The Origin of Churrasco – Hispanic Heritage Month 2021


By: Geoffrey McMain

Edited by: Kaitlin Graham


September 15th through October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month, making it a great time to learn about and connect with Hispanic and Latin American cultures. As the son of a Brazilian immigrant, I thought it would be fun to share a little about an iconic cultural practice from Brazil to celebrate this Hispanic Heritage Month.


Churrasco: Brazilian Barbeque or Something More?

The first things that might come to mind when you think of Brazil are probably beaches, tan bodies, and Carnival. But possibly the most notable of these things are Brazilian steakhouses, known as churrascarias in Portuguese, renowned for their seemingly endless waves of high-quality, slow-cooked meats sliced tableside at customer demand. While churrascarias are famously popular in both the US and Brazil, they stem from a much less high-class (and expensive) practice in Brazil, known simply as churrasco. (Pronounced: shoo-HAW-skoo)


Friends, Family, and Meat

At face value, a churrasco might seem the same as an American barbeque, where family and friends gather together to revel in each other’s company and enjoy great food, but in Brazil, this gathering runs deeper than a run-of-the-mill cook-out. 


A typical Churrasco is an exciting event where everyone brings something to share, whether it be cuts of meat, side dishes, or a pack of cold beers. This process of sharing is enhanced by the continuous rounds of grilled meat passed around throughout the night for everyone to enjoy, not unlike the experience of a Brazilian steakhouse. 


As people stuff themselves with a variety of savory meats like slices of juicy picanha (a famous Brazilian cut of steak) or other classics like pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread), people partake in conversations with long-missed friends, sing traditional Brasileiro songs, and even dance the Samba


I have many fond memories of my childhood, in both Brazil and the US, of Brazilians and non-Brazilians alike coming together to eat, sing, and dance to the sweet sound of laughing friends and a melodic guitar, well into the night.


The Origins of Churrasco


Brazilians are known for being some of the most outgoing people on the planet, which makes sense why such a festive gathering would originate from Brazil. 


The art of Brazilian barbeque started in the Rio Grande do Sul, in the south of Brazil, in the 1600s, when Portuguese ranchers built on the indigenous tradition of grilling skewered meat in pits. Over the years, it became a tradition to gather the entire village in a massive feast of freshly butchered, slow-cooked meat to celebrate the fruits of many hard months of labor. 


And so, churrasco was born.


If you want to enjoy churrasco, it’s as simple as taking a trip to one of many churrascarias that now dominate the US. But if you want to enjoy churrasco more like a Brazilian (or just save some money), head over to your local meat supplier to buy your favorite cuts of steak, pork, or chicken, and invite your friends and family to partake in a night of lively festivities and, of course, decadently juicy meat!