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Posted on Feb 13, 2008 in Bento, Dumplings or Buns, For Kids, Phyllo or Pancake or Other, Recipe | 29 comments

Brazilian salgadinhos bento lunch

Brazilian salgadinhos bento lunch


I went to a Japanese-Brazilian friend’s party this weekend where there was a gorgeous array of Brazilian savory appetizers called salgadinhos. Salgadinhos encompass a variety of different savory bites, including inverted cone-shaped stuffed “coxinhas“ whose dough is made with yucca and chicken broth, bolinhos de peixe” fish balls, “risolethick fried half-moons stuffed with fillings, “empada” pies baked in mini muffin tins, and Middle Eastern stuffed meat kibbeh (ground meat & bulgur wheat) that reflects the immigrant influence in Brazil.

Often eaten with hot sauce, evidently salgadinhos are popular snacks at bars and parties in Brazil. They were definitely a hit with the three-year-old birthday party crowd, who staged repeated strikes on the finger food table. Also popular were brigadeiro chocolate fudge candy and beijinho de coco coconut kisses, little Portuguese-influenced sweets made from condensed milk and rolled in either chocolate jimmies or shredded coconut. We finally had to move the plate out of reach of the children, who took up positions nearby to snatch up the chocolate balls.

Brazilian salgadinhos lunch for preschooler

I was so taken with the salgadinhos that I asked the hostess if I could take a few home to feature in a bento lunch, and she was gracious enough to give the green light and fill me in on the details. They may seem unusual for a packed lunch, but they’re in keeping with other ready-made appetizers that lend themselves nicely to the small scale of bentos, such as puff pastry appetizers, spanakopita, mini crab cakes, meatballs, etc. (Click to read the full post with lunch details…)

Contents of preschooler’s bento lunch: Brazilian salgadinhos appetizers (ham rizoli, chicken coxinha de frango, chicken-thigh empada with olives), mandarin orange segments, steamed broccoli with mayonnaise and aonori seaweed (recipe below), steamed red and yellow bell pepper with soy sauce and dashi, and beijinho de coco coconut kisses. The salgadinhos were hand-made by a private caterer in Daly City, CA; let me know if you’d like her info and I’ll send it to you.

Morning prep time: 10 minutes, using leftover salgadinhos. In the morning I popped the appetizers into my convection toaster oven for 5 minutes to re-crisp the exterior. While those were warming, I cooked both the broccoli and bell peppers in my microwave mini steamer and sauced them.

Cooking: I was looking for a different way to flavor steamed broccoli, and found a quick sauce in Papatto 15-fun! Oishii Obentou, one of my Japanese-language speed bento cookbooks. I put some trimmed broccoli florets in my microwave mini steamer with a tablespoon of water and heated them on high heat (1200W) for 50 seconds (you could also heat the broccoli in a covered microwave-safe bowl with a splash of water). Remove the broccoli from the steamer and pat with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Let cool while you stir together a quick sauce of 2 tsp mayonnaise, 1/2 tsp soy sauce and 1 tsp aonori seaweed flakes. Either dip the cooled broccoli florets into the sauce or smear a little of the sauce into each floret with a spoon. This added a surprising amount of flavor to the broccoli, and Bug gave it a big thumbs up.

Insulated Shinkansen lunch bagPacking: To make sure the appetizers stayed crisp, I let them cool after coming out of the toaster oven before packing them in the box. This kept condensation from forming in the box that would have made it more difficult to open the box and increased the odds of the food going bad before lunchtime. The peppers went into a reusable silicone baking cup, and the broccoli went into a disposable plastic baking cup from Daiso that was easier to compact into a small space than a silicone cup. The lunch is packed in a 360ml Disney Cars bento box with both subdividers removed to fit the larger salgadinhos, and the box went into an insulated Shinkansen lunch bag with a wide base designed to carry bento boxes flat, not tipped over on their side. Little ice packs cut from a larger flexible ice blanket went inside the lunch bag to keep things cool. If Bug were hungrier, I could have frozen a little treat in a separate container and thrown that in his bag as an edible ice pack. (Click on any photo for more info.)Reusable ice blanket for packed lunches

Verdict: Not great. Bug downed the two fried salgadinhos, the broccoli and the orange segments at preschool, but left the rest. After school he ate a little of the bell peppers and the brigadeiro, but totally rejected the baked chicken empada even though its filling was similar to the coxinha that he downed. Oh well, at least he ate the broccoli!

