From its lush Amazon rainforest to its thriving cities, Brazil teems with life. The largest country in South America, it’s roughly the size of the continental United States.   

While its primary language is Portuguese, Brazil boasts a rich culture that has been influenced by Portugal, Africa, Europe, East Asia and its own indigenous Indian people. The country has five basic regions, each with its own distinct geographic and cultural variations: The Northeast has the greatest percentage of people of African descent; the South and Southeast are home to most Brazilians of European and Japanese ancestry; and indigenous peoples live mostly in the North and Central-West.   

But no matter where you travel—the sun-washed coasts, tropical rainforests, bustling cities or wide, open plains—you’ll find fabulous food. With so many cultural influences, cuisine ranges from the simple to the sophisticated, blending global flavors.   

Here are some typical Brazilian ingredients to liven up your meals:   

  • Tropical Fruits. Avocado, banana, coconut, guava, lime, passion fruit, pineapple. 
  • Seasonings. Chili pepper, cilantro, palm oil, sweet pepper. 
  • Meats. Brazilian sausages, different cuts of beef, pork tenderloin, chicken thighs and drumsticks. Brazilian sausage may be hard to find, so you can use chorizo or other spicy pork sausages. 
  • Sides. Beans, cassava, fresh fruits, rice. 

Tune in tomorrow for a special Brazilian recipe, featuring ingredients from your local natural and organic food store.   

Map courtesy of Brazilian Tourism and Jennifer Thermes/Getty Images