Accessed via Santos, São Paulo is an urban hub of innovation, juxtaposing cultures and proud citizens. A hub of modern society, whilst in São Paulo you should try and celebrate its amazing arts scene, with myriad museums, galleries, theatres and of course its street food.
Firstly, we spoke to Miguel, a travel blogger at Travels Auro. He spoke to us about the amazing foodie scene in the city: “São Paulo is one of the largest cities in the world, offering great architecture, culture and gastronomy. More than 15,000 restaurants welcome visitors with delicious dishes of European, Asian and African influence. There are many interesting dishes that you can try while visiting the city: the feijoada is a stew with beans and meat, and it’s Brazil´s national dish. Virado à paulista, which is made with pork, rice, fried banana and eggs, is a popular local dish. The couscous Paulista, made with cornmeal, fish, shrimp, egg and tomato also deserves a special mention on the list.”
For these reasons and many more, São Paulo is often described as a foodie heaven. This mixing pot of cultures constantly pumps out delectable cuisine that is inspired by flavours all around the world and created with fresh, south American produce and ingredients.
As well as high-end restaurants serving up world-renowned cuisine, there are also plenty of street food vendors serving up delectable dishes for a fraction of the price. Whilst in the city, you won’t need to look too hard to find a street vendor, and when you do, there are some amazing local dishes you should be sure to try. In this article, we explore the best street food markets in São Paulo, and the plethora of must-try dishes they are serving up.
Where to find the best street food in São Paulo
All around São Paulo you will stumble across food vendors and stalls that offer mouth-watering goods. Within the city, there is a range of great markets and locations where you can find a great range of stalls all together. These hubs of activity are filled with tantalising smells and it won’t be which stall should you try, it’ll be which should you try first!
Calçadão Urbanoide, also known as Boardwalk Urbanoide: Food Trucks, is a fantastic location for food as the park is filled with lively stalls with a range of dishes from around the world. Many people come here to relax with friends and there is even a DJ during the weekend happy hour.
We spoke to Clara, a travel specialist at Bespoke Brazil who used to live in São Paulo. Clara told us: “Without a doubt one of São Paulo’s most vibrant places to eat is the hipster hideaway known as Calçadão Urbanoide on Rua Augusta, just off the city’s main avenue. This kooky collection of gourmet food trucks is as colourful and diverse as the city itself and serves up a mind-blowing variety of tasty treats.
“With some trucks offering Brazilian specialities such as deep-fried pastels and pão de queijo cheese-breads – others take you on a journey around the world. Hungry tourists can tuck into pad thai, Lebanese falafel and hummus wraps, Peruvian ceviche, Korean BBQ, Belgian waffles and even fish & chips (Brazilian style, served with lime and guacamole!) – all prepared to an exceptional standard.”
Mark, a travel blogger at My Funky Travel who backpacked around South America told us: “São Paulo is a city with quite literally hundreds of different street food markets that serve as not only a place to fill your stomach with tasty snacks but as a point where local communities come together. One of the best places to experience the buzz of a Brazilian street market is Calçadão Urbanoide, a narrow avenue in an alternative part of town that comes alive after dark and is lined with small trucks serving food and drink.”
If you adore browsing stalls for fresh produce, then look no further than Mercado Municipal. Brightly coloured stands are filled with exotic fruits that are sweet and fresh. Other stalls around the market sell products like soup, cheese and nuts, as well as hot foods and local delicacies.
As well as amazing food, the market is also noted for its incredible stained glass. With 32 panels around the building, as well as enjoying the gorgeous food be sure to take some time to enjoy the amazing architecture.
Marjut, a travel blogger at The Smooth Escape told us: “For a great selection of Brazilian finger food head to Mercado Municipal, an iconic market hall in the historic centre which also offers a wide variety of exotic fruits, nuts, and spices. When night falls, visit bar Pirajá to indulge in a feast of local dishes and wash it all down with fruity caipirinhas.”