* * * * *

The Feisty Bento blog is running a bento contest, “Does This Make My Lunch Look Phat?” with an extended deadline of February 29, 2008. Selected winners will receive one of the cute bento boxes shown in her original post. A regular reader and commenter on Lunch in a Box, Yvo runs both Feisty Foodie and All My Bento Are Belong to Me (Feisty Bento) blogs.

On a self-interested note, I switched advertising networks last month and joined Foodbuzz, a new online food community. If you have a food blog and are looking to run ads, you might want to contact Foodbuzz and hear what they have to say (they’ll ask for a non-disclosure agreement). (Disclosure: The tracked contact link supports Lunch in a Box.)


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  1. yay for brazilian goodies!!! living in Brazil all those items are all too familiar to me and its really nice to see them displayed in a Bento box.

    Let me know if you would like the recipe to the candies, they are extremely easy to make.

    I can also find the original recipes for the salgadinhos, but those are not so easy.

  2. Everything looks delicious! I would be tempted to eat all of the candies too. Glad that your little guy liked the broccoli :)

  3. it is so weird for a brazilian (like me) to see such things in a bento box!The empadas can have a number of fillings even onions with cheese!
    it is such a pitty that here in Brasil obento is so unpopular…

  4. New to your blog and just wanted to say hello. Your Bug is one lucky guy. I pack lunches for my food allergic preschooler and my food allergic toddler and I’m getting lovely ideas from your site. Packed my preschooler her first “bento” for a b-day party this weekend - where she is always likely to be a little left out of food service - she ate it up with little note - but I was pleased with myself.

    Thanks for writing.

  5. @1 from sweetie: Ooh, of course I’d be interested in your recipe for the candies! Thank you! My friend Erika did say that the salgadinhos are quite hard to make — probably like dim sum, easier to go out for a variety rather than hand-make them all, right?

  6. @2 from Nicole: Thanks, Nicole! I wasn’t sure what Bug would make of the new flavoring on the broccoli, so I was relieved that he ate it happily. The candies were so rich and sinfully delicious — no wonder they’re so small! A little goes a long way.

  7. @3 from Nadeshiko: I really liked the empadas — they weren’t as heavy as the fried salgadinhos. My friend also had shrimp- and corn-filled risoles, which were interesting.

  8. @4 from Katherine: Thank you for the kind words, and welcome! Bentos for the food allergic make so much sense (and is how I really got into making them, when my husband was misdiagnosed with celiac disease and we ate gluten-free for 9 months). Bentos can make even ordinary food seem special and luxurious, which is key to helping the food allergic NOT feel deprived and depressed about their food options when they’re out of the house. I’m so glad you’ve joined us!

  9. Whoohoo! Thanks for the shout out!
    I’m on my way to Argentina at the end of this week, with a short stop in Brazil and am especially excited about the food! This makes me even more excited about going, and in bento form!!! Thanks!

  10. What a wonderful thing to showcase in the bentos! I’ve been living in Brazil for 2 years now and the little salgadinhos have to be some of my favorite foods here! Luckily, I live in a city that is populated by many Japanese and am able to get Japanese bentos. My gf’s family is Japanese-Brazilian and are thrilled that I have discovered bento-ing! Many thanks to you!!! :)

  11. I don’t think there’s any cuisine that can’t be adapted for a bento, even though some things might require some more thinking about the re-heating etc., than others.

  12. That recipe for coxinha in the link is very accurate. Btw, I posted the recipes for the candies in my blog.

  13. @9 from Yvo: Wow, have fun in Argentina and Brazil! Hope to read about the food in your blogs.

  14. @10 from Khrystyan: How interesting to hear your take as an expat in Brazil. What’s your favorite kind of salgadinhos?

