chili.

I added half a chile pepper [a jalapeno, since that’s what I had, seeded and chopped] because unlike her husband, I do like heat. Next time I may use the whole pepper. As it was, though, the dish had a satisfying kick to it.

And I used bacon, as she recommends. It added a nice smoky touch.

Now a couple of practical tips: In transferring the beans to the onion/bacon mixture, I ladled a few ladles of beans and broth into the skillet. Then I used a slotted spoon to transfer the rest of the beans and ladled a little more broth into the pan until it seemed a good mixture. Reserve the rest of the broth—I found I needed to add a little more later in the cooking process.

Regarding Patricia’s tip for listening to the rice sound change to indicate the water has been cooked away, I unfortunately was searing a couple of pork chops for the meat portion of the meal, and the insistent sizzle of that pan drowned out any sound from the rice. Again, 15 minutes worked out to be just right.

Pinto beans. A random thought: Is anyone besides me disappointed that these speckled beauties lose their distinctive markings when they cook? Just think how cool this dish could look if the beans kept their, well, pinto look.

And a final note. In doing exhaustive research for this post—in other words, googling “rice and beans”—I found a Brazilian restaurant on 9th Avenue in Manhattan Called Rice & Beans. Their website makes it look fun, tasty and affordable, all three good things in my book.


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia Scarpin January 17, 2007 at 10:46 am

Dear Terry,

I can’t say how happy and thrilled I am with this post – It’s such an honor to have my photos and text here!

Thanks for all the kind words and for making wonderful observations. May I just say I loved the first photo you posted?

I think we can learn a lot from each other’s cultures.

Many, many tks.

Kinds regards,

valentina January 17, 2007 at 10:56 am

I am a friend of Patricia’s so I had to come check this post out. I really liked her photos and comments. I love the way you have introduced it, the photos..the comments. I am a native Brazilian as well and I am absolutely fascinated by how food doesn’t lie about our roots, where our ancestors come from. I will add your blog to favourites and certainly come back more often. In some parts of Brasil they use black beans on a daily basis as opposed to the Pinto beans. In Rio this is most certainly the case. Being such a big country – like yours, the variations are endless.Till next time.

Mimi January 17, 2007 at 1:57 pm

This duo post was a great idea, Terry B and Patricia. The dish looks wonderful (something my husband would eat, which is my criteria for making anything), and I will certainly add it to my repertoire, but what impresses me is the demonstration of community here.

My world has become larger and richer since I’ve joined the Internet, too. The new friends I’ve made online have somehow made me a better friend to my friends at home.

Patricia, I will make your site a regular stop.

Carolyn January 17, 2007 at 3:04 pm

Patricia and Terry! Hallelujah! I learned to cook rice from my daughter’s godmother, a traditional Ecuadorian cook. Like Patricia’s method, la madrina washed handfuls of the starchy rice we bought in 100-pound sacks from an Asian market, then fried the handfuls in a little oil just until the rice began to take on a very light brown color. A cupful or so of boiling water was added, the heat lowered, and the lid engaged. Ever so often (5 minutes? 10 minutes), we lifted the lid and added a bit more boiling water. The rice was declared done when the grains on top were done. We NEVER stirred the pot. Sometimes the rice grains burst at each end, like a Chinese firecracker! If garlic and onions were fried with the rice, and if flavored broth was added instead of water, the rice became the star of the dinner.

Tanna January 17, 2007 at 6:09 pm

Lovely idea – the joint post. It is modern day cooking together to learn from another cook. I am constantly impressed with what the internet and blogging has brought into my life. The community is wonderful as is the collaboration in this recipe.
Found your site coming from Mimi’s.

Lydia January 18, 2007 at 2:26 am

What a lovely way to share a recipe! Hats off to you and Patricia.

miki w. January 19, 2007 at 3:11 pm

terry, as valentina, i’m patricia’s friend too. we met each other through the foodblogs and, finally, in last december, have lunch together!

my grandparents were japanese but one of my favorite dishes is this rice and bean.

so nice this exchange of cultures!

king regards,


ps – sorry about my bad english :-).

