If we were to write a comprehensive guide to Brazilian fruits, we’d have to publish a book with 300+ entries. That number would jump to over 900 if we included all the varieties grown in the country — not to mention specific cultivars.
That’s why we opted to focus on 28 fruits both native to and popular in Brazil, from beloved coconuts and guavas to kooky mangabas and cupuaçus.
Ready to dive into this irresistible microcosm of Brazilian fruits? Come with us!
Brazilian Fruits by Birthright
Let’s start off with fruits originating entirely within Brazil’s borders. This section could go on forever. So, because we don’t want to get too obscure, we’ve selected only a handful of 100% Brazilian fruits.
1. Passion Fruits
Passion fruits are known in Portuguese as maracujás, which means “bowl-shaped food” in Tupi (i.e. Brazil’s most spoken indigenous language). It’s indeed one of our national passions, though! Being kind of runny and extraordinarily seedy to be eaten raw, they’re perfect when juiced, shaken into cocktails, or topping mousses and custard tarts.
2. Umbus aka Brazil plums
Growing in the dry scrubland that covers much of northeastern Brazil, umbu trees had to adapt accordingly. Their roots can store up to 1,000 L (264 gal), allowing them to live for 100+ years and turning them into the countryside’s sacred tree.
Umbus are faintly acidic and, after ripening, will last three days tops before going bad. So apart from being eaten raw, they’re also highly regarded in desserts.
Bacuris originate between Northern and Northeastern Brazil and are really popular in Belém do Pará, i.e. the gateway to the Brazilian Amazon. Weighing up to 1 kg (2.2 lb), they’re awesome for making juices, jellies, liqueurs, sherbets,… And on top of that, bacuri oil and butter are used locally as home remedies.
Cambucis were long endangered due to the destruction of the ecosystem they’re associated with, the Atlantic rainforest. Luckily, several initiatives in the past 10+ years have successfully improved their conservation status. Rural São Paulo is where you’re most likely to retrieve this flying-saucer-shaped, slightly sour fruitlet.
This Brazilian fruit tree comes from the savannas in central Brazil. While its name means something along the lines of “bitter when eaten” in Tupi, it’s said to be pretty sweet. Since nobody grows gabirobas commercially, you’ll have to visit the vast expanses to the west of Brasília to get hold of them.
Fruits from the Amazon Basin
Among other Brazilian fruits, the most biodiverse region on the planet just had to gift us with the raw material for making chocolate!
Cacao needs no introduction. In ancient times, it served as a medium of exchange well into southern Mexico. At some point around 1750 BCE, the Olmecs invented the food of the gods that we regularly call chocolate.
In the early 20th century, Brazil was the second-largest producer of cacao worldwide (it’s now fifth). A whole economy centered on the beans developed at the southernmost tip of the state of Bahia, which in turn inspired author Jorge Amado to write a string of bestselling novels (the most celebrated being “Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon”).
7. Brazil Nuts
The earthy flavor of Brazil nuts is overall quite divisive — often along generation lines. A single nut has about 140% of the recommended daily intake of selenium. Since around 1 billion people seem to be selenium-deficient, this comes in handy. But you should go slow: ingesting an excessive amount of selenium is toxic.
The instagrammability of açaí (/ah-sah-eeh/) bowls has allowed for a true boom of the Brazilian açaí berry in the U.S. and several other countries. In southeastern Brazil, we tend to eat the sweetened cream derived from crushed berries much like abroad (yet with way more açaí and fewer toppings).
That’s almost heresy in the fruit’s native Amazon, though. Over there, the cream is not sweet at all and is served instead alongside shrimp or chicken.
The majority of Brazilians are familiar with guaraná’s weird eye shape solely because of soft drink ads. In fact, the gold-colored beverage made from this berry is second only to Coke among Brazilians’ favorite fizzy drinks.
In other news, the fruit itself has twice to five times as much caffeine as coffee!
Cupuaçus are closely related to cacao, down to the same genus. While you won’t easily find the fruit outside the Amazon, its nectar, as well as cupuaçu-filled confections are hot all over Brazil. There’s a wide range of cupuaçu-based cosmetics too.
Brazilian Fruits Originating in the Tropical Americas
Apparently, speaking Romance languages isn’t the one thing that unites the region to the south of the Rio Grande!
11. Cashew Apples
We’ve mentioned this on our post focusing on Brazilian culture, but did you know cashews actually grow from a remarkably sweet fruit? (Well, technically, cashews are the real fruit, whereas the apples are what botanists call “accessory fruit”.)
Just like red wine, cashew apples are rich in tannin. That means they can cause a dry feeling in the mouth when not totally ripe. So their juice and nectar are way more in demand, especially at snack bars across the country.
Because guavas have an intense aroma, they attract fruit flies and are often colonized by larvae. Consequently, the best way of eating them… is as a sweet delicacy, of course! Goiabada is a firm paste that people usually pair with cheese, a match so patently made in heaven it’s known everywhere as Romeu e Julieta!
Looking like bulky figs on the outside, genipaps are wildly popular across northeastern Brazil. As they’re quite seedy and lack a substantial pulp, they’re typically used to make desserts and a liqueur that is famous nationwide. Also, a stunning bluish food coloring is extracted from the unripe fruit.
14. Pitangas aka Brazilian Cherries
Pitangas and jabuticabas (see no. 16) are hands-down the tiniest Brazilian fruits on our list. Yet our very own cherries are a little more bittersweet and less gooey.
They have originated the odd phrase chorar as pitangas, which literally means “to cry (one’s) pitangas” and refers to either complaining a lot or crying your eyes out. Don’t they turn as red as a Brazilian cherry when you do?
Fruits from Southern & Central South America
Home to prairies, savannas, and wetlands, the vast area south of the Amazon and east of the Andes gave us plenty of delicious Brazilian fruits too.