You might be on the other side of the world, but São Paulo is a fantastic place to sample Japanese cuisine. Outside of Japan, São Paulo is home to the largest community of Japanese individuals and because of this, the cuisine has become a part of the local scene. What is fascinating here is how traditional Japanese cuisine has adapted to be made with punchy South American ingredients.
Tom, a travel blogger from Not Here, told us: “The largest Japanese community is centred around the district of Liberdade. At the weekend you’ll find an arts and crafts market spread out around Liberdade metro station, along with a fantastic array of street food stalls bustling in both Asian and Brazilian fare. My tip is to arrive hungry and try several different stalls – we had some great yakisoba noodles and pastel de bacalhau, a type of Brazilian pastry stuffed with cod.”
The Coffee Exchange
This stunning building located in the port of Santos may not have much in the way of street food but offers a lot in the way of local history. The Coffee Exchange was the building where the price of coffee beans (Brazil’s main export) was determined. Think the coffee version of the New York Stock Exchange.
Although the trading floor has closed, the building now houses a coffee museum which demonstrates the importance of coffee in South America and the history of the building. A fascinating visit for anyone who is interested in the drink. In the on-site café, you can sample a range of brews from around the country.
The Coffee Exchange can be visited on two of our Santos and São Paulo shore excursions:
Shore Excursion: Highlights of Santos
Shore Excursion: Santos through your camera lens
Where to find the best street food in São Paulo:
- Calçadão Urbanioide
- Mercado Municipal
- Liberdade Neighbourhood
- The Coffee Exchange
What street food should you try in São Paulo?
So, now you know the best spots in the city to pick up some street food, what local dishes should you not leave without trying? Pack some extra real with you so you make sure you don’t miss out on sampling the wonderful flavours of Brazilian foods.
Something you’ll see myriad versions of, all popular, is the pastel. This fried pastry pocket is a cheap and delicious treat that can be loaded with all manner of fillings. From sweet fillings like warm chocolate or guava jam and cheese to savoury fillings like ground meat or mozzarella, there is sure to be a pastel that takes your fancy.
Marjut said: “A Brazilian dish that makes me hungry just by writing about it is pastel. This deep-fried pastry with various fillings is probably the most popular street snack in São Paulo and something you just can’t miss when visiting the city!”
For another deep-fried delight, try coxinha. This teardrop-shaped marvel is a warm pocket of seasoned chicken covered in dough. The distinctive shape makes coxinha so iconic, but it’s the warm, light, herbal flavour that make them so moreish.
Marjut told us: "My absolute favourite street food in São Paulo is coxinha - a teardrop-shaped chicken croquette that’s golden and crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside.”
Pão de Queijo
The theme of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside doesn’t stop with pastels and coxinha when it comes to Brazilian street food. Pão de Queijo are table tennis ball-sized cheese puffs, with a mild flavour and a bread-like texture, which are sure to delight.
For fans of barbeque, try and pick up some picanha. This barbecued beef is seasoned with rock salt and perfectly charred over an open flame. Generally, picanha will be sirloin beef, so although it’s street food you aren’t getting any cheap cuts!
Açai na Tigela
If you want to sample some of the fresh fruit available in São Paulo then Açai na Tigela is a fantastic way to do so. This traditional açai bowl is made from fresh açai palm fruit and often served with accompaniments like fresh-cut banana. Although açai bowls are now a very popular health food, they originate as a simple breakfast here in South America.
Chocolate lovers rejoice, as brigadeiros are cheap and plentiful in São Paulo. The truffle-like treats are small chocolate balls covered in sprinkles. Eat them simply or search out some more unique flavours, like those filled with nuts or coconut too. Small and moreish, for anyone with a sweet tooth these are something you’ll want to buy extra portions of to take home with you!
Mark advises that people “don’t leave Sao Paulo without having tasted brigadeiro, a buttery dessert covered in chocolate sprinkles!”
What street food should you try in São Paulo?
- Pão de Queijo
- Açai na Tigela
With these amazing locations and foods, there is even more of a reason to visit gorgeous São Paulo. If this article has made your mouth water, check out our last minute cruise deals and you could be sampling a pastel at the Mercado Municipal before you know it!