Terry B January 19, 2007 at 3:53 pm

What great comments from everyone! This international collaboration obviously struck a chord. I love this aspect of the Internet. And I urge all of you to try Patricia’s fabulous dish—well, Valentina and Miki, you obviously already cook your own versions.

Oh, and Miki, your English is just fine.

Marcia H March 1, 2007 at 8:15 am

I’m brazilian and came to this blog through many other brasilian blogs.
Try adding somechopped mint leaves to the cooked beans (that’s what my grandma used to do, it’s a regional thing in the Northern East of Brazil). The beans taste even more like beans, I don’t know why.
Yes, the thing with the pinto beans would be great!
Lovely blog, I’ll visit it again.

Nando Cuca February 25, 2008 at 12:45 am

Check out some of my Brazilian recipe videos at for loads of Brazilian recipes and a guide to where to buy Brazilian products.

Tori June 25, 2008 at 6:38 pm

Hi there! Thanks to you (and Patricia) for this recipe! I lived in southern Brasil as an exchange student back in 1989 and ate rice & beans every day — YUM! Now I’m a mom and my 3-year old is on a gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free diet. I was trying to think of some new things to make and rice & beans came to mind! We don’t do pork, but there’s some gluten-free beef bacon I could try. I will definitely give this a whirl! Thanks to both of you!

By the way, my blog is not nearly as “fancy” — I’m just a GFCFSF mom trying to keep track of what I do in practical terms for other “moms on a mission.” But feel free to stop by — I’ve got some Turkish stuff that we like…


Annette July 9, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Hi, this was great. My son, 13, just returned from a trip to Sao Paolo, I hope I spelled that right. He was there for 5 weeks at soccer camp. My husband went too and they reported the beans were delicious. I’ve attempted to make beans, but they haven’t turned out as well. Even after following instructions. I will compare this recipe with a Brazilian friends, and then, perhaps, my beans may be as good as Maria’s. The cook that made brazilian beans famous for my husband and son.

Rebekah September 5, 2008 at 7:44 pm

I am an Idaho, USA girl who happens to love Brazilian food and Brazilians (after living in Brazil for a little over a year). In fact my husband is Brazilian (with a Japanese heritage like Miki, above). The poor guy misses rice and beans and Brazilian food in general (as well as his mom’s Japanese food). So I’m trying to be a good wife and learn how to make it for him. We want to celebrate September 7, Brazil’s Independence day, so I’m going to try this recipe and see if I can make it taste authentic enough to please him. I’ve already bookmarked Patricia’s site. What a gem! Thanks so much.

Sherry March 18, 2009 at 1:02 am

A friend of mine “shared” this on Facebook. I can’t wait to try it. My husband lived in Brazil for two years, and he always complains that we don’t eat rice and beans here. Even after two years, he never got sick of it. Unfortunately, my dear hubbly-bubbly didn’t know how to cook back then, so he had no idea how to make rice and beans Brazilian style. Can’t wait to try it out. He’ll be thrilled.

Matt January 17, 2012 at 6:54 pm

In my opinion (probably because it’s how I was always taught to make it in Brazil), the beans just need garlic and salt.
Same with the rice.

This meal isn’t just an occasional dish, it’s what many Brazilians will eat every day, maybe even for lunch AND dinner. But it’s so delicious I can’t blame them 😛

Just heat 2-3 cloves of minced garlic in a small amount of oil until they start to turn golden.
I use pre-soaked pinto beans from a can, since it saves so much time and tastes just as good, so I just add those to the garlic, add salt, and reheat. Mashing a few beans with the back of a spoon thickens up the sauce if you want that.

For rice, add washed rice to the garlic, fry for a minute or so on a high heat. Add salt and water (usually about 1.5cm above the rice – depends on the pan and amount of rice) bring to the boil and then cover and let it simmer on a low heat.
The rice should be done after about 10 minutes.. but before touching the rice, leave it a few minutes without the lid on to give any excess water a chance to evaporate. Soggy rice is horrible 😛 November 13, 2013 at 12:01 am

I do believe all the ideas you have offered in your post.
They’re really convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for novices.
May you please lengthen them a little from next time?
Thank you for the post.

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easyhomecooking June 23, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Perfect world cup recipe :) sounds lovely. Must admit never tried Brazilian quisine

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