Pineapples are from the Paraná Basin (where the Iguazu Falls are located), an area between southwestern Brazil, Paraguay, and northeastern Argentina. Ironically, though, both Costa Rica and the Philippines grow more of the fruit every year.
While we love all things pineapple, the Portuguese word for it, abacaxi, has become shorthand for a particularly thorny situation (together, oddly, with pepino, i.e. cucumber).
16. Jabuticabas aka Brazilian Grapes
These white-pulp Brazilian berries are unique in that they sprout straight from the tree trunk — often covering it entirely! The fruit jabuticaba bursts in your mouth and turns into tempting liqueurs, jellies, and even wines.
As with pineapples, the word jabuticaba has acquired a figurative meaning too: it refers to laws, rules, and (usually bad) practices, chiefly in the realm of politics, that occur only in Brazil.
Indigenous peoples named mangabas, describing it as “an edible delight”. Although orchards have been picking up in recent years, the fruit is still more consistently harvested in the wild, especially in the tiny northeastern state of Sergipe. Its native range, however, spans Paraguay and eastern Peru as well, mostly in dry areas.
Pequis, which also grow in Bolivia and Paraguay, are said to be a love-it-or-hate-it sort of fruit. Its spiky core, oily texture, and intense smell and flavor are indeed pretty divisive. Yet folks throughout central Brazil are obsessed with them, cooking both rice and chicken with pequi.
Foreign Fruits Brazil is a Leading Producer of
Brazil has the third-largest fruit output in the world! And while we’re aware that coffee wouldn’t mind topping this section, it’ll have to give way to a few sweeter items. After all, hardly anyone cares about the cherries wrapped around coffee beans…
Forget Orange County and picture Orange Country. Bear in mind that 60% of the next glass of orange juice you drink will likely have come from Brazil.
We grow almost twice as many oranges as China, which ranks second among global producers. But the impressive presence of Brazilian oranges on the global market owes to the fact that we export about 98% of the fruit harvested within our borders.
Papayas are probably from southern Mexico, but Brazil went on to become the second-largest producer of the fruit (behind India). They’re a beloved breakfast fruit (and taste even better when topped with granola). Interestingly, unripe papaya preserves are quite popular in the countryside (and with sweet-toothed grandmas).
Granted, unlike some Central American states, Brazil was never a typical “banana republic”. Yet bananas are the second most consumed fruit countrywide and are a major national symbol. Carmen Miranda can vouch!
The fact that the Brazilian version to the novelty song “Yes! We Have No Bananas” is the all-time classic “Yes! We Do Have Bananas” speaks volumes on that as well. And that’s not even the only Brazilian song about the fruit.
Brazil is the sixth-greatest producer of avocados worldwide. But since Mexico’s output is around ten times bigger, this isn’t the main highlight here.
Rather, it’s how we eat it: never in savory dishes. We either blend it into a smoothie or mash it and top it with oat flour. Apparently, that’s how a few Asian nations (e.g. Vietnam and the Philippines) like their avocados too.
While the global mango market is dominated by India, Brazil ranks seventh among its largest producers. More importantly, mangos are Brazil’s top fruit export. The Portuguese introduced them in the country somewhere around the 1500s, so they could just as well feature in the section below.
Brazilian Fruits by Naturalization
It might be clear by now that Brazil is a fantastic environment for growing virtually anything. The following fruits, first brought over in the colonial area, adapted so seamlessly that most Brazilians unfamiliar with Botanics will swear they’re from here.
The Portuguese named coconuts in the 1400s and then imported them from Southeast Asia within the next century. The slender trees have since gained huge swaths of our coast, especially in the warmer Northeast (where coconut milk is typically used in fish-based recipes). Coconut trees are, however, just one in hundreds of palm trees you’ll come upon across Brazil. We even have a whole palm tree forest!
If you visit any of our beaches and don’t sip on some ice-cold Brazilian coconut water, don’t bother bragging about your trip!
25. Custard Apples
Count of Miranda do Corvo, a Portuguese colonial administrator, was responsible for introducing custard apples in the country in 1626. Brazilians were forever thankful: one of the fruit’s popular names in Portuguese is precisely fruta-do-conde (i.e. the “count’s fruit”).
I have to say I’m not a fan of custard apples because they seem to have more seeds than pulp. Yet thanks to their extra sweet taste they hold a special place in many people’s hearts (and stomachs).
Originating in Central Africa, watermelons were first brought to Brazil in the 1650s by enslaved people. We’ve been loving some Brazilian watermelon sugar high ever since. Although China grows more watermelons than the rest of the countries combined (!), we rank fourth among the humble others. They’re one of few fruits we rarely cook desserts with.
Shockingly, coffee farmers once tore down the huge forest underneath the Christ the Redeemer statue to replace it with their crops. The terrible move triggered a water crisis and a citywide temperature rise and prompted Emperor Pedro II to order a massive reforestation effort.
That’s when jackfruit trees saved the day, as initially all other plants had a very hard time blooming. As of now, they remain the most widespread fruit-bearing tree around the streets of Rio.
Jocotes first landed on the Brazilian shores from Central America during the colonial era. Their taste somewhat resembles that of cashew apples, while the texture is more like that of olives.
Unlike those two, though, you won’t find jocotes in grocery stores. But considering that they thrive spontaneously in backyards and empty lots, it’s relatively easy to spot jocote vendors in busy areas of large cities.
Now that you’re an expert on little less than 3% of Brazilian fruits, you can up your juice-ordering game next time you set foot in one of Rio’s countless juice bars. Flavor, smell, and texture are really up to you to discover!
And in case you can’t stop reading about all things Brazil, check out some fascinating facts on the South American country.