Growing up in Canada as a Brazilian immigrant, my parents always told me that our people were naturally creative, always adding a unique flair to anything we touched. When I moved back to Brazil, all it took was a single look at local hot dogs to understand what she meant. What was once a simple grilled sausage contained in a boring old bun had been transformed into a completely unrecognizable meal that could only have been invented by some of the most innovative minds on the planet.
In fact, I’d argue that Brazilian hot dogs are more of a genre than a specific kind of food, allowing for near-infinite regional variations. And with so many toppings to choose from, I thought I’d take a moment to explore this peculiar form of fast food.
Whether you’re planning a trip to Brazil or just want to try something new at home, here are five of the most interesting Brazilian hot dog toppings:
Since this isn’t really a topping, I won’t be including it on the main list, but there’s no discussing Brazilian hot dogs without mentioning the hot dog in a bowl. This fairly recent trend basically eliminates the middleman, getting rid of the bun entirely for a completely unique fast food experience. Definitely not for the faint of heart but worth a shot if you ever find yourself bun-less.
They say creation is rooted in necessity, and that’s certainly the case with this one. While “sausage sauce” was originally a way of making more with less by adding the meat to a tomato-based broth, this low-budget specialty is now considered one of Brazil’s most popular comfort foods.
The soup-y consistency might not work for everyone, but if you’re hosting a birthday party and have a lot of hungry mouths to feed, this is an easy way to make sure everyone leaves satisfied (especially if you add a bit of bacon and corn to the broth).
I could honestly write an entire essay about Brazil’s long-lasting love affair with shredded chicken, which is often paired with catupiry cheese in everything from our famous coxinhas to pizza and even chicken salad. That’s why it’s no surprise that this simple ingredient has become a staple of Brazilian hot dog menus, adding a chewy center to an already-filling meal.
Non-Brazilians might take a while to get used to the added protein, but trust me when I say that once you start putting chicken in your hot dogs, there’s no going back. This topping also pairs well with a spoonful of crispy bacon bits for an added crunch.
Like hot sauce in Mexico and maple syrup in Canada, if Brazilians see a meal, they’ll inevitably try to add farofa to it. For the uninitiated, farofa is a side dish consisting of seasoned/toasted flour often paired with sauce-heavy recipes or fatty cuts of meat. It might take a while to get used to the sand-like appearance, but I can’t think of a single Brazilian dish that isn’t improved by a healthy serving of farofa.
Sure, it sounds strange to add even more flour-based carbs to what basically already amounts to a sandwich, but the added texture and complex flavors make the extra calories worth it. However, readers beware! The addition of farofa is sometimes seen as hot dog heresy by defenders of the next topping on this list.
While it began as a regional specialty, São Paulo’s trend of adding a scoop of fresh mashed potatoes to its hot dogs has become a contentious topic throughout all of Brazil. A culinary blessing for some and blasphemy for others, I personally feel that the creamy delights of mash pair perfectly with a well-stuffed hot dog.
It’s not exactly haute cuisine, but Brazilians are well aware that hot dogs were never meant to be a gourmet dish. After all, residents of Rio de Janeiro have been known to refer to a “complete” hot dog as a podrão, which roughly translates to a “big rotten.”
And for the tater lovers out there, you’ll be happy to know that most Brazilians also enjoy a large serving of shredded potato chip bits on their hot dogs.
Have you ever bitten into a hot dog and thought “this needs a little more sugar”? Well, Brazilians certainly have, and that’s why we’ve come up with the dessert dog. Often featuring a creative combination of bananas, Nutella and condensed milk compacted into a grilled bun, this is about as interesting as hot dog toppings can get.
But before you go lighting torches and grabbing pitchforks, be aware that the dessert dog isn’t some kind of unholy amalgamation of sausages and Nutella. It’s actually more like a sweet sandwich filled with everything that a child would eat if they were allowed to pack their own lunch. While the most common dessert dogs feature some kind of fruit combined with sugary delights (like strawberries covered in chocolate), fancier establishments might even include truffles and half-melted M&Ms.
Not every Brazilian is a fan, but you’re likely to find this unusual delicacy at most late-night hot-dog stands.