Is it time to give your BBQ a Brazilian twist?

girls by BBQ
Give your barbecue a Brazilian twist this weekend

This weekend promises to be a scorcher, hotter than Hades, or at least as hot as Rio. (Poor Rio. Rain is forecast.) We’re promised a few days of untrammelled blue skies – the perfect weather for firing up the barbecue, in fact.

But if you’re still thinking a barbecue means few burgers and drumsticks, let me break it to you gently. This year, it’s just not going to cut it. Shake your tail feathers, hold onto your headdress, because it’s time to give your barbecue a Brazilian.

Shake your tail feathers, hold onto your headdress, because it’s time to give your barbecue a Brazilian

This season we’re turning up the heat and learning from the Latin masters of the grill, for whom barbecuing is not so much lunch as a way of life. See Lakeland - ever the barometer of trends being embraced by the mainstream – and their so-right-for-now Asado range.

Asado is the Brazilian Portuguese word used in Argentina and Uruguay for both grilling techniques and throwing or attending a barbecue. (Though in Brazil, they use the word churrasco for the same thing. Do Keep up.)

It’s hardly surprising that a hot country with a tradition for rearing some of the world’s best meat has elevated outdoor cooking to an art form. As we also rears some of the world’s finest meat, we should seize the opportunity of a fine weekend to ditch linen for paper and get some sauce on our shirts, tuck in and embrace an approach that’s more Gaucho Club than Groucho Club.

It's the perfect weekend to fire up the barbecue

Brazil is a vast country, where indigenous, African, Portuguese and other European culinary traditions fight for space at the table, so there’s plenty to get your teeth into.

Perhaps the South American passion for whetting the appetite by throwing everything from black pudding, chitterlings, sweetbreads and all kinds of other offal onto the grill isn’t quite your thing, but there are plenty of other things to choose from.

So here are my tips to dial up the BBQ heat without breaking into a sweat.

Eat the heat

Not strictly Brazilian, but Portuguese. The two cuisines are so intermingled and this is one of the best barbecued chicken I’ve tried, so I’d be terribly grateful if you could just cut me some slack.

This piri piri recipe was created by my own, personal Fire Queen, Kay Plunkett-Hogge, for her book Heat, (Quercus, £20) which came out last week.


  • a small onions
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 15-20 fresh African bird’s-eye or Thai bird’s eye chillis 
  • zest and juice of ½ a lemon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • leaves from 2 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf and 2tsp sherry vinegar


Pulse all ingredients in a processor until blended. Then add 4 tbsp olive oil and some salt and pepper and pulse to a coarse paste.

Rub the piri piri into chicken pieces or a spatchcocked chicken and leave to marinate for at least an hour or so before barbecuing over a medium-high heat (you should be able to hold your hand 15cm above the grill for 5-7 seconds).

Grill, turning occasionally, until the juices run clear or it reads 74°C on a meat thermometer. This will take between 45 minutes to an hour for spatchcocked chicken, 15-20 minutes for pieces. Serve with more lemon wedges to squeeze over.

On the side

For your Brazilian BBQ feast, you want more than just coleslaw and corn (though grilled sweetcorn is delicious with a little butter seasoned with chilli and lime zest melted over it at the end). You definitely need some salsa: not just a dance, but the easiest way to rev up simple grilled fish and meat.

I like this one not, because in its own humble way it pays homage to the noble avocado and the days before it was invariably, inevitably, smooshed onto sourdough or into smoothies.

  • This mango and avocado salsa is a perfect combination of sweet, hot, cool, crunchy and silky. Mix together cubed mango and avocado with some diced cucumber, finely chopped red chilli, finely diced red onion, the zest and juice of a lime and some roughly chopped coriander. Eat it within an hour of making it to enjoy it at its fresh and zingy best.
Grilled sweetcorn is delicious with a little butter seasoned with chilli and lime zest melted over it at the end


  • All barbecuing nations have a version of potato salad to go with their grills. In Brazil, theirs is called maionese. It’s reminiscent of retro, mayonnaise-y Russian salad and none the worse for that. Mix together cubed, cooked, waxy potatoes and carrots, peas and some pitted green olives. Whisk together some mayonnaise with a splash of cider vinegar and a bit of grated white onion and toss with the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Add some chopped boiled egg if you like too.
  • Alternatively, crisp, cool cos lettuce is always great. Just dress it simply with olive oil, lemon juice and flaky sea salt. That’ll do.

Cheat your sweet

While you’ve got the coals going, throw some tropical fruit on there and call it pudding. Grilled pineapples, papayas and bananas are a great, quick way to end your meal. Just remember to give the hot grill a good scrub with a wire brush first or put a fresh one over the coals if you have a spare. You can serve these on their own or with ice cream.

  • Whisk together the juice of a lime, a slug of cachaça (see To drink…) or rum and a tablespoon or two of honey. Quarter a pineapple, cut out the tough core and brush with the glaze, and grill for about 5-10 minutes per side until lightly charred. Or you could go the full Brazilian camelo (camel). Peel the pineapple, sprinkle generously with cinnamon and place the whole thing on the grill, turning it frequently until it’s hot and caramelised.
  • Allow one firm peeled banana per person and place each one on its own generous square of foil. Sprinkle over some light demerara sugar, a splash of brandy, a squeeze of lime juice, a knob of butter and a pinch of cinnamon. Gather the edges of the foil together to make an airtight parcel and place on the grill for 15-20 minutes.

To drink

Of course you need to make a pitcher or five of caipirinhas, Brazil’s favourite cocktail. Deliciously refreshing, the name means ‘little country bumpkin’, which is delightfully Bo Peep.

The caipirinha is an ideal accompaniment to a Brazilian-style barbecue

It’s made from cachaça, a spirit made from fermented sugar cane juice (every year, the Brazilians produce 1.2 billion litres of the stuff and drink an impressive 11.5l each, so that’s nice). Try Velho Barreiro Cachaca, £13 from Waitrose, or Ypioca Cacho Prata, £20 from Sainsburys.

To create in festive bulk, start by making some simple syrup. Tip equal quantities of caster sugar and water into a pan and dissolve the sugar, stirring gently over a low heat. Cool and place in a jar in the fridge where it will keep for a month or so. Now you’re ready. Toss a couple of handfuls of ice into a large jug and add 450ml cahaça, 100ml simple syrup, 150ml lime juice, some lime wedges and a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon then pour into tall glasses, over more ice. Saude!

And because it wouldn’t be a Brazilian BBQ without the music...

The perfect Brazilian playlist

Seu Jorge “Músicas Para Churrasco, Vol. 1” (universal)

Gravel voiced singer Jorge designed this smouldering samba-funk album specifically for “suburban barbecues”. It was never like this in Watford.

Elis Regina/Antonio Carlos Jobim “Elis & Tom”

The ideal wind-down album: Bossa Nova’s two iconic stars on exquisitely chilled, sexy and sophisticated form.

Suba “Sao Paolo Confessions” (Ziriguiboom)

Brilliantly atmospheric Brazilian electronica with spine-tingling vocals from Cibelle. 

Various Artists “Friends from Rio Project” (Far Out Recordings)

Perfect buoyant, fresh, danceable summer sounds with a classic bossa/samba feel.  

Mark Hudson