  15. @11 from Jessika: I’m with you on that (most cuisines being adaptable to bento-style packing). Yes, that might make me unpopular with purists, but so be it.

  16. @12 from sweetie: Good to hear the vote of coxinha authenticity from a Brazilian! I’ll check out the candy recipes on your blog — thank you for posting these!

  17. To Biggie: I love the kibbe and the coxina very much. There is also this one that has a hotdog wrapped in ham and cheese baked inside a bread that is extremely tasty. The culinary influences from other countries are truly remarkable here. From Arabic to Japanese and many others in between, it’s been a virtual heaven for me down here. :)

  18. i’m brazilian and found it so funny to watch salgadinhos inside a bento. to be reallistic, I made one like that once, to take on a trip. really like empadinhas. and empadinhas are not that hard to make (if you want, I can find a recipe for you). the coxinhas and risoli dough I do not even try to make, they really are harder. the docinhos, I have to confess. I do not eat chocolat when I’m sad. I eat a panfull of brigadeiro… So easy and so good…

  19. @18 from antonia: Absolutely, I’d welcome a recipe for empadinhas from a Brazilian! Mmm, brigadeiro…

  20. empadas!
    here they’re called empanadas and come in a variety of flavors. ive yet to make one though. im not really that good with puff pastry making from scratch.

  21. @20 from kat: Where are you again, kat? (I should know by now, but my brain hurts… ;) ) I asked my J-B friend if they weren’t called empanadas as I’d heard that term before, and she was firm that they were called empadas there.

  22. im from the philippines.
    and they’re called empanadas for big sized ones and empanaditas for small ones.
    its a throwback to our “spanish” cooking heritage.

  23. These remind me of Lebanese fatayer or kibbeh. Fatayer are little mini-pies that come in ground beef, cheese, and spinach versions; kibbeh is a ground beef or lamb/pine-nut mixture in an egg-shaped coating made of bulgur wheat. All are delicious. I have made “fake fatayer” with Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and my spinach-hating son decided, in that form, it was an acceptable vegetable. I’ll have to look into the Brazilian equivalents- they look tasty.

  24. Oh, sorry, I missed the mention of kibbeh in your post- how did I do that? Sorry! Must have been distracted by the scrumptious photos!

  25. @23 from Becky Anderson: Fake fatayer with Pillsbury Crescent Rolls actually sounds delicious! I should work more with that sort of thing — it’s fast and easy, and not bad tasting for a packed lunch. My son is funny about spinach too — doesn’t care for it raw or just cooked and presented on a plate, but will INHALE it wrapped in a pastry or made into Cajun creamed spinach. Kids are funny.

  26. I was in the food panel with you at blogher and decided to check out your blog. I am so glad I found this page. I’m brazilian and i love making salgadinhos. I also just got new Bento box from a friend who visited Japan (reason why I came to your site). I’ve been wanting to pack something but wanted to have a Brazilian twist. I didn’t even think of salgadinhos. This is great. I just posted a brigadeiro recipe on my blog. I’ll have to make salgadinhos and and post those too inside my new fancy bento box. yay! The other great thing about salgadinhos i that you can freeze them before you fry them. You can even fry them frozen, they get a really nice crisp.
    so much to write about….

  27. @26 form damaris: Ooh, I’ll have to check out your brigadeiro recipe! Yeah, no reason at all to stick with Japanese food for a bento lunch. I figure it’s basically just a lunch box, so use Japanese packing techniques and apply them to my own food choices — win/win. Thanks also for the tip on freezing/frying the salgadinhos. I don’t know that I’ll be making them soon, but it’s a great tip nonetheless. Cheers!

  28. Cool! I’m brazilian and am going to Brazil on Friday!! Yay! But seriously. I think I know why Bug didn’t eat the empanada, empanada’s are really crumbly and stuff. And if I were him, I wouldn’t have eaten it either, it’s just not a bento food.

  29. Hi, this website that you mentioned where people could buy brazilian food online is no longer working, this website: is currently working, selling brazilian food and delivering anywhere in the UK